Holding on to Hope

Nov 25, 2020

Celeste is a single mom who lives in Central City Concern’s Hazel Heights residential building. She works in downtown Portland at the Maybelle Center, but her hours were cut when COVID-19 first caused Oregon’s economy to slow down.

Celeste had been sick and taken time off work to recover. She was behind on her bills and had missed a rent payment. So even before the pandemic she was barely hanging on — a feeling she knew all too well.

Four years ago, when Celeste arrived at CCC, she was pregnant, homeless and struggling with addiction to methamphetamines and heroin.

After her son was born, social services workers told Celeste she couldn’t take her baby with her when she left the hospital. He’d need to live with her relatives or enter foster care.

At that point, she made the choice to enter recovery. Celeste moved into CCC’s Letty Owings Center, a residential facility for pregnant or parenting women.

“For so long I felt alone," she says. “Then I walked into a home with 25 other women and their children going through the same thing I was going through.”

That decision helped her turn things around. With support from CCC, she got her baby back and moved from Letty Owings to Hazel Heights, where she took workshops to gain parenting and financial skills. She also joined a CCC job training program, learning leadership and technical skills that she used to apply for permanent work with the help of CCC’s Employment Access Center.

After multiple job offers, Celeste signed on at the Maybelle Center. She’s been there ever since, helping low-income Portlanders build community and overcome social isolation. “When I take these resources, I know how much it means for it to come back to me,” she says. “I needed the help, and it was there.”

Being involved with CCC meant that Celeste had community around her — and that held true even during the COVID-19 shutdown. When her hours were cut, she didn’t lose hope. She knew there were people who could help her figure out what to do.

Like many of her neighbors at Hazel Heights, Celeste was able to access rent assistance funds provided to CCC residents through grants and individual donations. The money helped her get caught up and keep a roof over her family’s head. Without rental assistance, Celeste says that she imagines a very different outcome for herself and her family during the pandemic. “I would’ve thought, ‘I’ll never get out of this, so I might as well give up.’”

For people like Celeste, even one missed rent check can be the difference between relapsing and staying on track. And at CCC, rent payments support the wraparound, integrated services that our clients depend on. “Nobody chooses to be an addict,” she says. “But you can choose to be in recovery. I make that decision every day.”

Your gift to Central City Concern directly supports those like Celeste, who are feeling the impacts of COVID-19 first-hand and who need the support of our community during this year like no other. Please make a donation through Give!Guide today.

A Search for Home Brings Long-Term Security

Nov 18, 2020

Jeanette and John both grew up in Portland. But when they returned to Oregon after several years in Georgia, the couple discovered big changes. Like many African American Portlanders facing the impacts of gentrification, they discovered they could no longer afford to live in their hometown: historically Black neighborhoods had become home to mostly white, high-income residents and rents had skyrocketed.

Then Jeanette and John heard about Central City Concern’s Charlotte B. Rutherford building, located in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood. At the Rutherford building, under the Portland Housing Bureau’s N/NE Preference Policy, people with generational ties to North Portland can find a home. It’s a piece of CCC’s work to help address a legacy of marginalization and displacement and to help rebuild community for Black Portlanders.

When the Rutherford opened in 2018, the couple were among its first residents. “This was a blessing for us,” says Jeanette, from her apartment on the top floor of the North Portland building. She and John value living in a place where they hear children playing in the hallway and feel connected to their neighbors.

But when COVID-19 hit, they needed some help to stay there.

John is a minister, but his work as a Lyft driver pays the couple’s bills. That income vanished in March. John, who is 66, receives monthly Social Security checks that cover food and bills, but not much more. Suddenly, they were uncertain about how they would pay rent.

Then in June, John had a heart attack that left him unable to work even though restrictions on Lyft drivers had eased. He spent two days in the hospital and a month healing at home until his doctor cleared him to get back to work.

“From March to July, all we had was Social Security. Our family brought over food, but we didn’t want to be a burden on them,” says Jeanette. Eight of her 11 siblings still live in the Portland area, but they’re all older and living on fixed incomes. Jeanette worried about straining her family’s collective resources.

“We just didn’t know we’d be down that long. We didn’t know what we were going to do.”

But at CCC, rent payments aren’t just about paying for physical space — they fund a wide variety of integrated services that wrap around and support residents. So when things got dicey, Jeanette and John weren’t facing it alone. Instead, there was a Resident Support Specialist at the Rutherford to notice their struggle and offer resources like rent assistance.

It was a godsend to learn that rent assistance was available, Jeanette says. She and John applied and quickly received the help they needed.

“It was such a blessing,” says Jeanette. Without the stress and worry of falling behind on rent, John was able to heal.

Now John’s back at the wheel, although he must keep the windows open to circulate air while driving. Jeanette put her efforts toward applying for a new job, and landed a position with the State of Oregon. “I’m thankful for this job,” she says. “I enjoy it. I’m part of helping get people what they need.”

Jeanette and John— and their neighbors at the Charlotte B. Rutherford— have found their feet, but they didn’t have to do it alone. Whether they’re entertaining the neighbor kids, walking through the rose garden at nearby Peninsula Park, or sharing online fellowship with John’s congregation, the couple is part of a community that is uniting to stay secure, strong and healthy —even in the face of unprecedented hardship.

Your gift to Central City Concern helps bring safety and stability to families, like Jeanette and John, who have faced unforeseen challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. With your support, we’re helping Portlanders navigate hardship and find hope during these times of unprecedented uncertainty. Please make a donation through Give!Guide today.

Crescent Court Apartments Breaks Ground

Nov 16, 2020

On  November 10, Central City Concern (CCC), Related NW and an array of community partners broke ground on a new project, Crescent Court Apartments, continuing to move CCC forward in our mission of serving the most vulnerable in our community.

In lieu of a traditional groundbreaking, Related NW joined forces with IRCO’s Mill Park Food Pantry to provide groceries for those experiencing food insecurity. Related NW, CCC, Walsh Construction, and the Boys and Girls Club of Portland distributed pre-packed bags of groceries to approximately 100 families. U.S. Bank, Walsh Construction and Related NW donated and delivered food and household items to the pantry; teens from the Boys and Girls Club filled the bags with the donated material. Related NW, US Bank and Ankrom Moisan Architects donated cash to IRCO’s food pantry.

CCC's Sustainable Development Manager, Rachel Maas, helped distribute food at the Crescent Court groundbreaking.

“Beyond offering affordable housing to vulnerable families in our community, we’re offering hope,” says Mary-Rain O’Meara, CCC’s Director of Real-Estate Development. “Hope for the future and hope for all of the families who will call Crescent Court home. We’re proud to continue our partnership with Related NW and all of the partners who will provide much needed services at Crescent Court.”

Located at SE 115th and Division Streets, Crescent Court Apartments is Portland’s newest affordable and supportive housing community for families. Adjacent to Cedar Commons, the partnership’s inaugural affordable development, Crescent Court Apartments will be home to 138 studio to three-bedroom apartments for low and very low-income families, communities of color, and immigrants and refugees. Seven apartments have been designated as Permanent Supportive Housing for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The building will be served by mass transit and other public amenities such as parks, the Midland Library and the East Portland Community Center. Additionally, we specifically located Crescent Court within a mile of our Blackburn Center so that residents may take advantage of all the added wraparound services.

Common area amenities will include a community room with kitchen, shared laundry, internet stations, playground and picnic area. Intensive on-site social services will be provided by CCC, while IRCO will provide services to immigrant and refugee families. After-school programs will be administered by the Boys and Girls Club of Portland.

Completion is slated for 2022.

From left to right: Laurie Linville-Gregston, Senior Associate/Architect  Ankrom Moisan Architects; Imani Muhammad, Area Director of East County Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland; Nami Bigos, Fundraising Coordinator, Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization;  Stef Kondor, Vice President Development Related Northwest; Ryan Hood, Project Manger Related Northwest; Rachel Maas, Sustainable Development Manager Central City Concern; Meghan Herteg, Project Manager Walsh Construction Co.

Transgender Awareness Week 2020

Nov 13, 2020

It’s Transgender Awareness Week (November 13-19). This is a time to recognize, honor and celebrate transgender and gender non-conforming people in our community. It is also — especially on Nov. 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance—a time to reflect on the violence and prejudice that these individuals continue to face.

While we can’t easily gather to mourn or rally for action or dance in celebration this year, there are many ways to participate virtually. Check out this list of virtual events and resources — we hope you’ll find something that moves you. (Quotes below are from event hosts.)

  • Explore Trans Empowerment, Resistance and Resilience Days (TEMPRR) with the PSU Queer Resource Center. Open to students and community members alike.
  • Join a virtual, interfaith candlelight vigil on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7pm. Facilitated by First Unitarian Portland , the vigil will serve “to honor and memorialize our transgender siblings who have died in the past year; to offer a message of hope and welcome for transgender people into affirming faith groups of all kinds; and to build more resilient community in the work towards liberation.”Open to all.
  • Contribute to Q Center’s living memorial wall by November 30thwith a photo, remembrance or message. “In addition to photos of Transgender individuals slain in the United States in 2020, we are also centering voices of the LIVING Portland area Trans/GNC community. If you are an individual whose identity falls outside of the cis-gender/binary limits and are currently or have ever lived in the Portland area, this invitation is for you!”
  • View the Q Center memorial wall in person at Q Center, 4115 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97217, and can be safely viewed from outside.
  • Brush up on your allyship with this great resource from the Human Rights Campaign. From tips for discussing gender diversity with family members, to ways for better affirming and supporting the trans and gender non-conforming people in your life, to ideas about making systemic changes, there are many opportunities for allyship here. “Stay committed, keep learning, and keep going.”
  • Watch DISCLOSURE, a Netflix documentary directed by Sam Feder and executive produced by Laverne Cox, about transgender people and gender diversity in the entertainment history through the decades. Explore how representation has changed, and what work is still to be done.

2020 Local Election Results

Nov 05, 2020

Pat Buckley, a Physician Assistant at Old Town Clinic, dropping off her ballot.

Central City Concern thanks everyone who participated in this election season. Whether you voted, encouraged others to vote, or dropped off ballots – we are grateful. We rocked the vote, here in Oregon and across the country! Whatever your personal political beliefs, CCC believes voting is a key step in civic involvement.

While not all results are in and many votes are still being counted, we do have some projected results from the Oregon Secretary of State worth sharing and celebrating.

Statewide Measures

Measures 107, 108, 109 and 110 are all passing with strong margins.

Measure 107 will allow for campaign finance reform laws. Measure 109 will create regulations over the next two years for providers to start using psilocybin treatment for patients.

At CCC, we endorsed Measures 108 and 110. Measure 108 will raise the tax on tobacco products to fund the Oregon Health Plan, and Measure 110 will decriminalize possession of small amounts of illegal drugs and invest more of the existing marijuana taxes into treatment and recovery services. We are very excited to see both these measures passing with strong support.

Some of the highlights of Measures 108 and 110 include:

  • A new tax on cigarettes and tobacco vaping products beginning in January 2021 will allocate funds to the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) and cessation/prevention programs beginning in the new 2021-2023 state biennial budget. It is projected to raise $330 million. The OHP is one of the most important safety net services our community has to offer. Keeping OHP financially sound ensures more people can find stability in their health care. OHP is a lifeline in our state, allowing people to access primary care, dental care and behavioral health supports, at a time when health care is more crucial than ever.
  • Decriminalization of possession of a controlled substance in Schedule I-IV, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, will be reclassified from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation, resulting in a $100 fine or a completed health assessment to waive the fine, beginning in February 2021.
  • Marijuana tax revenues will be redistributed to treatment and recovery services starting in the 2021-2023 state biennial budget with the first wave of funds set to be released no later than October 2021.The funds will be split between the current programs receiving funds and new allocations to treatment and recovery. All funds in excess of $45 million will be set aside for new investments. For reference, in fiscal year 2019-2020, the marijuana tax revenue brought in $133 million for the year.

Teresa Dickinson, a Family Mentor, dropping off her ballot.

Local Results

While CCC did not endorse any local measures, and cannot endorse candidates, there were some notable results. A new police oversight structure was overwhelming passed by Portland voters. This new independent civilian led police oversight board will be taking shape over the next year.

Portland voters reelected Mayor Wheeler and elected Mingus Mapps over incumbent Chloe Eudaly. Mapps will join other newly elected commissioners Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan and sitting commissioner JoAnne Hardesty, constituting a majority BIPOC council in 2021. This is a historic moment for Portland during a time of unprecedented challenges and opportunities for change.

We welcome opportunities with all elected leaders to engage in solution building, to improve the lives of the people we serve. And, we look forward to the implementation of our new policies approved by voters.

Native American Heritage Month Resources & Events

Nov 03, 2020

National Native American Heritage Month honors and celebrates the history and culture of Native Americans. This celebration contributes to the visibility of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian peoples in our community and beyond.

The land that we now call Portland, Oregon rests on the traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, bands of the Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Mollalah and many others who made their homes along the Columbia River. Multnomah is a band of Chinooks that lived in this area. We thank the descendants of these Tribes for being the original stewards and protectors of these lands since time immemorial. We acknowledge the ongoing systems of genocide, relocation and assimilation that still impact many Indigenous/Native American families and communities today.

At Central City Concern, we're honored to be guests upon these lands. For more information on Native American lands, languages, and treaties, take a look at this interactive map.

A special thank you to the Portland State University Indigenous Nations Studies program for crafting this land acknowledgement.


As we consider the impact of colonization on Indigenous/Native American communities, let us not forget the legacy of ancestral resilience in Native peoples. For more on Indigenous resilience, check out this article.

Native American Heritage Month Resources