After years without a proper place to stay, homecoming looms near for Hope Village's first residents.
At an open house event Saturday for the west Medford community project providing shelter and life skills for some 20 people living on the streets, cake and the smell of fresh paint marked the near-conclusion of Rogue Retreat's ambitious project that has been fraught with delays. Move-in could happen as early as Monday if the 14 shed-like tiny duplexes and the communal spaces on the property near Columbus and McAndrews clears a city of Medford inspection that day.
Rogue Retreat Executive Director Chad McComas is managing expectations, however.
"I don't like to give dates because they seem to get us into trouble," McComas said. "I just wanna give 'em an address."
Edward Trujillo and his wife, Doreen Brooks, have moved their things into Unit 14, something they've waited to do since at least Christmas. Trujillo and Brooks are among only three founding villagers who've persisted with the plan despite the delays. Trujillo says he persisted because he believes Hope Village is where he's supposed to be, despite other opportunities.
"I'm in it for the long haul," Trujillo said. "We're determined to make this work."
Trujillo and his wife have been couch-surfing and living in their van for a period of time they would only describe as "too long." He has found steady work as a day laborer, but making further plans has been a challenge affecting everything from the safety of his belongings to where their next meal will come from.
"Being in this situation makes everything harder," Trujillo said. "We never knew where we'd be from one day to the next."
Trinidad Flores said he has been ready to move in since January, persisting because he sees Hope Village as his "time to rebuild" after mental health issues led to losing his home 2½ years ago. He has been living with his mother and son.
"It's been a long road," Flores said.
Flores said he likes that he'll have a safe community with people who understand his struggles and an on-site case manager. He can also keep his dog, Mr. Peabody, with him.
"It's a village of hope," Flores said. "Helping people get back that hope that they'd lost."
His unit was sponsored by the Medford Congregational United Church of Christ, a church he's not familiar with, though he plans to reach out in gratitude.
"I want them to know who's going into this place," Flores said. "Now they have a name."
New resident Timothy Gertz said his emotions have been mixed lately. He is grateful for the opportunity, calling it "answered prayers," but also nervous at the upcoming change in environment from the streets.
"It's a big transformation," Gertz said.
Once he can sleep at Hope Village, Gertz said it'll mark the end of three years of being homeless. It started when he hurt his back working construction in Texas before finding a supportive community in Medford. Gertz said he finds shelter on vacant porches in a handful of areas.
"I have a lot of spots," Gertz said. "You have to have a lot of spots."
Gertz said he is determined to show the community that he's capable of transitioning off the streets.
"There really is hope," Gertz said.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.