Central City Concern

Providing comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness and achieving self-sufficiency. Based in Portland, Ore. since 1979.

The Struggle for the Vote: Black History Month 2020

Feb 11, 2020

2020 is a landmark year for voting rights; it marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), which gave Black men the right to vote following the Civil War, as well as the centennial of the 19th Amendment (1920) and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. This year’s theme for Black History Month – African Americans and the Vote – recognizes the struggle for voting rights among both Black men and women throughout American history. The fight for a say in our democracy has continued well into the 21st century, and barriers to voting disproportionately impact the populations we serve at Central City Concern (CCC). Racial discrimination and interaction with the criminal justice system are not only among the leading causes of homelessness, but voter disenfranchisement as well. And poverty, housing instability and homelessness create significant obstacles for voters.

While the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments granted voting rights to Americans regardless of race or gender, the struggle for access to the ballot box has been ongoing. During the Jim Crow era in the South following the end of the Civil War, state and local governments evaded the Fifteenth Amendment through polling taxes, literacy tests, “whites-only” primaries and open hostility and violence. The federal government didn’t ban Jim Crow voting laws until 1965 with the Voting Rights Act, and barriers remain for Black people and people of color today. Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, and mail-in ballots create barriers for people who have difficulty reading English. Even in Oregon, where voter turnout is among the highest in the nation, Black people and people of color as a whole are less likely to vote than their white counterparts.

Our neighbors experiencing housing instability and homelessness face additional barriers to the ballot box. Voter registration and mail-in ballots are particularly challenging for people without a stable mailing address. Lack of identification is another obstacle in registering to vote that disproportionately impacts poor and homeless individuals. In Oregon, voters without access to housing can use the county elections office as their mailing address, but transportation can make it difficult to utilize. And unfortunately, many people struggling with homelessness have more immediate needs to worry about than registering to vote.

While obstacles to voting for Black people, people of color and people experiencing homelessness are significant, CCC is working not only to alleviate voter disenfranchisement, but also provide our clients with avenues to make direct impact on our political processes and systems. CCC regularly promotes voter registration and Get Out the Vote efforts for our residents, patients and clients. On National Voter Registration Day in 2019, Next Up Oregon volunteers registered 120 people at Old Town Clinic, Old Town Recovery Center, the Richard Harris, Estate Hotel and Blackburn Center. We also provide pathways for those most severely affected by voter disenfranchisement to make direct, tangible impact on policy change. Through Flip the Script, our reentry program providing wraparound services to African Americans exiting incarceration, participants advocate for change in the reentry system by meeting with legislators, providing public testimony and sharing their experiences and expertise with lawmakers.

We believe that the voices of our clients, our communities of color and our neighbors experiencing homelessness matter. While much work remains in ensuring that everyone has a say in our democracy, we will continue to meet the individual needs of our clients, alleviate barriers to their right to vote, and work alongside our clients to impact systems and make their voices heard.

 



Portland-Area 2020 Black History Month Events

Jan 31, 2020

Each year, Black History Month serves as an opportunity to celebrate the richness of Black history and culture, and pay tribute to the many contributions of African Americans that have made our community a better place. At Central City Concern, this is a time to recognize the achievements of our African American staff, program participants and our culturally specific programs aimed at addressing structural barriers and historic inequities. Portland’s legacy of exclusion, displacement and disinvestment in our African American community underscores our responsibility to eliminate disparities in housing, health care and employment that disproportionately impact Black Portlanders and lead to their over-representation among the homeless population.

As we embark on another year of ending homelessness and helping people reach their highest potential, we remain committed to centering diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in our work – not only during Black History Month, but throughout the year. Central City Concern’s success in achieving our mission hinges on our ability to invest in underserved communities, shrink disparities and meet the individualized needs of the rich tapestry of clients we serve.


This Black History Month, we encourage you to celebrate by supporting and attending the many exciting events organized by and/or featuring Black Portlanders. Click on the link to access the event’s official page for more information – many are free and appropriate for all ages.

Throughout February

FREE Cascade Festival of African Films: A free popular Portland event for 29 years, this year’s film festival features five weeks of more than 30 feature, documentary and short films by established and emerging African directors from 18 countries. The Cascade Festival of African Films shows us Africa through the eyes of Africans, rather than a vision of Africa packaged for Western viewers. The films celebrate Africa’s achievements, expose its failures, and reveal possibilities for a hopeful future. More information at https://www.africanfilmfestival.org/

FREE Seeing it through: A visual manifestation of the Black Panther Party's legacy in Portland at the Central Library: Black history is far more than the Civil Rights era. In response to the racism that marginalized and harmed Black Portlanders, the Portland Black Panther Party formed its Portland Chapter in 1969. Their goal was to build equity for the oppressed in our city. This exhibition features artwork by Elijah Hasan and the HeArt Gallery that responds to the legacy of the Black Panthers' Ten-Point Program. More information at https://multcolib.org/events/seeing-it-through-visual-manifestation-black-panther-partys-legacy-portland/113367

Portland Black Film Festival: The Portland Black Film Festival aims to offer diverse perspectives and stories in an art form all too often dominated by white filmmakers. The festival features films which showcase the cinematic achievements of African American stars and filmmakers and examine the black experience in America. More information and tickets at https://hollywoodtheatre.org/programs/series/portland-black-film-festival/

Saturday, Feb. 1

FREE Black History Festival NW Kickoff: Black History Festival NW is a celebration of culture and heritage showcasing African American artists, businesses, organizations and leaders. For the dancer in you, join Trainer Tyra and Nikki Brown Clown in the festival kickoff. Tickets available at https://blackhistoryfestival.org/register-for-festival/

Mt. Olivet Gospel Roots: Portland has a rich history of gospel music. From choirs to quartets, some of the most inspirational voices in America have come out of the church, and it’s no different in Portland. Join artists from Portland, Washington, California and special guest artists as Black History Festival NW concludes the festival kickoff with a culmination of gospel sounds from the early 1900s to modern day. Tickets available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4484243

Friday, Feb. 14

FREE Story Hour with Nikki Brown Clown at the Central Library: Join the library and Black History Festival NW in a story hour featuring Nikki Brown Clown. This story hour is a culturally creative blend of picture books infused with music and movement to a range of African American music. This will be an interactive experience and participation is encouraged! More information at https://multcolib.org/events/story-hour-nikki-brown-clown

Sunday, Feb. 16

FREE Story Hour with Nikki Brown Clown at Rockwood Library: Join the library and Black History Festival NW in a story hour featuring Nikki Brown Clown. This story hour is a culturally creative blend of picture books infused with music and movement to a range of African American music. This will be an interactive experience and participation is encouraged! More information at https://multcolib.org/events/story-hour-nikki-brown-clown

Thursday, Feb. 20 through March 1

PDX Jazz Festival, Feb. 20-March 1: Dedicated to preserving America’s indigenous art form by presenting internationally recognized jazz masters alongside local musicians, the festival always includes education and outreach programs that extend into Portland’s schools and neighborhoods, as well as a generous offering of free performances. More information at https://pdxjazz.com/

Friday, Feb. 21

Rip City Celebration of Black History, Feb 21: Celebrate Black History on Friday, February 21 as the Trail Blazers take on the New Orleans Pelicans! The night will feature special performances, retail items and multiple fundraising efforts benefiting Elevate Oregon, a nonprofit whose mission is to build relationships with urban youth to promote education, self-reliance and leadership. More information at https://www.nba.com/blazers/bhm

Sunday, Feb. 23

Black Futures Ball at Portland Center Stage: The Black Futures Ball will feature 7 categories celebrating Black excellence & the Ballroom community at large. The first three categories Face, Future Fashion, & Mic Drop are for Black participants only, while Runway, Old Way Vogue & Vogue Femme are open to all. ALL CATEGORIES HAVE $$$ PRIZES. Tickets available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4496259



Toward Greater Integration & Coordination with CCC's 2020 Policy Agenda

Jan 30, 2020

With the 2020 Oregon legislative session set to begin on Feb. 3, our public policy team is hitting the ground running with a bold set of policy priorities rooted in our belief that ending homelessness requires a coordinated approach to address housing access, health and well-being, economic resiliency and social connectedness. Our policy advocacy work in 2020 is guided by the following goals:

  • Prioritizing an integrated approach across systems, funders and delivery points.
  • Supporting policy initiatives that center people with lived experience.
  • Recognizing a sustainable and skilled workforce is the foundation of successful interventions.
  • Seeking solution-oriented advocacy efforts that adequately fund the programs and solutions that are effective in ending homelessness and addressing poverty.

The 2020 public policy agenda was developed after a review of last year’s activities and interviews with staff, clients and former clients. These conversations helped us better understand the challenges people face on the path toward self-sufficiency, as well as the successful interventions that should be scaled for greater impact.

Housing was the number one issue facing people in 2019 and the same is true going into 2020. The problem isn’t that we don’t know how to address homelessness, the problem is our systems were built for far fewer people than the number that are in need of services. In 2020, we will look at how to make the deep investments needed to change the course on the housing affordability crisis. We know housing paired with rent assistance and support services create the foundation that sets people up for success. Locally, we can make a bigger impact through deep investments in specific key areas, such as permanent supportive housing and stabilizing recovery housing.

In 2020 we are bringing a more integrated approach to our advocacy around health care. While in 2019, we had separate policy focus areas for recovery and health care services, this year we are following the lead of our clinicians by fully integrating health care. Our advocacy around mental health, physical health, substance use disorder treatment and long term recovery will be a collective call for improved access, quality and connectedness. When we talk to our government partners, we will not talk about health in pieces, but rather as a complete unit of care able to meet the diversity of people’s needs.

In 2019, we had a policy focus looking at stabilization, but after a year of work and more input from our community it is clear that we need to be striving for more than just stability. Stability is a first step to the longer road of social and economic opportunity, both for the people we serve and for our workforce. The incredible champions we have working at Central City Concern and other service organizations deserve to be valued by the systems we work under, and in 2020 we will be advocating for workforce investments while at the same time advocating for the people we serve.

A few of the specific things we will be advocating for:

State –

  • HB 4002: Statewide housing rent assistance program to help people and families experiencing homelessness afford housing
  • SB 1153: Co-occurring disorder treatment reforms to better integrated mental health and substance use disorder treatment
  • HB 4067: Creating more affordable utility rates for low-income households
  • 1115 Medicaid Waiver to include funding for recovery support in community and in housing

Locally –

  • More funding for supportive services in affordable housing, especially including education, training and employment support
  • Prioritizing people existing institutional settings like state hospital, incarceration and in-patient treatment for supportive housing placement
  • Equitable Transit Oriented Development that includes deeply affordable housing, open space and commercial space for community based organizations

We hope you’ll join us in supporting policies and investments that will bolster our work to bring greater integration and support for our neighbors experiencing and exiting homelessness. Check in on our Advocacy and Public Policy page to learn more about how you can get involved.




Housing

Central City Concern helps people find the stability of home, as well as a new community to support their goals. Our Housing Choice model allows people to choose the kind of housing based on their personal needs. Learn more »

Health and Recovery

Access to integrated primary and behavioral health care is key to successful recovery. CCC offers exceptional, compassionate care to meet patients' primary care, mental health care and substance use disorder treatment needs. Learn more »

Employment

The journey from being homeless to finding a living wage job can be arduous, especially without a guide. CCC's employment programs provide vital supports to those desiring to make progress toward self-sufficiency. Learn more »