Drawn Back Home: Black History Month 2019

Feb 20, 2019

By the mid-2000s, the King neighborhood of northeast Portland was in the thick of transitioning from a majority non-white and historically Black area to a majority white one. For then-12-year-old Jennifer, even the shifting color of the King neighborhood was still a radical, welcoming, life-changing difference from how she’d grown up.

“I mostly grew up in suburban areas. I felt a disconnect most of the time because my siblings and I were always the very few black kids in our schools,” Jennifer says. “My family moved to Portland in 2004, and from what we were told, we arrived sort of right at the start of gentrification in that neighborhood.”

For decades of Portland history, neighborhoods like King had been a bastion of the local Black Portland community, an arrangement not of happenstance but directly due to institutionalized redlining and discriminatory housing policies. Still, Black Portlanders created community where they could, fostering vibrant neighborhoods and civic life. But starting in the 1950s, the city’s myriad urban renewal projects in its north and northeast quadrants systematically dismantled and destabilized Black communities.

“My family moved to Portland in 2004, and from what we were told, we arrived sort of right at the start of gentrification in that neighborhood.”

Decades downstream in the early 2000s, north and northeast Portland became ground zero for gentrification, attracting people and investors from elsewhere with higher incomes, resources and political heft than the average Black resident. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 10,000 Portlanders of color, mostly Black, moved out of the Portland’s central neighborhoods, including communities like King. Though some moved on their own accord, most were pushed by skyrocketing rents and property prices toward East Portland, where housing costs were relatively more affordable.

Jennifer would often follow her friend two blocks out of the way off NE Killingworth, a main thoroughfare in King, to walk past a particular house. Her friend would explain, in almost hushed tones, that it had been her grandmother’s family home. Had. Yet her friend was drawn back to the property, over and over again, with Jennifer in tow.

Her friend never spelled out the circumstances of why the home didn’t belong to her family anymore, but the massive displacement King residents had been witnessing—at least those still there to witness it—provided plenty to read between the lines.

Still, the historic residents of King were resilient, preserving their community bonds even as neighbors steadily moved out. “Compared to where I was used to living, I felt like I could still connect with our culture more, be around more Black people than I’d ever seen. I came to know the neighborhood and it felt really good to be around people like me. I felt so normal there. I didn’t stand out. I mean, it felt like home.”

"Compared to where I was used to living, I felt like I could still connect with our culture more, be around more Black people than I’d ever seen. I came to know the neighborhood and it felt really good to be around people like me. I felt so normal there.... it felt like home.”

That sense of home eventually faded as the winds of gentrification caught Jennifer’s family. They moved several times before Jennifer and her siblings went off to college, closer to the city’s outer limits with each subsequent move.

Jennifer first went to college at Western Oregon University. There, she gave birth to her daughter, Cambria, and soon transferred to Portland State University. As she approached graduation, she started looking for housing in the city and quickly realized that rents were out of her reach. She and her two sisters eventually found a home in East County.

“But I really wanted to find a way to get back to northeast or north Portland because I was so familiar with it. I was so familiar with my old neighborhood and I love the layout and things are so convenient.”

After a few years in Gresham, Jennifer heard about the Portland Housing Bureau’s N/NE Preference Policy, a “tool to begin addressing the harmful impacts of this legacy [of marginalization and displacement] by prioritizing families and individuals with generational ties to N/NE Portland for new affordable housing opportunities in the area.”

Months after submitting her application, Jennifer received a phone call that offered her a two-bedroom apartment in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Charlotte B. Rutherford Place. “It was such a relief,” Jennifer recalls. “I was in a little shock. I was grateful. It meant so much that I’d be back so close to my old neighborhood and be able to live on my own—to afford to live on my own—with my daughter.”

She pauses. “It was emotional because I realized that I didn’t just want this for myself; I wanted it for my daughter, too. I wanted her to see Black people, to be able to go to schools that were more mixed, where she saw people like her. Being back in the neighborhood would affect all that.”

Today, Jennifer and Cambria make their home in a third-story apartment at Charlotte B. Rutherford Place, located in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood, just slightly more than a mile west of King. Opened in December 2019, the affordable housing community project figured intentionally into CCC’s targeted efforts to meet the housing and health needs of African Americans.

Opened in December 2019, the affordable housing community project figured intentionally into CCC’s targeted efforts to meet the housing and health needs of African Americans.

At the grand opening, CCC President and CEO Dr. Rachel Solotaroff said, “We’re so proud that Charlotte B. Rutherford Place opened under the N/NE preference policy, opening up housing access to people with historical ties to neighborhoods that were once predominantly black, but targeted with an urban renewal plan that didn’t include those who had created their community here.”

Though there to celebrate, Dr. Solotaroff spoke to the modesty of the effort relative to systemic injustices. “Of course Charlotte B. Rutherford Place, nor the housing preference policy, are magic wands that we can wave to undo racial and generational traumas and injustices, but they are steps in the right direction,” she continued.

The Hon. Charlotte B. Rutherford added: “I am even more heartened to see the City recognize its callous treatment of the Black community in the past and attempt to make amends by providing preferences to come back for those families who have been displaced over the years.”

Projects like Charlotte B. Rutherford Place are just the start of righting past wrongs, and no one, including Jennifer, is under the belief that these policies and projects will revert northeast and north Portland to what it once was.

“I’m always reminded that this is not the exact neighborhood I grew up in. It’s always in the back of my mind. I know that,” Jennifer says. “But still, I hold so many sentiments with different parts of this area. To me, it doesn’t matter who’s there now. I still have memories of those places.”

Now living in a neighborhood that’s simultaneously familiar and foreign, Jennifer feels invigorated by fellow Black Portlanders wrestling with the same tension.

Now living in a neighborhood that’s simultaneously familiar and foreign, Jennifer feels invigorated by fellow Black Portlanders wrestling with the same tension. There’s a renewed effort, she feels, between Black Portlanders making their way back to historic neighborhoods and those who were able to remain there in the face of urban renewal projects and gentrification. She feels that there’s a buzz to regrow and reestablish a community, to connect the past to the future.

“Until I moved to Portland, my understanding of what it meant to be Black really came from TV and what I was taught in school because I did not have a community I belonged to outside of my immediate family. I’m excited that my daughter can grow up in a community with people who look like her and where she feels represented, and I’m also excited to work with people to process what’s happened in Portland and what we want it to become.”



Portland-area 2019 Black History Month Events

Feb 05, 2019

At Central City Concern, we believe that one of the most immediate, tangible ways to celebrate Black History Month is to support and attend events organized by and/or featuring Black Portlanders. There are dozens of amazing events scheduled for the Portland metro area throughout February, many of which are free and appropriate for all ages!

To help you easily find events you can attend, we’ve collected links to several calendars of Black History Month events. We encourage you to explore the richness of (and diversity within) Black history and culture by attending some of these events!

Black History Festival NW Calendar: Wildly popular last year, this month-long festival brings a jaw-dropping array of performances, exhibits, lectures, pop-up markets, food events and more to various locations all over Portland. The theme for 2019 is Our 2019 Theme is “Black Migration: The State of Black Love.” (Link)

Red Tricycle’s Black History Month Calendar: A popular resource for activities, Red Tricycle lists eight particularly family-friendly ways to celebrate Black History Month in Portland. (Link)

Annual Cascade Festival of African Films Calendar: In its 29th year, this film festival is the “longest running annual, non-profit, non-commercial, largely volunteer-run African Film Festival in the United States.” All films are shown at Portland Community College’s Cascade campus (with a few exceptions). All shows are free and open to the public. (Link)

City of Portland Calendar: Four events sponsored or organized by the City of Portland, city employees or Portland bureaus. ( Link)



Celebrating Black History Month

Feb 01, 2019

Black History Month is a time for celebration, reflection and hope for the future. Yet as we celebrate the beautiful, vibrant and resilient Black (African-American) culture, we cannot forget the struggles Black people have endured and continue to endure today.

Black people experience discrimination and racial profiling, and are disproportionately impacted by homelessness. This is why Central City Concern (CCC) invests in programs such as the Imani Center and Flip the Script to increase services to this community historically underserved by organizations that help people find housing, behavioral health services and employment opportunities. Afrocentric programs are a great start for our organization, but we know there is more we can do: not only to celebrate the history of the Black community inside and outside our organization, but also to identify and address the ways in which white supremacy drives care inequities. Recognizing our responsibility, CCC is committed to being a diverse, anti-racist, equitable and inclusive organization, with this promise reflected in our organizational leadership, as well as institutional practices and policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

We are stepping closer to this goal. Freda Ceaser, previously CCC’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, is now CCC’s Chief Equity Officer (CEqO). Freda leads with vision, skill and innovation to inspire and push the organization forward. She will build on her current work, setting and implementing an overarching vision of DEI—both at the programmatic and administrative levels—that promotes inclusive practices in our structures, culture and leadership.

Afrocentric programs are a great start for our organization, but we know there is more we can do: not only to celebrate the history of the Black community inside and outside our organization, but also to identify and address the ways in which white supremacy drives care inequities.

CCC has also made additional investments in the Office of Equity and Inclusion, hiring Associate Director Mariam Admasu to provide support to the director’s leadership team. Mariam will hire an equity specialist in the coming months to add an additional layer of support to CCC staff. In order to ensure that the Office of Equity and Inclusion has the bandwidth and resources to move work forward, we have also engaged two Portland State University School of Social Work interns, Shaun Cook and Clarice Jordan.

CCC will invest as needed to follow through on our commitment to becoming more diverse, anti-racist, equitable and inclusive by building institutional infrastructure and capacity to do the work. In the coming year, CCC will work with a local consultant to capture a wide snapshot of where we are today with regard to equity and inclusion through interviews and listening sessions with CCC’s board, clients and staff. This assessment will result in an equity lens, DEI governance model and DEI organizational roadmap.

Lastly, CCC’s advancing equity strategic goals were made as a roadmap to ensuring the best, most responsive services possible to Black people and people of color, with a focus on intentional efforts to have our staff reflect the communities they serve.

While Black History Month presents an opportunity for CCC to celebrate Black culture, we also look ahead to the many opportunities during the remaining 11 months to make a difference!



Trans Awareness Week 2018

Nov 13, 2018

This week is Trans Awareness Week, a time to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and to shed light on issues the community faces. The week leads up to Trans Day of Remembrance on Tuesday, Nov. 20, a deeply important observance to honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost to anti-trans violence.

During the past year, Central City Concern has moved forward in our work to ensure that our programs and services, as well as our staff members, are safe, welcoming and inclusive of our transgender and gender non-confirming clients. We’re on a journey to become the organization we’ve envisioned ourselves to be—and truly believe that we become. But that means a lot listening and learning, and of course acting, to make meaningful strides forward.

There are several events in the Portland metro area that mark Trans Awareness Week, all leading up to the Trans Day of Remembrance. Descriptions are from the event hosts:

Friday, Nov. 16

WontBeErasedPDX Call to Action: We will hold spaces for autonomous action from the community, and for people to come together with friends, neighbors, family members, coworkers, schoolmates, and other trusted comrades to plan peaceful direct actions. (Link)

Saturday, Nov. 17

Trans Action and Care Conference 2018: 2018 will mark the second annual Transgender Action & Care Conference (TACC) held at Portland State University! The Conference will take place Saturday, November 17th from 10:00-4:00 PM in the Smith Student Memorial Building (1825 SW Broadway). TACC is part of November's Trans Empowerment Resistance & Resilience Days, which celebrate and empower transgender, non-binary, gender-expansive, Two-Spirit, and gender non-conforming people and communities. This year's theme is "WE DEMAND MORE," inspired by the idea that trans people deserve more than just mere survival. We invite attendees to imagine a world where gender diversity is actively honored, rather than memorialized - and we get our roses while we're still here. (Link)

Monday, Nov. 19

Remember Us: Trans History of the PNW: Please join us for an interactive, educational workshop focusing on trans history. You will come away from this event feeling more connected to both our collective history and your own place in it. (Link)

Tuesday, Nov. 20

Trans Diaspora of Resilience: Born out of a shared frustration with white-dominated Trans spaces, Ori Gallery is partnering with Forward Together & Sankofa Collective Northwest to bring you a night of celebrating our Transcestors, eachother and visions of a better future than the one we've been handed.

The evening will feature a pop-up exhibition of Trans Artists of Color, hella food, bomb music, TPoC performers and a community altar space for you to contribute to. (Link)

Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial Service: A memorial service in the Quaker tradition will include silent centering, reading of the names of those murdered in the US in the past year, a releasing fire and opportunity to share reflections (Link)

Butterflies: A Trans Day of Remembrance Youth Drag Show: Butterflies: A Transgender Day of Remembrance Youth Drag Show is a youth-organized and youth-performed drag show both honoring the transgender people we have lost and celebrating the transgender people that are still here, with a focus on transgender youth. This drag show is supportive of nonbinary individuals, gender non-conformity, and people of color. Hosted by the fabulous Heiress Cleopatra. (Link)

Wednesday, Nov. 21

Trans Day of Resistance: Let’s use the occasion of trans remembrance this month to build the TRANS RESISTANCE. Let’s use this community meeting as a jumping-off point for a coordinated movement against right-wing attacks and for fully-funded social programming, housing, Medicare for all, and other crucial priorities for the trans community and all working and oppressed people. (Link)

 



NHCW Health Care Hero: Charlesetta Dobson

Aug 15, 2018

Central City Concern’s (CCC) Imani Center program is a shining example of how we tailor our services to meet the unique needs of a population. Imani Center counselors and peer support specialists provide their clients with Afrocentric, trauma-informed approaches to mental health and addictions treatment. It’s a life-changing program that represents the best and most innovative approaches CCC has to offer.

But the work they do—and the dramatic progress their clients make—can quickly unravel without stable, supportive housing.

That’s where Charlesetta Dobson, a housing case manager based in CCC’s Richard Harris building, enters the scene. Part of her case load is devoted to Imani Center clients making the transition into our supportive housing program. To Charlesetta, the link between housing and Imani Center’s health care services is bright as day.

“This housing provides them the stability that gives them a chance to succeed in the health care services they’re engaged in,” she says. “When you have keys here, you have that stability. You’re not having to worry about which doorstep you’re going to sleep in or if someone’s going to go through your stuff.”

“My mom was an addict. My father was an addict. A lot of my family members struggled with it. So I’ve always wanted to be part of the solution to help people avoid that and live up to their best potential.”

Charlesetta works closely with the Imani Center to support clients during their delicate first steps on the path of recovery. She meets with incoming residents before they move in, connects them to resources, and holds weekly check-ins with each person to keep them accountable to their treatment plan. She helps tenants connect their Imani Center treatment goals with their housing goals.

Need a food box? Can’t find the motivation to attend a treatment group? Interested in taking a community college class? Moving to Alaska and need to know what recovery resources are available there? Charlesetta’s got your back.

“The clients know they can always find an empathetic ear and unwavering support in Charlesetta,” says the Imani Center’s director, Linda Hudson. “It’s so clear to clients that she wants so much for them to succeed.”

To clients, Charlesetta is a model of someone who has everything together. She’s both knowledgeable and patient, compassionate and non-judgmental. She admits, however, that she hasn’t always been the person others see today.

Charlesetta grew up surrounded by problematic behaviors. “My mom was an addict. My father was an addict. A lot of my family members struggled with it,” she shares. “So I’ve always wanted to be part of the solution to help people avoid that and live up to their best potential.”

While Charlesetta feels fortunate to have avoided substance use, early and constant exposure to related behaviors like stealing derailed her plans. She eventually faced an 18-month sentence for organized retail theft.

“I remember thinking that this is not the plan! That was the point I started to get my life together,” Charlesetta says. “For me it was either 18 months in jail or 18 months to transform my life.”

Need a food box? Can’t find the motivation to attend a treatment group? Interested in taking a community college class? Moving to Alaska and need to know what recovery resources are available there? Charlesetta’s got your back.

She used the time going back and forth with the courts about her case to enroll in school. She studied hard, built relationships with professors, and committed to becoming part of the solution. She pursued her associate’s degree in alcohol and drug counseling, which led her to CCC as a Letty Owings Center intern.

While the work Charlesetta does with Imani Center clients is professionally satisfying, it also remains deeply personal.

“It’s important for me to help people who look like my mother, who look like my aunties—to be able to give them the resources and opportunities that I feel like my mother didn’t necessarily have access to,” she says. “It’s important for me to be on the other side of everything I saw and had experience in before.”

Charlesetta is living her calling. There are hard days, of course. Seeing residents submit a second positive urine test, which violates the program agreement. Seeing residents leave the program for various reasons. Knowing that she won’t be able to walk alongside their journey, at least for the time being.

But she’s inspired by those “who are working their butts off. The ones taking suggestions, following through with everything,” says Charlesetta. “I get an intense satisfaction when I see someone doing what they’re supposed to do, even if it’s not according to their original plan. Sort of like me.”



Graduations 2018: It Doesn't End Here

Jul 04, 2018

In a room filled with 75 people communally punctuating a graduation ceremony with joyful whoops, thunderous ovations, and raucous laughter, it was perhaps the small pockets of silence that spoke the loudest about the magnitude of the event.

The attendees had gathered for a mahafali—Swahili for graduation—at which a dozen graduates of Central City Concern’s (CCC) Imani Center program would be recognized. The Imani Center provides culturally responsive Afrocentric approaches to substance use disorder treatment and mental health counseling, connecting clients to the wider Black recovery community in Portland, Ore. The family members, friends and staff members from across CCC who were there had every reason to be in the mood to celebrate those being honored.

Graduates of the Imani Center program expressed great joy and gratitude to their counselors, as well as their friends, family, and peers who attended the graduation ceremony.

Imani Center counselors called up their graduating clients one by one, sharing words about their journey together and offering words of pride, insight and encouragement. Each graduate met and hugged their counselor, awash in the sound of applause. They received their certificate, tucked in a sturdy, handsome red or blue folder. The applause petered out.

Then… quiet.

For some graduates, no more than a second. For some others, maybe it was 10. But the silence wasn’t just an absence of sound; it was the incoming rush of a feeling.

Graduates used that time to glance down at their certificate, tracing their eyes over the words that confirmed that they had indeed taken a major step forward in the recovery: Certificate of Completion... Presented to... Has Successfully Completed.

They had not only started their journeys of recovery; they’d taken monumental steps forward on the path, and they were still on it that day.

One graduate, after she had collected herself, said, “I didn’t really think I’d graduate the mental health program. A year ago I was hearing voices. I’m so proud of myself. This is a step up. It’s been such a long time since I’ve accomplished anything positive.”

“We don’t need drugs. We got people. We got each other, even with our mental struggles.”

Another looked up from her certificate and scanned the packed community room, finding a reminder of the community effort that got her to this day. “We don’t need drugs,” she said. “We got people. We got each other, even with our mental struggles.”

The Imani Center is an exceptionally tailored program that uses a model of substance use disorder and mental health treatment developed to account for the Black community’s unique assets, culture, traumas and experiences. As such, Linda Hudson, CCC’s director of African-American services, closed the mahafali with words that spoke to the community’s ties that helped the graduates reach this moment and dream hopefully in their own futures.

“Imani is building a village to support our community. Find somebody coming up behind you and pull them up with you. It doesn’t end here.”



Celebrating Black History Month: Flip the Script

Feb 28, 2018

Happy Black History Month from Central City Concern! As the month comes to a close, we’re grateful for the opportunity for our community to learn about, learn from, and celebrate the countless Black heroes and heroines who paved the way for African Americans to live a life of freedom, opportunity and fully realized potential.

As an organization, CCC strives to embody this work that came before us, notably through our programs ensuring our African Americans clients have access to services that recognize and address historic inequities and systemic barriers, while also meeting individualized needs.

Programs like Flip the Script (FTS), a reentry program started in February 2017 that provides individuals exiting incarceration with dedicated housing, employment services, peer support, and opportunities for reentry system advocacy. The program helps people avoid reoffending and eases their path to reintegrating into society as productive community members.

Patrick spent 15 years in prison. After he had served his time, he knew that he'd need support to reintegrate back into society.FTS found its origins in a data collaboration between Multnomah County's Joint Office of Homeless Services and the Department of Community Justice, CCC, and a tireless CCC volunteer. The assessment found not only that African American clients disproportionately experienced recidivism, but also that recidivism rates were cut in half in individuals who exited CCC’s transitional reentry housing to a renter housing situation with full-time employment.

Patrick A. was on the cusp of becoming a free man after having spent more than a third of his life—15 years—in prison. When he was released, Patrick immediately came up against barriers to reintegration. Background check issues and employment gaps made it difficult for him to find a job; his lack of rental history made it nearly impossible to find housing. With his criminal history, few people outside his family wanted to reconnect; the ones who did were those still in the game, ready to draw him back in. Without ready paths to housing, employment and new positive relationships, Patrick could have easily been on the wrong side of these recidivism statistics.

The assessment found not only that African American clients disproportionately experienced recidivism, but also that recidivism rates were cut in half in individuals who exited CCC’s transitional reentry housing to a renter housing situation with full-time employment.

But Patrick was intent on choosing a new path. He was resolute on putting his head down and forging ahead, even if that meant feeling isolated. “To me, going back to jail wasn’t an option for me anymore. I did my time. That part of my life was done. I had a game plan in my head.”

He still needed support to get where he wanted to go.

The Multnomah County's Assessment & Referral Center eventually sent Patrick to CCC’s Parole Transition Program (PTP), which included housing at the Shoreline building. At his lease signing, he met a PTP staff member who told him about FTS, which would make him eligible for the CCC Employment Access Center’s (EAC) intensive one-on-one employment services, peer support and other opportunities. Patrick enrolled.

One of the first things a new enrollee like Patrick does is connect with an FTS Employment Specialist, who helps create a customized plan to help each person work toward their employment goals and develops other opportunities to enhance the client’s vocational skills in order to become a competitive job seeker. More determined than ever and invigorated by having a safe place to call home—“I’ve got my own space, so now I can figure out what to do with myself and my next step,” he recalls thinking—Patrick actually secured a job on his own within two days of moving into CCC housing, before he even met with his employment specialist, Elissa.

Patrick’s next goal was to make his way into the local carpenters' union, and he knew he couldn’t do it alone. So he connected with Elissa, in whom he found the type of support he hadn’t felt in a long time. Elissa was able to assist Patrick with FTS resources that helped him pay for his driver’s license fees and work clothes while he continued to make connections at the union.

"That was the first time in a long time I felt somebody was actually there to listen to what I had inside me to say instead of just saying ‘okay’ and directing me. I felt more valued, like my opinion does matter. "

“I felt supported. That was the first time in a long time I felt somebody was actually there to listen to what I had inside me to say instead of just saying ‘okay’ and directing me. I felt more valued, like my opinion does matter. They treated me as a person, not just somebody who got out of jail.”

Three months after moving into CCC’s transitional reentry housing, Patrick applied for and received permanent housing, making him part of the 58 percent of FTS clients who exit into permanent housing. (Another 21 percent of FTS clients find another transitional housing opportunity.)

Patrick catches up with Billy A., the FTS advocacy coordinator (left) and Elissa, his employment specialist (right), at CCC's downtown Employment Access Center.

Soon after, Patrick was accepted into Carpenters Local 1503, opening the door for him to make an honest living with good wages. Since FTS started, 45 percent of FTS clients have used the program as a springboard to permanent housing and a source of income. (An additional 9 percent of clients moved into further transitional housing with an income source.)

Recognizing his need for a new network of positive peers, Patrick also connected with the FTS Advocacy Coordinator, Billy, who introduced him to the FTS Advocacy Work Team. Ask any of the dozen FTS clients who participate in this culturally specific group of African Americans and they’ll all agree: there’s something special happening here. When they meet, they create a space to speak candidly about their journeys and their experiences that are unique to being an African American community member trying to make their way back into society.

Together, they’ve created a survey to help identify areas for improvement and change in both the FTS program and larger landscape of reentry systems and policy. Though they may face barriers to employment and housing based on racial bias or discrimination in the justice system, they see that they’re not alone and feel empowered by the change they can take together. They are actively part of the work to disrupt the system that sets up a disproportionate number of African Americans to experience recidivism.

When they meet, they create a space to speak candidly about their journeys and their experiences that are unique to being an African American community member trying to make their way back into society.

“[The work group] gives me a chance to help other people and share my understanding as someone coming with firsthand reentry. It’s nice to be around other people going through the same thing you’re going through. And it’s nice that the others have the same understanding. Sometimes you don’t feel like explaining everything and they already understand what you mean,” Patrick says. “It also feels good to be around people who just want to meet you and know you and are just glad you’re doing well."

Initially shy and slow to trust, Patrick is no longer nervous or quiet. Instead, Patrick is confident and outspoken, especially in advocacy matters. He’s an active member of the group, finding a sense of community he’d been missing for so long. He has also reconnected with his family and is working to build relationships again.

“Going back to jail isn’t an option for me anymore. I did my time. That part of my life is done. I feel I’ve got a lot ahead of me. I’ve got a lot left to accomplish. I feel positive and optimistic about my future. I’m eager to see what I’ve got in store.”

• • •

Deep gratitude to Meyer Memorial Trust, A Home for Everyone, Multnomah County, County Chair Deborah Kafoury, County Commissioner Loretta Smith, Deputy Truls Neal and Wells Fargo for their support and belief in this program dedicated to eliminating the disparities that exist within our criminal justice system.



Portland-area Black History Month Events

Feb 07, 2018

As part of Central City Concern's celebration of Black History Month, we want to share with you a number of exciting events taking place throughout February in the Portland area. Many of these events are free and appropriate for all ages. We encourage you to explore the richness of Black history by attending some of these events! Most descriptions are from the event hosts; click on the link to access the event's official page for more information.

Cascade Festival of African Films, February 2 – March 3, 2018: "A wildly popular film festival that has become synonymous with the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College. The Cascade Festival of African Films honors the art and craft of filmmaking from that continent. The movies imported for the festival draw capacity crowds each February. All films are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis." (Link)

Black History Festival NW, throughout February: The festival is a "region-wide event taking place during the month of February in different locations spanning as far east as Troutdale and west to Beaverton, south to Eugene and north to Vancouver Wa. Each weekend has an event highlighting and celebrating the African-American experience presented by African-American organizations, artists, small businesses, and leaders." (Link

Black History Film Fest hosted by St. Johns Library, throughout February: During the month of February, St. Johns Library will screen four movies that highlight and uplift the Black experience in America. (Link)

PDX Jazz Festival, February 18 through February 25: "The PDX Jazz Festival arrives each and every February to recognize Black History Month, and to remind Portlanders and our many out of town guests what a rich and robust Jazz experience we offer. With upwards of 100 paid and ticketed events over 11 days, there are ambitious programs that will warm the heart and swing your soul." (Link)

Black Arts Festival, February 17: Hosted by Reed College, celebrate Black Diasporic culture, contributions, and life with the inaugural Black Arts Festival! Free and open to the public, the festival will feature headlining artist The Last Artful, Dodgr, with opening acts Brown Calculus and Maarquii. In addition to black and brown vendors who will be selling a variety of goods including vintage clothing, jewelry, and essential oils, the events will also feature a DJ and savory Afro-Latinx eats catered by Platano Rising. (Link)

African American Read In hosted by North Portland Library, February 18: "Celebrate Black History Month with Black literature! Join us as community leaders, teachers, students, and local celebrities read from their favorite works by African American writers. Fiction and nonfiction for children, teens and adults will be featured in a special gathering of good words from great writings. Community members are also encouraged to come and share words from their favorite works." (Link)

PDX Black Film Festival, throughout February: This month-long event "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." (Link)

Racing to Change: Oregon's Civil Rights Years, now through June 24, 2018: "Racing to Change illuminates the Civil Rights Movement in Oregon in the 1960s and 1970s, a time of cultural and social upheaval, conflict, and change. The era brought new militant voices into a clash with traditional organizations of power, both Black and White.

"Visitors of all ages and backgrounds will engage in the examination of the repression and violence against African Americans that made the Civil Rights Movement necessary. The exhibit explores how racist attitudes, policies of exclusion, and the destruction of Black-owned neighborhoods shaped Oregon, as well as the unceasing efforts of the Black community to overcome these obstacles." (Link)



Continuing to listen to trans voices

Nov 16, 2017


Happy Transgender Awareness Week 2017! According to GLAAD, this special week, Nov. 13 to Nov. 17, is set aside to “help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces.”

In this space last year, we shared about the numerous steps Central City Concern was taking to ensure that our programs and services, as well as the staff members providing them, were as affirming and inclusive of our transgender patients and clients as possible. This year, we want to provide an update on our efforts to do so!

Trainings: CCC continues to offer trainings to our staff members about working with trans and gender non-binary patients and clients. Several lead staff members have also made it a point to attend trainings hosted by community organizations so they can share what they learn with our program staff.

We continue to encourage our training attendees to approach the sessions from a place of humility. What Eowyn Rieke, CCC’s Associate Medical Director of Primary Care, said last year continues to apply to our approach: “We’re working toward a culture of humility as it relates to gender identity—recognizing that there are great differences at play here and that we need to be humble about our assumptions.”

"We’re working toward a culture of humility as it relates to gender identity—recognizing that there are great differences at play here and that we need to be humble about our assumptions.”
- Eowyn Rieke, Associate Medical Director of Primary Care

CCC Director of Equity and Inclusion Freda Ceaser says that this posture has provided the organization with a blueprint to fully operationalize trans affirming program services across the agency. She says that in the coming year, her goal is to work with every CCC program to begin an initial assessment of procedures and policies to become more trans affirming and inclusive.

“It’s so rewarding to see how the work of health services intentionally recognizes and affirms the identity of each of our patients. I want every person we serve, no matter their gender identity, to feel accepted, valued, and respected.” 

Trans Support Group: Chrysalis, the trans and gender non-binary support group that formed last year in response to what we heard from our patients, has been thriving. Open to patients of Old Town Clinic (OTC) and Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC), Chrysalis is a safe place where, according to facilitator Shanako Devoll, “people can talk about the difficulties of navigating everyday life and strategies used to address safety, mental health, and substance use.”

Group members say that Chrysalis helps them counteract the isolation they can feel by being part of a group that understands each other’s struggles and triumphs. At each session, attendees share their experiences, bring information about resources they’ve come across, and slowly build a community of shared experiences together.

The group meets bi-weekly. While the make-up of each meeting can differ, Chrysalis averages about five attendees each time the group comes together. Chrysalis is currently open to new members; in mid-December, the group will close for six weeks to allow the group members build trust and create the safe space they need.

"I want every person we serve, no matter their gender identity, to feel accepted, valued, and respected.”
- Freda Ceaser, Director of Equity and Inclusion

Electronic Health Records: Thanks to CCC’s EHR implementation team, our health services can now make changes to patients’ gender identification.  

Responding to the Needs of the Trans Community: As we continue to listen to our trans patients, we’re making changes that we believe are positive for them and the larger community.

All our multi-stall bathrooms inside OTC and OTRC now have signs that emphasize our support for individuals using the bathroom that best fits with their gender identity.

To better support trans patients and clients in substance use disorder treatment programs, our services are working toward making our urinalysis collection process more trans affirming.  

And finally, Margot Presley, an OHSU Doctorate of Nursing Practice candidate, used her doctorate project as a way to seek out and listen to trans voices at our Old Town Clinic. Margot’s project, “Patient Engagement in Quality Improvement: Raising the Voice of Transgender Patients Experiencing Homelessness” used patient engagement and qualitative inquiry techniques to interview people about their experiences as trans patients of OTC. Their feedback was used to recommend changes to our clinic operations with the goal of better meeting their needs.

Her manuscript is in process of being published in Transgender Health, “the first peer-reviewed, open access journal dedicated to addressing the healthcare needs of transgender individual;” Margot also presented a poster showing her work at several conferences. 

• • •

Each year, Trans Awareness Week leads up to the Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, an observance to honor and remember those whose lives were lost to acts of anti-trans violence. There are a number of events in the Portland metro area to participate in that day. All descriptions are from the event hosts: 

Thursday, Nov. 16
Keynote featuring Jennicet Gutiérrez: How to Get Involved, Hosted by Portland State Temprr Month and PSU Queer Resource Center
: Join us for our TEMPRR keynote panel event with activist Jennicet Gutiérrez! As a founding member of La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Gutiérrez's activist experience with transgender rights and immigrant rights has given her great knowledge on how to get involved with various types of activism. This panel will also have local activists who will answer questions and share more about their activism. (Link) 

Friday, Nov. 17
5th Ave. Presents: ReAgitator, hosted at Fifth Avenue Cinema
: Join us in honoring Trans Day of Remembrance a few days early with an incredibly inventive film from independent trans-filmmaker Dylan Greenberg. Her film Re-Agitator: Revenge of The Parody, tells the bizarre story of a mad scientist using a cynical serum to revive a beautiful woman back from the dead leading to complete and total chaos. Using an arsenal of homages and spins off of classic and modern horror, Re-Agitator is bound to satisfy a weird and experimental itch. The film will feature an introduction from Dylan herself, including discussion of her experience with being an indie filmmaker and multi-media artist in NYC. This event will be donation-based instead of our regular ticketing prices, all proceeds will go to the artists. (Link) 

Sunday, Nov. 19
Trans Day of Remembrance March & Interfaith Vigil
: Please all Transgender folk and Cisgender allies join us in reverence and solidarity to honor the fallen and make a stand against Transphobia. We will gather at Terry Schrunk plaza for a staging and a brief program whereupon we will process to the First United Methodist Church for a candle lighting ceremony for the fallen and a message of hope and renewal from local area spiritual leaders followed by a reception where light refreshments will be served. (Link)

Monday, Nov. 20
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017, hosted at Portland Community College
: This event is being planned by the Portland Transgender community, with the support of Portland Transgender organizations, Portland LGBTQIA2+ organizations, and allies, and is being led by Portland Transgender People of Color. (Link)

Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial Meeting, hosted at Multnomah Friends Meeting House: We welcome you to join us on this day to mourn and honor the lives of those who have been murdered in the previous year because of anti-transgender hatred.

We gather to remember. We also gather to pray for, and to dedicate ourselves to work for, a world where transgender people are safe from hatred and violence. (Link)



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: October 2017 Edition

Oct 30, 2017

We’re very excited to turn this month’s spotlight to a volunteer from Puentes, Central City Concern’s culturally-specific program that supports Latinxs in recovery. Developed in 2005, Puentes uses a multidisciplinary approach to provide alcohol and drug treatment and mental health care to individuals and to the entire family in a way that mitigates stigma and fear.

Claudia, this month’s spotlighted volunteer, lends a hand to Puentes’ program that works with Latinx youth ages 14-21 who have drug or alcohol issues or are susceptible to gang involvement, Esperanza Juvenil. Marysol Jimenez, who oversees Esperanza Juvenil, says about Claudia, “It's been a satisfying experience to train a young adult that wants to learn about addiction counseling field, and is interested in working with our Latinx youth.”

Read on to hear how Claudia came to Puentes and how her own experience informs her work.

• • •

Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?

Claudia: Claudia Aparicio, and I’m volunteering at Puentes with Esperanza Juvenil, which in English is Youthful Hope.

P: And what does the Esperanza Juvenil program do?

C: The program is specifically for youth that are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It’s a reduction method. Marysol, who is the Esperanza Juvenil staff member, her goal is to get the youth to reduce their addiction. So, sometimes they ask her, “Do we have to quit?” and she’s like, “No, but it would be good if you could quit!” So she works with them in reducing the harm until they stop.

P: How did you find out about CCC?

C: When I was studying for the Certified Recovery Mentor position, [CCC staff member] Ricardo, who helped us get certified, would always call on me and say it would be really cool if I could volunteer with Puentes. He never really told me about the program, but was always trying to get me to volunteer, so finally I ended up coming here to volunteer.

P: I should probably know this, but what is a Certified Recovery Mentor?

C: A Certified Recovery Mentor is a first level of what a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor would do. So we’re mentors for people that are working to recover from their addiction. I did my certification with the Instituto Latino, so it was a group of Hispanic people [getting certified].

P: How did you get involved with that organization?

C: I knew someone from Volunteers of America who was the one who started the group for Hispanics to get certified as CRMs. I went with a church, called Ministry of Jesus Christ of Men and Women Seeking Lost Souls. We work more with the homeless population, which not a lot of pastors do in the Hispanic area. We go to the streets and try to reach the homeless and give them resources.

P: What do see as the benefit of having a culturally specific program?

C: It just helps to see that there’s a lot of need in the Hispanic community, especially because they don’t really speak English. Ever since I was 19 I’ve been working with the Hispanic population, which I never thought I would do, because I had to help my mom with translations and filling out papers, and so I never saw myself doing that as a grown up. And now that I find myself serving the Hispanic community, trying to get them resources, and telling them where to go for resources, whether it’s a light bill, whether it’s to find an apartment, for a kid’s food boxes or clothing, I see that as a big challenge, because there is a big need in the Hispanic community.

P: And what is the importance of serving youth specifically?

C: I think it’s because they’re in their teen years, so they’re growing up. It’s better to stop or try to reduce the harm when they are young. It’s like a baby when it’s small. When a baby is small, you don’t start disciplining them when they’re 10 years old, because then it’s a little bit late.

P: What are the challenges of that?

C: The challenge is the youth can be a little bit rebellious, but there’s a saying in Spanish that says, “Es más mejor la palabra de una madre ajena quell tu propia madre”— we’d sometimes rather listen to a person that is not our mom than our own mom. Which is true because I lived it, I didn’t listen to my mom, but when I met my pastor I listened to her more.

“There’s a saying in Spanish that says, ‘Es más mejor la palabra de una madre ajena quell tu propia madre’—we’d sometimes rather listen to a person that is not our mom than our own mom.”
- Claudia, CCC Volunteer

P: For those that are rebellious, how do you reach them?

C: We try to talk to them and see where their rebelling comes from, because from my own experience, a kid is going to be rebellious because something happened. Like me, I was rebellious because something happened in my life and there was a root of bitterness in my heart, which made me really stubborn in my teen years and got me in to a lot of trouble as well.

And sometimes we’re young but have to mature faster than our age. I just had to mature a lot younger than I would because of my experience. Especially since I didn’t get disciplined, and sometimes self-discipline is much harder than getting disciplined by your own parent.

P: And it’s hard when you’re older than your years, because your experience is going to be so different from you friends.

C: I had a hard time fitting in school, I always thought I was superior than my classmates. I would just go in my shell and always find the library, because I always liked reading books. I would look for stories that were not relatable to me so I could learn more about other life experiences.

P: And that kind of ties in to what you’re doing now, hearing other people’s stories and being a mentor to people whose experiences may be different from your own. Have there been any particular stories that have stood out?

C: I heard a story of a girl who was getting her treatment here and she was going through the same experiences that I had gone through as a teen. Her mother didn’t try to connect with her and see to her needs, or understand why she was going through what she was going through. A lot of that happens because of culture shock. We’re born here and our parents are from Mexico or Guatemala, or some other Hispanic county, so we learn different things. Whether or not we want it, our culture is American culture, even though our parents are from Spanish-speaking counties. And sometimes we want to adapt to their culture as well, but since we don’t really know about it, we have to research it on the internet. We’re also more free. They didn’t go to school, they had to work, they had to feed the horses and the chickens. We don’t do that. So sometimes our parents don’t realize it’s a bit of culture shock between us and they don’t understand us or they don’t try to understand us. So when I heard that girl’s story, my heart went out to her.

"I learn more every day. I learn from the people here, and I see people I learn a lot from."

P: What keeps you coming back to volunteer?

C: I learn more every day. I learn from the people here, and I see people I learn a lot from.

P: And our traditional last question: What would you say to someone who was on the fence about volunteering with CCC?

C: I would definitely recommend CCC, because it’s a good agency and I’ve learned a lot. And at Puentes, it’s family based. Ever since I came they were like, “We’re a family here. We don’t see any of you guys aslower than us, and when we eat, we eat together.” We don’t eat in our own offices, we’re always eating together in the kitchen, and sometimes we don’t always have room so we’re all squished together, all talking and laughing.

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions in at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Peter Russell, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at peter.russell@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.