Central City Concern

Providing comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness and achieving self-sufficiency.

Graduations 2018: It Doesn't End Here

Jul 04, 2018

In a room filled with 75 people communally punctuating a graduation ceremony with joyful whoops, thunderous ovations, and raucous laughter, it was perhaps the small pockets of silence that spoke the loudest about the magnitude of the event.

The attendees had gathered for a mahafali—Swahili for graduation—at which a dozen graduates of Central City Concern’s (CCC) Imani Center program would be recognized. The Imani Center provides culturally responsive Afrocentric approaches to substance use disorder treatment and mental health counseling, connecting clients to the wider Black recovery community in Portland, Ore. The family members, friends and staff members from across CCC who were there had every reason to be in the mood to celebrate those being honored.

Graduates of the Imani Center program expressed great joy and gratitude to their counselors, as well as their friends, family, and peers who attended the graduation ceremony.

Imani Center counselors called up their graduating clients one by one, sharing words about their journey together and offering words of pride, insight and encouragement. Each graduate met and hugged their counselor, awash in the sound of applause. They received their certificate, tucked in a sturdy, handsome red or blue folder. The applause petered out.

Then… quiet.

For some graduates, no more than a second. For some others, maybe it was 10. But the silence wasn’t just an absence of sound; it was the incoming rush of a feeling.

Graduates used that time to glance down at their certificate, tracing their eyes over the words that confirmed that they had indeed taken a major step forward in the recovery: Certificate of Completion... Presented to... Has Successfully Completed.

They had not only started their journeys of recovery; they’d taken monumental steps forward on the path, and they were still on it that day.

One graduate, after she had collected herself, said, “I didn’t really think I’d graduate the mental health program. A year ago I was hearing voices. I’m so proud of myself. This is a step up. It’s been such a long time since I’ve accomplished anything positive.”

“We don’t need drugs. We got people. We got each other, even with our mental struggles.”

Another looked up from her certificate and scanned the packed community room, finding a reminder of the community effort that got her to this day. “We don’t need drugs,” she said. “We got people. We got each other, even with our mental struggles.”

The Imani Center is an exceptionally tailored program that uses a model of substance use disorder and mental health treatment developed to account for the Black community’s unique assets, culture, traumas and experiences. As such, Linda Hudson, CCC’s director of African-American services, closed the mahafali with words that spoke to the community’s ties that helped the graduates reach this moment and dream hopefully in their own futures.

“Imani is building a village to support our community. Find somebody coming up behind you and pull them up with you. It doesn’t end here.”



Graduations 2018: Continuing to Strive

Jul 03, 2018

“Continue to strive. It will help you get the things you want and get you where you want to be.”

These words, spoken by Central City Concern’s (CCC) Chief Human Resources Officer Joe Chapman, set the tone for the fifth annual CCC Employee Commencement. The celebration honored nine graduates (listed below) who received diplomas ranging from master’s degrees to counseling certificates.

Walter Bailey, a peer support specialist at CCC’s Imani Center since 2015, received his certification as an alcohol and drug counselor (CADC I). He shared his story with the group: “I thought being an athlete would be my entire life,” he said. “But the special privilege of working for CCC is amazing. I love watching people change their lives.”

Walter Bailey earned his CADC I certificate. He shared his story of having to recalibrate his future plans after his time as an athlete came to a close.     Mayra Hernandez of CCC's Employment Access Center receives her recognition certificate for earning her Master of Social Work from Portland State University.

CCC also acknowledged 16 recipients of higher education scholarships for CCC employees who are engaging in job-related studies to further or broaden their professional development. Jennifer McBratney, foundation scholarship program officer at Portland Community College, was the keynote speaker. She congratulated all the employees who attend classes in addition to working. “You believe in the mission so much but you’re also taking time to improve yourselves,” she said. McBratney also congratulated the agency for their commitment to employees who want to learn. “CCC is a beacon for the community.”

The new grads received a special CCC certificate and a commemorative cord. After the ceremony, the grads, scholarship recipients and their guests shared cake and congratulations—and basked in the words of Joe Chapman: “You’re amazing.”

2018 Graduates

Congratulations to all of our graduates!

  • Walter Bailey (Imani Center): Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor I, Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon
  • Jennifer Benjamin (Housing Administration): Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts Studies, Portland State University
  • Tyanna Benson (Old Town Recovery Center): Master of Social Work, Portland State University
  • Kascadare Causeya (Benefits and Enrollment Specialist Team): Master of Business Administration, Aspen University
  • Mayra Hernandez (Employment Access Center): Master of Social Work, Portland State University
  • Dana M. Jones (Old Town Recovery Center): Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Gonzaga University
  • Lisa King (Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center): Bachelor of Arts in Social Science, Portland State University
  • Ryan Meristem (CCC Recovery Center): Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II, Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon
  • Eric Oswald (CCC Recovery Center): Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II, Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon


Graduations 2018: A new life in a new direction

Jun 29, 2018

“We’ve started a new life in a new direction,” said Emily, “I wish everyone the very best!”

Her graduation ceremony was like many others: 39 grads clutched their new certificates and thanked the people who had helped them get through. But Central City Concern’s (CCC’s) Community Volunteer Corps (CVC) June 2018 graduation ceremony was different from most because the participants finished 80 hours of volunteer service that helped them get back into the working mode after disruption due to substance use, poverty, health issues or homelessness. And this particular celebration was special because it included two participants from CVC’s newly expanded Gresham program, including Emily.

Central City Concern's most recent group of Community Volunteer Corps graduates pose for a group photo following the ceremony.

CVC started in 2009 as a way for newly recovering people to get out in the community and practice soft job skills such as teamwork and time management. Through working with others and giving back, participants gain self-confidence and make a commitment to a new, healthy life. Since 2009, CVC participants have volunteered 131,317 hours to the community through more than 30 nonprofit partners and government organizations such as Portland Parks & Recreation, Free Geek and Oregon Food Bank.

One June grad, Dina, said “I really had fun. My drinking had killed me inside and CVC gave me back my self-confidence.” Daniel said, “CVC has been my favorite part of my recovery. I felt good about myself at the end of the day.”

CVC also recently began a partnership with Project Clean Slate, a program that helps people regain their driver’s license and expunge minor criminal convictions so they can get on track to meaningful employment. “I got my driver’s license back,” said one participant, proudly pulling his temporary license out of his pocket for all to see.

One CVC graduate actually took time off from his new job to be part of the graduation ceremony—it meant that much to him.

CVC participants range in age and come from a variety of backgrounds; for many, working with others on volunteer projects has changed their lives. “CVC has helped me learn to be friendlier and more personable,” said Donna. Jennifer said, “I’m grateful for the chance to develop close relationships with my peers.”

In addition to their certificate, CVC graduates receive a small cash stipend, photos from their time in CVC to remind them of the camaraderie they developed and a letter of recommendation to send them into the world of future employment. CCC’s Employment Access Center has employment specialists who work with CVC participants on writing resumes, interview skills and getting permanent jobs. One CVC graduate actually took time off from his new job to be part of the graduation ceremony—it meant that much to him.

About 100 people attended the event, including volunteers from Airbnb who had spent the morning at CCC’s Employment Access Center helping clients (including some CVC grads) with computer skills.



Housing

Central City Concern helps people find the stability of home, as well as a new community to support their goals. Our Housing Choice model allows people to choose the kind of housing based on their personal needs. Learn more »

Health and Recovery

Access to integrated primary and behavioral health care is key to successful recovery. CCC offers exceptional, compassionate care to meet patients' primary care, mental health care and substance use disorder treatment needs. Learn more »

Employment

The journey from being homeless to finding a living wage job can be arduous, especially without a guide. CCC's employment programs provide vital supports to those desiring to make progress toward self-sufficiency. Learn more »