"My battle with addiction and ADHD"

Jul 25, 2017

Babs, a patient of Central City Concern's Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC), approached us earlier this year with a story to tell. Her story to tell.  And with the help of Dr. Brent Beenders, a former OHSU psychiatry resident at OTRC, she wrote it out. We're grateful that Babs is a part of our CCC community and honored that she asked us to help share her journey.

• • •

My name is Babs. This is my story about battling addiction.

I've been an addict of methamphetamines and heroin for many years. I’ve experienced numerous periods of sobriety and relapse. NA meetings, SMART Recovery meetings, and various types of therapy provided me some, but not sustained, relief.

To fully appreciate my story we need to begin with my birth. I was born in 1960. I had various injuries during my birth. The umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and my hand was pressed into my skull causing a compressed skull fracture. I am convinced that I was trying to get the cord from around my neck, thus causing my brain injury.

Not that this was enough, but my mother was addicted to alcohol, heroin, and barbiturates before and during her pregnancy with me. My mother’s attempted suicide while I was in the womb also may have been significant in my early development. I had seizures starting from birth. This combination of traumatic brain injury, seizures, and being born addicted to heroin and barbiturates set me up for a lifetime of frustration, fits of anger, anxiety, depression, cognitive difficulties, and severe attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Eventually I developed addictions to substances.

I had severe ADHD from a very young age which caused me difficulty in school; I was unable to sit still and could not concentrate on my work or comprehend what was taught. My symptoms were severe enough that I had to repeat the second grade; this was disruptive in that I lost my first group of friends. Finally, I was treated for my ADHD. This improved my hyperactivity, attention, and ability to focus. Despite learning disabilities, finally I was able to progress through several grades. Unfortunately, my doctors at the time thought that ADHD would resolve with puberty, so my medication was discontinued at age 12. I was able to struggle only through the first half of my sophomore year of high school after which I dropped out.

Three months after discontinuing my ADHD medicine was my first experience with street drugs. With the exception of a few brief periods of sobriety, I used illegal drugs daily for many years. I primarily used methamphetamine, but I also used heroin. My brain and body did not seem to know the difference between these different drugs. Without my ADHD medications, I found it near-impossible to use basic survival or coping tools. What the drugs did for me was provide brief relief from the chaos I was experiencing inside.

From the beginning of these years of drug use, I experienced numerous, deep physical and emotional traumas. The resulting PTSD further deepened my addictions and resulted in further personal turmoil. While there were many reasons for my turn to drugs, one important reason that I’ve come to realize is my untreated ADHD. With untreated ADHD, impulsivity ran rampant. ADHD, coupled with a naïve young adolescent brain, contributed to my drug use and other choices that resulted in years of intense victimization and abuse.

The key to breaking free from this cycle of drug abuse and trauma was getting adequate treatment for my ADHD. Given years of amphetamine abuse and sporadic use, finding a provider that would treat this disorder adequately was difficult—almost impossible—despite such an extensive record of my historical diagnosis and past treatment. I tried various treatment strategies recommended by various doctors over the years to address mood and anxiety, which were decidedly dysregulated. These included various antidepressants and antipsychotic medications; this treatment left me with even more severe depression and prone to fits of anger.

Though I had been a patient of Central City Concern’s Old Town Recovery Center years ago, I was getting increasingly desperate for help with my ADHD and how chaotic it made my life, so I decided to reestablish myself as a patient. Working with a psychiatric doctor, we found a medication that could be of immense help and would balance the chemicals in my brain, helping me focus, stay calm, regulate my emotions, and regain control of my life. But there was a big catch: I needed to show that I could be alcohol and drug free in order be given a prescription.

The doctor at Old Town Recovery Center—who, thankfully, understood how brain injuries, trauma, and addiction all affect each other—told me that if I could get alcohol and drug free, we could get started on medication. Ironically, without the right medication, sobriety sounded impossible. And given my current condition and my history of substance use, I was terrified that this was just turning out to be another dead end.

But something special happened: my doctor told me that she believed in me and my ability to get and stay in recovery. She saw that I needed it and that I wanted to regain control of my life. She not only saw the strength inside me, but the supports I could get outside myself.

During the time that I had to show I could get into and stay in recovery, I leaned heavily on the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room program, where a group of peers—each managing their own addiction and mental illness each day—helped me stay on the path of recovery. I learned how to sit in my discomfort and doubts, to embrace them.

Finally, in June 2015, we started the medication. It immediately calmed my thoughts and motor behavior. This allowed me to relearn how to focus on tasks, it provided me with motivation to accomplish tasks, and it allowed for me to sleep more regularly and soundly.

Most importantly it has allowed for me to remain in recovery. For so many years I was utilizing amphetamines and other drugs to try to help regulate my emotions, soothe my anxiety, and even allow me to sleep. With adequate treatment and continued recovery, I feel like I have now been able to finally “grow up.”

Even my interests have shifted. I’ve been on the board of a community health center and was able to help initiate a needle depository program for the City of Portland; among the many benefits of this, important to me is maintaining a clean public environment. I was also able to get some health issues addressed. I needed surgery on my neck and no surgeon was willing to operate on me because of my addictions. After my surgery, the sensations, strength, and dexterity in my hands all improved. I have been able to complete classes to become a certified peer support specialist. Now I can help others who are struggling with similar issues.

Recovery is a unique process for each individual, and I could not hope to elaborate on every step along the way. Here, I hope to have provided a sufficient overview to understand my recovery and the importance of treatment for ADHD.

Acknowledgments: In order to accomplish writing this article I utilized the help of Brent Beenders, MD, a psychiatry resident to help focus my thoughts and polish my prose. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me in my recovery.

I dedicate this to all the addicts out there who are still struggling.



"I can’t believe I get to move in here..."

Jul 13, 2017

On a perfect sunny July afternoon in Southwest Portland’s Lair Hill neighborhood, several dozen people gathered in the parking lot of Hill Park Apartments to drink iced coffee and celebrate the new building’s grand opening.

Soon-to-be resident Kellie Knight cut the ceremonial ribbon after sharing her story. “I don’t even have words right now,” she told the crowd. “I can’t believe I get to move in here and have some place that I can call home.” Kellie was addicted to drugs and in and out of prison for most of her life until she came to Central City Concern (CCC) in 2015. She now has full-time permanent employment and, for the first time, her own apartment.

CCC, Portland’s nonprofit serving people impacted by homelessness, poverty and addictions since 1979, opened the 39-unit housing building on July 11. It’s a three-story building on the edge of Portland’s southwest downtown area, close to transportation, parks and shopping. It will include supportive services for the residents of eight units that will be home to people living with mental illness. The apartments are spacious with ceiling fans and natural wood accents. The Earth Advantage-certified building is energy efficient with solar panels.

“We understand that downtown belongs to everybody. If we’re going to have a healthy downtown, we need it to reflect a certain set of values. Those values turn into people and those people turn into a diverse city that we can be proud of,” said Ed Blackburn, CCC’s president and CEO. “This building is adding to that.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler was there as well. “This is a community effort, one that we can all be proud of,” he said. “In my opinion, this represents one of the great ways this city comes together to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community get back on their feet.”

Commissioner Dan Saltzman shared that his family had moved into the Lair Hill neighborhood in the 1920s when it was predominantly occupied by Italian and Jewish immigrants. “This has always been a vibrant neighborhood,” Saltzman said. “I hope that these Hill Park Apartments will be as good to its residents as this area has been to my family.”

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury explained how the eight residents managing mental illness are receiving and will continue to receive appropriate support from CCC’s behavioral health staff. These residents are engaged with Central City Concern’s outpatient behavioral health program—the Old Town Recovery Center—where they receive many services and will have access to CCC’s proven integrated care models. They will also be empowered and supported in carving their path to self-sufficiency. “We know that by connecting people to the resources that they need they can overcome barriers and truly change their lives,” she said. “However, without housing there is no healing. Housing is indeed health care.”

Other speakers at the grand opening included Sean Hubert, CCC’s chief housing and employment officer; Rachel Solotaroff, CCC’s chief medical officer; Jeri Young from US Bank and Margaret Salazar from Oregon Housing and Community Services.

     

Hill Park Apartments has 39 units: 17 studio and 22 one-bedroom. Major contributors include US Bank, Portland Housing Bureau, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Oregon Health Authority, Home Forward, Providence Health & Services, and Energy Trust of Oregon. Further, Steven Stone and Elana Stone Anderson of BedMart teamed up with Tempur-Pedic Mattresses to donate 30 mattresses for the incoming residents; the donation was facilitated by CCC's longtime partner, Community Warehouse.

The architect is Carleton Hart Architecture and the general contractor is Colas Construction, Inc.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: June 2017 Edition

Jun 30, 2017

For June’s monthly volunteer spotlight, we sat down to talk with Malinda Moore, whose energy and zeal for service have already made her a big part of the team at the Old Town Clinic. Read on to hear about how she got involved with CCC and what keeps her coming back as a volunteer.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Malinda: Concierge at Old Town Clinic, or as some of the clients say, you must not have made it in to the greeters at Walmart or the Home Depot!

P: Oh no!

M: No! They say it affectionately, especially the clients that recognize that you’re there more often. They remember people.

P: You’ve been there for how long now?

M: Since around Christmas of last year.

P: I’m sure you’ve become a familiar face for folks at the clinic.

M: You hope so. Every day is different. Some days there may be someone who needs a little extra arm around the shoulder and help to stay calm. Other days there are people who just need someone to say hi, or just do something that they don’t expect, like open the door before they get a chance to push the button. I can get out there and get that door open before the patient can. It’s just fun to see the look on people’s faces when someone is nice to them because they’re next to them.

P: That’s probably not something some of our clients see too often, is someone going the extra mile for them.

M: Exactly, and they deserve it as much as anyone does. That’s one of the most fun parts about it.

P: Is there anything that is challenging about it?

M: I don’t have many challenges there. When you’re there observing, the front line people treat every one of those clients like it’s the governor or the mayor. And they remember their names! I can’t believe how many people come in every day and before they step in the door it’s like, “Hi, such and such, how are you doing?” The staff treat them and they treat each other with that same respect. And the clients treat each other with respect. They’ll take time to listen to each other and help each other out. They’re very compassionate with each other. It’s very uplifting to see these people be so compassionate and be working so hard to be doing what they need to do get better.

P: Have you had a particular moment stick out in the time that you’ve been volunteering?

M: There was one woman who came who was having a mental health crisis, and she wasn’t a client, but staff was working really hard to find how best to help her. When staff would leave, I would just sit with her and she had her head in her hands, but once I started talked to her she would put her head up and we would look at pictures of her dog, her boyfriend, and we had great conversations. It was nice to see that I didn’t have to be doing anything medical for her, just sitting there having a friend was good enough to make her feel better. Then you get to meet people that have such varied backgrounds and skills and they’re just such interesting people! There’s nothing big, but every day I come back and say to my husband, “Guess what? I had the best time talking to this person!”

P: Is that what keeps you coming back to volunteer?

M: Yes! I may go two days a week! I really look forward to it. I used to really look forward to going to work every day, so this is this same feeling, like, I get to go to work! And be with people I like to be with.

P: That’s a great feeling.

M: I’m very lucky.

P: And what is your background?

M: I was a medical speech pathologist, so I worked in inpatient, outpatient, home health, hospice, ICU. I got to do all of those. It was that kind of hospital where everybody talked to everybody. You could meet the doctor in the hallway and he’d want t know what you thought about his patient. There wasn’t this hierarchy. It was a great place to work. I get some of that same feeling from the Old Town Clinic. You just watch all these people at OTC and there’s just so much collaboration, it could be a role model for any clinic in the state. It’s not just a job there. The minute someone walks in the door someone want to help them.

P: What got you involved with CCC?

M: Oh, this is a great story! My husband, who is a retired attorney, pours wine in a winery in Albany and he got to talking to a woman at the winery, who happened to be a CCC employee and he came home that day and said, “We’re going to start donating to Central City Concern!” It was just like that. He was so impressed with what she told him. And then when we moved to Portland, I decided this is where I’d like to spend some time. So that’s where it started, the winery!

P: What do you think someone who is on the fence might want to know?

M: I think, no matter what they did, if it was something they thought they might like, they’re going to be treated really well. People are going to go out of their way to help them feel comfortable and they’re going to be appreciated. If I show up on a day I don’t normally volunteer, they’ll be like, ‘Aren’t you usually here on Wednesday?’

• • •

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.



"A poem for Khabral Muhammad, Aaron Sadiq and many other Black men I love."

Jun 23, 2017

By all accounts, the Imani Center mahafali graduation was a celebratory, joyous affair, but there were pockets of immense beauty and reflection to be found, as well. One of the day's more poignant moments came when Malcolm, an Imani Center graduate, shared a poem he had originally written for his cousin and his son that he felt was appropriate for the day. Everyone in attendance was deeply moved by the poem, which served to remind his fellow graduates of their worth, their path, and their promise,  We're grateful to Malcolm that he gave us permission to share his poem here.

• • •

A poem for Khabral Muhammad, Aaron Sadiq and many other Black men I love.

You my brother,

 are strong beyond your own knowing.

Even when you lay here,

heaving,

broken,

hurting.

You are strong.

Listen to me.

Your strength lies not in your right

or left hand.

Not in your thighs or back

or feet.

But in a place beyond you,

not to be touched,

or doubted,

only held here

when you need.

You will be unbreakable stone.

You will be the heat that burns the dross and waste.

You will be the solid earth on which they stand.

You will be the vine that pulls down the walls.

But for now, be like water. Be easy, flow over and around these obstacles. Seek your own level.

You, my brother cannot be conquered or defeated.

You will push on and over and past, like water.

You will overcome.

The truth is, you are a King among men.

But you have hidden yourself in the mundane, in the badlands.

You walk the badlands among shadows and bad men.

You do not belong chasing these shadows but you love it here.

And here you gleam.

The shadows are attracted to your shine.

You, are no mundane.

The water in you calls for release

It rushes back and forth in your veins.

The clash of tides is in you.

In your ears and toes and fingers it surges and thunders.

This dance you do-this up and down

This back and forth.

Aren’t you tired?

Isn’t this burden heavy?

Don’t you want to rise?

And join your people?

Don’t you want to rise?

It is all there for you. Yours to claim.

All of it.

You only have to release this weight.

Let go,

Let it go.

Let it go, ascend.

Malcolm Shabazz Hoover
Portland, 2017



An Imani Center Graduation: A Victory Lap for Transformation

Jun 22, 2017

Linda Hudson, Director of African American ServicesA beautiful day in Peninsula ParkMalcolm, one of 10 graduates, shared a moving poem to encourage his fellow graduates.Larry Turner, a respected voice in the local African American recovery community.Director of Employment Services Freda Ceaser sang a a stirring rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

On Wednesday, June 7, CCC's Imani Center program held its first-ever mahafili—Swahili for "graduation"—for ten clients who had completed the program. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow of select photos from the event.

• • •

Isn’t this burden heavy?
Don’t you want to rise?
And join your people?
Don’t you want to rise?
It is all there for you. Yours to claim.
 
-Excerpt from "A poem for Khabral Muhammad, Aaron Sadiq and many other Black men I love." by Malcolm Shabazz Hoover, Imani Center graduate

Wednesday, June 7 was a notably bright and sunny day in North Portland, a welcome break from the early-summer gray often seen in the Pacific Northwest. But for attendees of the Central City Concern Imani Center’s first-ever mahafali—Swahili for “graduation”—the brightest lights at Peninsula Park radiated from the clients present to be honored for their accomplishment.

The Imani Center provides culturally specific and responsive Afrocentric approaches to mental health and addictions treatment to the community. It is a one-of-a-kind program that utilizes a treatment model tailored to their clients’ experiences, created by staff members with lived knowledge of Black culture and the African American experience. According to Director of African American Services Linda Hudson, both the clients and the staff deserved a similarly distinct graduation.

“Graduating from such a unique program symbolizes accomplishment, change, commitment, and resilience. We thought it was the perfect time to have a family get together,” she said.

Some graduates completed their outpatient treatment in as little as four months; other graduates spent nearly a year in the program. All earned their graduated status as changed people who had developed the tools and found a support network vital to staying on the path of recovery.

The event started with Linda welcoming the crowd of about 40 people, which included Central City Concern staff members, graduates, and their friends and family. Also in attendance were several alumni of CCC’s Puentes program—a culturally specific addiction treatment and mental health program that serves the local Latinx population—that had forged a mutually supportive camaraderie with Imani Center participants over the past year.

Dr. Rachel Solotaroff, CCC’s chief medical officer, followed Linda and shared remarks on what she sees as making the Imani Center so special: that it empowers clients to build a home for the community of African Americans working toward recovery in a way that the community itself wanted to shape it.

Director of Employment Services Freda Ceaser wowed the gathered audience with a stirring rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Larry Turner, a pillar of the local African American recovery community, addressed the graduates directly, encouraging them to continue the hard work of recovery and to uphold their responsibilities to themselves as well as their community.

Finally, the graduates were each recognized for completing the Imani Center treatment program, and all had the opportunity to share their thoughts. While each of their journeys through the program was unique, a theme became quickly apparent: though these graduates had participated in recovery groups and programs before, it wasn’t until Imani that they were able to feel and benefit from genuine one-on-one peer connections based in shared cultural experiences.

Graduate Malcolm shared a piece he had written called “A poem for Khabral Muhammad, Aaron Sadiq and many other Black men I love,” originally written for his cousin and son, but perfect for this group of graduates and their shared journey forward.

A number of graduates also shared what helped them persevere: the Imani Center staff refused to give up on them, so they couldn’t and wouldn’t give up on themselves.

And like the smell of roses in bloom at Peninsula Park, the feeling of gratitude—for the Imani Center, for people who finally understood, for the mutual care and trust between staff and clients, for recovery and hope for a better, healthier future—filled the air throughout the entire mahafali.

Though this first-ever Imani Center graduation required hours upon hours of planning, Linda believes it was entirely worth the effort and foresees many more graduations in the future.

“Our clients worked hard to achieve this moment,” Linda said. “It’s like taking a victory lap for transformation.”



Participating in Life in a Way She Never Thought Possible

Jun 21, 2017

Yesterday's blog post focusing on the Central City Concern employees who earned diplomas in the past year shared a few lines from the written remarks of one of the graduates, Kari Fiori. However, we found her whole statement to be so encouraging, inspirational, and indicative of the strength and compassion of our employees that we decided to share it in full.

• • •

Lynda Williams [of the Recovery Mentor Program] plucked me from De Paul Treatment Center over six years ago, giving me the chance to continue my "adult time out" at the Recovery Mentor Program. I desperately needed it. I wasn't ready to go back into the workforce, and knowing my history with relapse, I simply wanted to continue focusing on my recovery. I needed to get the foundation firmly in place, and I wanted to make sure I put nothing in front of the importance of not picking up, one day at a time.

Going out with the Community Volunteer Corps into the community allowed me to to get a feel for having a schedule and showing up when I was supposed to. I was able to get health care at the Old Town Clinic... the first time I'd had access to health care in many years. I went to a lot of 12 step meetings and did a lot of soul searching while I was in the Mentor Program. One thing I knew is that I wanted to get a bachelor's degree. I'd always been a good student, but my addiction didn't allow me to finish school. Every time I relapsed, I dropped my classes. Eventually, I gave up my dream of college, convinced I'd never stay clean or get a degree.

I decided to go back to school when I had two years clean and sober. I chose two years simply because I didn't want to focus on anything except not picking up for that amount of time (an amount of time I'd never been able to put together before). I was glad I waited because it was overwhelming and scary and, had I not had the recovery tools I'd gained during my first two years clean, I don't know if I'd have remembered that my recovery was my number one priority. Luckily, I did remember.

I picked Public Health as a major because it was a large umbrella that touched on so many things I care about deeply: the environment, personal health, city planning, community, etc. I never realized how political Public Health as a topic was until I started really learning about what goes into keeping us safe and healthy. I don't have to tell you how so many public programs live and die by the local, state and federal budgets passed.

During my first couple of years of school, I survived by cleaning houses. I had a decent little business built up, but the work was difficult for my middle-aged body. I still had no idea what career I was headed for, I only knew that I wanted to follow my heart and major in something that mattered to me.

One day, as I was walking across the campus, I got a call from Lynda Williams, the female Mentor at the Recovery Mentor Program. She told me that, because of the Affordable Care Act, the Mentor Program was going to expand, and would I be interested in applying for the new female Mentor position? It was a no-brainer! Of course I wanted to, and I did.

It's been two years now that I've been working as the evening and weekend Mentor at both the Estate and the Madrona Mentor Programs. It's like a dream job: I get to welcome our newest clients and talk to them about recovery and take them to meetings. Working for Central City Concern is such an honor. The work we all do affects the health of so many people, and those effects are felt not only by our clients, but by their family members and loved ones, as well.

Homes, Health, and Jobs is what it says on the CCC logo. Getting people off the streets, providing them with medical care in a place that treats them as valued members of the community, offering people a chance to get clean one more time, providing valuable mental health services, offering training and jobs through Clean and Safe and the on call positions, providing both Housing First and abstinence-based recovery programs in order to help the most people... these things and more are the things Central City Concern does that make the public's health better here in Portland.

I couldn't be prouder to be a member of the CCC workforce. Having benefited from services at a time I so desperately needed help has made me a true believer. I always tell our clients, "You are in a good place. You lucked out!" because I know it's true. I can't believe how much I lucked out, landing a job in the field I chose as my major before I even finished college! I don't know where I'll end up in five or ten years, career-wise. I only know that I plan on staying within the CCC family.

I'm so happy I'm getting my bachelor's degree, 29 years after beginning my college career in California. This coming Sunday I'll be walking in Portland State's commencement ceremony. My recovery is still my top priority, and because of that, I get to participate in my life in a way I never thought possible.



Moving Forward with Persistence & Determination

Jun 20, 2017

Freda Ceaser, Director of Employment Services, told the graduates, Representatives from local colleges and universities with whom CCC partners to provide scholarships were recognized.
Next

On Tuesday, June 13, CCC recognized 16 employees who earned diplomas ranging from a GED to master’s degrees, and awarded scholarships to 12 employees continuing their studies in higher education. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow of select photos from the event.

• • •

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” –Maya Angelou

Central City Concern (CCC) has a work culture based on compassion. A huge component of our day-to-day experience is promoting learning, both in ourselves as well as the people we serve. Every June for the last four years, CCC has honored the self-motivated learners who work for our agency and have pursued formal education on their own time.

This year, on Tuesday, June 13, CCC recognized 16 employees who earned diplomas ranging from a GED to master’s degrees, and awarded scholarships to 12 employees who are continuing their studies in higher education. CCC partners with local colleges and universities to provide monetary help for selected students/employees.

The commencement ceremony featured words of congratulation and encouragement from Joe Chapman, CCC’s chief human resources officer, who told the participants, “you exemplify two important factors: persistence and determination.” Amanda McGovern, CCC paralegal and scholarship recipient, quoted inspiring words from Maya Angelou. And Freda Ceaser, CCC’s director of Employment Services, told her story of coming to CCC from prison, working her way up to a director position, raising a family, and gaining her college degree at the same time. “If I can do it,” she assured, “anyone can do it.”

One graduate, Kari Fiori, a CCC recovery peer mentor for the Recovery Mentor Program, received her BS in Public Health from Portland State University. She couldn’t attend the CCC commencement but sent written remarks: “I'm so happy I'm getting my Bachelor's degree, 29 years after beginning my college career in California,” she wrote. “My recovery is still my top priority, and because of that, I get to participate in my life in a way I never thought possible.”

Another graduate, Jay McIntyre, received his BS in Portland State University’s Management and Leadership program. Jay is CCC’s Clean and Safe/Clean Start Program Manager. He first came to CCC as a recovering client in 2007 when he moved into the Estate building and got involved with CCC’s Employment Access Center.

Jay started working at CCC in January 2008 as an on-call janitor. He quickly got a regular position turning over rooms, and was then promoted to a Janitor 2 position with more responsibility. “I was grateful for a job, but I knew my potential was more,” Jay said. “I had my GED and needed to go back to school to get further in life.”

He applied to PSU in 2014 and dove into the program with help from his parents and grants. “A CCC/PSU scholarship covered the gap in tuition and books for two years,” Jay said. “It was a godsend. I am so grateful for the opportunity. It’s fantastic to get to the next level.”

Jay and his wife, who also came through CCC programs, have a blended family of five children and now own their own home. His daughter graduated from high school this month. For the last three years, Jay has spent every weekend on school work; he’s looking forward to having more time with his family. “I was doing it for me and so my family has a better life,” he said. Fittingly, he graduated on Father’s Day. “I started with a little goal plus another little goal; eventually they all add up. Once you get that self-confidence, you can reach for the stars.”



CCC Clean Start: Keeping Portland Clean & Giving Workers a Fresh Start

Jun 06, 2017

As the weather warms and the days grow longer, people take more notice of what’s going on in their neighborhoods. Central City Concern’s (CCC) Clean Start program helps keep neighborhoods clean by clearing away trash and removing graffiti. It’s also a mentored six-month work experience that gives people an opportunity to work, grow and gain crucial experience and confidence to pursue employment opportunities. CCC Clean Start runs three Portland crews and one in Gresham, each consisting of two people and a truck.

Local residents can access CCC Clean Start through the City of Portland’s One Point of Contact page online form or the PDX Reporter app. The City reviews the request and often calls upon CCC Clean Start crews to visit the area to clear trash or assist campers with cleaning. CCC Clean Start crews do not move people from sites or participate in campground “sweeps.” Their mission is to help keep neighborhoods free of litter and debris, as well as to provide residents of encampments with resources to maintain a safe and hygienic environment.

In April 2017, the three Portland CCC Clean Start crews removed 3,511 bags of trash and 1,350 needles.

Additionally, CCC Clean Start contracts with the Portland Downtown Business Improvement District to operate Downtown Clean & Safe, a service that cleans a 213-block area in central downtown and along the bus mall. CCC Clean Start also operates a temporary storage locker near the west end of the Steel Bridge where people who have no place to call home can put their belongings for a few hours while they work or seek employment.

Each two-person team has a trainee who once experienced homelessness. These trainees receive minimum wage, work 40 hours per week for 6-months and learn valuable soft skills. Toward the end of their six-month work experience, CCC Clean Start employees engage in practical, employment development workshops at CCC’s Employment Access Center where they receive one-on-one assistance in the job search process.

Some graduates move on to CCC employment in janitorial, maintenance, pest control and painting roles that maintain CCC’s 23 buildings. Others find permanent employment outside of the agency.

CCC Clean Start program keeps neighborhoods clean and gives workers a chance to gain experience and skills. It’s a win-win. For more information, visit the CCC Clean Start webpage.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: New Volunteer Manager Edition!

Jun 01, 2017

For this month’s volunteer spotlight I’m going to be interviewing myself, Peter Russell, to introduce myself to you as the new Volunteer Manager for Central City Concern. I’m very excited to be working with the organization and to be able to work with all the volunteers who support what we do. I’ll be turning the spotlight back over to our volunteers later this month, but for the time being, here’s a little more about me!

• • •

What is your background working with volunteers?
I have coordinated or worked with volunteers in a variety of different roles over the last few years. Primarily, I spent the last two years working with Habitat for Humanity as the assistant manager at one of the Portland area ReStores. In this role, I was the store’s volunteer coordinator in addition to my work managing the store. I also helped train volunteers during my time as an intern with the National Eating Disorder Association and have directed some volunteer theater productions too!

What is it that you enjoy about working with volunteers?
So many things! I love the sense of community that gets built up around a volunteer workforce. There is a deep sense of caring and compassion that drives people to volunteer. I think one can see that not only in the work that is done by volunteers, but how volunteers help the people they work with to develop and grow as well. I have been able to learn so much from the people I have worked with as volunteers, as there can be such a wide diversity of skills within a group of volunteers. I also really enjoy the feeling that everyone is working together with the same goal in mind: to engage with your community and to help it change and grow in a positive way.

What are you looking forward to about working with Central City Concern’s volunteers?
I love that there are so many different ways that volunteers can be involved in the work that the organization does. Not only does this provide so many opportunities for me to learn new things (which is one of my favorite things to do), but it also means that we can engage with a large variety of future volunteers. The possibilities for growing the ways in which volunteers assist with our operations seem fairly boundless, so I am also very excited to start to dream up new ways in which we can involve people.

What do you like to do when you are not working with volunteers?
In my spare time I do some volunteering of my own, but I also am a serious dabbler in the creative arts. I bounce between writing music, short stories, films, and other things in between. I also love to be outdoors and go on hikes, so I’m very excited that the weather has finally started to turn. As a lifelong vegetarian, I also enjoy cooking (and eating). I can’t say I’m very good at it, but I enjoy it nonetheless!

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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 at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.



Getting the Most out of Life

May 30, 2017

I lost my kids at 26 years old. They were ages eight, seven, and three. The only one I got to keep was the one I was pregnant with. I turned 27 in jail, the baby due in three months, and nowhere to go when I got out. That’s when I turned to Central City Concern. Having been in my addiction on and off for 12 years, in and out of jail, homeless, and unable to take care of myself, let alone three little kids and a newborn, I was out of options. While in jail, someone told me about Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center (a residential treatment program for pregnant women and those with young children).


I entered treatment on March 3, 2011—the day I stopped harming myself, and started healing. Going into an in-patient program was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There were schedules, expectations, lots of sharing, and so much emphasis on accountability and self-care. I gave birth to my son Tristyn while at Letty Owings Center. He was baby number 232 born to a clean and sober mother while at Letty Owings. I was so proud to be that mother. Tristyn was healthy, and I was fully committed to learning how to be the mom he needed. Letty Owings Center exposed me to a different way of thinking and gave me new skills like planning, healthy meal preparation, money management, handing conflicts in a respectful way, positive parenting, and patience. I used a lot of the tools they taught me while I attended ongoing treatment sessions and I still use the tools today. I learned to accept help, to live life on life’s terms, and most of all I learned how to stay positive and what it takes to be a good parent. The experience I got at Letty Owings Center set me free to seek a better life for me and my family.

After I completed in-patient treatment, Central City Concern provided Tristyn and me with a studio apartment at Laura’s Place (three to six months of transitional housing for women who complete treatment at Letty Owings Center). There was more flexibility at Laura’s Place but I still had a lot of work to do on myself so I stayed on a schedule and didn’t rush the healing process. I tried to remember everything I learned at Letty Owings Center and every day, I managed my life better and better. I did outpatient treatment at Central City Concern Recovery Center four times a week. I went to recovery meetings, mental health appointments, and made an effort to listen to others. I didn’t have to fake it anymore, or be afraid, because I was actually learning how to function in society. I wanted success and I wanted to get all my kids back so I could show them a different way of life than what we had during my addiction. I was inspired by other women who were facing similar challenges, and gained confidence every day. When a bigger unit became available, my daughter Cheyenne, who’d been in foster care for a year, was able to come live with us. Life was improving.

We lived at Laura’s Place for four months and then I was given the opportunity to move into a Central City Concern family housing community. That’s when my son Ellias and my daughter Reyna got to move in. I was drug- and alcohol-free, physically and mentally thriving, and had all four of my children under the same roof. The support I got while in family housing was amazing. I had a mentor who I still keep in touch with today. She helped me through the death of my best friend, and motivated me to keep making healthy decisions. I was able to go back to school and pursue a promising future—one that I was given the freedom to envision while in safe and secure Central City Concern family housing. 

Through it all, housing played the biggest role in my transformation. Housing was the first stable piece. Once I had housing I was able to work on everything else—my recovery, going to school, paying off student loans, getting employed and off public assistance, doing therapy with my children, and teaching my kids right from wrong. I was able to move from one step to the next, not out of desperation but out of growth and informed thinking. If you don’t have a place to call home, it’s hard to get any traction. 

Housing gave me peace of mind because I knew where my kids and I were going to be sleeping every night. It gave me a safe place to start getting the most out of life. I want to be a good mom for so many reasons. Most of all because my kids deserve it. I put them through the wringer with unpredictable behavior, foster care, and not being there when they needed me.

I want them to know that your past doesn’t have to be your future. I want them to know that life doesn’t have to involve a screaming mom. They’ve been so resilient and I am so proud. My kids are smart, respectful, and well behaved—not what you would expect after what they’ve been through. Today, they would describe me as strict, fair, and fun. I feel like that describes a good mom.

Every day I look in the mirror and I’m amazed: I look calm, I look happy and I look in control of my life. There are still challenges, but I take them on with a clear head—one day at a time. Six years ago I could not have imagined that I would be the person I am today. I’ve earned an Associate’s degree and am currently in school working toward a Bachelor’s in Human Development. I could not imagine that all four kids would be with me and that I would have my driver’s license back and that I would be where I’m at education wise, career wise, and family wise. Every single step I’ve taken along the way was fundamental in getting me where I am today. It all became possible when I was offered housing and got the support I needed in order to grow into the person my kids can count on. It all became possible through Central City Concern.