Transgender Awareness Week 2019: Portland Events

Nov 12, 2019

Each year, Transgender Awareness Week serves as both a reflective and celebratory time to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and to shed light on issues the community faces. This year, Transgender Awareness Week takes place Nov. 13 through 19. The week culminates with Transgender Day of Remembrance, a deeply important observance to honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost to anti-trans violence, on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

We’ve found a number of events in the Portland metro area that mark or coincide with Transgender Awareness Week. Descriptions are from the event hosts and/or their Facebook event pages:

Thursday, Nov. 14

Trans Joy Storytelling: “Want to have a space to share the joy of your trans experience? The Trans Joy Storytelling Workshop is a great space where all are welcome to explore the Joy of our trans experiences together in a space that upholds the values of the QRC. Storytelling is often so impactful because people find shared experiences with others and can both take inspiration and inspire folks to be their most authentic selves. Snacks will be provided. This event is part of Trans Empowerment, Resilience, and Resistance (TEMPRR) Days!” (Link)

Saturday, Nov. 16

Trans Houseless Community Brunch: “A monthly gathering for trans and queer people who are unhoused, now happening every third Saturday of the month at JOIN PDX! Childcare, pet care, and ASL interpretation available on request.” (Link)

Monday, Nov. 18

Trans Liberation: How We Dismantle Transphobia: “Registration required (see eventbrite link). Learn why trans liberation is critical for us all, how systems of oppression intersect, and what we can all do to build trans liberation!” (Link)

Wednesday, Nov. 20

Trans Diaspora of Resilience 2019: “Join us for this year’s Trans Diaspora of Resilience (TDOR) event at Ori Gallery. Join Ori Gallery, Sankofa Collective Northwest, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and Forward Together for a night of celebrating our Transcestors, each other and visions of a better future than the one we've been handed.” (Link)

Trans Day Of Remembrance Show: “The Sweethearts Of Portland Present: Trans Day Of Remembrance, A Benefit Show for TransActive, Featuring An All Trans/Non-binary Cast. All proceeds benefit the TransActive Gender Project which offers a plethora of services to our local trans and gender expansive community. Their mission is to create healthier lives free from discrimination.” (Link)

Saturday, Nov. 23

Transgender Action & Care Conference 2019: Trans Joy: “TACC is an annual feature of Trans Empowerment Resistance and Resilience Days (TEMPRR) in the month of November that gives trans students an opportunity to connect with one another and the wider Portland community. More than ever, it is crucial that we come together as a community to celebrate trans people, which is why this year's theme is "TRANS JOY." This year’s conference will feature workshops, opportunities for identity-based organizing, a tabling fair - and more! Plus, Gender Reveal hosted by Molly Woodstock will be recording a live podcast!” (Link)

Saturday, Nov. 30

T: a dance party for the trans community: “T is an all-gender inclusive and body positive fundraising dance party for trans people and their friends! Come to drink and dance in a trans-affirming space, and support an amazing trans-led non-profit organization. All of the proceeds from the event go to Transpose PDX.” (Link)



Volunteer "Rolls It Forward" for CCC Veterans

Nov 08, 2019

Michaelle, a peer support specialist with Central City Concern’s (CCC) Veterans Grant & Per Diem Program, was home one evening when she noted a post on the St Johns neighborhood’s NextDoor.com page.

“I’m looking for an organization that can take donations,” the post read.

Looking to give back, St. Johns resident Jenni Jo planned to run a donation-based introductory body rolling class and was looking for local nonprofits that could use the donations. Michaelle’s thoughts went immediately to the veterans she works with, many of whom come to the program with nothing, sometimes straight off the street. She quickly responded to the post.

The two connected and established a plan. Michaelle would survey the veterans in her program for a list of items they needed — things like coffee pots, sheets and day planners — and Jenni Jo would host a free introductory body rolling class for donations of new or gently used items and cash. The connection they made there would create effects that rippled out in both the CCC’s and Jenni Jo’s communities.

Also known as “The Tension Tamer” and “massage therapist to the rock stars,” Jenni Jo is a successful businesswoman who has been recognized for her unique approach to taming tension and pain management through body work. Her choice to pursue a career in tension taming was inspired by a childhood spent seeing her grandmother live with rheumatoid arthritis. Knowing people suffered from chronic pain, feeling trapped in their own bodies, she was driven to pursue alleviating pain. One of her favorite methods? Body rolling.

“Body rolling is like your own massage therapist and physical meditation in a ball. It stimulates bone health, lengthens muscles and has many of the effects of a deep tissue massage, including stress relief and deep-seated therapeutic effects when practiced correctly.”

"Jenni Jo has a deep intuition about who is going to recoil. Even people who are normally very resistant to touch let Jenni Jo come and help adjust them. Her personality is so welcoming and gives confidence to everyone.”

While Jenni Jo describes herself as nomadic by nature and an avid traveler (including going on international tours with rock stars), she is also incredibly grounded in her local community. Last year, she decided to do something to impact her neighborhood of St. Johns. The original idea was simple: Jenni Jo would host a free class for people interested in learning more about body rolling. The class would be donation-based to benefit a local nonprofit.

As Jenni Jo and Michaelle worked together, it became clear that Jenni Jo had a deeper connection with the veteran program at CCC than just living in the area. Her family history, including chronic pain and PTSD from military service, gave her insight into the experience of our veteran clients. Connecting over their shared compassion, Michaelle invited Jenni Jo to attend one of the monthly resident meetings and lead a body rolling session.

Jenni Jo arrived, various balls in tow, to greet a group of hesitant and unsure veterans. But when Michaelle and Jenni Jo started demonstrating the movements, the group quickly got into it. Jenni Jo led the group through some simple exercises and meditation aimed to reduce tension and pain, as well as to teach tools that allow practitioners to create quite moments of mental and physical peace.

Jenni Jo seemed to have a natural instinct for how to interact in a trauma-informed way. According to Michaelle, “Jenni Jo has a deep intuition about who is going to recoil. Even people who are normally very resistant to touch let Jenni Jo come and help adjust them. Her personality is so welcoming and gives confidence to everyone.”

These sessions were well received and many of the vets were able to use balls that Jenni Jo donated to practice on their own. But her impact on the program was just beginning.

As she shared stories of her volunteer work, her whole family became involved. Her father and her children helped run some of the sessions. Jenni Jo’s stepfather, a Vietnam vet, donated many high-quality items of clothing...

As she shared stories of her volunteer work, her whole family became involved. Her father and her children helped run some of the sessions. Jenni Jo’s stepfather, a Vietnam vet, donated many high-quality items of clothing; Michaelle eventually set up a “shop” for the veteran clients. According to Jenni Jo, this meant a lot to her stepfather:

“Because of his PTSD, he doesn’t often have the ability to engage personally in volunteer work with fellow veterans. So it was really special for him to be able to give back and see his donation go to such a good cause.”

When Jenni’s mother heard about her work with CCC, she nominated the organization for a grant from Leupold and Stevens, where she serves on the charitable giving committee. To the surprise and joy of Michaelle and CCC, L&S donated over $10,000 to the veterans program. This donation gave Michaelle and other staff the ability to provide special holiday gifts to the veterans. Even her children got involved with spreading the good work. Jenni Jo and her kids made goody bags with hand warmers, granola bars and information about how veterans could access services. She handed these out to her clients to give to homeless veterans they might see. Her hope was to inspire connection and maybe help veterans experiencing homelessness find their way to services.

Her decision to get her kids involved was a way to show them the importance of volunteering. “I am a single mom and it is incredibly important to me to teach my children to know what is going on in the world, teach them compassion and not to take things for granted. I want my kids to have really big hearts and to know they can make a difference and think outside of themselves.”

We are all inspired by Jenni Jo’s work at CCC and in our community. We look forward to other ways her kindness and compassion “roll forward!”



With CCC's Help, a Veteran Dreams for the Future

Nov 07, 2019

For nine years, Jon-Eric could only dream about skiing as a reminder of his past. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, he spent countless hours of his youth hitting the slopes, fashioning himself into an avid skier. But a near-decade of living outside, homeless and struggling with substance use, derailed his life — nine years that he says “took a toll on me.”

Jon-Eric joined the Air Force after high school. He admits that even while he was serving, he knew the military wasn’t a great fit for him. He stuck it out, serving for three years before being honorably discharged.

After, he traveled around the country to visit friends and family members. Along the way, he experienced unexpected losses and traumas, eventually landing back in the Portland area. He started taking pills to cope with the pains of a failing relationship. Heroin followed pills; methamphetamines followed heroin. He distanced himself from his family.

“It tore me up and I beat myself up over it,” Jon-Eric reflects. “It created a lot of scarring.”

Unlike many veterans who end up living on the street, Jon-Eric had family members who, in spite of his self-destructive efforts, tried to help. His mother, holding both fear and hope for her son, brought him to an open needs assessment and screening that local social service partners perform weekly for veterans. That’s where Kim Pettina, a case manager for Central City Concern’s (CCC) Veterans Grant Per Diem program, met Jon-Eric. Quickly, Kim realized this was actually the second time she’d met him.

“The first time we met was when you were outside the Martha Washington [a CCC affordable housing community],” she recounted to Jon-Eric. Not long before, she had interacted with him briefly while he was deep in his addiction and actively using outside the building.

Many veterans experiencing homelessness suffer from some combination of mental health struggles, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They often have significant barriers to stable housing, including criminal records, histories of eviction and trauma.

Jon-Eric fit the profile of the many veterans Kim has worked with for more than 10 years, most recently as part of CCC’s veterans program. Many veterans experiencing homelessness suffer from some combination of mental health struggles, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They often have significant barriers to stable housing, including criminal records, histories of eviction and trauma.

After nine years of living outside, Jon-Eric was ready for a change. Kim and CCC — which provides housing, case management, employment assistance and peer support for about 100 veterans each year — were ready to walk with him.

Getting Jon-Eric inside was Kim’s first goal. She quickly found him a room in transitional housing, Jon-Eric’s first stable place to live in almost a decade. When he opened the door to his unit for the first time, he felt relief. “Things are going to be alright,” he said to himself. “A little space to breathe for a minute.”

“We set a goal plan for me and so far we’ve been knocking them down, one by one. It’s incredible how fast things have been happening. What a miracle.”

Working together, Kim and Jon-Eric developed a list of goals that paved the road to long-term stability and hope. Taking care of an infection that left his mouth “feeling like it was on fire,” Kim connected him to a dental practice that donated their treatment. Practicing self-advocacy by seeking additional resources like clothing, Jon-Eric started attending local Veterans Stand Down events. Maintaining his newfound recovery, Jon-Eric and his mother began attending meetings together at the local Alano Club.

“We set a goal plan for me and so far we’ve been knocking them down, one by one,” Jon-Eric says proudly. “It’s incredible how fast things have been happening. What a miracle.”

He and Kim haven’t crossed off the next two big goals, permanent housing and permanent employment, quite yet, but they’re getting close. Jon-Eric has been participating in a work experience program through the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs , which they hope will put him in position to find more work soon. On the housing front, Jon-Eric and Kim are both teeming with excitement about what’s next.

“We’re just wrapping up some paperwork to get Jon-Eric his own apartment in a brand new affordable housing building,” Kim shares.

He adds, “I can’t wait to start figuring out what I want to do for my basic routines, like laundry and working out, where I want to go shopping. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jon-Eric credits Kim and the CCC veterans program with helping him get this far. “Things are hopeful and positive and I’m very grateful to be here right now. It’s so nice to have this supportive community of people I can talk to.”

As for his longer-term goals, Jon-Eric lights up as he mentions his hopes of becoming a ski instructor. “Just to be back on the slopes, taking it easy, teaching people to ski. That to me is the dream.”

 



National Leader Visits CCC, Portland

Nov 06, 2019

Compassion in action was one thing Bobby Watts, CEO of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), witnessed firsthand while visiting Portland recently. Bobby was in town to deliver the keynote speech at Central City Concern’s (CCC’s) Compassion in Action luncheon on Oct. 15, 2019. The mission of the council, which is based in Nashville, Tenn., is to eliminate homelessness by ensuring comprehensive health care and secure housing for everyone. CCC is one of about 300 council members.

Bobby said he didn’t hesitate for a minute when CCC asked him to come. He attended the Compassion in Action luncheon two years ago when Ed Blackburn, then CCC’s president and CEO, was honored just before he retired. “I had heard of Central City Concern through the years, but the first time I got to see it in action was immediately after this luncheon two years ago when [two CCC staff members] took me on a tour of the clinic and some of the housing programs. I was immediately totally blown away.” He saw that CCC was doing some things that no one else was doing, as well as many things better than most others are doing. He decided then and there that NHCHC was going to rely on CCC.

He spoke about compassion as “a sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress, along with a desire to alleviate it…. It’s taking our eyes off of ourselves and putting them on the needs of others.” It’s not just being aware, he says, it’s wanting to do something about it.

“One of the great values of America is we want everyone to reach their full potential, but how can you reach your potential if you don’t have a place to live?” he asked.

“I want to emphasize what a leader Central City Concern is in solving homelessness, not just in Portland, but across the country."

Bobby had toured Blackburn Center that morning and talked about what programs work for solving homelessness: subsidized housing, health care for people experiencing homeless, supportive housing, medical respite, a Housing First approach, trauma-informed care, harm reduction and addressing racism. CCC integrates all these ideas into what Bobby calls compassionate, competent care. “I want to emphasize what a leader Central City Concern is in solving homelessness, not just in Portland, but across the country,” he said.

While Bobby was in Portland, he also met with Vanetta Abdellatif, Integrated Clinical Services Director at Multnomah County Health Department, and went out on rounds one night with Drew Grabham, LCSW, a social worker for Portland Street Medicine.

“I am very, very hopeful that we can solve homelessness,” he said. “We know what we need to do. We know we have great programs with competent compassion that are effective, like Central City Concern. But what makes an organization work is the people. Central City Concern is staffed with people who make that human connection that makes all the difference in the world.”



Volunteer Spotlight: Jim

Nov 04, 2019

Recently, Volunteer Program Manager Westbrook Evans sat down with Jim, a volunteer in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Living Room program, which functions as a shared, safe place for Old Town Recovery Center patients, many of whom are actively living with and managing behavioral and mental health challenges. Read on to find out what drew Jim to volunteering with us, how volunteering aligns with his personal journey and more.

• • •

Tell me a little bit about your role here at CCC?

I volunteer one day a week at the Living Room at the Old Town Recovery Center. I help facilitate breakfast and group activities with members of the Central City Concern community.

What are some parts of your volunteer role that you particularly enjoy?

Hanging out with the community. The day I volunteer we do meditation. I meditate in my personal time, but it is nice to do it with a group of people. It is pretty powerful to have 20 people in a room taking a few minutes to reflect.

Has there been anything that has been challenging or difficult?

Getting up at 7 to make it to the Living Room! [laughs] It can be hard to get out of bed but I’m always glad I did. Every morning we start off with a “Hope Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine.

What drew you to wanting to volunteer with CCC specifically?

For a lot of my life I held a lot of fear and anger about injustice and problems in our society. I spent time in the Bay Area and Portland and I just found it overwhelming that as a wealthy, developed nation we can’t provide simple services for people who need help. Having experienced houselessness, drug addiction and alcoholism I felt a connection to the work CCC is doing. Part of my recovery and healing is sharing what I have and to be of service. I had volunteered with Alcoholics Anonymous but never volunteered with an organization like CCC.

"Every morning we start off with a “Hope Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine."

Can you share a little about how your recovery has led you to volunteer?

Something I have gotten better about through working with my sponsor is learning more about my mission. My mission isn’t to fix the world or every problem, but if I can help one person see a little bit of light in their recovery, my purpose for that day has been met. If we all did that a little, it builds.

There is a phrase you hear from old-timers in long-term sobriety: “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.” The only way for me to step out of my own self is to be of service to another person. When I am doing service in the Living Room or just asking someone how their day was, I’m not stuck in self-centeredness. I can finally be honest with myself.

When I first interviewed you to become a volunteer you had an interesting story about how you heard about us…

At the time I was already seeking some way to volunteer. A friend and I were having coffee when a Central City Concern truck pulled up to clean up a pile of trash. My friend started asking questions and we learned a lot of the guys were in recovery and working for CCC, keeping the streets clean. I found CCC’s website later that day and signed up to volunteer.

How has volunteering with CCC affected your life?

I see people all over town who are affected by CCC. I even see people who graduated from the Living Room, but they still go. I sit there and realize I was a few turns away from being at CCC’s door with a backpack. A few less supportive people in my life — easily. It is crazy to think about.

Some of the fear and resentment [about injustice] I had before starting my volunteer time with CCC was softened by realizing how much groups like CCC are doing in the community. It was a moment that showed me there is a collective community effort that has been going on for a long time. It is exciting to be a part of that work and start learning the intricacies of the work. It’s really impressive.



CCC is in Give!Guide 2019!

Oct 31, 2019

We’re thrilled to share that Central City Concern (CCC) has been selected as a nonprofit featured in Willamette Week’s 2019 Give!Guide! We are one of about 150 local nonprofits chosen by Give!Guide, and we’re honored to be among such incredible company.

This is our seventh year participating in Give!Guide — an opportunity to support our mission with a donation and receive fantastic gifts in return. In addition to helping us end homelessness, your donation also gives you the chance to win fantastic prizes from iconic Portland restaurants, your favorite local businesses and much, much more.

This year we’re partnering with CCC supporters John and Renee Gorham – the couple behind Toro Bravo and Tasty n Alder — to offer exclusive incentives just for you, our CCC family!

If you're ready to make a difference, make a gift to CCC any time between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31!

BIG GIVE DAYS

When you donate $10 or more on Give!Guide’s Big Give Days, you’ll also be entered for a chance to win a number of exciting prizes in addition to CCC’s exclusive incentives. Tomorrow, Nov. 1, is the first Big Give Day — when you donate $10 or more, you could win a $500 shopping spree to Powell’s Books! Explore all of this year's Big Give Days here.

JOIN THE PARTY

Give!Guide is hosting an official kickoff party Celebrate tomorrow at the Jupiter Hotel Next (910 E Burnside) from 5 to 7 p.m. Join the fun for music, food and prizes. The event is free and open to the public. Find details here.

STAY UP TO DATE

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more frequent updates about Give!Guide and CCC through the end of the year. We’ll remind you about upcoming Big Give Days, share more information about our CCC-only incentives and even point you toward other nonprofits doing good, important work in our community.

When you give to CCC, you help bring hope and healing to those who need it most. Thank you for believing in CCC and supporting our work.



Donor Profile: John and Renee Gorham

Oct 29, 2019

Most Portlanders know John and Renee Gorham as the duo behind some of the city’s most exciting restaurants like Toro Bravo and Tasty n Alder. Their cuisine is renowned for the breadth of inspiration they draw from all over the world — from Spain to Israel to the Carolinas.

But when it comes to making a difference, the Gorhams focus on their own community. This holiday season, John and Renee are leveraging their star power to support Central City Concern’s (CCC) Give!Guide campaign, as well as those of several other nonprofits, particularly those addressing the homelessness epidemic in Portland.

We caught up with John and Renee for a quick Q&A to learn more about how they approach giving and doing their part to elevate the community.

Why did you decide to partner with CCC for the 2019 Give!Guide?
CCC’s wide range of services and versatility offers the most wraparound and overarching support to transform the lives of families and individuals in our community. Partnering with CCC in Give!Guide opens up the opportunity for us to reach a broader audience to support the critically important and necessary work with the most vulnerable populations of our community.

What inspires you to give?
In the restaurant industry we provide a service to those who can afford to dine out, but we also offer jobs and build a community within our group. There have been several points in our careers where we found family within the industry, so trying to create that sense of community beyond the walls of our restaurants is what inspires us to give.

How is your giving different than in past years?
Each year we shift our focus to an area of larger need. Right now it’s abundantly clear that homelessness is the most immediate problem facing our community. We’ve learned that collaborating with organizations who are on the ground providing services that make real differences in people’s lives allows us to leverage what we can do to make a meaningful impact. We want to be a part of the solution.

“Every person deserves an opportunity to better their lives and have a chance to champion the best life that they can live.”

What message would you like to share with the community?
Homelessness in Portland is something that needs all of our attention and our focus. Changing the lens of the way we all see homelessness is the first step all of Portland can take. Whatever got a person or a family into the situation they are in is irrelevant. Every person deserves an opportunity to better their lives and champion the best life that they can live.

Beyond what we see on the streets there is a huge population of people living on the cusp of homelessness. There is so much opportunity for us all to put our money where our mouths are if we want to make meaningful change in this community. We just can’t rely on someone else to fix a problem that is bigger than us all.

It’s just the damn right thing to do.

• • •

Give!Guide goes live on Friday, Nov. 1! Check out the details of our exclusive incentives for donors who give to CCC through Give!Guide this holiday season.



Attendees Put Compassion into Action at Annual Luncheon

Oct 18, 2019

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, Central City Concern (CCC) held our annual Compassion In Action fundraising luncheon at the Hilton Portland Downtown. This year, CCC used the opportunity to celebrate not only all that is possible when community members work together to bring lasting change to people in need, but also four decades of helping people find home, hope and healing.

With a blast of horns, Portland-based 12-piece funk and soul band Soul Vaccination kicked off the day’s program, performing their hit song “Funk P-Town” with several lyrics altered to celebrate CCC’s 40th anniversary.

CCC President and CEO Rachel Solotaroff then took the stage, thanking elected officials in attendance; the event’s Presenting, Home of Our Own and Ready to Work sponsors; and several corporate partners who have generously given to CCC for more than 20 years.

Rachel went on to speak about a concept that is vital to the staff members, clients and the very spirit of CCC: resilience. She shared that resilience “isn’t something people are born with. It’s something people are given, and they are given it through human connection.”

“Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism,” Rachel continues. “We are not the survival of the fittest. We are the survival of the nurtured.”

“Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism."

G. Robert (Bobby) Watts, CEO of National Health Care for the Homeless Council, served as the luncheon’s keynote speaker. Bobby tapped into the deep familiarity with CCC’s work that he’s developed as the leader of the nation’s preeminent membership organization of homeless health care organizations, people with lived experience of homelessness and advocates. CCC is, Bobby said, “doing some things that no one else is doing and they are doing some things better than most others are doing. We, as a council, are going to rely on them.”

Bobby then pivoted to speaking about homelessness as a national epidemic. He shared that our collective hope and goal should be moving toward “compassionate justice”: a society that not only sees housing and health care as human rights, but provides them as such. Our path toward that goal consists of doing what we know works: affordable housing and housing subsidies, health care to people experiencing homelessness, supportive housing, medical respite, practicing a Housing First approach, trauma-informed care, harm reduction and addressing racism.

The audience was treated to the premiere of “40 Years of Hope and Healing: The Human Connection,” a video feature that showed the transformative ripple effect of making human connection through the stories of two long-time CCC employees, Bobby T. and Medina. (Watch the video for yourself at the end of the post.)

     

Stacey Dodson, market president at U.S. Bank, followed the video to make the pitch. Before she began her ask, however, she shared about her intimate connection to the devastation that addiction can ravage on families, making the work of CCC all the more vital to our community.

Soul Vaccination closed the program with three more songs, including a raucous version of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September.”

In total, CCC’s 2019 Compassion In Action campaign raised over $290,000.

 



CCC Walks for Recovery

Oct 01, 2019

Central City Concern (CCC) wrapped up National Recovery Month on a powerful note this past Saturday, Sept. 28, at the second annual Walk for Recovery, where members of the Portland recovery community and their families united to improve Oregon’s fractured and incomplete addiction recovery system.

CCC staff and clients, along with their friends, family and hundreds of other community members and organizations, took part in the two-mile walk from southwest to northwest Portland, which felt more like a political march than a fundraising event. Key legislators and decision makers helped kick off the walk at an opening rally, sharing words of encouragement to participants about why mobilizing to address addiction is so important. Representatives from Oregon Recovers, which organized the Walk for Recovery, emphasized the goal of building a movement of people in recovery in order to drive widespread support for addiction prevention and treatment across Oregon.

During the walk, as participants passed by multiple addiction treatment and help centers — including CCC’s own CCC Recovery Center, Imani Center and Old Town Recovery Center programs — they proudly help up hand-made signs with messages of encouragement to those in recovery and calls to action for elected officials to increase access to treatment.

One of the largest contingents at the Walk for Recovery was made up of staff, clients and alumni of Puentes, CCC’s culturally specific recovery program for Spanish speakers. Ricardo Verdeguez, a recovery mentor and drug and alcohol counselor at Puentes, highlighted a significant barrier in recovery services: the lack of Spanish-language treatment programs.

"Today I have a life and I have a family because I am in recovery."

“After 30 years of battling addiction, there was no treatment for me as a third-generation Latino,” Ricardo shared during his speech at the Walk for Recovery rally. “I found treatment with Central City Concern and I’m grateful, because they have culturally specific treatment. Today I have a life and I have a family because I am in recovery.”

Puentes’ large presence at the Walk for Recovery was fitting, where increasing access to recovery services was a reoccurring theme. Oregon ranks 50th in the country — last place — in access to treatment. Puentes has worked hard to welcome Portland’s Spanish-speakers into a culturally responsive community where things like language, country of origin and documentation status are not barriers to beginning and maintaining a life in recovery. While much work remains in breaking barriers to preventing and treating addiction, we are proud to serve the Latino recovery community through our Puentes program.

With hundreds of Portlanders in attendance and over $100,000 raised to improve Oregon’s addiction recovery system, the Walk for Recovery was a success that CCC was thrilled to be a part of. While National Recovery Month might be over, our work to bring hope and healing to those struggling with addiction continues with the same determination and fire we witnessed during the weekend’s events.



Rooted in Community: CCC Volunteers

Aug 09, 2019

We close out our National Health Center Week 2019 series with a unique take on what it means to be “rooted in community” by focusing on Central City Concern (CCC) volunteers. CCC Volunteer Manager Westbrook Evans shares several ways our volunteers help CCC take root in our community, as well as how volunteers themselves become part of the community to which they give their time.

• • •

This year’s theme of National Health Center Week is “rooted in community.” To honor this theme, we’re highlighting a group of people that elevates CCC's work and roots it in the broader community every day: our health center volunteers.

From administrative tasks and customer service roles, all the way to volunteer providers, more than 200 volunteers worked in our health care sites over the past year. On top of the positive impact volunteers have on our clients and staff, volunteers are often some of the best ambassadors for our mission. They share their work and experiences with their families, friends and co-workers. Volunteers truly spread our roots throughout Portland!

Check out some of the ways volunteers make a big difference in our community health centers.

The Living Room

The Living Room program is at the cornerstone (literally) of two Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) sites, Old Town Clinic (OTC) and the Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC). The Living Room is a program for CCC patients who are living with and managing behavioral and mental health challenges, and serves the spiritual and community needs of patients engaged in our medical services. It is a peer-led, community-driven program, and a place for its members, CCC staff and our members of the broader community to come together and support one another through activities, conversations and relationships.

According to Living Room Coordinator Hayden, volunteers are an integral part of the work the program does. Volunteers participate as part of a service team alongside staff, helping set up and facilitate Living Room activities. Most importantly, they spend time with members building relationships while participating in the programing. An important part of well-being is building and creating positive community connections.

Volunteers often help to bridge the gap between paid staff and users of CCC services. I asked Beau, a Living Room volunteer, what being “rooted in community” means to him in relation to his volunteer role. “To me, it means people. People make up a community with the knowledge and ideas they share with each other.”

We are so grateful that the Living Room volunteers show up every day to share this experience and build the community.

Clinic Concierge Program

The Clinic Concierge program is in its fifth year at OTC. The concierge role is part of CCC’s goal to create a clinical environment where those alienated from mainstream medical services feel welcome. When a concierge is on shift, visitors are always met with a friendly smile. As in the Living Room, knowing that the volunteers show up just because they want to be there emphasizes that our patients are valued members of the community. In the words of an OTC staff member:

“The concierge program has been awesome. They may be the first point of contact when someone walks into the building. They are full of information and resources, and may have a friendly conversation with our patients or help the patient to find their way around the clinic.

“Patients are always really happy to see them; they are one of the first people they see or approach. Concierges improve patient flow. We get so busy up front that sometimes we forget to smile, but the concierges are always ready with one. Some form really good rapport with the patients. The concierges make an effort to let patients know they are welcome here by learning their names, their pets’ names, and remembering specific facts about them. They are a lovely presence here in the clinic.”

Other volunteer activities

Within OTC and OTRC and across our 13 FQHC sites, volunteers assist in many more ways. We have volunteer pharmacists, medical providers, administrative and data entry assistants, translators and more, all freely giving their time and energy to our clients and staff. We are so grateful for all our volunteers and how they root our health centers in the community!

To learn more about volunteering in our health center, visit our volunteer opportunities page.