Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: May 2018 Edition

May 29, 2018

For this month’s volunteer spotlight we sat down with Danielle Wheeler, a volunteer with the Recuperative Care Program (RCP), to talk about her work.

RCP provides immediate housing, intensive case management and access to primary care at our Old Town Clinic. Once clients are stable, they can focus on rebuilding their lives. Central City Concern specialists can help them get supportive housing, training, employment and the resources they need to recover and to become self-sufficient.

Jordan Wilhelms, RCP's program manager, had this to say about the role Danielle, our spotlighted volunteer, plays:

“Danielle has been an amazing volunteer for RCP. She has embodied the RCP spirit of service, has tirelessly and consistently worked to improve our systems, relieve our staff from burden where possible, and brought her organizational and housing expertise to RCP’s capacity to provide skilled interventions for our participants!”

Annie Demotta, RCP's housing specialist added, “Danielle is someone with an incredible skill set, with high standards, who also leads with her heart. On behalf of myself, the RCP team and the people we serve, we are so lucky to have her here!”

Read on to hear how Danielle got connected with CCC, why the team keeps her coming back to volunteer, and why housing is such a crucial part of recuperative care.

• • •

PeterAs CCC's Recuperative Care Program housing specialist volunteer, Danielle has become a key member of the team and a compassionate ear for clients.: What is your name and volunteer position?

Danielle: My name is Danielle Wheeler and my volunteer position is housing specialist.

P: How did you get hooked up with RCP and CCC?

D: This is a really cool story actually. So three years ago I left my career job to stay home with my kids and I wanted to spend a little more time volunteering while my kids were in school. For many years I’d been involved through my church in a monthly serving of meals at Bud Clark Commons through Transition Projects (TPI), so I called them up and they threw me into a role to teach how subsidized housing works.

P: Do you have a background in subsidized housing?

D: I don’t. I have an MBA and my background is in marketing. A case manager who was doing those classes trained me and then he went back into his case management role, so I continued on [teaching the classes]. It was really great and it gave me the hands-on work that I really wanted to do.

So I did that for a couple years, and one day I met a woman who was struggling with her housing plan and understanding the housing market and I finally referred her to her case manager and she said, “Well, I don’t have a case manager here, I’m at RCP” and I said, “What’s RCP?”

I was introduced to [RCP staffer] Annie Demotta and through that, because this woman was just not understanding who was who and where everybody came together, learned about the RCP program and I was hooked. Annie invited me in to take a look around and see if I wanted to get involved, so I slowly started balancing that into my workload.

"So often I will hear clients articulate that because of transient living circumstances... that their medical condition is more complicated than it would be if they had their own home, their own space, their own quiet."
-Danielle, CCC Volunteer

P: What did you find so interesting about RCP?

D: I have a real passion for working with the most vulnerable, and RCP has a very high percentage of those who need a lot more supportive care across the board, not just in housing. So housing is where I spend most of my time, but housing is just one piece of people being able to achieve whatever goals they have for themselves.

I’ve worked at Intel, I’ve worked at Microsoft, I’ve worked at other large well-known organizations, and I have never seen a team that functions so well and with a lot of diversity on the team as well. There’s a lot of respect here and I think the vast majority of clients that come through RCP really feel this is their journey and that we are not dictating to them. We are here to support them, hear their goals, and then provide them pathways to that and then encourage them along the way. I really hear that come out in the clients.

And yet these are some of the most vulnerable people. They have not only had some hard luck along the way, not had family support, whatever it might be that has lead them to the situation; now they have medical conditions on top of that and so for me it just really grabs my heart to be able to be a part of a team that is there to support them in moving along their path.

P: And what specifically are you doing with the program? Has it changed since volunteering at TPI?

D: It’s broadened. At TPI I was more focused on subsidized housing, but housing can often be much more than that. To address somebody’s subsidized housing plan, you really have to understand who they are, what their overall goals are, and it’s usually a multi-step process. It’s rare that somebody can just go out and get a job and get an apartment. It does happen, but sometimes there needs to be some other pieces along the way.

So what I like about my role here is it’s all-encompassing. It’s “sit down, hear where they want to go with housing, and then start to fill in the pieces;” sometimes that’s subsidized housing, sometimes it’s not. Through Annie and through the team, I’ve learned about and continued to learn about so many different housing options that exist out there.

P: And what are the main challenges in that work of trying to help secure housing for people?

D: I think, simply put, it’s that there aren’t enough options for people. I think that there are a lot of great programs out there and I think that there’s a lot of energy trying to coordinate across those programs. However, they are still disparate and understanding what is what, I think of it as a big puzzle. Each person gets to define what pieces they want to put in that puzzle and there is no guidebook for that.

"I’ve worked at Intel, I’ve worked at Microsoft,  I've worked at other large well-known organizations, and I have never seen a team that functions so well..."

P: And the fact that you’re dealing with people who may have been chronically homeless over decades and dealing with complex medical issues, I’d imagine the process can be really overwhelming for folks.

D: Yeah, it really depends. There are some who are ready, whether that’s due to a new illness that has complicated something, a recent arrest that has been the final straw for them, some people come really ready to change things. But for most, it is a challenge to build trust, and not with the staff here, I see that happen more quickly than I’ve seen with any other program, but rather trust in the process and that “the system” won’t let them down. It’s not uncommon that until somebody has the keys in their hand they don’t really believe it’s going to happen. So sometime we get lack of engagement because of that, which is heartbreaking.

It’s hard to get to the core of why they don’t trust. And it might just be that they are not ready for that, it’s not their time yet. And that’s okay too. One of the great things about RCP is that the staff here are very respectful of [that]. It’s not about us imposing on them, for example, that they must be housed. If somebody is not comfortable with that, for whatever reason, we can offer them support in maybe exploring that, but if that’s not what they want that’s okay too. It’s client-led here and I think that’s a big difference.

P: And despite the fact that being housed is a part of the RCP program, it’s technically a health services program. Why do we have a housing department in a health services program?

D: So often I will hear clients articulate that because of transient living circumstances (or whatever has been going on in their housing background that is not stable) that their medical condition is more complicated than it would be if they had their own home, their own space, their own quiet. So, many people recognize that and recognize that housing is a part of their care plan, medically speaking.

P: So it’s giving that baseline to be able to build on the rest of that plan?

D: It’s a piece of the plan. RCP has a very holistic view. People come in here for medical reasons, but then we’re humanizing their experience and we’re saying you know we’re not just here to get you to your doctor’s appointment. We’re here to listen to you and hear what your goals are when you leave and see if we can’t support and connect you during your time here to helping you on your pathway to those goals. And more often than not, housing is a piece of that: “If I only had my own space and quiet I could heal better” or “I could sleep better and then I could go back to work.” So housing becomes a core piece for most people.

P: Have there been any standout experiences during your time here?

D: There have definitely been some clients who came through here that’ve touched my heart and have gotten housed and been so grateful and there have been some beautiful moments that way. But I think the moment that touched me the most was actually an internal one with the team.

There had been an incident in the building that had potentially put some of our staff in harm’s way. What really touched me was that this team’s management intentionally took the time to sit the team down, debrief, and make sure that people felt heard. Emotions were encouraged and shared. I had mentioned this was a high-functioning team, but in that moment I saw why. The management of this team was incredible in the way that they allowed that to unfold and the team to come together, and that translates into better services for our clients. Not just because of the skill set (should there be another potentially dangerous situation), but just for being more present and aware as a team for every client that comes through here.

P: And, our traditional last question, what would you say to someone who was curious about volunteering with CCC but was on the fence?

D: I do get asked a lot by people who are interested. Homelessness is such a big topic in Portland and so lots of people ask me how they can get involved. Having seen only a slice of CCC, but hearing about how the medical services, for example, fit in, or the bigger housing pieces fit in, I am so impressed with CCC’s offerings across different ways to serve somebody. CCC’s big enough where anybody who wants to get involved in homelessness, whatever that means to them and wherever their passions are, can figure out [a role] where they are comfortable and still contribute to the organization.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: January 2018 Edition

Jan 25, 2018

For this month’s volunteer spotlight, we turn our attention to a volunteer who came in without a clear sense of what he wanted to do in his volunteership, but has since taken root (pun intended) in the Old Town Recovery Center Living Room and created an activity that has become a fixture of the Living Room community. Hayden Buell, Living Room Team Lead, had this to say about Rob’s contributions to the Living Room:

Robert has been one of our most outstanding volunteers here in the Living Room. When he came in to volunteer he took the initiative to create a program of container gardening for our members which has grown to be one of the most asked about activities. He has gone beyond in his support of our program, often coming in to support us on days we need an extra hand or helping us get out into the community with our outings. He connects with members on a personal level and is an important part of creating our team here.

Read on to see how Rob turns Living Room thumbs green, how the activity has impacted members of the Living Room, and how it has become deeply meaningful for him.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer role?

Rob: My name is Robert Stewart and I run an indoor gardening group activity every Friday at the Living Room.

P: How did you find out about CCC and what drew you to volunteer here?

R: I’ve lived in Portland for 15 or 16 years and I had a vague idea of what Central City Concern did and I think I just cold called or cold emailed the previous volunteer coordinator, Eric. I just decided one winter that I needed to devote more of my time to serving others in the community. I hadn’t intended to do the planting stuff at all, I just wanted to be plugged in to anywhere that I could be helpful and Eric suggested checking out the Living Room. I kind of just got the lay of the land there for a couple months and developed a strong hunch that the planting activity would be something that would resonate with people.

P: So you didn’t come in with the planting idea?

R: No, no, for the first couple months I just got to know some people, did a lot of dishes, and cleaned a lot of tables, just kind of served lunch and whatnot. I wasn’t even aware at the outset that we could tailor activities, but the more time I spent there, I realized that this is something that could fit within the framework.

"I didn’t really know what to expect when I went in to it, but whatever expectations I had were exceeded many times over. It’s really been one of the best experiences of the past 10 years for me."
-Rob Stewart, CCC Volunteer

P: I understand it’s been a very popular thing since it started.

R: It’s exceeded my expectations. I began it thinking I would be lucky to get one or two people who would do it with me so I didn’t feel silly planting by myself, and that’s how it was for the first month or so: just one or two interested folks, but then I think other folks saw people were enjoying it and could see some of the fruits of their labors, because a lot of the plants we keep at the Living Room, and decided they wanted in on it. The only thing really limiting the size has been my budget, because I provide the materials, so I can use usually three to five people in a given session. And there are days when I have more that are interested, so you have to do a first-come, first-served kind of thing where people take turns.

P: I must admit, being the opposite of a green-thumb, I don’t know what indoor or container gardening is and by extension of that is how you shape your classes around that.

R: Container gardening is, I guess, a fancy word for house plants. And I want the activity to be accessible to people of all different skill levels, so I recognize that some people might think they might not have a green thumb. What I try to do is, with a decent chunk of my plants, offer the most hard to kill, fastest growing things that I can find. Some plants that can tolerate low light conditions or have a little bit more of an envelope as far as what’s going to make them thrive.

And I get the whole range of folks from people who are pretty comfortable with plants—maybe they’ve already had house plants at home or at least have taken care of them—to people who profess that they kill every plant that they try to take care of. Some of them I think I’ve converted into semi-green thumbs. I think it’s intimidating at first because they had an experience where they killed a couple plants once upon a time, but if I can give them something that’s easier to take care of, that builds confidence. I’m also there and they can ask me questions and coach them through if they’re not sure about a particular aspect of care, fertilizing or watering as a plant needs.

P: That must be really rewarding to see that growth within people through the class.

R: Yeah, I think one of the coolest things to me about it is that the main mission [of the Living Room] is to give the people an activity and a sense of belonging. I feel like it fulfills that need for an activity, but it is also a long-term project where they can nurture this plant and, provided you do so within certain parameters, you see it grow and sometimes literally blossom, and other times just get large, beautiful and green when it started as a little tiny starter. So, there’s an aspect of progression and growth that I think people enjoy. I definitely enjoy it.

P: There’s stability there, too.

"[F]olks will give the plants away as gifts and I think that can be pretty rewarding, especially when you’re at a place where you’re receiving services. It’s nice to have something that you can give back to somebody."

R: I think most people have this innate need to care for something and an easy-to-take-care-of house plant is, for a living thing, the lowest risk-to-reward option. If you don’t care for it correctly, it will die and you just plant another one, it’s not like having a dog or something like that. You have this entity that you take care of and kind of stays the same and progresses as well.

P: And there’s the aspect to it as well that folks may not have a lot that is stable in their lives, so just having something to come back to I’m sure is very meaningful as well.

R: And that was one of my initial goals was to make sure there would be no real requirements to participate. So, the way we have it is we’ll do the planting in the Living Room and for folks who might still be on the streets or in temporary housing, they can keep their plant at the Living Room and enjoy it, but other folks are more than welcome, if they have a home that they can take them to, to keep their plant at home. So, I think for the former group, it does kind of increase a sense of ownership or belonging to the Living Room. Other folks will give the plants away as gifts and I think that can be pretty rewarding, especially when you’re at a place where you’re receiving services. It’s nice to have something that you can give back to somebody.

P: Something I underestimate in my living space is the things that are extra, and how those contribute to happiness. It could be that a lot of folks that are taking plants home from your course have never been able to afford, whether through time or money, to do those extra things in their living spaces.

R: Yeah, that’s what I hear and some folks who, for example, have just gotten housing, they can take this plant home and that sort of symbolizes that they are making it their place. Something that brings a little life to a new house or apartment.

P: Have there been any stand out moments in your volunteership?

R: Just every once in a while, someone will take me aside and they’ll just volunteer how meaningful it was to them or how much they enjoy having their plant at their new apartment that they recently got. You can read from people that it’s something that they enjoy doing, but for someone to pull you aside and give a quick heart-to-heart, it’s extremely rewarding. I’ve honestly never really had that kind of experience before.

It’s a really wonderful team at the Living Room—each person brings their own unique approach to the whole community. Even in the two years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen the Living Room progress into an even-more community-focused environment. It’s a really special place; there’s a lot of teamwork and trust. I think it’s a beautiful program and there need to be more like it.

P: What keeps you coming back, or what keeps you volunteering in your role?

R: The staff and the other members. I feel really fortunate. I love spending time with them. As my group activity has evolved, I do see more potential for it, so there’s a little bit of personal curiosity to what other directions I can take that approach, but predominantly it’s the people.

P: And our traditional last question: what would you say to someone who is curious about volunteering with Central City Concern but was on the fence?

R: I would say, “Don’t hesitate.” Go talk to Peter. I didn’t really know what to expect when I went in to it, but whatever expectations I had were exceeded many times over. It’s really been one of the best experiences of the past ten years for me.



The 2017 Sandy Anderson Award Winner: Way More than "just an enforcer"

Dec 20, 2017

During the Old Town Clinic (OTC) all-staff meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6, Billie Kay Stafford, OTC's operations manager, was recognized with the Health Services Advisory Council’s (HSAC) 2017 Sandy Anderson Award.

Billie Kay, or BK as she's affectionately known across Central City Concern, was an exemplary choice to be this year's awardee. For the last three years, the Sandy Anderson Award has been given by HSAC to a staff person who:

- Is always person-centered in their interactions with consumers.
- Puts the needs and goals of consumers first.
- Listens deeply and sees and hears beyond how people might seem on the surface.
- Is collaborative and solves problems with us instead of for us.
- Keeps long-term care goals in mind while also meeting people where they are.
- Can instill hope, no matter what.

Billie Kay is well-known and much-admired for the excellent job she does keeping OTC a calm and safe environment. If a patient is upset, she deftly intervenes in a way that makes them feel heard and de-escalates them, but also makes it clear what the clinic rules are around behavior to keep OTC a welcoming environment for everyone.

As our Old Town Clinic has grown in the number of patients we serve, the staff we employ, and the services we offer, Billie Kay has been an essential part of improving patient access and the patient experience. Despite the countless moving parts that make OTC what it is, Billie Kay makes sure that the clinic operates as efficiently as possible.

Upon the announcement of her recognition, Billie Kay received a standing ovation from OTC staff. Clearly touched, she said through tears and, as always in her trademark Texas accent, that the award was especially meaningful for her in light of its namesake and past honorees.

"I look at the people that have gotten this and the person it's named after as being people with huge hearts, that everybody respects and loves. I see myself as just the people think of as just the enforcer."

Billie Kay's commitment to centering our clinic's work on the people we serve, her ability to collaborate to solve problems big and small, and her obvious love of our patients ensure that her colleagues certainly see Billie Kay as more than that. "I love my job and I love y'all," she said.

Congratulations, Billie Kay!

Past winners of the Sandy Anderson Award include OTC Care Team Manager Carol Weber in 2015 and Old Town Recovery Center psychiatrist Phil Shapiro in 2016.



A Room Full of Furry Faces

Nov 28, 2017

The following was written by Bonnie Suba, who provides security at our Old Town Clinic, about Kally Stark, a phlebotomist who serves patients at OTC.

• • •

For a couple of years now, I have been the security officer at the Old Town Clinic. I provide safety and security for both staff and patients, as well as visitors. I complete rounds during closing of regular business hours and meet and greet staff that are finishing up for the day. I usually will come upon some staff members that are committed to finishing the day’s tasks no matter the quitting time. I usually peek my head in the doorway and inquire if everything is okay or anything needed. This brings me to the purpose of me sharing this story.

A few months ago, as I was doing my regular rounds of the clinic, I was checking the second floor and noticed that Kally was still in her lab. Kally is a phlebotomist and works in a small room without windows. I can see Kally from the doorway, but I do not enter the lab because I find that the lab is private, being that blood or bodily fluids are being removed from someone. I find this to be very private in nature and usually an anxiety-filled moment. Therefore, sometimes I just signal her a “thumbs up” and she gives me a “thumbs up” in response, acknowledging that she is fine and soon to be going home.

However, this one day, I decided to step into her laboratory to speak to her. When I stepped into her lab, I was captivated by all the black and white pictures of dogs and cats and a rabbit and possibly a squirrel that lined her walls in the laboratory. I asked Kally where she got all these pictures of these animals. She told me that most of them were photos of her client’s pets. She explained to me that most of the patients come into the lab and are already highly anxious about coming into the clinic and even more so the lab. She shared with me that many clients have little more than their pets. Having pictures of their pets on the walls eases their anxiety and makes the process more personal than clinical for the patient.

She shared with me that many clients have little more than their pets. Having pictures of their pets on the walls eases their anxiety and makes the process more personal than clinical for the patient.

There were 8x10 pictures lining the walls and another wall behind the door where some of the staff’s canines and felines. Kally stood there and told me the names of the pets on the wall and about some of the clients that owned them. I felt a personal touch and peacefulness when Kally was explaining all the pictures and how she wanted her clients to feel less anxious while being in the world in which she works—drawing blood.

While the placing of photos of canines and felines may seem small and insignificant, they have a comforting and enduring impact on the wellbeing of the clients. I truly want to acknowledge that Kally created a therapeutic environment, probably without even knowing it. She has genuinely gone above and beyond her calling in her profession! I applaud you Kally and I am certain that your clients give you a standing ovation!



Continuing to listen to trans voices

Nov 16, 2017


Happy Transgender Awareness Week 2017! According to GLAAD, this special week, Nov. 13 to Nov. 17, is set aside to “help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces.”

In this space last year, we shared about the numerous steps Central City Concern was taking to ensure that our programs and services, as well as the staff members providing them, were as affirming and inclusive of our transgender patients and clients as possible. This year, we want to provide an update on our efforts to do so!

Trainings: CCC continues to offer trainings year-round to our staff members about working with trans and gender non-binary patients and clients. Several lead staff members have also made it a point to attend trainings hosted by community organizations so they can share what they learn with our program staff.

We continue to encourage our training attendees to approach the sessions from a place of humility. What Eowyn Rieke, CCC’s Associate Medical Director of Primary Care, said last year continues to apply to our approach: “We’re working toward a culture of humility as it relates to gender identity—recognizing that there are great differences at play here and that we need to be humble about our assumptions.”

"We’re working toward a culture of humility as it relates to gender identity—recognizing that there are great differences at play here and that we need to be humble about our assumptions.”
- Eowyn Rieke, Associate Medical Director of Primary Care

CCC Director of Equity and Inclusion Freda Ceaser says that this posture has provided the organization with a blueprint to fully operationalize trans affirming program services across the agency. She says that in the coming year, her goal is to work with every CCC program to begin an initial assessment of procedures and policies to become more trans affirming and inclusive.

“It’s so rewarding to see how the work of health services intentionally recognizes and affirms the identity of each of our patients. I want every person we serve, no matter their gender identity, to feel accepted, valued, and respected.” 

Trans Support Group: Chrysalis, the trans and gender non-binary support group that formed last year in response to what we heard from our patients, has been thriving. Open to patients of Old Town Clinic (OTC) and Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC), Chrysalis is a safe place where, according to facilitator Shanako Devoll, “people can talk about the difficulties of navigating everyday life and strategies used to address safety, mental health, and substance use.”

Group members say that Chrysalis helps them counteract the isolation they can feel by being part of a group that understands each other’s struggles and triumphs. At each session, attendees share their experiences, bring information about resources they’ve come across, and slowly build a community of shared experiences together.

The group meets bi-weekly. While the make-up of each meeting can differ, Chrysalis averages about five attendees each time the group comes together. Chrysalis is currently open to new members; in mid-December, the group will close for six weeks to allow the group members build trust and create the safe space they need.

"I want every person we serve, no matter their gender identity, to feel accepted, valued, and respected.”
- Freda Ceaser, Director of Equity and Inclusion

Electronic Health Records: Thanks to CCC’s amazing EHR implementation team, our health services can now make changes to patients’ gender identification information faster and easier than ever.  

Responding to the Needs of the Trans Community: As we continue to listen to our trans patients, we’re making changes that we believe are positive for them and the larger community.

All our multi-stall bathrooms inside OTC and OTRC now have signs that emphasize our support for individuals using the bathroom that best fits with their gender identity.

To better support trans patients and clients in substance use disorder treatment programs, our services are working toward making our urinalysis collection process more trans affirming.  

And finally, Margot Presley, an OHSU Doctorate of Nursing Practice candidate, used her doctorate project as a way to seek out and listen to trans voices at our Old Town Clinic. Margot’s project, “Patient Engagement in Quality Improvement: Raising the Voice of Transgender Patients Experiencing Homelessness” used patient engagement and qualitative inquiry techniques to interview people about their experiences as trans patients of OTC. Their feedback was used to recommend changes to our clinic operations with the goal of better meeting their needs.

Her manuscript is in process of being published in Transgender Health, “the first peer-reviewed, open access journal dedicated to addressing the healthcare needs of transgender individual;” Margot also presented a poster showing her work at several conferences. 

• • •

Each year, Trans Awareness Week leads up to the Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, an observance to honor and remember those whose lives were lost to acts of anti-trans violence. There are a number of events in the Portland metro area to participate in that day. All descriptions are from the event hosts: 

Thursday, Nov. 16
Keynote featuring Jennicet Gutiérrez: How to Get Involved, Hosted by Portland State Temprr Month and PSU Queer Resource Center
: Join us for our TEMPRR keynote panel event with activist Jennicet Gutiérrez! As a founding member of La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Gutiérrez's activist experience with transgender rights and immigrant rights has given her great knowledge on how to get involved with various types of activism. This panel will also have local activists who will answer questions and share more about their activism. (Link) 

Friday, Nov. 17
5th Ave. Presents: ReAgitator, hosted at Fifth Avenue Cinema
: Join us in honoring Trans Day of Remembrance a few days early with an incredibly inventive film from independent trans-filmmaker Dylan Greenberg. Her film Re-Agitator: Revenge of The Parody, tells the bizarre story of a mad scientist using a cynical serum to revive a beautiful woman back from the dead leading to complete and total chaos. Using an arsenal of homages and spins off of classic and modern horror, Re-Agitator is bound to satisfy a weird and experimental itch. The film will feature an introduction from Dylan herself, including discussion of her experience with being an indie filmmaker and multi-media artist in NYC. This event will be donation-based instead of our regular ticketing prices, all proceeds will go to the artists. (Link) 

Sunday, Nov. 19
Trans Day of Remembrance March & Interfaith Vigil
: Please all Transgender folk and Cisgender allies join us in reverence and solidarity to honor the fallen and make a stand against Transphobia. We will gather at Terry Schrunk plaza for a staging and a brief program whereupon we will process to the First United Methodist Church for a candle lighting ceremony for the fallen and a message of hope and renewal from local area spiritual leaders followed by a reception where light refreshments will be served. (Link)

Monday, Nov. 20
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017, hosted at Portland Community College
: This event is being planned by the Portland Transgender community, with the support of Portland Transgender organizations, Portland LGBTQIA2+ organizations, and allies, and is being led by Portland Transgender People of Color. (Link)

Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial Meeting, hosted at Multnomah Friends Meeting House: We welcome you to join us on this day to mourn and honor the lives of those who have been murdered in the previous year because of anti-transgender hatred.

We gather to remember. We also gather to pray for, and to dedicate ourselves to work for, a world where transgender people are safe from hatred and violence. (Link)



CCC breaks ground on Blackburn Building that will "bring hope and healing to thousands of people like me"

Nov 07, 2017

CCC President & CEO Rachel Solotaroff, MDMultnomah County District 3 Commissioner Jessica Vega PedersonMetro Councilor Shirley Craddick, District 1
Drew Hammond, Assistant Vice President of Business Development for U.S. BankTricia Tillman, a member of the Oregon Housing and Community Services Housing Stability CouncilMelissa Garcia, National Lending Initiatives Director for the Low Income Investment FundHeather Lyons, Director of the Northwest Region at CSHMike Holevas, a community member who has received services through Central City Concern’s Eastside Concern program and lives in CCC’s supportive housingDavid Russell, President and CEO of Adventist Health Portland
Next

On Monday, Nov. 6, Central City Concern ground onthe Blackburn Building, the last of three buildings in the Housing is Health initiative, a pioneering commitment from local hospitals and health organizations to bring 379 units of affordable housing to Portland.

• • •

Yesterday, Nov. 6, Central City Concern (CCC) broke ground on the third of three buildings in the Housing is Health initiative, a pioneering commitment from local hospitals and health organizations to supportive, affordable housing. CCC also announced the name of the building (25 NE 122nd Ave., Portland)—the Blackburn Building—which honors CCC’s President and CEO Emeritus Ed Blackburn, who recently retired after 26 years at CCC. Ed was instrumental in pulling together the Housing is Health initiative, which was the culmination of years of outstanding leadership and relationship building.

The two-story health care facility will serve 3,000 people each year with recovery and mental health services, as well as targeted primary care services. The clinic will include a pharmacy and 52 units of respite care, including 10 units of palliative care. Additional housing will include 90 units of transitional housing and 34 permanent homes. Integrated resident and health support services will help residents stay housed.

The groundbreaking celebration began at 2 p.m. CCC President and CEO Rachel Solotaroff, M.D., Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson and Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick spoke about the new project. Other speakers included Tricia Tillman from Oregon Housing and Community Services, Drew Hammond of US Bank, Melissa Garcia of Low Income Investment Fund and Heather Lyons from Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Community member and CCC client Mike Holevas described his journey from high school science teacher to addict, to a person in recovery working toward wellness and self-sufficiency. He once bought drugs on the very corner where the Blackburn Building will be. “This corner now can be the site where thousands who are suffering—and believe me, we suffer—can come for transformation, healing; families will be restored,” he said. “I’m so proud to be part of something that will bring hope and healing to thousands of people like me."

"This corner now can be the site where thousands who are suffering—and believe me, we suffer—can come for transformation, healing; families will be restored.”
- Mike Holevas, former CCC client

Additional speakers included representatives from the Housing is Health initiative’s six hospitals and health organizations: David Russell, Adventist Health Portland president and CEO; Eric C. Hunter, CareOregon president and CEO; Janet O’Hollaren, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals chief operating officer; Mark Enger, OHSU vice president of Network Operations; Pam Mariea-Nason, Providence Health & Services – Oregon executive, Community Health Division; and George Brown, M.D., Legacy Health president & CEO.

“The Housing is Health collaboration is an excellent example of health systems recognizing the impact housing has on an individual’s health,” said Rachel. “They’ve united for improving health outcomes as well as the common good of our community.”

"[The Housing is Health collaborative has] united for improving health outcomes as well as the common good of our community.”
- Rachel Solotaroff, M.D., CCC President & CEO

The developer is Central City Concern, the architect is Ankrom Moisan, the general contractor is Walsh Construction and the construction manager is GLI.

In addition to the Housing is Health partners, funding for the development of the Blackburn Building is provided by Oregon Housing and Community Services, US Bank, Portland Housing Bureau, CSH, Low Income Investment Fund, Oregon Health Authority, Metro, Energy Trust of Oregon and Multnomah County.

CCC is engaged in a $3.5 million capital campaign to complete funding for the Blackburn Building. Early supporters of this campaign include The Collins Foundation; Downtown Community Housing, Inc. Fund of OCF; Harbourton Foundation; The Hearst Foundations; Meyer Memorial Trust; PGE Foundation; Silvey Family Foundation; The Standard; Wells Fargo Housing Foundation; Building Owners & Managers Association of Oregon; Downtown Development Group; Melvin Mark Companies; Meridian Wealth Advisors; R2C Group; Acme Bader Fund of OCF; Brody Family Charitable Fund; Crooke Family Charitable Fund; Ginny & George Charitable Fund; Mitzvah Fund of OCF; the Paul & Sally McCracken Fund of OCF; and numerous individuals.

Find a full list of contributors to the Housing is Health initiative here.

For more information about the campaign or to make a contribution, please contact Kristie Perry, Director of Donor Relations, at 503-200-3926 or kristie.perry@ccconcern.org.



Making Suicide Prevention a Routine Part of Care

Sep 11, 2017

national suicide prevention week ribbon and logoSuicide Prevention Week is Sept. 10-16, but preventing suicide is something Central City Concern (CCC) thinks about every day of the year. “Zero Suicide” is the national model of treatment that CCC’s Old Town Clinic (OTC) has adopted and integrated into all aspects of the primary care it provides to more than 5,000 individuals it serves annually. It’s a commitment to the idea that every suicide can be prevented with the right kind of care.

“No matter what your position, we’re all responsible for suicide prevention,” says Brian Barnes, Associate Director for Behavioral Health in Primary Care at OTC. Barnes explains that making suicide prevention a system-wide priority and a routine part of care is the key to ensuring that no one falls through the cracks. Having clear, established procedures is better for patients and better for staff because it normalizes prevention and helps everyone know how to get the right kind of help.

“Suicide prevention starts way back so that when we see a patient we are looking at the whole picture."

At Old Town Clinic, this has meant incorporating questions about suicide into regular patient visits, establishing new protocols to ensure that clinicians are aware of patients who have a plan to harm themselves and designating a suicide "clinician of the day" who can respond to help, usually within five minutes. An intervention by the clinician of the day can last several hours—enough time to really engage someone in a moment of crisis, gain new perspective on a situation that may seem hopeless and come up with a concrete safety plan for the day, which clinic staff follow up on. Implementing these changes entailed a team-effort at the clinic, with leadership for designing and operationalizing the new procedures from Susan Marie, Senior Medical Consultant for Behavioral Health in Primary Care, and Lydia Bartholow, Associate Medical Director for Outpatient Substance Abuse Disorder Services.

“This type of work is more typical in a specialty mental health setting,” says Barbara Martin, Senior Director of Primary Care at CCC. But in serving some of Portland’s most vulnerable residents, OTC aims for a comprehensive approach. Many of the clinic’s patients face struggles that make primary care especially challenging: finding housing, getting and keeping regular access to health care, or dealing with addiction and other severe mental illness. At the same time, health care providers can lean on CCC’s extended network of wraparound services in housing, addiction treatment, employment services and social support.

“Suicide prevention starts way back,” Barnes says, “so that when we see a patient we are looking at the whole picture.” It requires going beyond crisis-intervention and stabilization to address long-term needs that support overall health and well being. Recalling how the clinic staff helped one person who recently attempted suicide, Barnes notes: “We were able to get her treatment here, at Old Town Clinic, change some things with her mental health medications, and get her housed in CCC housing with programming specifically designed for people recovering from addiction. We consider all of that primary care, because it’s primary to the person, to their overall care.”

Having clear, established procedures is better for patients and better for staff because it normalizes prevention and helps everyone know how to get the right kind of help.

Barnes and Martin both emphasize that everyone can help make zero suicide a reality. Go with your gut, they say, and reach out to a hotline or many of the other resources available if it seems that someone is at risk of harming themselves. “The most important thing is to listen,” Martin says, “because the evidence shows that if someone is getting close to a point of despair, thinking about hurting themselves, they often talk to people.” And Barnes adds: “Every person’s behavior can be explained if you understand the context, but if you don’t have time to understand the context, then get someone who can.”

• • •

The Multnomah County Crisis Line is available 24/7: 503-988-4888. 
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255
The David Romprey Oregon Warmline offers confidential peer support from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day: 1-800-698-2392



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: Serving a population where they live

Aug 18, 2017

On September 23, 2016, leaders from six Portland health organization gathered at Central City Concern’s Old Town Recovery Center to announce an unprecedented $21.5 million dollar investment in the Housing is Health initiative that will fund three new CCC buildings in Portland. The crown jewel of this shining trio is the Eastside Campus, which will serve medically fragile people and people recovering from substance use disorders and mental illness with a health care clinic and 172 housing units.

“This significant contribution is an excellent example of health organizations coming together for the common good of our community,” said Ed Blackburn, CCC president and CEO. “It also represents a transformational recognition that housing for lower income working people, including those who have experienced homelessness, is critical to the improvement of health outcomes."

Each floor is designed to foster healthy peer relationships, with vibrant common spaces where residents, supported by CCC staff, can build community.

CCC will break ground on the Eastside Campus in late October 2017. The center will build on CCC’s existing Eastside Concern program, and will offer integrated housing and clinical services, including substance use disorder treatment, primary care and urgent care. More than 3,000 CCC patients each year will access care in a unique and welcoming health home environment.

The housing portion of the Eastside Campus will have about 172 units of housing, including short-term medical stabilization and palliative beds as well as transitional housing for people in recovery from behavioral health disorders. Each floor is designed to foster healthy peer relationships, with vibrant common spaces where residents, supported by CCC staff, can build community.

“It’s important to serve people where they live."

“It’s important to serve people where they live,” said Blackburn. “This project will replicate the integrated care we give at our Old Town campus to help people get back on their feet and achieve health and self-sufficiency.”

The Housing is Health initiative is supported by Adventist Heath Portland, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health, OHSU and Providence Health & Services. The new construction includes the Eastside Campus, Stark Street Apartments and Charlotte B. Rutherford Place apartments on N Interstate.

The CCC Eastside Campus is scheduled to open in Winter 2019.



NHCW 2017: Adapting the system to work for our most complex patients

Aug 17, 2017

Central City Concern's Summit team takes care of our Old Town Clinic's most complex and medically fragile patients. Instead of expecting patients to fit into a health care system, the Summit team adapts the system to work for them by offering flexible scheduling, around-the-clock availability, and even home visits. Like many of the programs we've featured during National Health Center Week so far, the Summit team goes above and beyond to break barriers and narrow the gaps that keep vulnerable individuals from becoming as well and healthy as they can be.

We're so excited to share this video about Summit with you, which features Summit team staff and several Summit patients talking about what sets this program apart and how it impacts the lives of those it serves. A version of this video was originally shown at the National Health Care for the Homeless Conference in June.