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.




2019 Sandy Anderson Award Winner: A True Listener and Advocate

Dec 12, 2019

Every winter since 2015, members of Central City Concern’s Health Services Advisory Council (HSAC) have gotten together to choose a deserving recipient for the Sandy Anderson Award. The award is a heartfelt recognition given by the group to a CCC staff member 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.

This year, HSAC bestowed the award to Leslie Tallyn, CCC’s director of quality. Leslie has been the lead staff member attending HSAC meetings since 2013, walking alongside the group through many changes and new faces within both HSAC and at CCC.

“I’m humbled and deeply touched to receive this award. I admire the other Sandy Anderson Award recipients so much, and being in their company is an honor,” Leslie said.

According to HSAC members, Leslie has been the ideal bridge between CCC’s health care consumers and CCC’s services. With a deep understanding that CCC can only improve our services by acknowledging and responding to our clients’ whole experiences, Leslie has encouraged transparency and honesty. As someone who is deeply embedded in our clinic operations, she is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable people at CCC about why we do things the way we do them. And according to HSAC members, there’s no one better at explaining that in terms that all HSAC members can understand.

Leslie doesn’t just take in what she hears. HSAC members commend her for being incredibly proactive about following up on topics that come up during meetings and sharing how clinic staff received and responded to their feedback.

Above all, HSAC shares, Leslie is kind and thoughtful, and she truly listens. For six years, they’ve trusted her to pave the road for consumer-driven changes and improvements. As a clinic that serves a patient population familiar with feeling marginalized or ill-served by the mainstream health care system, finding someone like Leslie — a genuine listener, a supportive advocate and trustworthy collaborator — is worth celebrating.

“Our HSAC members volunteer their time to help improve the quality of care we provide and the experiences of the people we serve,” Leslie shared. “Centering the experiences and voices of consumers is vital to our mission, and I’m grateful to have had the privilege of supporting our HSAC members’ service to CCC over the past six years.”

The list of previous CCC awardees reveals the high honor and regard in which they hold all Sandy Anderson awardees. Sandy Anderson, was CCC’s first pharmacist who became a beacon of kindness and compassion to thousands of OTC patients. She was the first to receive the award named for her; other recipients include Carol Weber, a care team manager who has served our patients for more than 15 years and Old Town Recovery Center psychiatrist Phil Shapiro, whose counseling and guidance around healing has changed countless lives.

There’s no doubt that Leslie fits right in to such esteemed company.



Nine Ways to Support CCC This Holiday Season

Dec 11, 2019

As we enter the thick of the holiday season, lots of people ask how they can support Central City Concern. After all, the season is just as much about giving back as it is getting gifts, and we rely on your support to help our most vulnerable community members find stability, wellness and opportunity.

So we’ve put together a list of all the ways you can support us during the holidays. We hope that you can find at least one channel of generosity that works for you to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve!

Willamette Week’s Give!Guide:
Portland easiest path to year-end giving. Visit CCC’s Give!Guide page to make a gift while earning fun incentives. Give!Guide also has a few Big Give Days remaining: give $10 or more on those days for a chance to win an extra special prize package! Further, CCC also has a number of mouth-watering incentives exclusively for our donors.

Make a one-time gift online:
Make a one-time monetary gift through our secure donation website and know that your donation will make a difference in the lives of people CCC serves. Even a $50 gift can be used to provide shoes for three children in CCC’s family housing program.

Become a recurring donor:
Instead of giving once, set up automatic payments to make a contribution at an interval of your choosing. Recurring donations help us know the support we can count on while you make a difference all year long. Become a recurring donor on our secure donation site.

In-kind Wish List:
People on different parts of their journeys toward stability need different kinds of things. We’ve put together a list of in-kind needs that can benefit our clients, no matter where or how we meet them. We accept most items in new or like-new condition.

Amazon Wish List:
Our Amazon Wish List offers a convenient way to purchase and donate items to meet our current needs. Check it out, purchase some items and have them shipped directly to us.

AmazonSmile:
Many people find Amazon.com to be a convenient way to take care of their shopping. The AmazonSmile program allows you to link your Amazon shopping cart to CCC so that a portion of your Amazon purchases will be donated to us.

Fred Meyer Community Rewards:
Did you know that you can support us while shopping at any Fred Meyer store? All you need to do is link your Fred Meyer Rewards account to CCC. Once it’s linked, Fred Meyer will donate a portion of your spending to CCC! Follow this link, sign into your Fred Meyer account, search for Central City Concern and enroll!

Purchase art:
Two local art exhibits will generously donate a portion of their proceeds to CCC! The Elisabeth Jones Art Center will donate 10% of all sales from their “Artistic Sketchbook II” exhibit of sketches by local artists. Steve Diamond’s “From a Distance” photography exhibit running at Mississippi Avenue Lofts; he will donate 20% of the proceeds from sales.

Volunteer:
Giving can always be more than about money or items. CCC volunteers give their time, skills and presence to help our programs do more and do better. Visit our Volunteer page to learn more about our opportunities or submit an interest form.



Giving Tuesday: Make a Connection, Make a Difference

Dec 03, 2019

Throughout Central City Concern’s 40th anniversary year, we’ve found inspiration in the idea of human connection: how it imparts resilience and transforms lives, especially for the people CCC serves.

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global movement that gives us an opportunity to lean into our connectedness through generosity. By making a donation to CCC today, you support our work of connecting to our neighbors experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We listen to their needs, honor their dignity and center our services around their own stories.

Helping our neighbors overcome some of life’s toughest challenges takes all of us working together. We’re grateful to be connected to you, and for your connection to those we serve. Happy Giving Tuesday!


This Season, Giving to CCC Also Means Getting from CCC!

Last week, Kathleen L. became the newest winner of gift certificates to a pair of Portland's hottest restaurants, Tasty n Daughters and Shalom Y'all! All she did was make a gift of $75 or more to CCC through the Willamette Week Give!Guide for her contest entry.

With a gift of $25 or more, you too can claim a chance to win exclusive incentives , bringing you around a table of some of Portland's best food.

A particularly tantalizing incentive is available to Give!Guide donors of $150 or more: a pair of tickets to the Dec. 28 Trabanco House Sidra Dinner at PLAZA DEL TORO! The winner will be drawn on Dec. 21.

Make your gift for your chance to win!

Give!Guide Offers Big Prizes of Their Own!

Every week, Give!Guide offers a unique special incentive package. Each nonprofit you donate to on a Big Give Day is a chance to win. This week, in honor of Giving Tuesday, Give!Guide is doubling the fun:

  • GIVE TODAY FOR A BRASADA RANCH GETAWAY: 2 nights at Brasada Ranch in a Luxury suite, plus a round of golf on Oregon’s most breathtaking course!
  • GIVE THURSDAY FOR A PDX FOODIE PACKAGE: 2 weekend passes to Feast Portland 2020, a $500 gift card from New Seasons Market, a $150 gift card to Tasty n Daughters, and one year’s supply of goodies from ¿Por Qué No?, Nossa Familia Coffee, Jasmine Pearl Tea Company, Gluten Free Gem and Ground Up PDX

Find all of Give!Guide's incentives here.

We can’t reach our $80,000 Give!Guide goal without your help. Give today and be rewarded for your generosity at the same time!



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.”