above: Mayor Deanna Reed with community member George Barksdale and OCP director Sam Nickels
What is REALLY Happening At OCP?
from Sam Nickels, Executive Director
Dear Friends of OCP,
So much to share this month. First, our drive to raise funds through the Great Community Give this year blew our minds. Eric and I were walking around in a glorious daze. Our goal had been to replicate the $25,000 raised last year. But donors gave $31,000 allowing us to capture 2 cash prizes worth an additional $7000. Our first priority was to pay off the line of credit and get our cash flow back on solid ground. One of the first things I did after the online giving closed was to text Ron Copeland. I wanted to thank him and so many others who, over the years, have built OCP into a strong donor-funded organization. Without their years of dedicated work, OCP could not have achieved these goals.
JMU students have been super active at OCP this semester. We said goodbye to our first Social Work practicum student Maddie Summers and we will miss her hard and dedicated work. We said goodbye to Cecily, Lauren and other student volunteers who have come over the years but are graduating ☹ Community Members fell in love with these students and will miss them dearly. JMU SMAD students produced a video that is a nice, brief overview of our philosophy and work.
You can see it here:
This month we have been busy working on advocacy. We opposed the panhandling ordinance that had sentencing guidelines that could potentially land people in court or even jail for asking for money in restricted areas. Although some people feel the ordinance was about safety (keeping people off busy medians), I noted in testimony before City Council that in a 2017 national study, panhandling and pedestrian crossings were not listed among the top 17 causes of traffic accidents (distracted driving due to cell phone use was #1). We also hosted local politicians to educate and involve them in our work and understanding of those who are low income and homeless in our community. Delegate Tony Wilt visited us to serve lunch and hear about our concerns about obstacles to obtaining ID’s needed for work and public benefits. Mayor Reed and Vice Romero spent two hours listening to our community members at OCP and discussing their challenges (in a session facilitated by EMU students from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding–thank you!). Reed and Romero believe that addressing affordable housing and homelessness should be a priority on the City’s agenda.
Finally, I had a long talk with an OCP donor who moved a couple years ago to a state out west. He’s been following our work through the newsletters. He said all he hears about is our successes. He wanted to how it is really going at OCP. His question came out of years of volunteering at OCP with difficult people with troubling problems. During his tenure, fights and crises were common. I assured him that we continue to face these challenges on a daily basis—recent happenings include the police K-9 unit coming and arresting a community member due to drugs in her car, several alcoholics drinking heavily and urinating around the property, one woman (with trauma) stabbing another (with mental illness) during the night in Roses’ parking lot, and people not showing up for appointments we set up for them. But one of the alcoholics came and shared his ideas with the Mayor and Vice Mayor for how to help the homeless. The woman who was stabbed is back on her medication and wants to be admitted back into the OCP community. The police carried out a mediation right outside our door between two men who were in a fight, and they ended up hugging each other. And many people do show up for their appointments. My point is, we cannot label people as good or bad. We are all wounded; we are all in need of love and healing; we all make mistakes and miss appointments; and our alcoholics also show love and compassion for others. OCP tends to focus on what we are accomplishing because, quite frankly, if we focused on the negative, we would burn out and be unable to sustain our work. And our donors and supporters deserve to know whether their investments are bearing fruit.
So, thank you for the question. And thank you for your support, which allows us each day, amidst the chaos, to see one small victory after another.