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Social Justice

Embracing Opportunity: The Story of Johnny 'Awesome'

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Joshua Gurnick
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EUGENE, Ore. -- Any given Saturday, Jonathan Elsworth can be found in front of the Lane County courthouse in Eugene, drumming and dancing in a community drum circle. Saturday Market goers gather around to take in the sights and sounds of the eclectic group. This is a passion for Elsworth, providing him with an escape from the challenges of daily life.

It’s also an opportunity to feel connected with others despite the difficulties of his past. Elsworth has struggled with alcoholism for over 15 years, a battle that eventually rendered him homeless. In 2008 he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, and realized that it was time to make a change. “Once I started getting sober I started remembering who I was,” he said.
 
About a year ago, Elsworth applied to live in Opportunity Village, a community of 25 tiny homes for those who have struggled with unstable housing situations. Here, he discovered a safe place to get back on his feet.
 

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Credit Joshua Gurnick
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At roughly one-hundred-and-forty square feet, Elsworth's bright blue house is personalized with Tibetan peace flags, a miniature disco ball, and a rock garden.

At roughly one hundred and forty square feet, his bright blue house is personalized with Tibetan peace flags, a miniature disco ball and a rock garden. Elsworth has found some comfort in his tiny house. “Most people feel that their house is their sanctuary. Just because I’m on the bottom rung of society doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t feel good about where I live,” Elsworth said.
 

Jose Contreras, Darin Shelstad, Jake Charlson, and Hayley Forsyth contributed to this piece.

This story is a collaboration between the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and KLCC.

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