It was in the financial slump of 2001 and we were sitting outside at the Basserie Monmarte (now defunct or in perpetual renewal depending on who you talk to), three unemployed women, three glasses of wine and one big plan.
We had just lost our jobs along with thousands of other Oregonians. The Salvation Army Greenhouse, an agency providing services for homeless kids, was dying off in pieces and one of the first to go was the school where the three of us taught the G.E.D. We and our students had struggled with the tedium of fractions, the inconclusiveness of person and place and the irregularities of grammar – nothing compared to the struggles our students were facing outside the classroom every day. Now Greenhouse School was closed and it was a palpable loss, both for our students and us. How to mold what we were grieving and what we had learned into a new form? Could we raise a phoenix from those ashes? And just how many glasses of wine would that take?
Turns out it took a lot. Beth Burns, Pippa Arend and I spent that summer trying to understand what had taken place for us on the corner of 8th and Oak over a combined 12 years of working with homeless youth. We were trying to figure out what could and should go forward into a new program and what needed to be left in the past. What was missing? What was essential? We came up with a few things:
· Everyone deserves dignity and respect· Relationships foster change, not programs· We all have intellectual, emotional and physical needs. We want to meet the daily need.· No one should go hungry· Everyone has the right to a toothbrush· Events don’t define people, attitudes do. Attitudes can change.
Back to the table in front of Brasserie Monmarte. The conversation may have gone something like this:
Beth: Ok, we can run a kick-ass day program but we need somewhere to do it.Joy: Where would we be if we could be anywhere we wanted?Practically all together: There!
(Pointing katty-corner to the long abandoned Cornellius Hotel, AKA Johnny Sole, AKA Rich’s Cigar Shop in previous incarnations).
Beth: But the building’s for sale, we only want one floor, need to rent and no one has been in it since it flooded two years ago.Joy: No one has been in it…Pippa: I’ll call. Maybe they’ll be willing to rent.
Beth: We still need a name.Joy: Something that reflects what we want to do. That addresses the whole person through education, art and recreation.Pippa: (Starting to sketch in her notebook) Something modern and fresh that suggests hope. Well, not R.E.A.P.! How about P.E.A.R.Joy: What does the P. stand for?Beth: Project?Pippa: Yeah, Project.Beth: Ok, P.E.A.R. Project, Education, Art, Recreation, the whole person, the mind, heart and body. I like it.Pippa: Only let’s make it lowercase and with a colon. Like this: p:ear
Did we have a business plan? Did we know the statistics connected with new ventures? Did we have financial partners? Were we even aware of the financial climate of the times? Well, sure, we’d just been laid off, right? What we did have was a vision, heart and each other. Apparently it was enough.
p:ear has now been in existence for seven years now meeting the intellectual, emotional and physical needs of homeless kid. and has recently moved from its original location at 801 SW Alder to 338 NW 6th to meet the need.