Black History Month Series: Addressing Housing Needs

Friday, February 27, 2015

On any given night, nearly 3,000 people in Multnomah County—including parents with children—are grappling with homelessness. They are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters. They may be sleeping under bridges or in cars. They may be staying with friends or in emergency shelters.

The causes of homelessness are complex. Untreated mental illness, substance abuse, chronic illness, physical disability, domestic violence, and job loss usually play a role. Inadequate access to health care, cuts to social services, and an increasingly tight rental market make matters worse for people who can’t or won’t turn to friends and family for help.

The situation is especially dire for families and people of color who are newly in recovery from addiction and want to live in a housing environment that supports their recovery process. Currently, many families must wait a full year before receiving a referral for affordable housing that includes critically important on-site support services. Very few organizations provide culturally specific services for people of color, an historically underserved part of our community.

In July, Central City Concern and Miracles Club will break ground on new construction of a 47-unit apartment building for individuals and families. The building will be located in a Northeast Portland neighborhood that was home to many African Americans in the 1950s and 60s; services will include culturally-specific peer mentoring. Guardian Real Estate Services is overseeing project development and building completion is expected in Fall 2016.

The $12.7 million project has received strong support from the Portland Housing Bureau as well as private funders. Central City Concern continues to engage in fundraising efforts to fill a gap of roughly $350,000 on this project. The agency is also working to raise another $200,000 to build additional units of affordable family housing over the next two years.