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



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!



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!



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.



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.”