Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: August 2017 Edition

Aug 30, 2017

For this month's volunteer spotlight, we are turning to another volunteer who has multiple roles at Central City Concern. While Michael initially got started with Central City Concern as a volunteer at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room program, much like last month’s spotlighted volunteer, his interest in the behind the scenes work for nonprofit organizations led to him expanding his role to include a variety of work in the Public Affairs department. Both roles are well-served by Michael’s ample ability to be an open ear to others. Hayden Buell, who supervises Michael at the Living Room, summed it up, saying, “Michael stands out as a volunteer in his ability to listen to our members and get to know them and their stories in a way that really honors their individuality. He’ll just sit down and give them space to share themselves.”

Michael was so generous in turn as to share himself with us for this month’s spotlight!

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Michael: My name is Michael Thomas Taylor, and I volunteer with CCC in two places. I’ve been at the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room since February and I’ve been helping in the Public Affairs department as well. I actually came in to talk to Susan [CCC’s Marketing and Communications Director] just because I wanted to do an informational interview, as I’m interested in moving into nonprofit work. Then Matt [CCC’s Grants Manager] said, “Hey, if you’re looking for an opportunity to help out and get some experience, you can help me with grants.” I’ve written a lot of grants as a professor, so that seemed like something that made sense. Then Susan had some projects, doing interviews with CCC clients, and blog posts.

P: So, you got most of your grant writing experience from your time as a professor?

M: Yeah, that’s one of the things you do as a professor – research, and if you want to do research you have to pay for it, and if you want to pay for it you have to write grants.

P: How did you get in to that line of work?

M: Short answer? I ran away to Europe. I grew up in the States, but I wanted to see more of the world pretty quickly. I spent a year abroad in Hungary as a foreign exchange student in high school. I wanted to stay connected with that, so in college, I started out as a music major and ended up as a German major, which worked because it got me back to Europe. I spent a year in Austria and a year and a half Germany, and then one thing led to another and I ended up doing a PhD in German. [A PhD in German] is an in-depth study of language and literature, but for me it also became a study of cultural history. A lot of my published research is in queer history or the history of sexuality, with a focus on Germany, and I branched out to do some work in curating exhibitions and communicating queer history to the public. That gave me some pretty awesome experiences and a fairly international background. I had some post-docs in Germany, and I was in France for a summer. Then my first job was in Canada, so I’ve kind of lived in lots of different places.

“Recovery can’t happen if you’re alone, that’s the first step is getting help. That’s why the connection is so crucial.”

P: What was that job in Canada?

M: I was an assistant professor of German. I was there for five years before I came to Reed College. We loved Canada – and even took Canadian citizenship! – but frankly it was too cold. I kind of thought [Reed] would be the next step in my career, but things have turned out differently and I’ve decided to make a career change.

P: And I guess part of that change and interest in nonprofit work is your time here! What initially drew you to CCC?

M: Being in recovery myself, but I also knew lots of people who’d been helped through CCC programs. I feel really strongly about the mission, and I have friends who work at CCC. [One of those friends and I] were actually snowshoeing on Mt. Hood, and we were just talking about this career change and what goals do I have. I mentioned I was interested in learning more about social service work. He was just like, “If you want to get a sense of what that might look like, you could come volunteer in the Living Room!” We had talked about what that space looks like and the community model they have there. What I love about the Living Room is that it’s not necessarily about clinical services. It’s really about a safe space, it’s about a community in which everybody is a member and everybody participates.

P: So there’s no barriers in between people there.

M: Yeah, the hierarchy is flattened out and everyone participates equally. A lot of the spiritual tools I’ve learned from being a Radical Faerie, about holding space and community, are happening at the Living Room and I just thought that was something I would love to be a part of.

P: Any experiences that have stuck out?

M: Well, getting to know some of the people. Everybody has their own story, and some people are more open about that or not. You need to build trust and sometimes you just need to be there and be present for people, so they see that you’re there, and you’re safe, and you’re interested in them and their success.

Sometimes we color, we just sit down and color and you just kind of talk with people and see what’s going on in their lives. There’s mental illness in my family and I don’t think my family had the tools that it needed to deal with that. You know, pills were often the solution, and that doesn’t always work without some sort of community support and skills model.

It was super powerful for me to come in to a room and see people, some of whom have very severe mental illness, just have a place to be to be understood, to be accepted, to be safe, to fit in, to connect in their own particular way. That has been really powerful and meaningful. It just puts a human face to people that we all live with. We all live in the same space together. That’s important, just to recognize that.

Every morning we sit down for an hour and do a group. There’s an icebreaking question like, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” Or sometimes something more intense, like, “What does recovery mean for you?” Everyone gets to speak, we have a stuffed bunny we pass around to indicate it’s your turn to speak. It’s often a lot of practice in holding community norms and values, letting other people speak, not interrupting, balancing “I have a lot to say” against “everybody needs to speak.” So slowing things down, and just learning how, practicing, being a community together.

“I guess it’s a recovery cliché, but the stories are so different, and they are all the same. To really recognize that sameness as a source of strength and community, I think is really powerful.”

P: With the client stories that you have been writing, have there been any stand out moments from the interviews?

M: You know, I am just consistently amazed at the resilience of people. That’s really powerful. I guess it’s a recovery cliché, but the stories are so different, and they are all the same. To really recognize that sameness as a source of strength and community, I think, is really powerful.

P: Being able to identify with others or see models for success?

M: And normalizing the struggles that people have gone though. So much about mental illness and addiction is about isolation, and I think breaking that sense of isolation is crucial to recovery.

P: Big or small, I think we’ve all felt that sense of relief when someone says, “No, I feel the same way, I’ve been through the same thing.”

M: I think recovery needs that. Recovery can’t happen if you’re alone; that’s why the first step is getting help. That’s why the connection is so crucial.

P: So, what keeps you volunteering at CCC?

M: I feel deeply committed to the work CCC is doing, and I’m getting some great experience. And I love the people. It’s just fun to be here and I’m genuinely excited about the work I am doing.

P: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about volunteering?

M: Try it out! What do you have to lose?

• • •

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.



NHCW 2017: Breaking down the walls between housing & health

Aug 15, 2017

While he waited for his name to rise to the top of the Central City Concern housing wait list, Glenn O. lived out of his van in northwest Portland. As he walked back to where he had last parked, he found his van stolen. Gone. And with it, all his possessions, including his dentures.

Not long after, he moved into CCC housing. But even with a roof over his head, his troubles weren’t over. The doctor he had begun seeing wanted him to eat healthier, but without dentures, the list of foods he could eat was short. What he could eat, and how he ate them, led to intestinal problems and months of feeling sick and uncomfortable.

He called his insurance to see if they would cover new dentures. After all, they were stolen, not carelessly lost. They said that they could only cover new dentures once every 10 years. He’d only had his dentures for three.

Glenn went back to gumming his food, feeling unhealthy, and going against his doctor’s orders.

• • •

Moving into Central City Concern permanent housing is often reason enough for our new residents to feel good about their trajectory. The assurance of having a roof over one’s head feels like a giant step forward toward something better. Indeed, we know that having housing is one of the most significant determinants of health, so becoming a resident of CCC housing is definitely an occasion to cheer.

However, being housed isn’t a guarantee that better health is on the horizon. Even for residents of CCC housing, especially those with more complex health care needs, successfully engaging with CCC’s health care services—or any health care services, for that matter—can feel like a world away. The connection between housing and health care is crucial: how well a resident's health needs are met is tied closely to a resident’s likelihood of successfully staying in housing, says Dana Schultz, Central City Concern’s Permanent Supportive Housing Manager.

Though CCC provides both housing and health care, the nature of the programs, as well as privacy considerations, have traditionally made it difficult to share information between the two areas of service. But where Dana saw walls, she also saw an opportunity. The situation called for a way to put teeth behind a core belief that housing is health. That way? A program called Housed and Healthy (H+H).

"Our supportive housing program realized that we can’t distance ourselves from our residents’ health—it’s everything to them and it’s everything to us."

“We started Housed and Healthy as an initiative to better support our residents’ health by engaging with them where they are: in our housing,” Dana says. “Our supportive housing program realized that we can’t distance ourselves from our residents’ health—it’s everything to them and it’s everything to us.”

The Housed and Healthy program serves to improve the connection between health clinics—be it CCC’s own Old Town Clinic and Old Town Recovery Center or other community providers—and CCC’s supportive housing program, and vice versa. Since H+H started, all new residents of CCC’s permanent housing are given a health assessment so that staff can gain a fuller picture of the new tenant. They are asked about their health insurance status, any chronic health conditions they may be dealing with, and who, if anyone, their primary care provider is.

Perhaps most importantly, new residents are asked to sign a release of information, which unlocks the line of communication between CCC’s housing and health service programs.

“Once the two program areas can start talking, we can immediately map out a web of support,” says Dana. “Our clinic can flag the resident’s electronic health record to show that they live in our housing and note who their resident service coordinator is in case they need their help reaching out to a patient. In turn, our resident service coordinators can know which providers and clinics their tenants are connected to in case health issues arise.”

Housed and Healthy represents a big shift in the way supportive housing sees its role in the well-being of its residents. Housing staff are integral to extending health care out from the clinic setting into where their patients live.

The health assessment can also help H+H coordinators identify potential issues—related to their physical or mental health, or to substance use disorder—that, if unaddressed, could result in a resident losing their housing because of violations that put the safety and peace of the rest of the housing community at risk.

“In the past, we’ve seen people not succeed in our housing for reasons that, in retrospect, were preventable,” she says. “If we know what to look out for and the team of support people we can coordinate with, we can put out fires before they really burn down a person’s entire life.”

Housed and Healthy represents a big shift in the way supportive housing sees its role in the well-being of its residents. Housing staff are integral to extending health care out from the clinic setting into where their patients live. H+H even brings opportunities for health education, such as chronic pain workshops and classes like Cooking Matters, straight to residents. In doing so, the chances that patients continue to have a place to live increase.

Glenn, who had seen Dana in his building frequently as part of her work as the H+H Coordinator, approached her about his denture problem. His issues didn’t put him at high risk of losing his housing yet, but he wanted to follow his doctor’s eating advice. He was, after all, nearly three years sober, and he wanted to continue feeling healthier.

She promised him that she’d look into it. She consulted with Glenn’s Old Town Clinic care team. She researched resources and made countless phone calls. Several weeks later, she gave Glenn the best news he’d received since learning that he had his own CCC apartment: she found a city program that would cover nearly the entire cost of new dentures.

“Dana did all the work I didn’t know how to do. The questions she asked me sounded like she knew a lot about what I needed,” Glenn says. “Now that I have dentures again, oh yeah, I feel healthier now. I’m so grateful to her.”

While Housed and Healthy is ostensibly a housing program, it functions as a way to not only expose residents to the many ways to better health, but as a de facto arm of health services that can reach into where their patients live. Gaps in care get caught and filled; residents are supported in better utilizing health care services; and people like Glenn find trustworthy faces to bring health-related concerns.

“Our housing staff want to see our residents healthier; health care providers want to see their patients housed,” Dana says. “It just makes sense.”



NHCW 2017: A clean safe resting place with a dedicated staff

Aug 14, 2017

Central City Concern’s Sobering Station for people incapacitated by alcohol or drugs might not sound like an uplifting place, but there is plenty to love about it. “My favorite part is getting to know people and hearing their stories,” says Amanda Guevara, program director. She has worked for CCC for 11 years and is dedicated to helping people in the community.

“We have return visitors,” she says, “and when they decide to make a change, we can be a part of it.”

Sobering visitors range from repeat visitors to weekend warriors.... Last year, the CHIERS van conducted 1,128 street assessments, and 3,757 people were admitted into sobering.

The Sobering Station in inner-southeast Portland takes people who need a safe place to come down from drinking too much alcohol or taking too many drugs. The Portland Police Bureau or community members refer people in need. The Central City Concern Hooper Inebriate Emergency Response Service (CHIERS) van picks people up and transports them to the Sobering Station where they receive an assessment from a medical professional. Anyone can call for the CHIERS van (503-238-8132, 1:45-11:45 pm) to pick up someone on the street who is incapacitated, and the van also roams the streets looking for people who may need help.

Sobering visitors range from repeat visitors to weekend warriors. PDX airport often calls for travelers who have had too much to drink, and Portland police refer people who have not done anything illegal, but need a safe place to sober up. Last year, the CHIERS van conducted 1,128 street assessments, and 3,757 people were admitted into sobering. 

Once someone is admitted into sobering, they get a medical assessment, a clean place to rest and referral to additional resources. But mostly, they receive a level of caring that only a dedicated staff can provide.

“I like knowing there is a population we help and know best,” says Kevin Smith, Sobering Station supervisor. “They know us—these are our people.” Kevin says he likes being able to offer resources and problem solve for people. The Sobering Station staff sometimes washes visitors’ clothes, provide hygiene kits and shoes, and even cut hair and apply lice treatments. “We see some people regularly,” says Kevin, who has worked for CCC for seven years. “We know what they need.”

“We’re here for people who may have burned bridges. We’re here for people who have nowhere else to go.”

The Sobering Station also does anything it can to serve the community at the street level. In the summer, the CHIERS van staff passes out water and sunscreen; in winter, hats, gloves and hot soup. On extremely bitter nights, volunteer crews make the rounds after hours and give people rides to shelters. The Sobering Station building sometimes opens as a warming shelter. In Sept. 2017, CCC will unveil a new CHIERS van with updated features that will ensure safe and comfortable transport for people going to the Sobering Station.

“We’re here for people who may have burned bridges,” says Amanda. “We’re here for people who have nowhere else to go.”

• • •

Download a card as a handy reminder of how to contact the CHIERS van in case you see someone in need.



CCC Celebrates National Health Center Week 2017!

Aug 14, 2017

Happy National Health Center Week from Central City Concern!

The health center movement was born during a time of extraordinary challenge, opportunity, and innovation in the United States. Today, as we face threats to the Affordable Care Act, a HUD budget proposal that would reduce housing subsidies by more than $900 million nationwide, and crises like the opioid epidemic and Portland’s housing affordability crisis, I find myself reflecting on our predecessors in the good fight for health care, housing, and equal opportunity and against poverty, homelessness, and oppression. We have a long way to go, but I take heart in recognizing how far we’ve come in the past fifty years.

Today, one in fifteen members of our community receive their care at a federally qualified health center. Here in Oregon, almost all of our FQHCs are designated by the state health authority as patient-centered primary care homes, meaning that they meet six core performance standards (access to care, accountability, comprehensiveness, continuity, coordination and integration, and patient and family-centered) that support positive patient outcomes, good experience of and access to care, and cost control and sustainability. Just a few weeks ago, we at CCC were thrilled to have our Old Town Clinic recognized as a Tier 5 patient-centered primary care home, achieving the highest level of recognition possible in the state. Being homeless or low-income in Portland doesn’t mean receiving substandard care: we should feel deep pride as a community that our most vulnerable friends and neighbors have access to excellent care through our health centers.

Along with providing high-quality, sustainable, accessible care, health centers like Central City Concern also partner closely with other social services providers and health care organizations. At CCC, we bring together health, housing, and jobs under one organizational roof, and we also rely on and treasure our relationships with community partners, who enable us to reach far more people than we would on our own. At the Bud Clark Commons, we partner with Home Forward, Transition Projects, Inc., and others to provide urgent care, mental health, and case management services to homeless and formerly homeless Portlanders. At our Puentes program, which provides culturally and linguistically specific behavioral health care to Portland’s Latino community, our close partnership with El Programa Hispano Católico enables us to bring care into places where the community already gathers. And across our continuum of substance use disorder services, we’re partnering closely with our friends at CODA, Inc., and Health Share of Oregon to develop and implement Wheelhouse, a hub-and-spoke model of care that will enhance access to medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid use disorders. When homeless and low-income Portlanders access services through Central City Concern, they’re tapping into a much larger network of support both within CCC and with our partners.

This year, in keeping with National Health Center Week 2017’s theme of Celebrating America’s Health Centers: The Key to Healthier Communities, we wanted to share some of the ways in which CCC, together with many partners, works to bring high-quality care into our surrounding community by extending our work past clinic walls and directly to where people are. You’ll learn about how our programs work to improve access, outcomes, and sustainability to support the people we serve and our larger community. We may still have a way to go, but we’re going together.

Leslie Tallyn
Chief Clinical Operations Officer



"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.”