Continuing to listen to trans voices

Nov 16, 2017


Happy Transgender Awareness Week 2017! According to GLAAD, this special week, Nov. 13 to Nov. 17, is set aside to “help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces.”

In this space last year, we shared about the numerous steps Central City Concern was taking to ensure that our programs and services, as well as the staff members providing them, were as affirming and inclusive of our transgender patients and clients as possible. This year, we want to provide an update on our efforts to do so!

Trainings: CCC continues to offer trainings year-round to our staff members about working with trans and gender non-binary patients and clients. Several lead staff members have also made it a point to attend trainings hosted by community organizations so they can share what they learn with our program staff.

We continue to encourage our training attendees to approach the sessions from a place of humility. What Eowyn Rieke, CCC’s Associate Medical Director of Primary Care, said last year continues to apply to our approach: “We’re working toward a culture of humility as it relates to gender identity—recognizing that there are great differences at play here and that we need to be humble about our assumptions.”

"We’re working toward a culture of humility as it relates to gender identity—recognizing that there are great differences at play here and that we need to be humble about our assumptions.”
- Eowyn Rieke, Associate Medical Director of Primary Care

CCC Director of Equity and Inclusion Freda Ceaser says that this posture has provided the organization with a blueprint to fully operationalize trans affirming program services across the agency. She says that in the coming year, her goal is to work with every CCC program to begin an initial assessment of procedures and policies to become more trans affirming and inclusive.

“It’s so rewarding to see how the work of health services intentionally recognizes and affirms the identity of each of our patients. I want every person we serve, no matter their gender identity, to feel accepted, valued, and respected.” 

Trans Support Group: Chrysalis, the trans and gender non-binary support group that formed last year in response to what we heard from our patients, has been thriving. Open to patients of Old Town Clinic (OTC) and Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC), Chrysalis is a safe place where, according to facilitator Shanako Devoll, “people can talk about the difficulties of navigating everyday life and strategies used to address safety, mental health, and substance use.”

Group members say that Chrysalis helps them counteract the isolation they can feel by being part of a group that understands each other’s struggles and triumphs. At each session, attendees share their experiences, bring information about resources they’ve come across, and slowly build a community of shared experiences together.

The group meets bi-weekly. While the make-up of each meeting can differ, Chrysalis averages about five attendees each time the group comes together. Chrysalis is currently open to new members; in mid-December, the group will close for six weeks to allow the group members build trust and create the safe space they need.

"I want every person we serve, no matter their gender identity, to feel accepted, valued, and respected.”
- Freda Ceaser, Director of Equity and Inclusion

Electronic Health Records: Thanks to CCC’s amazing EHR implementation team, our health services can now make changes to patients’ gender identification information faster and easier than ever.  

Responding to the Needs of the Trans Community: As we continue to listen to our trans patients, we’re making changes that we believe are positive for them and the larger community.

All our multi-stall bathrooms inside OTC and OTRC now have signs that emphasize our support for individuals using the bathroom that best fits with their gender identity.

To better support trans patients and clients in substance use disorder treatment programs, our services are working toward making our urinalysis collection process more trans affirming.  

And finally, Margot Presley, an OHSU Doctorate of Nursing Practice candidate, used her doctorate project as a way to seek out and listen to trans voices at our Old Town Clinic. Margot’s project, “Patient Engagement in Quality Improvement: Raising the Voice of Transgender Patients Experiencing Homelessness” used patient engagement and qualitative inquiry techniques to interview people about their experiences as trans patients of OTC. Their feedback was used to recommend changes to our clinic operations with the goal of better meeting their needs.

Her manuscript is in process of being published in Transgender Health, “the first peer-reviewed, open access journal dedicated to addressing the healthcare needs of transgender individual;” Margot also presented a poster showing her work at several conferences. 

• • •

Each year, Trans Awareness Week leads up to the Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, an observance to honor and remember those whose lives were lost to acts of anti-trans violence. There are a number of events in the Portland metro area to participate in that day. All descriptions are from the event hosts: 

Thursday, Nov. 16
Keynote featuring Jennicet Gutiérrez: How to Get Involved, Hosted by Portland State Temprr Month and PSU Queer Resource Center
: Join us for our TEMPRR keynote panel event with activist Jennicet Gutiérrez! As a founding member of La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Gutiérrez's activist experience with transgender rights and immigrant rights has given her great knowledge on how to get involved with various types of activism. This panel will also have local activists who will answer questions and share more about their activism. (Link) 

Friday, Nov. 17
5th Ave. Presents: ReAgitator, hosted at Fifth Avenue Cinema
: Join us in honoring Trans Day of Remembrance a few days early with an incredibly inventive film from independent trans-filmmaker Dylan Greenberg. Her film Re-Agitator: Revenge of The Parody, tells the bizarre story of a mad scientist using a cynical serum to revive a beautiful woman back from the dead leading to complete and total chaos. Using an arsenal of homages and spins off of classic and modern horror, Re-Agitator is bound to satisfy a weird and experimental itch. The film will feature an introduction from Dylan herself, including discussion of her experience with being an indie filmmaker and multi-media artist in NYC. This event will be donation-based instead of our regular ticketing prices, all proceeds will go to the artists. (Link) 

Sunday, Nov. 19
Trans Day of Remembrance March & Interfaith Vigil
: Please all Transgender folk and Cisgender allies join us in reverence and solidarity to honor the fallen and make a stand against Transphobia. We will gather at Terry Schrunk plaza for a staging and a brief program whereupon we will process to the First United Methodist Church for a candle lighting ceremony for the fallen and a message of hope and renewal from local area spiritual leaders followed by a reception where light refreshments will be served. (Link)

Monday, Nov. 20
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017, hosted at Portland Community College
: This event is being planned by the Portland Transgender community, with the support of Portland Transgender organizations, Portland LGBTQIA2+ organizations, and allies, and is being led by Portland Transgender People of Color. (Link)

Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial Meeting, hosted at Multnomah Friends Meeting House: We welcome you to join us on this day to mourn and honor the lives of those who have been murdered in the previous year because of anti-transgender hatred.

We gather to remember. We also gather to pray for, and to dedicate ourselves to work for, a world where transgender people are safe from hatred and violence. (Link)



CCC breaks ground on Blackburn Building that will "bring hope and healing to thousands of people like me"

Nov 07, 2017

CCC President & CEO Rachel Solotaroff, MDMultnomah County District 3 Commissioner Jessica Vega PedersonMetro Councilor Shirley Craddick, District 1
Drew Hammond, Assistant Vice President of Business Development for U.S. BankTricia Tillman, a member of the Oregon Housing and Community Services Housing Stability CouncilMelissa Garcia, National Lending Initiatives Director for the Low Income Investment FundHeather Lyons, Director of the Northwest Region at CSHMike Holevas, a community member who has received services through Central City Concern’s Eastside Concern program and lives in CCC’s supportive housingDavid Russell, President and CEO of Adventist Health Portland
Next

On Monday, Nov. 6, Central City Concern ground onthe Blackburn Building, the last of three buildings in the Housing is Health initiative, a pioneering commitment from local hospitals and health organizations to bring 379 units of affordable housing to Portland.

• • •

Yesterday, Nov. 6, Central City Concern (CCC) broke ground on the third of three buildings in the Housing is Health initiative, a pioneering commitment from local hospitals and health organizations to supportive, affordable housing. CCC also announced the name of the building (25 NE 122nd Ave., Portland)—the Blackburn Building—which honors CCC’s President and CEO Emeritus Ed Blackburn, who recently retired after 26 years at CCC. Ed was instrumental in pulling together the Housing is Health initiative, which was the culmination of years of outstanding leadership and relationship building.

The two-story health care facility will serve 3,000 people each year with recovery and mental health services, as well as targeted primary care services. The clinic will include a pharmacy and 52 units of respite care, including 10 units of palliative care. Additional housing will include 90 units of transitional housing and 34 permanent homes. Integrated resident and health support services will help residents stay housed.

The groundbreaking celebration began at 2 p.m. CCC President and CEO Rachel Solotaroff, M.D., Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson and Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick spoke about the new project. Other speakers included Tricia Tillman from Oregon Housing and Community Services, Drew Hammond of US Bank, Melissa Garcia of Low Income Investment Fund and Heather Lyons from Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Community member and CCC client Mike Holevas described his journey from high school science teacher to addict, to a person in recovery working toward wellness and self-sufficiency. He once bought drugs on the very corner where the Blackburn Building will be. “This corner now can be the site where thousands who are suffering—and believe me, we suffer—can come for transformation, healing; families will be restored,” he said. “I’m so proud to be part of something that will bring hope and healing to thousands of people like me."

"This corner now can be the site where thousands who are suffering—and believe me, we suffer—can come for transformation, healing; families will be restored.”
- Mike Holevas, former CCC client

Additional speakers included representatives from the Housing is Health initiative’s six hospitals and health organizations: David Russell, Adventist Health Portland president and CEO; Eric C. Hunter, CareOregon president and CEO; Janet O’Hollaren, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals chief operating officer; Mark Enger, OHSU vice president of Network Operations; Pam Mariea-Nason, Providence Health & Services – Oregon executive, Community Health Division; and George Brown, M.D., Legacy Health president & CEO.

“The Housing is Health collaboration is an excellent example of health systems recognizing the impact housing has on an individual’s health,” said Rachel. “They’ve united for improving health outcomes as well as the common good of our community.”

"[The Housing is Health collaborative has] united for improving health outcomes as well as the common good of our community.”
- Rachel Solotaroff, M.D., CCC President & CEO

The developer is Central City Concern, the architect is Ankrom Moisan, the general contractor is Walsh Construction and the construction manager is GLI.

In addition to the Housing is Health partners, funding for the development of the Blackburn Building is provided by Oregon Housing and Community Services, US Bank, Portland Housing Bureau, CSH, Low Income Investment Fund, Oregon Health Authority, Metro, Energy Trust of Oregon and Multnomah County.

CCC is engaged in a $3.5 million capital campaign to complete funding for the Blackburn Building. Early supporters of this campaign include The Collins Foundation; Downtown Community Housing, Inc. Fund of OCF; Harbourton Foundation; The Hearst Foundations; Meyer Memorial Trust; PGE Foundation; Silvey Family Foundation; The Standard; Wells Fargo Housing Foundation; Building Owners & Managers Association of Oregon; Downtown Development Group; Melvin Mark Companies; Meridian Wealth Advisors; R2C Group; Acme Bader Fund of OCF; Brody Family Charitable Fund; Crooke Family Charitable Fund; Ginny & George Charitable Fund; Mitzvah Fund of OCF; the Paul & Sally McCracken Fund of OCF; and numerous individuals.

Find a full list of contributors to the Housing is Health initiative here.

For more information about the campaign or to make a contribution, please contact Kristie Perry, Director of Donor Relations, at 503-200-3926 or kristie.perry@ccconcern.org.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: October 2017 Edition

Oct 30, 2017

We’re very excited to turn this month’s spotlight to a volunteer from Puentes, Central City Concern’s culturally-specific program that supports Latinxs in recovery. Developed in 2005, Puentes uses a multidisciplinary approach to provide alcohol and drug treatment and mental health care to individuals and to the entire family in a way that mitigates stigma and fear.

Claudia, this month’s spotlighted volunteer, lends a hand to Puentes’ program that works with Latinx youth ages 14-21 who have drug or alcohol issues or are susceptible to gang involvement, Esperanza Juvenil. Marysol Jimenez, who oversees Esperanza Juvenil, says about Claudia, “It's been a satisfying experience to train a young adult that wants to learn about addiction counseling field, and is interested in working with our Latinx youth.”

Read on to hear how Claudia came to Puentes and how her own experience informs her work.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Claudia: Claudia Aparicio, and I’m volunteering at Puentes with Esperanza Juvenil, which in English is Youthful Hope.

P: And what does the Esperanza Juvenil program do?

C: The program is specifically for youth that are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s a reduction method. Marysol, who is the Esperanza Juvenil staff member, her goal is to get the youth to reduce their addiction. So, sometimes they ask her, “Do we have to quit?” and she’s like, “No, but it would be good if you could quit!” So she works with them in reducing the harm until they stop.

P: How did you find out about CCC?

C: When I was studying for the Certified Recovery Mentor position, [CCC staff member] Ricardo, who helped us get certified, would always call on me and say it would be really cool if I could volunteer with Puentes. He never really told me about the program, but was always trying to get me to volunteer, so finally I ended up coming here to volunteer.

P: I should probably know this, but what is a Certified Recovery Mentor?

C: A Certified Recovery Mentor is a first level of what a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor would do. So we’re mentors for people that are working to recover from their addiction. I did my certification with the Instituto Latino, so it was a group of Hispanic people [getting certified].

P: How did you get involved with that organization?

C: I knew someone from Volunteers of America who was the one who started the group for Hispanics to get certified as CRMs. I went with a church, called Ministry of Jesus Christ of Men and Women Seeking Lost Souls. We work more with the homeless population, which not a lot of pastors do in the Hispanic area. We go to the streets and try to reach the homeless and give them resources.

P: What do see as the benefit of having a culturally specific program?

C: It just helps to see that there’s a lot of need in the Hispanic community, especially because they don’t really speak English. Ever since I was 19 I’ve been working with the Hispanic population, which I never thought I would do, because I had to help my mom with translations and filling out papers, and so I never saw myself doing that as a grown up. And now that I find myself serving the Hispanic community, trying to get them resources, and telling them where to go for resources, whether it’s a light bill, whether it’s to find an apartment, for a kid’s food boxes or clothing, I see that as a big challenge, because there is a big need in the Hispanic community.

P: And what is the importance of serving youth specifically?

C: I think it’s because they’re in their teen years, so they’re growing up. It’s better to stop or try to reduce the harm when they are young. It’s like a baby when it’s small. When a baby is small, you don’t start disciplining them when they’re 10 years old, because then it’s a little bit late.

P: What are the challenges of that?

C: The challenge is the youth can be a little bit rebellious, but there’s a saying in Spanish that says, “Es más mejor la palabra de una madre ajena quell tu propia madre”— we’d sometimes rather listen to a person that is not our mom than our own mom. Which is true because I lived it, I didn’t listen to my mom, but when I met my pastor I listened to her more.

“There’s a saying in Spanish that says, ‘Es más mejor la palabra de una madre ajena quell tu propia madre’—we’d sometimes rather listen to a person that is not our mom than our own mom.”
- Claudia, CCC Volunteer

P: For those that are rebellious, how do you reach them?

C: We try to talk to them and see where their rebelling comes from, because from my own experience, a kid is going to be rebellious because something happened. Like me, I was rebellious because something happened in my life and there was a root of bitterness in my heart, which made me really stubborn in my teen years and got me in to a lot of trouble as well.

And sometimes we’re young but have to mature faster than our age. I just had to mature a lot younger than I would because of my experience. Especially since I didn’t get disciplined, and sometimes self-discipline is much harder than getting disciplined by your own parent.

P: And it’s hard when you’re older than your years, because your experience is going to be so different from you friends.

C: I had a hard time fitting in school, I always thought I was superior than my classmates. I would just go in my shell and always find the library, because I always liked reading books. I would look for stories that were not relatable to me so I could learn more about other life experiences.

P: And that kind of ties in to what you’re doing now, hearing other people’s stories and being a mentor to people whose experiences may be different from your own. Have there been any particular stories that have stood out?

C: I heard a story of a girl who was getting her treatment here and she was going through the same experiences that I had gone through as a teen. Her mother didn’t try to connect with her and see to her needs, or understand why she was going through what she was going through. A lot of that happens because of culture shock. We’re born here and our parents are from Mexico or Guatemala, or some other Hispanic county, so we learn different things. Whether or not we want it, our culture is American culture, even though our parents are from Spanish-speaking counties. And sometimes we want to adapt to their culture as well, but since we don’t really know about it, we have to research it on the internet. We’re also more free. They didn’t go to school, they had to work, they had to feed the horses and the chickens. We don’t do that. So sometimes our parents don’t realize it’s a bit of culture shock between us and they don’t understand us or they don’t try to understand us. So when I heard that girl’s story, my heart went out to her.

"I learn more every day. I learn from the people here, and I see people I learn a lot from."

P: What keeps you coming back to volunteer?

C: I learn more every day. I learn from the people here, and I see people I learn a lot from.

P: And our traditional last question: What would you say to someone who was on the fence about volunteering with CCC?

C: I would definitely recommend CCC, because it’s a good agency and I’ve learned a lot. And at Puentes, it’s family based. Ever since I came they were like, “We’re a family here. We don’t see any of you guys aslower than us, and when we eat, we eat together.” We don’t eat in our own offices, we’re always eating together in the kitchen, and sometimes we don’t always have room so we’re all squished together, all talking and laughing.

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Downtown Clean & Safe Appreciation Day 2017

Oct 09, 2017

On a crisp, sunny morning in Portland’s Director Park, the Downtown Clean & Safe board members gathered to celebrate the good work of the organization and appreciate some key people.

Clean & Safe board chair, Peter Andrews, welcomed the crowd of about 75 people and shared how the program helps make Portland a walkable city. “Just a few statistics so you can get a feel for how much this program makes a difference in our city,” he said. “In 2016, our cleaners picked up 638 tons of trash, 16,822 needles, cleaned 52,048 biohazards and removed 37,265 graffiti tags. This year we are on track to pick up more than 23,000 needles. Last year, our Sidewalk Ambassadors made 51,532 visitor contacts, making Portland the wonderful and inviting place it is. We also placed all of the twinkly lights up on the trees you see downtown during the holiday season, decorating 750 trees. These numbers speak for themselves. Downtown Clean & Safe is an ongoing advocate for a vital downtown.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler presented the Downtown Champion Award to Central City Concern’s (CCC) President and CEO Emeritus, Ed Blackburn. “Ed’s leadership, passion and compassion have influenced policy and funding at the state and local level,” Mayor Wheeler said, “and has directly impacted the lives of thousands of individuals who struggle with addiction and homelessness.”

“Ed’s leadership, passion and compassion have… directly impacted the lives of thousands of individuals who struggle with addiction and homelessness.”
- Mayor Ted Wheeler

CCC’s President and CEO Rachel Solotaroff then presented two Cleaner of the Year awards to Greg Davis and Matt Carr.

Davis is the lead employee on the Clean & Safe graveyard crew. He came to CCC through Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center in 2013. He graduated from CCC’s Community Volunteer Corps (CVC), completed a trainee period with Clean & Safe and was hired as a permanent pressure washer in 2015. Two years later, he was promoted to lead worker. “On a daily basis, Greg makes sure the trash is cleaned up, graffiti is removed and that all service calls are completed,” said Solotaroff. “Greg is extremely personable, professional and a fantastic ambassador for Central City Concern and Clean & Safe.”

“Greg is extremely personable, professional and a fantastic ambassador for Central City Concern..."
- Dr. Rachel Solotaroff

Carr, born and raised in New York, and moved to Portland in 1992. He spent the majority of his adult life struggling with addiction. After a few attempts to trying to get clean on his own, he realized he couldn’t do it alone. In June 2016, Matt was accepted into Central City Concern’s Recovery Mentor Program. During this time, Matt successfully completed CVC by spending 80 hours giving back to the community at local non-profits. After his completion of the CVC, he was hired to work as a trainee at Clean & Safe in February 2017.

Right from the start he proved to have an incredibly strong work ethic and the desire to learn and grow in his position. Over the next six months Matt proved to be an extremely reliable and dedicated employee, who was always willing to go above and beyond. Matt showed so much pride in his work, he was promoted to be the third Clean & Safe special projects bicycle cleaner. “Matt’s dedication and hard work has contributed to a higher level of service provided throughout the district,” said Solotaroff. “Matt has repeatedly proven he is an asset and a great ambassador for Central City Concern, Downtown Clean & Safe and everyone who lives, works or visits in the Downtown Portland area.”

Matt proved to be an extremely reliable and dedicated employee, who was always willing to go above and beyond. Matt showed so much pride in his work, he was promoted to be the third Clean & Safe special projects bicycle cleaner.

Andrews then presented the Security Officer of the Year awards Officer Josh Dyk and Officer Samson Blakeslee.

The Portland Downtown Business Improvement District contracts with CCC to keep clean a 213-block area in central downtown and along the bus mall. In six-month trainee positions, CCC Clean & Safe employees remove graffiti, contribute to public safety, and keep downtown free of litter and debris. Clean & Safe hires its employees from CCC's Community Volunteer Corps program.

Toward the end of their six-month work experience, Clean & Safe employees engage in practical, employment development workshops at the Employment Access Center where they also may also access one-on-one assistance in the job search process. Some graduates of Clean & Safe move onto employment at Central City Concern in janitorial, maintenance, pest control and painting roles that maintain CCC’s 23 buildings.



CCC announces new director of Equity and Inclusion

Sep 28, 2017

Freda Ceaser, CCC's new director of Equity and InclusionFreda Ceaser, MSW, joined Central City Concern’s executive leadership team as director of Equity and Inclusion on Tuesday, Sept. 19. 

“Freda has been a valued member of our staff for 13 years and has always viewed her work through an equity and inclusion lens,” says CCC Chief Medical Officer Rachel Solotaroff, MD. “She will move CCC’s initiatives forward that promote diversity and inclusion as well as address racial and cultural equity in our services and as an employer. We’re excited she’s formally moving into this role.”

Freda worked her way from the front lines at CCC’s Employment Access Center to her current position of Director of Employment Services. She has provided consistent leadership and involvement in CCC’s Diversity Committee over the last five years and is instrumental in CCC’s ongoing Equity and Inclusion Assessment work. Most recently Freda provided the vision and advocacy for Flip the Script, a new reentry program for African-American clients that provides wrap around services with a focus on breaking the cycles that send people of color back to prison.

“I am so honored to serve in this role especially in light of these uncertain times that we find ourselves in as a nation,” Freda says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on these important issues with an incredibly dedicated team focused on improving, creating and implementing programming for underserved and marginalized populations, as well as their emphasis and focus toward promoting a workforce that reflects the agency’s diversity, equity and inclusion values.”

Freda is a lifelong Portland resident and earned her Masters of Social Work degree from Portland State University. Her lived experiences, education and work in the trenches are the driving forces for her passion for promoting racial equity in the community



"This can be you, too..."

Sep 27, 2017

September 27 is National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and September is Recovery Month.

Ryan's recovery has helped him find stability, get his HIV under control, and become a straight-A student.Two years ago, Ryan D. got off the streets and started to get his addiction in check. Today, he’s a straight-A student at Portland State University with plans to become a speech therapist, and the recipient of four scholarships worth $9,000 from local queer community organizations. He’s also been able to get his HIV infection under control.

Housing from Central City Concern has been one foundation for his success. “I could focus on me, going to school, my meetings, and being of service,” he says. And this has given him a new perspective on his life. “Fortunately for me right now,” he explains, “what helps reinforce my sobriety is all these mini-successes: getting in to the Richard Harris Building from the men’s shelter, then getting in to Miracles Central, winning this scholarship, being successful at this service commitment. Little things to look forward to, just a million little different things that help reinforce my wanting to stay sober."

“...what helps reinforce my sobriety is all these mini-successes.... Little things to look forward to, just a million little different things that help reinforce my wanting to stay sober.”
- Ryan D.

Both of his parents suffered from addiction, and his own addiction took off when he moved away for his first year of college, forcing him to drop out of school. As his disease progressed untreated over the next 15 years, he encountered legal troubles, jail time, and, eventually, homelessness. Getting help took time. “I didn’t really think I had a problem,” he says. “I just thought that gay guys party. We love to party, and everyone does it. I was entitled to my own life because I wasn’t hurting anyone but myself.”

When he did seek help, he found that the pressure of waiting tables made it hard for him to establish solid recovery. “It’s a high stress job, you’re replaceable, you’re talked down to a lot, and it’s not easy.”

But Ryan rose to the challenge, and now he’s proud to invite friends over to watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and have a good laugh. “It’s nice when newcomers come over to my house and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing. This is where you live, you’re so lucky.’ And I’m like, this can be you, too, if you just don’t pick up a drink or a drug. It’s that simple.” Ryan sings in the Gay Men’s Chorus, volunteers regularly at Cascade AIDS Project and loves to dance.

"People on the street smile at me all the time and I must be glowing—they like my energy."

Ryan says it’s been nice to be recognized and awarded in front of his peers, but what matters most is he’s come a long way. “I’m just doing the right thing,” he says. “I’m not doing anything more than is expected of normal people. But because of where I’m coming from, it’s amazing.” And although he says there’s always room for improvement, he’s happy. “It’s just nice being clean and sober,” he explains. “People respect you and smile at you and look at you. People on the street smile at me all the time and I must be glowing—they like my energy. I look in people’s eyes and it’s magical. I love being clean and sober.”

• • •

For information on confidential HIV testing, call the Cascade AIDS Project at 503-223-5907 or Multnomah County HIV Testing at 503-988-3700.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: September 2017 Edition

Sep 26, 2017

For this month’s volunteer spotlight, we are shining our light on a volunteer who doesn’t often get much of it in her volunteer location. Rebecca Macy has been volunteering for the last five years in the basement of the Employment Access Center (EAC), where she helps maintain a clothing closet for EAC clients who need interview clothing or work wear. Read on to see how Rebecca’s past career as a librarian has informed her work in the clothing closet, how she got in to reuse and recycling, and how an Elvis costume ended up being just what a client needed.

• • •

Rebecca Macy, Central City Concern volunteerPeter: What's your name, and what do you do as a volunteer at Central City Concern?

Rebecca: Rebecca Macy, and my volunteer position is in the clothing closet at the Employment Access Center and I’ve been there for five or six years. I sort through the donations and I’ve set the clothing center up like a store with things sorted so they are easy for people to find.

P: Did you have any experience with retail or clothing before volunteering at the EAC?

R: I worked at Portland Public Schools’ clothing closet, so I got many, many ideas from them.

P: Was that your career?

R: I spent 35 years as an elementary school librarian, so I’ve worked in elementary schools and some public libraries, but mostly elementary schools. They called us a Library Media Specialist, but the kids knew us as the library lady.

After I retired, I did some work in fashion with buying vintage clothes and remaking them. I would take a prom dress and kind of tear it apart and put it back together, so that was my artistic fashion project. I still do a little bit of that, but I also help people clear out their homes or their parents’ homes if they’re downsizing or moving. I started finding that we need to reuse the things that people have that are still usable. A friend of mine calls me “the distributor,” which sounds like a car part, but I take things and get them to people who need them, so CCC was just a real good fit for that.

“Interviewing is hard for anybody, no matter what your work background is. But if you feel like you’re looking pretty good it helps you put your best foot forward.”
- Rebecca, CCC Volunteer

P: How did you find out about us?

R: I first heard about it when I was volunteering for Potluck in the Park with a teen center that I volunteered at in Beaverton. I noticed there was a clothing table there, and I thought, I get people’s clothes all the time, so if I had a pair of shoes or cosmetics [I would bring them there]. Eventually, a CCC person who was working there told me about the EAC.

P: Are there certain items you find yourself consistently needing at the clothing closet?

R: Larger men’s shoes, larger men’s clothing. The people who donated are almost always smaller than the clients. I’ve been looking for a size 15 pair of work boots most of the time I’ve been there.

P: So, you have a range of clothes there, both work wear and interview clothes?

R: Both, yes. When I first started volunteering there, the men were more wearing suits to interviews, but if you’re interviewing for a construction job, a nice sweater and a pair of jeans or khakis is fine. Even in the work world, I think everything is getting a little more causal. So for the men, the things we need are dress shirts, dress pants, and really good khakis and Levi’s. And for women it varies, but it’s similar—dress pants and skirts.

P: What do see as the benefit for the clothing closet?

R: Well, if you have an interview, and all you have is a t-shirt and jeans with holes in them, all the interview training and resume writing you get trained for won’t do you any good. And I think it has to do with confidence, and if you look good, you feel better. Interviewing is hard for anybody, no matter what your work background is. But if you feel like you’re looking pretty good it helps you put your best foot forward.

It’s fun for people to come because sometimes they are kind of shy about how much to take, and I’ll say, “Take what you need!” Sometimes I have to encourage them to take more and they’re often very cautious. Some men will borrow a suit for an interview and bring it back and say “If somebody else can use it, I don’t need it again.” They’re always thinking about other people. I like reusing and recycling and it’s cool when people do it with other people in mind.

I like to help in the community, I grew up in a family that was very involved in the community, but maybe it’s the librarian in me who likes to organize things. I like how [volunteering at the clothing closet] involves my friends and neighbors, too. They came home the other day with my niece and she said, “There’s bags of clothes on your front porch!” and I said, “Yeah, that happens a lot.” If it’s not raining and I’m not home, people will just drop off things, because they know I’ll distribute them to someone that needs them. It’s kind of fun for me, I never know what I’m going to find.

"I like seeing clients come in [to the clothing closet] and find something they need. I like seeing that it matters."

P: Have there been any particularly interesting pieces that have come though the closet?

R: When I first started volunteering, there was a suit that looked like an Elvis impersonator would wear it. And I thought, “Well, I don’t think anybody would use this in an interview.” Well, one of the counselors came in and said, “Oh yeah, one of my clients is an Elvis impersonator!”

Most of the time things are usable by somebody, but we’re very picky. We don’t do anything that has stains or missing buttons, because we want it all to be useable and presentable and something that somebody would buy in the store. I even have a friend who sells makeup and she’ll give samples, so sometimes if somebody has good timing they’ll get lipstick or hand cream. And jewelry! I just ask my friends to go through their jewelry, because if somebody has a nice outfit and a nice pair of earrings or necklace, it makes them feel good.

P: Have there been any stand-out experiences?

R: The thing that impressed me the most was the award program for people who’ve gone through the EAC program. There was a guy who had been in prison his entire adult life and this was the first job he had ever interviewed for. He thanked his counselors and said, “I think I was pretty hard to work with when I first came, and I couldn’t figure out why these people were so nice. What’s in it for them?” He said they believed in him when he didn’t believe in himself.

I really like the fact that CCC helps people make their lives better and they do it with so much class and respect for the people they work with.

P: And our traditional last question, what would you say to someone who is on the fence about volunteering at CCC?

R: It’s such a big organization and there’s so many different things that volunteers do, it’s anything from dealing with clothes to dealing with people one-on-one. And the people that I do deal with are so appreciative. I like seeing clients come in [to the clothing closet] and find something they need. I like seeing that it matters.

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.

And if reading about Rebecca inspires you to make a donation of items that can be used by the people we serve, check out our in-kind donation wish list!



Affordable housing construction begins in East Portland

Sep 19, 2017

Leadership from Housing is Health collaboration health systems visited the construction site of the Stark Street Apartments affordable housing project.Central City Concern, has begun construction on the second of three buildings in the Housing is Health initiative—a pioneering commitment from local hospitals and health systems in supportive, affordable housing. Health systems leadership visited the Stark Street Apartments site (333 SE 122nd Ave. at Stark St., Portland) on Friday, Sept. 15.

Attendees from the Housing is Health coalition included David Russell (Adventist Health Portland), Eric Hunter (CareOregon), Bill Wiechmann (Kaiser Permanente), Cindy Grueber (OHSU) and Dave Underriner (Providence Health & Services – Oregon). Legacy Health is also part of the Housing is Health coalition. The other two buildings in the Housing is Health initiative are Charlotte B. Rutherford Place (N Interstate Ave.) and the Eastside Health Center (NE 122nd Ave. and E Burnside).

"The health care organizations in the Housing is Health coalition understand that housing for lower income working people is critical to good health outcomes and a healthy community. "
- Ed Blackburn, CCC President & CEO

Stark Street Apartments, opening in 2018, will target people exiting transitional housing programs who have gained employment and seek a permanent home, but still may have barriers to housing. CCC expects to attract potential tenants from the immediate neighborhood. The four-story building contains 153 homes total: 92 one-bedroom and 61 two-bedroom apartments. Rents will range from $412 to $995 per month, depending on Median Family Income.

"These homes are important for supporting employed people with affordable housing. The health care organizations in the Housing is Health coalition understand that housing for lower income working people is critical to good health outcomes and a healthy community, " says Ed Blackburn, CCC president and CEO.

Stark Street Apartments' major contributors include the Housing is Health coalition of six health organizations: Adventist Health Portland, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health, OHSU and Providence Health & Services – Oregon. Other major funders are Portland Housing Bureau, Umpqua Bank, US Bank Community Development Corporation, Federal Home Loan Bank and PGE.

The design and development team is Central City Concern, the architect is Ankrom Moisan and the builder is Team Construction.



Making Suicide Prevention a Routine Part of Care

Sep 11, 2017

national suicide prevention week ribbon and logoSuicide Prevention Week is Sept. 10-16, but preventing suicide is something Central City Concern (CCC) thinks about every day of the year. “Zero Suicide” is the national model of treatment that CCC’s Old Town Clinic (OTC) has adopted and integrated into all aspects of the primary care it provides to more than 5,000 individuals it serves annually. It’s a commitment to the idea that every suicide can be prevented with the right kind of care.

“No matter what your position, we’re all responsible for suicide prevention,” says Brian Barnes, Associate Director for Behavioral Health in Primary Care at OTC. Barnes explains that making suicide prevention a system-wide priority and a routine part of care is the key to ensuring that no one falls through the cracks. Having clear, established procedures is better for patients and better for staff because it normalizes prevention and helps everyone know how to get the right kind of help.

“Suicide prevention starts way back so that when we see a patient we are looking at the whole picture."

At Old Town Clinic, this has meant incorporating questions about suicide into regular patient visits, establishing new protocols to ensure that clinicians are aware of patients who have a plan to harm themselves and designating a suicide "clinician of the day" who can respond to help, usually within five minutes. An intervention by the clinician of the day can last several hours—enough time to really engage someone in a moment of crisis, gain new perspective on a situation that may seem hopeless and come up with a concrete safety plan for the day, which clinic staff follow up on. Implementing these changes entailed a team-effort at the clinic, with leadership for designing and operationalizing the new procedures from Susan Marie, Senior Medical Consultant for Behavioral Health in Primary Care, and Lydia Bartholow, Associate Medical Director for Outpatient Substance Abuse Disorder Services.

“This type of work is more typical in a specialty mental health setting,” says Barbara Martin, Senior Director of Primary Care at CCC. But in serving some of Portland’s most vulnerable residents, OTC aims for a comprehensive approach. Many of the clinic’s patients face struggles that make primary care especially challenging: finding housing, getting and keeping regular access to health care, or dealing with addiction and other severe mental illness. At the same time, health care providers can lean on CCC’s extended network of wraparound services in housing, addiction treatment, employment services and social support.

“Suicide prevention starts way back,” Barnes says, “so that when we see a patient we are looking at the whole picture.” It requires going beyond crisis-intervention and stabilization to address long-term needs that support overall health and well being. Recalling how the clinic staff helped one person who recently attempted suicide, Barnes notes: “We were able to get her treatment here, at Old Town Clinic, change some things with her mental health medications, and get her housed in CCC housing with programming specifically designed for people recovering from addiction. We consider all of that primary care, because it’s primary to the person, to their overall care.”

Having clear, established procedures is better for patients and better for staff because it normalizes prevention and helps everyone know how to get the right kind of help.

Barnes and Martin both emphasize that everyone can help make zero suicide a reality. Go with your gut, they say, and reach out to a hotline or many of the other resources available if it seems that someone is at risk of harming themselves. “The most important thing is to listen,” Martin says, “because the evidence shows that if someone is getting close to a point of despair, thinking about hurting themselves, they often talk to people.” And Barnes adds: “Every person’s behavior can be explained if you understand the context, but if you don’t have time to understand the context, then get someone who can.”

• • •

The Multnomah County Crisis Line is available 24/7: 503-988-4888. 
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255
The David Romprey Oregon Warmline offers confidential peer support from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day: 1-800-698-2392



CCC’s Employment Access Center teams with WorkSource to offer even more services

Sep 04, 2017

Labor Day represents more than just mattress sales, camping and the unofficial start of fall. At Central City Concern (CCC) we celebrate the importance of employment on a person’s path to self-sufficiency. CCC’s Employment Access Center (EAC) offers CCC clients a one-stop employment assistance center with multiple resources including access to computers, the internet, tutorials, personal voicemail, a printer and copier, and telephone and fax services.

In late 2016, WorkSource Portland Metro opened an Express Center at the EAC (2 NW 2nd Ave.) to serve the public. The CCC WorkSource Express Center is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and is staffed by WorkSource employment specialists. So far in 2017, the center has helped about 600 job seekers to engage with training programs, obtain job search assistance including referrals and get help with online applications, document formatting and general questions.

“We are very pleased to host a WorkSource Express Center in our Employment Access Center,” says Clay Cooper, CCC’s director of Social Enterprises and Employment Services. “We want to expand CCC’s employment services to include everyone in the downtown area seeking employment. WorkSource helps us do that, and adds value for our existing clients.”

“We want to expand CCC’s employment services to include everyone in the downtown area seeking employment. WorkSource helps us do that, and adds value for our existing clients.”

Finding a job can be overwhelming, especially for people entering or reentering the workforce after a rough patch in life. CCC’s EAC and WorkSource Express Center has many resources to help. In 2016, the EAC assisted nearly 1,000 job seekers. And every time a client gets a job, he or she rings the bell in the front lobby. It’s the sound of achievement and celebration!