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.