A Pagan-Led Organization Advocating for the Homeless in Oregon

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I’ve written before about my friend Alley Valkyrie, a Feri initiate and Witch who runs a small local gift and clothing business in my town called Practical Rabbit, and who has become a central activist regarding how the homeless are treated in Eugene, Oregon. Her work on behalf of the homeless population’s basic legal rights has gotten her arrested, and garnered her plenty of local press in various stand-offs with local law enforcement and government officials.  I know first-hand that Alley has spent thousands of her own dollars (and hours) on public record requests, legal challenges, and providing assistance to the local community, but as many veteran activists know, such individual efforts on problems so large and systematic can be draining, and without support many activists quickly burn out. Knowing this, and wanting to take her activism to the next level, a small group which includes Alley have launched a new organization called the Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective.

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“Our actions and objectives are rooted in the principle that everyone has a right to exist in public space regardless of socioeconomic status, and that the basic civil rights of individuals in public space outweigh the economic interests of businesses and government.

We believe that all members of our community have inherent value regardless of their economic contributions or financial worth. Everyone has a right to congregate in public, to participate in civic affairs, and to have access to local community and culture without being targeted for harassment, and everyone has a right to engage in life-sustaining activities in public space if they have no other option.”

To fund this new venture, Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $50,000 dollars in which to fund their ongoing work, enable more assistance and advocacy for the homeless population, and provide a small stipend to Alley so that she can devote herself full-time to this mission.

“For the past few years, I have been closely working with, learning from, and speaking out on behalf of the homeless population in downtown Eugene, Oregon. I’ve spent this time bearing witness to and raising awareness about patterns of harassment and discrimination, advocating on behalf of individuals who have been adversely impacted by local policies or practices, and fighting against laws and policies that criminalize the actions of those who must live in public space.

What began as simple inquiries and actions based on observed injustices quickly morphed into a massive undertaking due to a confluence of factors, the main ones being a continually deterioriating local economic situation, the presence and influence of the Occupy movement, and the politics and effects of downtown revitalization. Over the past year or so I have come to fill multiple roles, most prominently as a liaison/advocate/mediator/educator that works with and weaves between the homeless community, elected officials, public entities, law enforcement, and the general public.

While I never intended nor desired to become a “professional activist”, the results of my efforts thus far have only further illustrated and revealed the depth and severity of these issues, and the amount of work ahead is daunting. Metaphorically speaking, what’s currently piled up on my desk is much more than I can possibly do on my own at this point. In response to the need and demand for this type of advocacy work, I am in the process of forming a non-profit public advocacy collective in order to provide the framework and support that will not only allow me to continue this work, but to take it up the next level in terms of effectiveness.”

On the day the project and fundraising campaign was launched I sat down with Alley and did an audio interview where we talked about her work, this new initiative, what its goals are, and how her religious/spiritual beliefs permeate these actions.

Because I feel that what Alley is doing is important, and because I think that she walks in a long tradition of Pagan activism, and indeed represents a new generation of that tradition, I have asked her to become a monthly columnist here at The Wild Hunt. We’ll get to read regular updates on her work, and how her beliefs as a Feri Witch infuse what she does on a day-to-day basis. In the meantime, if you feel inspired by Alley’s work, please consider donating to the Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective’s campaign. Obviously, this is something the local Eugene, Oregon community should bear the largest share in working to fund, but I think it would be wonderful if a significant percentage of the total raised came from the modern Pagan communities and organizations. We often speak (and are asked) about where the Pagan-led or Pagan-funded charity organizations are, where the signs of our good works lie, here is a concrete response. A local collective doing good work, and one that is led by the vision of a modern Pagan.