Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JVC Volunteer Justin

Jul 26, 2016

Justin Willis has known since adolescence that he would commit his life to serving those less fortunate than he.

“Both of my parents are in education, which lends itself to social justice,” says Willis, now age 26. “They encouraged me to do social justice work from a young age.”

While still a middle school and high school student in Federal Way, Washington, Willis participated in service learning projects through his church, working with migrant farmers in Bellingham, helping out in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and working with poor families in Mexico.

As an undergraduate at Seattle University (SU), a school he chose in large part because of its commitment to social justice, Willis taught math to students in a nearby elementary school where 96 percent of students live in poverty.

Willis studied biology and general sciences at SU, in preparation for medical school. He knew that he wanted to do a year of service before applying to med school, but he wasn’t sure where. When a former SU student came back to campus and gave a talk about his experiences as a Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest volunteer with Central City Concern’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP), Willis knew he had found a match.

“I thought ‘this is exactly what I want to do,’” Willis recalls, “work with homeless people in a sort of medical setting.”

In addition to the opportunity to work at RCP, Willis was excited about living with seven other like-minded individuals in a JVC Northwest house and walking through their volunteer journey together.

Willis worked as a patient liaison with RCP in 2012-13, helping clients navigate the health care system, interviewing them at the hospital, getting them established at CCC’s Old Town Clinic, moving them into the RCP facility and helping them transition from there into more permanent housing. He also held weekly case-management drop-in sessions to support patients once they left RCP.

Willis admits that one of the biggest initial challenges of working at RCP was his naivety about people who are experiencing homelessness in their daily lives.

“I came in wanting to make a difference and it was tough when that didn’t happen. I really had to understand that changes come slowly and in small steps,” he says.

As the year progressed, Willis did learn to appreciate the positive changes he and the staff at RCP helped their patients make, such as moving into transitional or permanent housing. He says that the entire RCP community was genuinely affected when good things happened.

Now a third-year student at University of Washington School of Medicine, Willis has continued his commitment to serving low-income communities. In his first two years of medical school, he volunteered and worked as clinic lead at Aloha Inn in Seattle, which provides housing to formerly homeless people. This year he made sure to get rotations in areas with impoverished populations, including one in rural Wyoming and another at Harborview Hospital in Seattle, a Level One Trauma Center serving five states.

Willis plans to go into pediatrics, working with underserved children and their parents to help prevent the adverse childhood events that are most likely to lead to drug use, poverty and homelessness.

Wherever he ends up, Willis will take with him many profound experiences from his days at RCP.

He says, “I learned the importance of not judging and not having preconceived notions about anyone I interact with. By far the most rewarding aspect was just being in the RCP building and talking to patients and hearing the path they had in their lives. Everyone there has incredible stories.”

• • •

Don't forget to visit our other JVC Volunteer Spotlights!

   



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JVC Volunteer Carissa

Jul 26, 2016

A few patients gather in the common room of the old building, reading newspapers or grabbing sodas from the vending machine. A man in a wheelchair rolls in, while another takes up his post at a seat in the hallway. Carissa Marston greets them all by name, checking in with each as she makes her way upstairs.

Marston is a case manager with Central City Concern’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP), one of several CCC programs housed in downtown Portland’s historic Henry Building. She first joined the RCP in 2013 as a member of Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest and was hired a year later as a paid staff member.

Before Marston came to RCP, she had never worked with homeless or medically vulnerable adults, but she brought with her skills learned as a resident assistant in her college dorm in Louisiana.

“I had some experience in crisis management and responding to emergencies on the fly. Things usually go smoothly at RCP on a day-to-day basis, but I’ve found that my calm demeanor can be useful here,” Marston says.

One significant aspect of her job is screening new referrals made by area hospitals and social workers, ensuring that arriving patients will be a good fit for the program. All new patients must be able to perform daily living activities independently and have an acute need that can be resolved, Marston says.

“We’re not trying to screen people out,” Marston adds. “We’re trying to screen people in. We always think about how we can tweak the program to be more successful.”

Marston, one of five full-time caseworkers, begins her rounds each morning with juice and granola bars as a “peace offering” for waking up her patients. Throughout the day, she helps them get to medical and counseling appointments, and also helps prepare them for life after RCP. Most patients stay in the program for two to six weeks.

The 24 year old, who grew up outside of New Orleans, says that the learning curve at CCC was fast and furious, especially since she started the job soon after graduating from college.

“It was mind-blowing and eye-opening in every way,” Marston admits. One of the most important skills she’s learned over the years is how to communicate with patients, as well as how to communicate with those who don’t work in similar fields.

Living with four other people, all of whom have volunteered with JVC Northwest in the past, helps her deal with the intensity of the job. “It’s good to have that kind of audience,” Marston says.

The work has also been invigorating for her. Marston had long been considering a career in medicine, but was reluctant to make a commitment without experience.

“I’ve really enjoyed being here, at the borderline between medical care and social services. And I’ve had some really great mentors at Old Town Clinic,” she says.

At the end of the summer, Marston will be leaving the Northwest to start a three-year physician assistant program at Duke University in North Carolina, but she hopes to return to Portland when she earns her degree. Her dream job? A position with CCC, right back where she started.

• • •

Don't forget to visit our other JVC Volunteer Spotlights!

       



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JVC Volunteer Amanda

Jul 26, 2016

Getting into a recovery program. Making it to medical appointments. Finding housing. These are just some of the life-changing steps that Amanda Foggia, patient liaison with Central City Concern’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP), sees her patients taking. For Foggia, witnessing patients achieve goals they once thought impossible is her job’s biggest pay-off.

“Moving someone into their own apartment, seeing them get their own keys, is one of the best things we do, “ says Foggia, who is in her second year as an RCP volunteer through Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest. “My mindset of success has changed dramatically since coming here.”

Originally from outside of Albany, New York, Foggia attended Fordham University, where she studied psychology. At Fordham, she also got her first exposure to the Jesuit philosophies of social justice and service work. She participated in several service immersion programs during her undergraduate years, traveling to India twice to work in orphanages and a home for sick women founded by Mother Teresa. She also worked with underserved populations in Montana and Colorado while still a student.

After graduating from Fordham, Foggia considered various volunteer positions around the country. She liked the urban locale of RCP, as well as the warm reception she got from JVC Northwest. She began working at RCP in the summer of 2014 and found it so rewarding that she signed on for a second year.

Foggia’s main responsibilities include determining who is eligible for the program and helping patients ranging in age from 18 to 86 meet their goals, from staying off drugs and alcohol to finding employment and reconnecting with family members.

She says that, initially, she spent a lot of time observing patients and other staff members, learning how to work with a population with which she had little experience.

“It’s an intense and challenging place,” Foggia says, “and at times it can feel overwhelming. You have to figure out how to stay fresh and positive.”

Living in a house in North Portland with seven other JVC Northwest volunteers has provided Foggia with much-needed moral support, but communal living also comes with challenges. She and her housemates hold weekly meals, household business meetings and spirituality nights. They also make all household decisions, such as how to spend their limited stipend for groceries, communally.

“The reward has been getting to witness my own personal growth and the growth of the people I’m living with. Also learning how to love people even if we don’t see eye to eye or have completely different views on things,” Foggia says.

RCP has expanded rapidly in the past year since winning a Health Care Innovation Award and being included in a national study on health care for the homeless. According to Foggia, better partnerships and increased awareness at local hospitals have also fueled the program’s growth, with referrals rising from an average of 17 per month to 29 per month.

All of this has added to Foggia’s own learning experiences. She says, “From the volunteer side it’s a unique position. You get to see so many things, it’s an opportunity to see the whole wrap-around services.

“Working at RCP has been a really great learning experience,” she adds. “It gets me out of my bubble.”

• • •

Don't forget to visit our other JVC Volunteer Spotlights!

   



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: JVC Anniversary Edition

Jul 26, 2016

Volunteers are the backbone of Central City Concern, and many relationships are lasting. Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest and CCC are celebrating a 10-year partnership through CCC’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP) in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Jeanne Haster, JVC Northwest executive director, says the partnership was a natural fit from the very beginning, when CCC launched the program in 2005. “Their initial request was for a volunteer for three years to help them get the program up and running, but the need is so great and we have so many volunteers in Portland who want to work with the homeless, that we’re still there,” says Haster.

Jordan Wilhelms, Complex Care Program Manager for CCC, works closely with the volunteers. He enjoys supporting them as they take on new roles and challenges, and learn how to maintain their morale in an often intense environment. According to Wilhelms, the relationship between RCP and JVC Northwest has been rewarding for volunteers, patients and staff members alike.

The current JVC Northwest volunteer, Amanda Foggia ends her second year of service with RCP this month; the new volunteer, Kaitlyn Stettnichs starts her year of service with RCP on August 17.

Other JVC Northwest volunteers who have worked at RCP include Megan Hurley (2006-07), Kathryn Leiher (2007-08), Kaitlin Shorrock (2008 -09), Lizzie McQuillan (2009-10), Michael Alston (2010-11), Maggie Wright (2011-12), Justin Willis (2012-13), and Carissa Marston (2013-14).

Our Monthly Volunteer Spotlight feature for July will actually be three profiles, each focusing on a current or past JVC volunteer. Click on a photo below to learn more about the amazing volunteers CCC has had the great privilege of working with for the last ten years!

   



Town Center Courtyards Is Keeping Families Together

Jul 25, 2016

Amber L. is absolutely over the moon. The 27-year-old mom is moving back to Clackamas, Ore., where she grew up, into a brand new apartment. “I am so happy to be coming back with my son to a safe, beautiful home,” she told the crowd of close to 100 people who attended the grand opening of Town Center Courtyards on Wednesday, July 20.

Town Center Courtyards will become a stable, supportive home for families who are homeless or vulnerable to homelessness. The 60-unit, mixed-income apartment complex is a shining example of form and function. All the units have exterior doors and overlook courtyards where families can socialize and kids can play. The apartments are spacious and bright. There will be two Central City Concern (CCC) staff members on-site to help residents with life skills, employment, educational development, recovery, parenting and wellness support. The neighborhood is well located near public transportation, public schools, public parks, child care centers, grocery stores and numerous employment opportunities.

CCC Family Housing has served more than 1,000 families since 2000. Just last year, our Family Housing program served 122 families that included 189 children:

- 75 kids were able to stay with their families and avoid foster care.
- 79 of those families were able to find permanent housing.
- 30 of the parents found employment and 20 entered school. One parent even graduated from college.

But clients can wait as long as six months to access family housing. Town Center Courtyards will add 60 units (20 one-bedroom, one-bath; 32 two-bedrooms, one-bath; 8 three-bedrooms, 1.5 bath) to CCC’s existing 92 units of family housing.

Town Center Courtyards was completed on time and ahead of schedule. Families should start moving in during August. This is just one of several CCC affordable housing projects moving forward this summer.

Town Center Courtyards is the result of robust collaboration between CCC, Clackamas County, Oregon Housing & Community Services and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, as well as many foundations and individual donors. These partners are providing the opportunity for families to have a safe, affordable place to call home.

During the grand opening, Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader, Director of Clackamas County Housing & Community Development Chuck Robbins, Director of Oregon Housing & Community Services Claire Seguin, Vice-president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation Ann Melone, and CCC’s Senior Director of Housing and Recovery Support Services Sharon Fitzgerald all spoke of the importance of supporting the community by providing affordable housing in which families can thrive.

Amber says she was filled with gratitude when she cut the ribbon to officially open Town Center Courtyards. “Thank you for making my dream come true," she said.



Restaurant Depot: 2016 “Opening Doors" Employer of the Year

Jul 14, 2016

On July 13, Central City Concern held its seventh annual Employment Access Center celebration to honor more than a dozen clients for their exceptional diligence and success in the employment process over the past year. The EAC also recognized two Portland-area employers—Washman Car Washes and Restaurant Depot—for their superlative commitments to helping individuals find stable employment and attain self-sufficiency.

Restaurant Depot was honored as the “Opening Doors” Employer of the Year for their “commitment to giving those with high barriers to employment an opportunity to thrive.” Learn more about Restaurant Depot below!

• • •

Anyone who works in a Portland restaurant knows about Restaurant Depot. This cash-and-carry warehouse offers one-stop shopping to Portland’s ever-expanding food service industry. Shoppers will find fresh meat, poultry, seafood and produce; dairy products; a huge variety of frozen and canned foods; beverages; bakery supplies; catering supplies; cleaning supplies; and food service equipment.

Restaurant Depot has been an extremely supportive partner of CCC’s Employment Access Center (EAC) for more than five years, hiring five to 10 people annually. Most people work out; one CCC referral has been there five years and became the union shop steward.

Dan Williams (pictured here), Restaurant Depot’s branch manager, appreciates working with the EAC because they do such a great job identifying people who will be a good fit with the company, and likely to stay. “We like giving people a chance,” he says. “A lot of people make mistakes but it’s important to get them a job and get them out of that rut so they can improve their lives.”

Dan says people from CCC work hard and are likely to stick around. The EAC also helps him solve hiring struggles and remain fully staffed.

“It’s a great partnership,” he says.



Washman Car Washes: 2016 “Enduring Partner” Employer of the Year

Jul 14, 2016

On July 13, Central City Concern held its seventh annual Employment Access Center celebration to honor more than a dozen clients for their exceptional diligence and success in the employment process over the past year. The EAC also recognized two Portland-area employers—Restaurant Depot and Washman Car Washes—for their superlative commitments to helping individuals find stable employment and attain self-sufficiency.

Washman Car Washes was honored as the “Enduring Partner” Employer of the Year for their "history of partnering with Central City Concern and believing in our customers.” Learn more about Washman below!

• • •

With 11 locations across the Portland metro area, Washman Car Washes are a familiar site to community members. According to Amy Colvin (pictured here), the company’s Human Resources Coordinator, this is all the more reason that the company is intent on giving back to the area.

“We aim to be citizens who are part of this community. We do a lot in terms of giving back, not just in supporting schools and the Special Olympics and more, but also in the way we hire and how we work,” Amy says.

Over the past several years, clients of Central City Concern’s Employment Access Center have certainly felt the good work of Washman Car Washes. As part of their commitment to the community, Washman has been intentional in giving individuals experiencing barriers to employment—extended periods of unemployment or homelessness, less-than-spotless criminal histories, various scheduling needs, among other reasons—something invaluable: an opportunity. As Amy says, “Washman believes in second chances, in getting people back to work.”

While Washman’s compassionate hiring practices have helped more than a dozen EAC customers get back to work, the company has seen benefits, too.

“I think the people who come to us from Central City Concern display a great commitment to turning their life around,” says Amy. “They’re not interested in just finding a way to get by, they’re looking to get better.”

According to Amy, Washman takes pride in being understanding and flexible with its employees to help them succeed not just in the workplace, but in life. They do their best to accommodate employees’ childcare schedules, treatment program commitments, and even AA or NA meetings.

“We encourage them to continue those things because we know how important they are. We want to make sure they get the support that they need.”

Amy says the past several years of investing in CCC Employment Access Center clients looking to get on the right track has been absolutely worthwhile.

Giving people a chance when others don’t, Amy says, “makes for better employees, for a better relationship with us their employer, and for better people.”



An historic $258 million bond measure for affordable housing in Portland

Jul 08, 2016

Central City Concern is committed to reducing homelessness in Portland. We believe everyone deserves to have a place called home. Working families should be able to live where they work. Seniors who built our neighborhoods should be able to thrive here through their golden years. But because of significant growth and stagnant incomes, Portland has a huge shortage of affordable housing: affordable housing helps everyone by creating a safe, equitable and healthy community.

That’s why Central City Concern supports the Welcome Home Coalition’s Yes for Affordable Homes campaign, which is dedicated to funding affordable housing development in Portland. On June 30, the Portland City Council voted to refer a historic affordable housing bond to the November ballot, giving voters a chance to make a critically needed investment in our community. The $258.4 million bond will:

- Add permanently affordable housing – an estimated 1,300 units, 600 of which will be reserved for very low-income households (0-30 percent median family income, which is up to about $22,000 for a family of four)

- Stabilize existing affordable housing in changing neighborhoods

- Ensure thousands of homes are protected from the market

- Protect communities of color, seniors, families, children and people with disabilities

- Prevent and reverse displacement.

Housing prices in the Portland metro area are rising at an alarming rate. National research shows when the average rent increases by $100 per month, homelessness increases by 15 percent. In 2015, average Portland rents increased by $128.

Please join us in supporting the Yes for Affordable Homes campaign. We can all join together to prevent homelessness and preserve our healthy Portland neighborhoods.

For more information on the Yes for Affordable Homes campaign, visit the Welcome Home Coalition website.



Inspiration & Perspiration: The 3rd Annual CCC Employee Commencement

Jul 05, 2016

Working is fulfilling and necessary, but it can also be exhausting. Yet some people are so determined to further their education, they spend their precious free time studying, writing papers and attending classes. On June 30, Central City Concern honored 39 employees who had either earned a scholarship to further their education, or graduated with a degree or certificate this year. The festive event was held in the Old Town Recovery Center’s third floor classroom that staff had decorated with streamers and flowers.

CCC Executive Director Ed Blackburn congratulated the group. “It’s inspiring that those of you who give so much to us don’t forget to lift yourselves up too,” he said. “Reaching your highest potential is a gift to all of us.”

The keynote speaker was Joe McFerrin II, president and CEO of Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, an organization that provides education and work training services to youth facing the effects of family instability and homelessness.

“Forgive me for getting a little emotional about success,” he said, “but it’s what I live for.” McFerrin shared ideas for continuous growth, including questioning and pushing yourself throughout your lifetime. “You are all leaders,” he said.

Felecia Padgett, CCC’s Employment Access Center on-call supervisor and recipient of a 2015-16 and 2016-17 CCC Education Assistance program scholarship spoke about her experience. “My fear overpowered everything,” she said. “I didn’t think I could do anything.” But a scholarship helped her gain the confidence she needed to return to college and work toward her Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree. “I learned through CCC that I love to teach,” she says. “I want to get a degree in education.”

Fifteen CCC employees received CCC Education Assistance program scholarships to further their education, and 24 CCC employees were acknowledged for graduating and earning professional certificates or degrees, reaching all the way up to a Doctorate in Nursing Practice for Lydia Bartholow at the Old Town Clinic.

The celebration ended with refreshments, a group photo and hugs all around. As Blackburn told the beaming crowd: “Never stop learning. It keeps you young.”