MycoFarm

Problem

Our community needs shelter. Lane County has one of the highest per-capita rates of homelessness in the nation with 80% of the unhoused population living in places not meant for human habitation. We are 24,000 affordable housing units short of need with fewer than 2 shelter beds for every 100 people living unsheltered. With existing providers at capacity, our interventions must leverage our existing systems, build on our assets, and produce a diverse array of alternative, non-congregate housing options that can provide positive impacts to the surrounding areas and help those in need achieve lasting stability.

Our community needs food security. Some 527,000 Oregonians are food insecure, including more than 173,000 children and Lane County’s food insecurity rates are among the highest in the state. The pandemic highlighted the need for secure, sustainable, and inclusive, nutrient-dense food systems. A secure, reliable workforce for the agriculture, food, and natural resource industries is necessary to our food supply.

Our community needs a sustainable shelter ecosystem. Climate studies predict population growth in the Eugene and Willamette Valley area as we begin to experience more extreme weather and as the climate and environment change. Government and healthcare partners will invest millions of dollars over the next 3-years on infrastructure and operations to transform the way we design and deliver homelessness and housing interventions using primarily one-time funding dollars. We need to build a model that can sustain itself and scale up to meet the need. Overcoming objections from neighbors concerned about negative impacts on the surrounding areas is vital for the success of participants in the program and the surrounding community. 

Solution

MycoFarm is a regenerative, urban agricultural mycomodel deployed via a place-based hub and spoke communities that provide multiple pathways towards socioeconomic recovery and community resiliency and an effective, scalable mutual benefit model for stakeholders.

Whether implemented as a stand-alone community or as a value-added component to existing sheltering systems, the MycoFarm approach will empower healing, bolster food security, create jobs, and add to community resiliency.

Benefits to Individuals

Transitional, non-congregate sheltering opportunities will be available on the primary hub site and at spoke sites that could include tiny house villages, small dormitory manufactured housing, Conestoga hut, vehicle dweller, cob housing, and RV/5th Wheel along with access to shared bikes from ReCyclized.

Stipended and paid workforce training opportunities are available to residents along with personalized support to increase individual stability (income, housing, health, social). Additional hands-on work experience, training (emergency preparedness, first aid and outdoor ethics courses) and/or entrepreneurial support may be offered to planned spoke benefit communities.

Benefits to Community

  • Neighbors: Added community benefit projects that add to a sense of place, and expanded access to fresh local food and community resiliency supports.
  • Site Hosts: Choose from a menu of value-added benefits including on-site security services, on-site agriculture, mural painting, solar power generation, and community recycling services.
  • Businesses: Access to our pre-screened job applicants enrolled in state and federal incentive programs and customized workforce development programming opportunities.
  • Government: Opportunity to Incorporate climate change goals at a local level and support the marketing of local food and beverage industries. Community building with the public, host partners, providers, neighborhoods, and businesses.

Key Metrics

Some of the metrics we will be tracking to judge the success of this program.

# of people sheltered

# of people housed

# of people employed

# of microbusinesses spawned

# of lbs food produced

# of lbs waste regenerated

# of carbon sequestered

# of lbs of items recycled

MycoFarm is partnering with subject matter experts to design replicable models that will help us sustain more liveable cities, distribute value more widely in the economy, and foster community participation in large scope and scale problem-solving.

inspirations

We are currently working with Ja Schindler, the director of Fungi for the People. He has been a mushroom cultivator and student of fungi for over 20 years, in both research and production scales, and has facilitated hands-on mushroom workshops to over 5,500 individuals since 2009 as an act of social and environmental activism. Ja brings together progressive cultivation methods, environmental research, rich cultivation history, a vast knowledge of fungal ecology, and creative approaches to connecting with diverse peoples into an engaging learning experience.

In October, we are planning a trip to Santa Cruz to meet the Homeless Garden Project. Now in their 30th year, the program has provided sanctuary, refuge, and meaningful work within the healing space of an organic farm. Harvests have provided an opportunity to support their vision and community through a CSA program, farm stand, and crafts sold at local stores and on-line. Our goal is to learn their best practices and replicate their operational success at a local level and with a nod to the Oregon Mushroom Belt.

We hope to partner with Ecovative Design to teach us how to grow insulation for our fiscal sponsor’s microshelter program but we haven’t met them yet.

Organizational Development

We are in pre-pilot mode during our design phase, seeking startup capital investment. Some of the funding streams we are exploring include family foundation grants, Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund, The Ford Family Foundation, Chambers Family Foundation, Oregon Community Credit Union Foundation, business sponsorships and government contracts.

Some of the project partners we admire and plan to connect with as we grow (and some we are in touch with already) include Huerto de la Familia, Mycological, Connected Lane County, Carry it Forward, Green Lane, UO Sustainability, Urban Farm, Learning Garden, Ant Farm, BLM, Department of Forestry, Planning and Development, UO Public Policy, Waldorf College, ArtCity, Blue Zone and City of Kindness teams, E1 Church, Love for Lane County, OCF, Pearl Buck, Landscape Architecture Program, Rexius, Atlas Solutions and of course, Ecovative Design.

Please contact heather@regeneristas.work for more information or sign up for occasional updates about this project.

Shelter

The first project Regeneristas worked on in response to the housing and homelessness crisis, was shelter in the form of tents. The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 Wildfires displaced thousands. A shelter solution that was scalable and could be produced with local labor and parts was needed and Regeneristas responded.

Together with a team of local sewists, Kibogear produced a model of tent custom designed for living outdoors in our wet rainy and often windy winters, large enough to stand in comfortably and feel at home in. The initial prototype design was slightly larger in size than a Conestoga hut and only a fraction of the weight. We set it up at Park Blocks and invited the community to see.

Photo by Sarah Koski.

Kibogear’s founder, Thomas Holden, is no stranger to tent design. In Tanzania, he designed models for use on commercial Kilimanjaro expeditions. The tents were designed for 60 mph winds and heavy snow using superlight materials. There was a rule on porter weights (not exceeding 20kg (33lbs). His largest tent (9′ x 27′) weighed under 33lbs. They can be easily transporte by bicycle.

He sent the video produced below back home to his friends to tell them about the project.

Video by John Quetzalcoatl Murray (in Swahili with English subtitles)

Safe Sleep Sites

The Eugene City Council on Wednesday, April 28, approved an ordinance to create more safe and lawful places for people to sleep. The ordinance allows for the temporary establishment of “safe parking” and “safe tent” sites that could provide options for individuals to legally park their vehicles or sleep in tents.

These sites will accommodate a larger number of vehicles or tents than previously allowed by code, up to 60 vehicles or up to 40 tents. The sites will be managed by social service providers who will be responsible for compliance with rules and community agreements, monitoring who is allowed to be on-site, coordinating ongoing site infrastructure needs, being accessible and responsive to neighbor concerns, and coordinating with the City and other partners.

We are working on a proposal for a new model with the City of Eugene Unhoused Response team using our tents that uses recycled materials and local labor in their production.

built by the community for the community

Regeneristas is working with Connected Lane County and Mitra, a designer and instructor for a commercial sewing course to explore opportunities to support workforce development in the textile industry for youth in our community. Constructing the tent fly here locally, as well as any platforms, could provide jobs and skill building where it is in demand here in Lane County.

We are working with Pastor Gabe Piechowicz and Everyone Church to include our tents in a larger, planned community model. He is helping to lead a vision towards an inclusive village model inspired by Community First Village in Austin that uses these tents in small neighborhood pods, along with the tiny-houses-on-wheels and refurbished RVs produced by partner Carry it Forward. Given the shortage of lumber and inadequacy of our current housing and shelter capacity, these attainable housing and sheltering models are what we must consider to meet the scale and scope of the need in Lane County.

John Zielinski shares an innovative heating system for the tents using a rocket stove.

Having a reliable and economical heat source is essential in considerations around using tents in the Winter. We are very interested in the Rocket Stove Radiant Heat System designed by local innovator John Zielinksi. It can provide continuous heat and keep people warm in their tents, heats greenhouses and work spaces, and provides hot water for kitchen, and showers.

Partner Spotlight: Bent Spoke Outreach

Bent Spoke is a local, intuitive based bicycle and trailer service team focused on the needs in Eugene. They strive to demonstrate compassion, patience, curiosity and usefulness. They are one of our first pilot program partners and we hope to support their journey to becoming the first microenterprise incubated at the Sandbox.

History

Bent Spoke started in January 2021. They focused on riding long the area bike paths and local parks looking for folks to help. They distribute food, hot and cold beverages, blankets, tents, sleeping bags, tarps, pet food, clothing, shoes, hand warmers, hygiene products, batteries and socks. They have since ridden over 2,000 miles, distributed over 4,800 sandwiches, 1,000 + blankets and much more.

Over the last four months, their service spectrum has grown. They provide information for local resources and assist individuals reaching for those services through any means appropriate. They assisted in camp re-locations, and provide transportation of people’s belongings when they find placement in housing or services. Bent Spoke is currently distributing over 500 meals a week to hard-to-reach camps throughout the community.

Bent Spoke remained consistent by following through with requests if solutions were possible and managed to build a strong level of trust with many sleeping in less than desirable conditions.

Bent Spoke rides in tandem 3.5 times a week. Their path covers 20 + miles and takes roughly six hours. They average 45-50 contacts a night. On the “off days” they travel 20+ miles delivering requested items and/or assisting in situations that take longer amounts of time.

How it All Started

Regeneristas first met Bent Spoke at a community bbq at the Unitarian church parking lot held for the 13th Street and Chambers camp.

Thomas has joined them in an outreach ride every week since that first day.

In May 2021, they agreed to join the team and are helping to develop our Transportation Pilot, slated to last 12-months.

In July we are looking forward to adding our next program participant, Sean!

ReCyclized

Our first pilot project is launching in the summer of 2021 and is slated to last 12-months. Our goal is to (1) build out a sustainable transportation infrastructure program and (2) develop a collective impact model for nonprofit, for profit, and government partnerships. Regeneristas believes in the mission of solidarity not charity and strives to create more pathways for fulfilling human potential in worthwhile work.

We are partnering with Cyclized, a local company for sustainable transport products. Together we are developing the curriculum and pathways towards a self-sustaining program. The business will donate a percentage of the proceeds of each product sold to support facilities, staffing and stipends for the program. During the initial pilot, Cyclized will help to develop train-the-trainer curriculum and fund research and development.

We are partnering with Carry it Forward (CIF), a 501(c)3 that serves unhoused people in Lane County, Oregon, with a primary concentration in Eugene, Springfield, and rural areas in East Lane County. CIF is a grassroots organization that addresses our community’s housing and homelessness problem on multiple fronts, seeking solutions at the individual, organizational, and larger systemic levels. They will provide fiscal sponsorship and case management support for the ReCyclized program.

We are partnering with Bent Spoke Outreach, a team that has been operating an outreach by bike program since January 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bent Spoke is currently distributing over 1000 meals a week to hard-to-reach camps throughout the community. They are working towards nonprofit status. Roger Jensen, Bent Spoke Outreach founder, is the team lead and site manager for the residential sheltering program for the pilot.

Program details

Participants receive (1) basic shelter supports and case management and (2) training and opportunities for work in the following areas:

  • Re-Cyclized: restored, reincarnated and electrified old bikes, made to be stylish, fun and functional.
  • E-cyclized: Customized e-bike conversions
  • Cyclized Bikes: Innovative new electric bikes, trikes and cargo trailers, redefining sustainable micro-transport. 

July 2020 through July 2021

  • Q1: Regeneristas will prepare a transitional shelter site, finalize agreements with community partners, and welcome the first cohort of four to six pilot participants into the program. Together, we will develop our program structure and business plan for rebuilding and electrifying recycled bikes.
  • Q2: Re-Cyclized workforce development program training, focused on teaching bike mechanics and detailing to participants, will begin in earnest. Housing navigation assistance, case management, and peer support are provided to support individual and collective goals.
  • Q3: E-cyclized workforce development training begins to teach participants how to electrify recycled bikes for resale. Cohorts and individuals who wish to incubate microbusiness models enabled by etrike begin work with business mentors.
  • Q4: Cyclized workforce development training concentrated on the production of high cargo capacity etrike begins. At the conclusion of the training, participants leave the shelter and are offered opportunities to apply for paid employment or develop their microbusiness further at a community partner microsite.

cyclized ecargo trike Designs

Cyclized is in the final stages of finalizing the eCargo trike design. The initial bike parts will be largely manufactured in China and assembled by the ReCyclized team until we are able to design components locally.