2021 Year in Review

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas from everyone at the Simone Weil Catholic Worker/In My Backyard!

For those of you who haven’t met us, we are a Catholic Worker house of hospitality to those in housing need and a public household serving as a gathering place for sharing spiritual, economic, and intellectual life.

As a Catholic Worker, we offer supported, residential community in our two 4-bedroom houses and our backyard tiny houses for folks who were living on the street. We also offer open meals; a community fridge, pantry, and clothing hutch; and “open house” times for welcoming both friends and neighbors wanting community, and friends and neighbors in need of respite, food, shower, and laundry facilities. (You can read more about us ​here​.)

We want to thank you for all you have done to share in and make our ministry possible this year. As we review the work of 2021 below, we ask you to consider supporting our work this coming year. 

Dorothy Day wrote, “We must, in this neighborhood, on this street, in this parish, regain a sense of community which is the basis for peace in the world.” We understand Dorothy’s call to community as a call to be faithful members of God’s household, treating neighbors and parishioners as fellow members of God’s family. That means we’re looking out for our friends and relatives who are in a bad way, and, this year in particular, it has meant looking into our family story to find ways to bring more of life into this wonderful oikonomia (“household,” “plan”) of God.


This year, our two houses have been home to S, Zach, Monica, Ian, Elijah, Shannah, Crystal, Jim, Kerry, Tim, Rhett, Ronnie, Don G, and Don S. This fall, we welcomed an additional intentional community staff member, making us a community of four: Bert, Emma, Louis, and Bobby. All together, we are currently a live-in community of 13. We’re also grateful for a growing number of “external community” members who have contributed their time and labor to help us prepare our houses to support more residents and visitors.


This year has been about finding and cultivating the seeds, in Peter Maurin’s words, of “a society where it is easier to be good.” This means offering practical alternatives to the anonymizing, extractive structures we find ourselves in, adding to God’s household piece by piece. A few of the experiments of this past year include:

In February, we became a two-house community, renting the Dorothy Day House across the street from Simone Weil House, allowing us to offer hospitality to an additional four residents. 

  • We partnered with PDX Free Fridge to begin hosting a free fridge, pantry, clothing rack, and “Blockbuster”(!) in our front yard. This offering space has been a great way for us to live at least part of our “public household” vision during the pandemic. It’s constantly being restocked by neighbors, local businesses, and our own donors.

  • As of April, we are piloting a community of mutuality built on shared membership in Notre Dame Federal Credit Union. This partnership allows us each access to 0% interest loans backed by fellow community members, regardless of credit score. At our two monthly gatherings we pray, study, and share food, building relationships around a shared attempt to follow the logic of the corporate body of Christ. We are now a community of over 30 members. So far, we’ve made four loans that have helped borrowers rebuild their credit, pay off high-interest credit card debt, fund additional job training, and purchase a used car. In early December, we facilitated Advent retreats with three parishes serious about adopting the mutual banking model as part of a broader vision of “living communion” in the parish.  

  • We deepened our experiments in shared learning, drawing inspiration from the Catholic Worker’s vision for an “agronomic university.” Since last spring, we’ve hosted virtual Thursday seminars organized around great texts and ideas, facilitated by scholars from around the country. So far, we’ve hosted four mini-courses on texts like Tolstoy’s short fiction and MacIntyre’s After Virtue. We hope the meta-level reflections we’re engaging in this first ‘academic year’ will set us up for integrated study, work, and prayer, that, in Maurin’s words, “restore a sacramental attitude toward life, property, and work.”

  • Our community prays 2 or 3 “hours” daily with the Benedictines of Mount Angel, and Emma, Bert, and Louis are preparing to make their final oblations as Benedictine oblates in February. 

  • We kicked off a partnership with Cascadia Clusters, moving a resident into our first lease-to-own mobile tiny home. This project is our first foray into combining our hospitality and economic visions: making a $15K valued mobile tiny home available on a rent-to-own basis, allowing for someone coming from outside with a modest fixed income to have an opportunity for home ownership commensurate with their means. It also will serve as a template to our home-owning community interested in hosting a tiny house for someone from the outside community. 


    Our current expenses are roughly $6200 per month, over two-thirds of which is dedicated to paying the rent for our two houses of hospitality. Other major expenses include utilities, groceries, and household supplies, and we remain an entirely volunteer-run organization. While our current monthly donations do not cover our monthly expenses, this year, we were able to cover costs by dipping into our modest savings and through a small grant. 

    The next big step to stabilize our community is to move towards the purchase of a house. As we continue to use our property in creative ways, we are eager to alleviate the stress of navigating a property management relationship for our very atypical households. Our financial needs for this endeavor will vary depending on the availability of our current property. However, our initial goal is to raise $40,000 dollars in the coming year, with an eye towards being able to make a down payment.