On a perfect sunny July afternoon in Southwest Portland’s Lair Hill neighborhood, several dozen people gathered in the parking lot of Hill Park Apartments to drink iced coffee and celebrate the new building’s grand opening.
Soon-to-be resident Kellie Knight cut the ceremonial ribbon after sharing her story. “I don’t even have words right now,” she told the crowd. “I can’t believe I get to move in here and have some place that I can call home.” Kellie was addicted to drugs and in and out of prison for most of her life until she came to Central City Concern (CCC) in 2015. She now has full-time permanent employment and, for the first time, her own apartment.
CCC, Portland’s nonprofit serving people impacted by homelessness, poverty and addictions since 1979, opened the 39-unit housing building on July 11. It’s a three-story building on the edge of Portland’s southwest downtown area, close to transportation, parks and shopping. It will include supportive services for the residents of eight units that will be home to people living with mental illness. The apartments are spacious with ceiling fans and natural wood accents. The Earth Advantage-certified building is energy efficient with solar panels.
“We understand that downtown belongs to everybody. If we’re going to have a healthy downtown, we need it to reflect a certain set of values. Those values turn into people and those people turn into a diverse city that we can be proud of,” said Ed Blackburn, CCC’s president and CEO. “This building is adding to that.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler was there as well. “This is a community effort, one that we can all be proud of,” he said. “In my opinion, this represents one of the great ways this city comes together to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community get back on their feet.”
Commissioner Dan Saltzman shared that his family had moved into the Lair Hill neighborhood in the 1920s when it was predominantly occupied by Italian and Jewish immigrants. “This has always been a vibrant neighborhood,” Saltzman said. “I hope that these Hill Park Apartments will be as good to its residents as this area has been to my family.”
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury explained how the eight residents managing mental illness are receiving and will continue to receive appropriate support from CCC’s behavioral health staff. These residents are engaged with Central City Concern’s outpatient behavioral health program—the Old Town Recovery Center—where they receive many services and will have access to CCC’s proven integrated care models. They will also be empowered and supported in carving their path to self-sufficiency. “We know that by connecting people to the resources that they need they can overcome barriers and truly change their lives,” she said. “However, without housing there is no healing. Housing is indeed health care.”
Other speakers at the grand opening included Sean Hubert, CCC’s chief housing and employment officer; Rachel Solotaroff, CCC’s chief medical officer; Jeri Young from US Bank and Margaret Salazar from Oregon Housing and Community Services.
Hill Park Apartments has 39 units: 17 studio and 22 one-bedroom. Major contributors include US Bank, Portland Housing Bureau, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Oregon Health Authority, Home Forward, Providence Health & Services, and Energy Trust of Oregon. Further, Steven Stone and Elana Stone Anderson of BedMart teamed up with Tempur-Pedic Mattresses to donate 30 mattresses for the incoming residents; the donation was facilitated by CCC's longtime partner, Community Warehouse.
The architect is Carleton Hart Architecture and the general contractor is Colas Construction, Inc.