Central City Concern

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

Leslie's Story

Aug 26, 2015

As a kid growing up in Oregon City, Lesile P. always loved the start of a new school year. 

Not because it meant shopping for new clothes. Not because it meant she’d get to show off her smarts in class. Not because it meant she’d get to see all of her friends everyday. Leslie P. loved the start of a new school year because it meant she’d have a safe place to go for seven hours a day, five days a week. 

Leslie’s mom died when she was a baby. Not long after, Leslie’s alcoholic, drug-dealing dad sent her to live with her grandparents. The one rule there she and her older brother had to abide by? Be out of the living room by 5 p.m. so Grandpa could drink his drink and watch the TV news. 

And so began a childhood of being shuttled from one drug-addicted relative to another, one foster home to another. In spite of the chaos, “I didn’t get into too much trouble,” Leslie says. “But I went over to the wrong houses so bad things happened to me . . . .” 

No wonder Leslie sometimes looked for hiding places when it came time to board the 3 p.m. school bus back home. 

At age eight, Leslie picked up cigarettes. At age 13, she picked up pot. Then came alcohol, methamphetamines, pain pills, and heroin. She dropped out of high school, found work at a fast food restaurant, and intermittently continued to ply a trade she learned from her dad when she was a teenager—drug dealing. 

Over the next several years, Leslie would get it together for a few months, then slide back into addiction, couch-surfing, and chaos—a cycle that continually repeated itself. At age 20, she gave birth to first child, Joshua. Six years later, Emma arrived. Three years later, Leslie was arrested for dealing drugs. Leslie’s children were placed in foster care—just like she had been. 

That quiet little voice in her head that had been telling her to get help finally roared. “I couldn’t function. I couldn’t parent my kids. I couldn’t take care of myself.” 

Leslie discovered she was pregnant with a third child. She begged for help. The judge and attorneys on her case arranged for reduced jail time and a referral to Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center, a residential addiction treatment center for women in poverty who are pregnant or parenting young children. Finally, Lesile’s life began to turn around. 


When she entered the Letty Owings Center in March 2012, Leslie began learning the life skills her own parents never taught her. Emma came to live with her there five months later. 

Leslie was worried. “I had missed her whole year of preschool. She was going to be a kindergartener. I wondered how I was going to get her school supplies and clothing.” 

Central City Concern helped them get everything Emma would need to start kindergarten right. 

A month later, in September 2012, Leslie gave birth to Malakai. In October she, Emma, and Malakai moved into one of Central City Concern’s alcohol- and drug-free family housing communities for women with children. There, Leslie continued to receive support and guidance from addiction treatment specialists, case managers, certified peer mentors, and employment specialists

“When I moved in, all the girls came over and helped me, and cooked dinner for me, and made it feel like home. It was like I found a new family. I had unconditional support.” 

Leslie is now working full-time as an entry-level administrative assistant and pursuing an associate’s degree at Portland Community College. And she is trying to be the best mom she can be so her kids don’t have to have the kind of childhood she did. Right now, that means letting her first-born son, Joshᆳua, stay with his dad. 

And it also means getting Emma ready to start third grade. “I want school to be a place where Emma learns about everything and anything she wants. I don’t want it to be the same way it was for me—a place where I went to hide from things that were hurting me. I want it to be a place where Emma can follow her dreams.” 

Emma tore through her summer reading list. The family’s morning routine includes Emma reading out loud to Malakai at the breakfast table. Leslie hopes this practice will better prepare Malakai for when it’s time for him to start school. 

Leslie is grateful to be in Central City Concern’s safe, supportive, affordable housing as she continues in this new phase of her life. And she’s grateful for the opportunity to be a good neighbor and role modᆳel, giving back to the people who are just starting out at Central City Concern. 

“I have a job, an apartment, my kids. Had I continued on the path that I was on, I wouldn’t be alive right now. My kids wouldn’t have a mom. I’m in a really different place right now. It’s an amazing feeling.” 




NHCW Profile: Meet Shanako DeVoll, Old Town Recovery Center

Aug 14, 2015

When CCC’s Old Town Recovery Center searched for someone to lead its new Integrated Health & Recovery Team (IHART), a patient-centered behavioral health home with primary care integration, Shanako DeVoll was the natural choice. Perhaps it was her passion for CCC’s patient population, her broad and versatile clinical skill set (sharpened by time spent working at several other CCC health programs), and her undeniable leadership qualities. But, maybe, it was also that Shanako was simply born to do this work.

After all, she feels that she’s been a social worker since she was eight-years-old, when she began sticking up for her friends from bullies. The lives of several family members are affected by addiction and mental illness.

“I guess I’ve always been about helping people find their voice and advocating for them, even when I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.”

As the IHART manager, Shanako leads the team through a huddle each morning to talk and strategize about clients’ needs. She provides consultations and oversees the IHART patient population to ensure that each client remains engaged in the program. The work keeps her busy, but it’s her clients – the ones she works with now, as well as the all those she’s worked with before – who keep her motivated.

“I’ve learned so much from our clients. They’re often hilarious and warm and generous. There are pieces of their personality that come out when you get to know them that will make anyone realize, ‘Wow, these people are awesome.’”

Still, Shanako knows all too well the barriers and stigma that her clients face when it comes to attaining a decent quality of life. This is why she is so passionate about IHART, which seeks to bring patients into a model of care that is barrier-free, team-based, data-driven, and client-centered. And while she knows that helping a patient population with such complex needs will not be easy, Shanako maintains a perspective that, like everything else she does, is patient-centered.

“I think about their little steps forward, like coming in unaccompanied to pick up her medications. Knowing our patients helps me understand that everyone’s success looks different.”

• • •

Shanako's story is part of Central City Concern's week-long series to celebrate National Health Center Week by highlighting just a few of the many extraordinary people who make the work of CCC's health centers possible. The week of August 9 through August 15 is a time to recognize the services and contributions of health centers that provide affordable, high quality, cost effective health care to medically vulnerable and underserved people throughout the United States.

Learn more about CCC and National Health Center Week by reading a post introducing this series from Leslie Tallyn, CCC's Chief Clinical Operations Officer.



NHCW Profile: Meet Kipp Bajaj, Old Town Clinic

Aug 14, 2015

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Kipp Bajaj, a naturopath physician at Old Town Clinic, has seen everything. After all, he’s worked in Central City Concern’s clinic settings for 14 years; he’s been with CCC even longer if you include his internships and rotations. But as it turns out, that’s not the case.

“I’m always seeing something new, learning something new. My time here has helped me become a better physician.”

Kipp started at Portland Alternative Health Center (then affectionately known as PAHC, and now known as CCC Recovery Center) and is now a primary care provider at OTC. Though he has seen buildings razed and erected, colleagues come and go, and patients of all stripes, Kipp has always been taken by the mission of Central City Concern. The work that CCC does to help individuals experiencing homelessness, in ill health, or living with addiction progress into a state of stability and wellness is, Kipp admits, idealistic. But time and time again Kipp has seen clients and patients find that better place.

“This place believes in people and it does so with compassion and honesty.”

And what does that belief in those that Central City Concern serves look life in Kipp’s work?

“I see my role as an educator. I hope that the knowledge about health and healing that I communicate to my patients can empower them and open pathways to wellness.”

While he holds himself to a high standard, he remains gracious and exceedingly kind to everyone with whom he crosses paths. These qualities make him beloved by his colleagues and patients, but to Kipp, it’s simply a matter of service.

“This is a place for me to fulfill the need to serve others. I hope my service shows my belief in transformation and change.”

• • •

Kipp's story is part of Central City Concern's week-long series to celebrate National Health Center Week by highlighting just a few of the many extraordinary people who make the work of CCC's health centers possible. The week of August 9 through August 15 is a time to recognize the services and contributions of health centers that provide affordable, high quality, cost effective health care to medically vulnerable and underserved people throughout the United States.

Learn more about CCC and National Health Center Week by reading a post introducing this series from Leslie Tallyn, CCC's Chief Clinical Operations Officer.



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