A New Model for Sobering Centers

Jul 01, 2020

For the past 40 years, CCC has worked hand in hand with the Portland community by providing critical housing, health care, recovery treatment and employment services for people affected by homelessness. In 1985, CCC assumed operational responsibility for the Sobering Station. Over the past decade, we saw an increase of clients acutely intoxicated by methamphetamines and with co-occurring severe mental health challenges.

CCC recognizes that instances of self-harm occurred in the Sobering Station. It became increasingly difficult to manage the needs of clients in crisis in a facility based not on health care design, but on a correctional design, even with timely transfer out to the Emergency Department. As the needs of clients changed and risks of self-harm increased, we took several actions, including: 1) performing a comprehensive safety review of the program; 2) revising admissions criteria; 3) restricting the use of isolation rooms to only stable patients with hygiene needs, and; 4) enhancing de-escalation training for Sobering Staff.

Even with these changes, we knew the current model for the Sobering Station was not meeting Portland’s need for effective behavioral health crisis intervention. Grounded in a correctional model, the design of the program did not meet the emerging standard to provide a safe, comfortable, voluntary space for intoxicated individuals to shelter when they need support. Last September, we had already made the decision to close this program at the end of our contract in June 2020.

Evolving problems call for evolving solutions. Beginning in September 2019, CCC shared a vision, based on the work of the National Sobering Collaborative, for how Portland can meet its need for effective behavioral health crisis intervention. We connected with multiple stakeholders including the City, County, Portland Police Bureau and local area hospitals. We suggested the Sobering Station be replaced by a Voluntary Sobering Center combined with a Crisis Stabilization Unit, independent of the Portland Police Bureau.

Sobering Centers are designed to address the needs of people who are acutely affected by substances and who need a safe space to rest and recuperate. These are not detoxification facilities and do not provide the level of care of a hospital. Sobering Centers utilize trained healthcare, peer support and lay staff in a supportive shelter setting to assess and monitor the wellness of individuals. Most Sobering Centers admit voluntary clients and will take referrals from a variety of community partners. CCC’s Sobering Station was unique, as it utilized a police involuntary hold on clients during admission.

Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs) are designed to provide specialty behavioral health crisis stabilization requiring a more immediate response than a regularly scheduled behavioral health visit. Often thought of as an alternative to psychiatric emergency services, CSUs provide participants a secure environment, less restrictive than a hospital, but equipped to meet the medical needs of individuals who may be in a mental health or substance induced crisis, or a combination of both. People experiencing this level of crisis can present erratic behavior towards others or themselves. Individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis require a safe and therapeutic environment ideally supported with highly trained behavioral health professionals and staff skilled at complex care coordination.

It should not take getting arrested to gain access to quality healthcare programs. Just as Portland and our nation are considering changes to interventions for people in need, the closure of the Sobering Station and the review of what replaces it should contemplate both the program model and how people gain access to its services.

There is significant national research and models supporting voluntary Sobering Centers combined with a Crisis Stabilization Unit, focusing on the health needs of the clients. We hope the community can learn from our experience and leave behind what is no longer working for today’s needs, develop services that center people most impacted, and take a healthcare approach to health needs.

Celebrating One Year of Blackburn Center

Jun 30, 2020

In July 2019, Blackburn Center opened its doors to patients and job-seekers — weeks after welcoming nearly 100 residents to their new, affordable homes. This moment was the culmination of years of dreaming, planning and designing a first-of-its-kind, deeply integrated care model. Finally, CCC's signature services, from housing to health care to employment assistance, would all be available under one roof.

A group of Blackburn Center staff celebrated their first resident moving into housing in June, 2019 with a playful birthday cake. In many ways, Blackburn Center felt like a birthing process, and staff wanted to commemorate the building's first days of existence!

The hard work didn't end with opening the doors to Blackburn Center, and it continues each day as we connect with clients and deepen our roots in the East Portland community.

Since opening, Blackburn has served:

  • 214 residents
  • 1,956 health patients
  • 68 job-seekers

As we celebrate one year of Blackburn Center, we also celebrate every individual who has walked through our doors seeking housing, health care, recovery support, employment, or any combination of our services. One of those individuals is Charlette, who came to Blackburn Center as soon as it opened seeking a new path. Today, we're celebrating two anniversaries: one year of recovery for Charlette and one year of services at Blackburn Center.

Charlette was one of the first people to walk into the newly opened Blackburn Center in 2019. Now she's celebrating one year in recovery!

Charlette was homeless and addicted to heroin for six years — living in cars, sleeping in bus stops or just walking around all night. Then, six friends died of overdoses in one week. That was when she knew she had to turn her life around.

Charlette was one of the first people to walk into CCC’s new Blackburn Center. Within a single day, Charlette:

  • Saw a primary care provider, who treated her for her chronic thyroid condition 
  • Saw a psychiatric nurse practitioner, who started her on buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone) for acute opioid withdrawal 
  • Immediately filled her buprenorphine prescription via the Blackburn Pharmacy 

Over the next few weeks, Charlette saw a drug counselor and became active in groups and one-on-one counseling. She was also one of the first residents of Blackburn’s alcohol- and drugfree transitional housing.

“Having my housing and health care together in one building is a big thing!” Charlette says. “I can just go right downstairs and get my Suboxone at the pharmacy, or go to a group meeting, without ever leaving the building. That’s huge.”

Within less than six months, Charlette graduated from her outpatient program and, guided by Blackburn’s on-site employment specialist, began training as an on-call employee in CCC buildings.

“Having my housing and health care together in one building is a big thing!”

One year later and Charlette has stable housing, is working at CCC's Letty Owings Center, and has one full year of recovery under her belt.

Clearly, the full slate of services available at Blackburn Center is working well for Charlette. She says, “I’m paying back everything that CCC has given me by being a success. That’s exactly what I want to be.”

Celebrating Juneteenth & Freedom Day

Jun 17, 2020

June 19 marks Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day), a holiday commemorating the abolishment of slavery in 1865 in Texas and the Confederate South, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

These events eventually resulted in the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which states:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

What followed Emancipation was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies and a lack of economic investment in Black communities. Although Juneteenth is a day to celebrate freedom and equality, African Americans have experienced hundreds of years of racial discrimination and injustices, and have yet to enjoy full freedom from slavery.

The events of the past several weeks have only amplified these disparities. The murder of George Floyd is another example of racist violence stemming from the roots of our country. This violence takes its form not only in the killing of Black lives and other people of color by police, but in the deep injustices we see across our systems of criminal justice, public safety, housing, education, health care and our public health systems. The protests taking place across the nation and globally, often with violent response by police, are an expression of centuries of that injustice.

Central City Concern (CCC) is dedicated to serving single adults and families in the Portland metro area who are impacted by homelessness, poverty and addictions; and to support them in achieving their dreams of stable housing, health and economic opportunities. We cannot achieve our mission under systems that perpetuate racialized violence and systematic oppression.

CCC offers the following culturally specific services and programs to the African American community:

  • Imani Center—Provides comprehensive approaches to mental health and addictions treatment for and by African Americans. The Center’s services empower clients to build community with other African Americans working toward recovery, with the support of staff members who have lived knowledge of Black culture and the African American experience.
  • Flip the Script (FTS)—CCC’s reentry program links individuals exiting incarceration to housing, employment services, peer connections and advocacy opportunities.

From a public policy framework, CCC works to center the voices of our Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) clients and those who have experience with the criminal justice system. Additionally, CCC proactively works on issues related to housing, integrated health care and social and economic opportunity.

From higher rates of poverty and food insecurity to unemployment and mass incarceration, recent events have highlighted deeply rooted issues in America: the continued existence of two histories, black and white, separate and unequal, and the stark, persisting impacts of discrimination.

Juneteenth is a holiday that should be recognized and honored by all in the United States. In our work of providing comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness, we are raising awareness and working towards uprooting policies, practices and behaviors that uphold systemic injustices and perpetuate conditions of poverty. We aim to build a society where everyone can thrive.

CCC Breaks Ground on New Affordable Housing Project with Wraparound Support

Jun 16, 2020

“Offering deeply affordable housing combined with comprehensive, wraparound services to our most vulnerable neighbors comes at a critical time in our region, when it’s needed now more than ever.”
— Mary-Rain O'Meara, Director of Housing Development at CCC

On June 11,Central City Concern and Related NW broke ground on a new project, Cedar Commons!

Cedar Commons moves CCC forward in our mission of serving the most vulnerable in our community, especially those facing severe mental health challenges. The project will be home to 60 new units of housing, forty of which will provide Permanent Supportive Housing services. Of those, ten units will serve people living with severe mental illness. The building will be located at SE 115th and SE Division, and is a turn-key venture with Related NW serving as the lead developer and CCC retaining full ownership and operations at completion (June 2021). Click here to download a Fact Sheet about the project.

“We’re thrilled to break ground on this new project,” says Mary-Rain O’Meara, CCC’s Director of Housing Development. “Offering deeply affordable housing combined with comprehensive, wraparound services to our most vulnerable neighbors comes at a critical time in our region, when it’s needed now more than ever.”

In a unique partnership, long-term operating subsidies are being provided by the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services, allowing CCC to support ongoing services. These include integrated health services, case management and enriched programs to maximize the well-being and health of residents. Additionally, we specifically located Cedar Commons within a mile of our Blackburn Center so that residents may take advantage of all the added wraparound services.

We’re excited by the name Cedar Commons, which was intentionally chosen for two especially important reasons:

  • Cedar is a reference to the historic prevalence of cedars in the area and the large Western Red Cedar on-site.
  • Cedar symbolizes healing, cleansing, resilience, support, strength and hope. 

This project is about hope, healing and coming home.

Celebrate with us — watch the video of the virtual groundbreaking. We’re looking forward to next June, when we’ll celebrate the grand opening and welcome residents to their new homes!

Supporter Highlight: Murdock Charitable Trust

Jun 09, 2020

CCC is thrilled to receive the support of M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust in our efforts to meet urgent needs during these challenging times. This generous grant of $100,000 will help CCC continue to deliver care in the face of challenges associated with COVID-19, including screening and testing costs, more intensive medical services, increased cleaning and safety protocols, technology for delivery of integrated health care via video, and the strain that social distancing and other safety measures put on our daily operations.

Thank you, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, for showing heartfelt compassion for those we serve and helping CCC meet our mission.

“Addressing challenges like those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic require a deep understanding of the unique needs of an individual community, an ability to nimbly activate resources and a willingness to collaborate with diverse partners to serve the common good. We are incredibly grateful to organizations like Central City Concern that are working tirelessly to help serve the urgent needs of individuals, families and communities across the Pacific Northwest.”
Steve Moore, executive director, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Now is the Time for Oregon to Use Our Rainy-Day Funds

May 28, 2020

Last week, we heard from Oregon state economists.

They predict the sharpness in the decline of state revenue is unprecedented. This has sweeping implications for every Oregonian.

As our elected leaders create an economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever they champion policies that provide support and relief to individuals and communities across Oregon who are hardest hit by COVID-19: low-wage earners, people experiencing homelessness, women, immigrants, and Black, indigenous and people of color.

Many of these communities are served by state agencies providing critical affordable housing, human services, healthcare and employment services. We must protect and invest more resources in the critical public services our communities have increasingly come to rely upon. We:

1. Ask Governor Brown to call a special session of the legislature now so that they pass a revised state budget aimed at addressing this new revenue shortfall; and

2. Request our legislators maintain funding at current levels for the critical human services provided and invest more in services that help people achieve health and economic stability. We encourage lawmakers to focus on bringing additional federal relief dollars to our state and to tap into the $2.4 billion our state has in reserve funds.

Central City Concern is still here for our most vulnerable populations, now more than ever. 

We have a long history of providing support for people experiencing homelessness with complex health care needs, focusing on client-centered, wraparound, highly flexible services and economic opportunity. We know these services work to end homelessness.

We’ve stepped up our response during the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  • Implementing a COVID triage phone number for urgent health care needs for all CCC residents.
  • Providing access to phones to simplify the enrollment process for patients with barriers to accessing technology. However, much more is needed than we can currently provide. And, we know not all communities are able to take advantage of tele health options. We need spaces that can provide in-door bathrooms, food, clean water and respite, if traditional "drop-in" spaces continue to unavailable as the state opens back up.
  • Implementing excellent infection prevention standards.
  • Offering wraparound supports (food boxes, transport, enhanced janitorial services, etc.) in our residential buildings in case any of our residents need to quarantine or isolate.
  • Strengthening our community partnerships with other health care providers to provide deeper levels of service to our most vulnerable citizens. 
  • Increasing our fundraising and PPE (personal protective equipment) goals to respond to the increased need in our community.

Now is the time for our elected leaders to do their jobs.

There are two things you can do today:

1. Support our message on social media: Oregon needs a COVID response that puts people first and protects the vital services our communities depend on. #ORleg

2. Donate to CCC and support our COVID-19 response efforts today.

Supporter Highlight: Bank of America

May 27, 2020

For the past 40 years, the Portland community has trusted Central City Concern to respond to the changing needs of people experiencing homelessness with innovation and compassion. The impact of COVID-19 on our community is significant, especially among our most vulnerable citizens. As part of Bank of America’s $100 million global coronavirus community relief effort — which is in addition to its yearly $250 million philanthropic commitment — the bank stepped up to help CCC cover higher costs and reduced client income associated with the impacts of the new coronavirus. Areas of greatest impact include increased uncompensated care; new cleaning and safety protocols; more intensive medial services within limited group sizes and staffing as we deliver services via telehealth and group conferencing; and meals for residents with underlying health conditions who are unable to leave their units. The generous Bank of America grant will help Central City Concern address the shortfall our clients anticipate as they adapt to these unprecedented challenges and demand grows for the services we provide.

Thank you, Bank of America, for helping us meet the needs of our community as we continue to deliver life-saving services!

“Central City Concern has taken swift action to care for the well-being of its patients, clients and residents in response to the evolving challenges of coronavirus, and additional resources are required now to meet the growing need. Our investment will enable CCC to continue their work delivering care and resources to fellow Oregonians. CCC’s positive impact is measurable and crucial to the recovery that lies ahead, and we know they are uniquely positioned to make a difference for more than 13,500 residents annually in the Portland region. Now more than ever, we are in this together to address the needs of our community.”
Roger Hinshaw, Bank of America's Market President in Oregon and Southwest Washington

Supporter Highlight: Providence

May 20, 2020

Providence was one of Central City Concern’s (CCC) first partners to offer financial support for our COVID-19 response efforts when its St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund awarded CCC a grant of $20,000 in March. The grant helped cover early costs associated with the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), patient screening tools, cleaning supplies and higher levels of care for at-risk clients and residents who need to self-isolate or quarantine.

Providence has also supported CCC during COVID-19 through much-needed in-kind gifts. Amidst nationwide shortages of PPE, Providence generously gave 1,530 gloves, 1,370 procedure masks, 58 N95 masks and ten gowns to our front-line medical staff. For our residents and patients, Providence provided “comfort kits.” These included snacks, hygiene items, socks, puzzles and games which CCC distributed at our Supportive Housing and Recuperative Care Program sites.

Thank you, Providence, for your continued support of Central City Concern and our staff, patients, residents and clients!

“Providence has long partnered with Central City Concern, most recently on the development of the Blackburn Center — a beacon of progress in our communities’ efforts to collaborate through the Housing is Health network. In this time of COVID-19, Providence is pleased to have supported Central City Concern with PPE and essential funding to ensure services remain in place for our city’s most vulnerable.”
Joseph Ichter, DrPH, MHA, Director of Community Health Investment

Today is National Hepatitis Testing Day

May 19, 2020

As we wake up again amidst a flurry of thoughts on re-opening and the COVID-19 pandemic, Central City Concern encourages all of us to find room for consideration of another deadly disease.

Millions of Americans have chronic viral hepatitis but the majority don’t know they’re infected. Today, May 19, is National Hepatitis Testing Day; May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. At CCC, our goal is to encourage universal testing and ultimately eliminate Hepatitis C from our community.

At CCC, we’re taking a pioneering approach to help stamp out this disease by 2030 in alignment with the World Health Organization goals.

Prior to COVID-19, Hep C was responsible for more deaths than at least 60 other reportable diseases combined. Hep C, an RNA virus which causes an insidious systemic inflammatory illness, is most famous for causing end stage liver disease and cancer. It also increases the risk of diabetes and worsens mental illness. For some, it can cause profound fatigue and chronic pain. Others are seemingly untouched, however, are still able to pass it on to someone else through high-risk sex or sharing drug injection equipment, unaware they’re living with the disease.

At CCC, we’re taking a pioneering approach to help stamp out this disease by 2030 in alignment with the World Health Organization goals.

Here’s what CCC offers and how you can get help:

  • Opt-out Hepatitis C, HIV, and Hepatitis B screening for everyone who visits a CCC clinical setting, Hooper Detox Center and (prior to COVID-19) in CCC residential housing.
  • Individual treatment through new and innovative pathways. Often people learn they have Hep C at the same time they’re scheduled to start treatment. CCC leaves stigma at the door, allowing people to decide for themselves when they’re ready to initiate treatment. Equally importantly, all those who test positive determine their own treatment pathway.
  • Wraparound care services. Our outstanding team of harm reductionists, care coordinators, pharmacistsand providers ensure patients get the treatment they deserve, even it if means delivering medications to a client’s home, correctional facility or hospital to ensure nobody misses a pill.

Our results speak for themselves. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve treated - and mostly cured - over 750 of Portland’s most vulnerable of this deadly disease. Almost 90% of the people we’ve diagnosed are initiated on treatment, with mostfully cured. These rates are not only exemplary in Oregon, but stand out on the national and global scale. We’re proud of this work.

Over the last two and a half years, we’ve treated - and mostly cured - over 750 of Portland’s most vulnerable of this deadly disease.

“The work CCC is doing to eliminate hepatitis C is about more than just the numbers or curing a virus,” says Dr. Andrew Seaman. “It’s about allowing people to leave their past behind and start over as well as protecting the broader community by decreasing the possibility of transmission. By treating and curing Hep C, we help people build better relationships with their communities, engage in addiction and harm reduction services,and take back some control in their lives.”

Here’s how you can get tested:

If you want screening and primary care services:

Visit Central City Concerns Old Town Clinic or Blackburn Center. Request an intake and you’ll be offered screening and treatment if your test is positive.

If you’ve been given a diagnosis of Hepatitis C in the past and want treatment:

Call Central City Concern’s Hepatitis C programs at either

Old Town Clinic 971-271-6232 or Blackburn Center 971-361-7886

At CCC, we’re determined to relegate Hep C to become a disease of the past.

We’ve started by attempting to eliminate Hepatitis C from within the walls of our institutions, however, we’re not stopping there. We’ll continue to innovate and develop new relationships and treatment pathways until every person in Portland has the opportunity for zero barrier, destigmatized access to the cure.

New Funding for Homelessness Needed Now More Than Ever

May 13, 2020

By now, you’ve received your ballot.

One of the measures you’re being asked to vote on is Measure 26-210. If approved, this measure will provide an estimated $250,000,000 annually of flexible dollars to fund homeless services, focusing on client-centered, wraparound, highly adaptable services and economic opportunity. Funds will be spread throughout the Portland Metro area,including all of Multnomah and most parts of Washington and Clackamas counties.

Measure 26-210 will fund flexible services that are critical for Portlanders like Jessica. In 2016, Jessica was deep in a decades-long struggle with meth and alcohol use disorder, unemployed, newly homeless and suddenly estranged from her three children. Getting back to her daughters was the motivation Jessica needed to seek treatment. She began her journey at CCC’s Hooper Detoxification and Stabilization Center, and she quickly found out she wouldn't walk the rest of the path to recovery alone. Instead, she entered the Recovery Mentor Program, accessed health care and mental health treatment and found employment through the Clean & Safe program. Throughout her journey, Jessica had safe, supportive housing, including transitional housing prior to moving into a permanent home with her three daughters in CCC’s family housing.

July marks four years clean and sober for Jessica. She’s a member of CCC’s environmental services team, saving to buy a home and preparing her growing daughters for careers of their own. Mother and daughters are happy, healthy, together. “Wow, Mom,” they said. “We’re doing pretty good.”

Voting for Measure 26-210 ensures that families like Jessica’s can build futures together.

Voters have been asking for a comprehensive solution for over ten years to help fund these critical services. In 2018, we courageously voted for a region wide affordable housing bond.

Let’s take the next step.

Voting for Measure 26-210 ensures that families like Jessica’s can build futures together.

Affordable housing can end someone’s experience of homelessness. The supportive services outlined in Measure 26-210 will keep our neighbors housed, resilient and connected.

At Central City Concern, we know providing comprehensive, wraparound services work to end people's homelessness. HereTogether, a coalition of more than 450 organizations, including CCC and other nonprofit service providers, people of color, people with lived experience of homelessness, elected officials, business leaders, faith communities and more has worked tirelessly to create this measure for the voters of our region.

Here are some examples of how the funds will be used:

  • Expanded case management, outreach services and clinical services.
  • Increased access to job training opportunities.
  • Long term rent assistance and eviction prevention; and
  • Expanded access to affordable, culturally responsive housing services.

A region wide problem requires a region wide solution with a region wide revenue stream.

By increasing our investments to this level, our community will be able to transform the reality of our chronic homeless crisis and improve the lived reality of tens of thousands of people who now live without a safe, stable home.

At Central City Concern, we know providing comprehensive, wraparound services work to end people's homelessness.

There are two actions you can take TODAY.

  1. Fill out your ballot and send it using the prepaid postage on the return envelope, or drop off your competed ballot to an Official Ballot Drop Site by 8 p.m. on May 19.
  1. Show your support for comprehensive, wraparound services that have been proven to end people's homelessness by donating to CCC.