Now is the Time for Bold Action to Invest in Solutions That Work

May 06, 2020

A message from Rachel Solotaroff, Central City Concern President & CEO


Those of us living in the Portland metropolitan region have received our ballots, and it couldn’t be a more important time to vote. One of the critical measures on our ballots is Measure 26-210. If approved, this measure will provide major new funding for homeless services in the Portland Metro area, including all of Multnomah and most parts of Washington and Clackamas counties.

I want to share with you why a YES vote is important to Central City Concern (CCC) and to me.

Measure 26-210 will raise an estimated $250,000,000 annually to fund homeless services, focusing on client-centered, wraparound, highly flexible services and economic opportunity. We know these services work to end people's homelessness because these are exactly the kind of services CCC provides. HereTogether, a coalition of more than 450 organizations, including CCC and other nonprofit service providers, people of color, people with lived experience of homelessness, elected officials, business leaders, faith communities and more, has worked tirelessly to create this measure for the voters of our region.

Flexible funding for supportive services and housing assistance means we can build person-centered plans and address the unique needs of the people struggling most in our communities. CCC has been building integrated programs in spite of our funding systems that often require services be strictly limited and siloed.

Measure 26-210 will raise an estimated $250,000,000 annually to fund homeless services, focusing on client-centered, wraparound, highly flexible services and economic opportunity. We know these services work to end people's homelessness because these are exactly the kind of services CCC provides.

There are up to 12,000 people experiencing homelessness across the tri-county region, people like a client of ours, “Jennie.” Jennie was sleeping on the streets, struggling with substance use, mental health and physical health challenges when she met the Community Engagement Program (CEP). CEP is the kind of program Measure 26-210 seeks to scale up, providing both supportive services and housing. Jennie was able to get both a transitional and a permanent housing placement, treatment for her addiction and mental health, a new wheelchair to replace her broken one, assistance in paying back debt, new friendships and reconnections to her family. She’s still engaged with her case manager to support long-term stability and she’s doing great! We need to assist the many Jennie’s out there facing multiple barriers which current silos of limited funding often don’t allow.

A region wide problem requires a region wide solution with a region wide revenue stream.

By increasing our investments to this level, our community will be able to transform the reality of our chronic homeless crisis and improve the lived reality of tens of thousands of people who now live without a safe, stable home.

The measure will be paid for by two revenue streams in the Metro area. 1) High income earners tax: 1% marginal tax on taxable income over $200,000 (household) or $125,000 (single). Ninety percent (90%) of individuals are exempt from this tax. 2) Tax on large businesses: 1% business net profits tax exempts small and medium size businesses with gross income up to $5 million. Ninety-four (94%) of businesses are exempt. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted how many people in our communities have been living without proper care and stability. With talks of budget cuts looming, this new funding for homeless services is needed now more than ever.

Thank you for your dedication and compassion to the people of Portland and our community. I’m asking you to support Measure 26-210. You can learn more here and help spread the word about Measure 26-210.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted how many people in our communities have been living without proper care and stability. With talks of budget cuts looming, this new funding for homeless services is needed now more than ever.

There are two actions you can take TODAY. You can fill out your ballot and send it using the prepaid postage on the return envelope, or drop off your competed ballot to an Official Ballot Drop Site by 8 p.m. on Election Day. You can also show your support for comprehensive, wraparound services that have been proven to end people's homelessness by donating to CCC

 

Join me and vote YES on Measure 26-210. Let’s take bold action together.



The Struggle for the Vote: Black History Month 2020

Feb 11, 2020

2020 is a landmark year for voting rights; it marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), which gave Black men the right to vote following the Civil War, as well as the centennial of the 19th Amendment (1920) and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement. This year’s theme for Black History Month – African Americans and the Vote – recognizes the struggle for voting rights among both Black men and women throughout American history. The fight for a say in our democracy has continued well into the 21st century, and barriers to voting disproportionately impact the populations we serve at Central City Concern (CCC). Racial discrimination and interaction with the criminal justice system are not only among the leading causes of homelessness, but voter disenfranchisement as well. And poverty, housing instability and homelessness create significant obstacles for voters.

While the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments granted voting rights to Americans regardless of race or gender, the struggle for access to the ballot box has been ongoing. During the Jim Crow era in the South following the end of the Civil War, state and local governments evaded the Fifteenth Amendment through polling taxes, literacy tests, “whites-only” primaries and open hostility and violence. The federal government didn’t ban Jim Crow voting laws until 1965 with the Voting Rights Act, and barriers remain for Black people and people of color today. Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, and mail-in ballots create barriers for people who have difficulty reading English. Even in Oregon, where voter turnout is among the highest in the nation, Black people and people of color as a whole are less likely to vote than their white counterparts.

Our neighbors experiencing housing instability and homelessness face additional barriers to the ballot box. Voter registration and mail-in ballots are particularly challenging for people without a stable mailing address. Lack of identification is another obstacle in registering to vote that disproportionately impacts poor and homeless individuals. In Oregon, voters without access to housing can use the county elections office as their mailing address, but transportation can make it difficult to utilize. And unfortunately, many people struggling with homelessness have more immediate needs to worry about than registering to vote.

While obstacles to voting for Black people, people of color and people experiencing homelessness are significant, CCC is working not only to alleviate voter disenfranchisement, but also provide our clients with avenues to make direct impact on our political processes and systems. CCC regularly promotes voter registration and Get Out the Vote efforts for our residents, patients and clients. On National Voter Registration Day in 2019, Next Up Oregon volunteers registered 120 people at Old Town Clinic, Old Town Recovery Center, the Richard Harris, Estate Hotel and Blackburn Center. We also provide pathways for those most severely affected by voter disenfranchisement to make direct, tangible impact on policy change. Through Flip the Script, our reentry program providing wraparound services to African Americans exiting incarceration, participants advocate for change in the reentry system by meeting with legislators, providing public testimony and sharing their experiences and expertise with lawmakers.

We believe that the voices of our clients, our communities of color and our neighbors experiencing homelessness matter. While much work remains in ensuring that everyone has a say in our democracy, we will continue to meet the individual needs of our clients, alleviate barriers to their right to vote, and work alongside our clients to impact systems and make their voices heard.

 



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.”



Donor Profile: John and Renee Gorham

Oct 29, 2019

Most Portlanders know John and Renee Gorham as the duo behind some of the city’s most exciting restaurants like Toro Bravo and Tasty n Alder. Their cuisine is renowned for the breadth of inspiration they draw from all over the world — from Spain to Israel to the Carolinas.

But when it comes to making a difference, the Gorhams focus on their own community. This holiday season, John and Renee are leveraging their star power to support Central City Concern’s (CCC) Give!Guide campaign, as well as those of several other nonprofits, particularly those addressing the homelessness epidemic in Portland.

We caught up with John and Renee for a quick Q&A to learn more about how they approach giving and doing their part to elevate the community.

Why did you decide to partner with CCC for the 2019 Give!Guide?
CCC’s wide range of services and versatility offers the most wraparound and overarching support to transform the lives of families and individuals in our community. Partnering with CCC in Give!Guide opens up the opportunity for us to reach a broader audience to support the critically important and necessary work with the most vulnerable populations of our community.

What inspires you to give?
In the restaurant industry we provide a service to those who can afford to dine out, but we also offer jobs and build a community within our group. There have been several points in our careers where we found family within the industry, so trying to create that sense of community beyond the walls of our restaurants is what inspires us to give.

How is your giving different than in past years?
Each year we shift our focus to an area of larger need. Right now it’s abundantly clear that homelessness is the most immediate problem facing our community. We’ve learned that collaborating with organizations who are on the ground providing services that make real differences in people’s lives allows us to leverage what we can do to make a meaningful impact. We want to be a part of the solution.

“Every person deserves an opportunity to better their lives and have a chance to champion the best life that they can live.”

What message would you like to share with the community?
Homelessness in Portland is something that needs all of our attention and our focus. Changing the lens of the way we all see homelessness is the first step all of Portland can take. Whatever got a person or a family into the situation they are in is irrelevant. Every person deserves an opportunity to better their lives and champion the best life that they can live.

Beyond what we see on the streets there is a huge population of people living on the cusp of homelessness. There is so much opportunity for us all to put our money where our mouths are if we want to make meaningful change in this community. We just can’t rely on someone else to fix a problem that is bigger than us all.

It’s just the damn right thing to do.

• • •

Give!Guide goes live on Friday, Nov. 1! Check out the details of our exclusive incentives for donors who give to CCC through Give!Guide this holiday season.



Rooted In Community: Reflecting on Blackburn Center's First Month

Aug 06, 2019

It's been just over a month since Central City Concern started serving patients and residents at Blackburn Center, our newest community health center site with integrated housing and employment services. For our second National Health Center Week post, we asked Dr. Eowyn Rieke, director of Blackburn services, to reflect on its first few weeks serving the community. Here, she reflects on the impact they're beginning to make and her hopes for how Blackburn Center will deepen its roots in the surrounding community.

• • •

It was Wednesday, July 3 — just the second day of services at Central City Concern’s Blackburn Center. I was walking around our newly opened clinic lobby in an effort to connect in person with new clients to welcome and thank them for coming in. One of the first clients I spoke with said to me, “I can’t believe all these services are in the same place. I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.” We were offering her primary care, medication for substance use, and mental health care, with the hope for a placement in housing once she was in substance use treatment.

“It is too bad you have to be poor to get these services. I used to have private insurance and I never got care this good,” another client told me. He was at Blackburn Center to receive intensive substance use treatment and physical health care services and planning to connect with employment services soon.

And another new client, referred to Blackburn Center from CCC’s Hooper Detox, confided, “I knew I needed a primary care provider but I didn’t know how to get one. Then I went to Hooper and everything started to fall in to place.”

These clients represent several of our core principles at Blackburn Center: client-centered care and integration, with a focus on meeting clients where they are and offering an array of services, all focused on helping them move forward in their lives.

"I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.”

My colleagues and I spent a few years dreaming about these services and how we’d deliver them, and worked remarkably hard to design them. A month ago, we finally opened our doors to serve the community. In our first month we’ve served 450 people across Blackburn Center’s housing, health care and employment services. Some of our most significant accomplishments since we opened include:

  • Successfully moving our Eastside Concern outpatient program to Blackburn Center, with its staff making incredible efforts to complete assessments for new housing residents referred from Hooper Detox
  • Getting 33 of our 34 permanent homes occupied
  • Getting 33 of our 80 transitional housing units occupied, with new residents coming from a wide range of referral partners in the community, including Women’s First, NARA, CODA and Multnomah County, as well as CCC’s own Hooper Detox, Puentes and Blackburn substance use disorder programs
  • Serving more than 100 new clients with primary care services
  • 90 referrals to employment services
  • Enrolling 20 new clients in our low-barrier Suboxone program
  • Managing the Recuperative Care Program’s (RCP) move from downtown Portland into Blackburn Center and admitting many new residents each week while RCP staff continue to provide excellent care and case management

As the director of Blackburn Center, one of the things that excites me most — one of the clearest visions for Blackburn Center that we’ve carried since we started dreaming of the building — is its eventual role in the community as a hub of activity for our neighbors and clients: a place people can come to get a wide array of health services, as well as a space to host community events that bring people together to share their joys and struggles.

While the building itself is beautiful, and our services have already kept us busy, I look forward to inviting even more stories, struggles and victories into Blackburn Center. One of the ways we’ll start doing that soon is by hosting many community-based recovery groups in our Weinberg Community Room, an open and light-filled gathering space on the building’s first floor. These groups will be open to the community and will offer new opportunities for people in recovery to gather and support each other in their East Portland neighborhood.

... one of the things that excites me most — one of the clearest visions for Blackburn Center that we’ve carried since we started dreaming of the building — is its eventual role in the community as a hub of activity for our neighbors and clients...

Our first month of Blackburn Center was focused on getting our services up and running; now we turn our attention to building and deepening our relationships with community groups to work toward our ultimate goal of ending homelessness. We work closely with health and social service organizations also doing work in East Portland, including Bridges to Change, Multnomah County and Transition Projects. Working together, we can strengthen the safety net for people experiencing homelessness and build new opportunities for them to move into housing and more stable lives. We will also open mental health services in the next few months to meet the needs of our community members struggling with severe mental illnesses.

Every connection we make is one string in a web that supports our neighbors. We look forward to many years working with partners to build a strong net that helps all of us build healthier community.



Rooted in Community: Old Town Clinic

Aug 05, 2019

For 40 years, Central City Concern (CCC) has been caring for people in Portland who are impacted by homelessness. In the late 1970s, we offered recovery treatment with housing, which was a new but logical approach: it’s easier for people to get better if they have a place to live. This was the beginning of CCC’s deep roots in the Portland community that expanded through the decades with new ideas and innovations in response to evolving patient needs.

By the early 80s, Old Town was only a few years removed from the height of living up to its “Skid Row” reputation. Thankfully, agencies were beginning to make headway toward helping people into better, more stable situations. For example, Burnside Consortium (as CCC was then known) sprouted up a few years earlier to save and increase the safety and maintenance of the single room occupancy (SRO) housing stock in the neighborhood and to fund local alcohol treatment providers. In 1983, Old Town Clinic (OTC), a small medical but sorely needed facility run by the Burnside Community Council, opened in neighborhood fixture Baloney Joe’s, a shelter serving homeless people located at the east end of the Burnside Bridge.

OTC moved to W Burnside and Third Ave in 1985; the next year Ecumenical Ministries took over management and continued to run the facility, providing primary care to the neighborhood’s homeless population for the next 15 years.

In 1983, Old Town Clinic (OTC), a small medical but sorely needed facility run by the Burnside Community Council, opened in neighborhood fixture Baloney Joe’s, a shelter serving homeless people located at the east end of the Burnside Bridge.

By 2001, CCC had recognized just how important health care is for helping people to realize their full potential; we took over management of the clinic. A decade of running CCC’s Portland Addictions Acupuncture Clinic (later renamed the Portland Alternative Health Center), which provided acupuncture, naturopathic and light primary care services to those living in and around Old Town, demonstrated the importance of comprehensive care to the success of long-term recovery. Assuming OTC’s operations solidified our commitment to providing holistic care. We quickly expanded the clinic’s services while continuing to operate in a low-cost setting. OTC began to offer both primary and naturopathic care, preventive exams, injury treatment, and connections to mental health and substance use disorder services. The clinic became a crucial starting point to help many patients end their homelessness and began a path to better health. 

Gary Cobb, CCC community outreach coordinator who has been with the agency since 2001, remembers how things fell in to place for the Old Town Clinic, as if it was all meant to be. “Sometimes you can’t sit and wait for opportunities to arise,” he said. “You need to jump and make things happen.”

At first, OTC operated under Multnomah County’s Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) status. But in 2003, CCC became its own FQHC site. This new designation allowed CCC to receive federal reimbursement for uninsured and underinsured poverty-level clients, opening up opportunities to bring much-needed medical services to our other programs like Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center, Letty Owings Center and the Community Engagement Program. (CCC now has 13 FQHC sites.)

“Sometimes you can’t sit and wait for opportunities to arise. You need to jump and make things happen.”

In 2003, OTC moved temporarily to NW 5th Ave. and Everett for about a year. But in 2004, CCC opened a shiny new building on W Burnside and Broadway where OTC and PAHC essentially consolidated into a single program to offer both primary care and complementary medicine services under the same roof. Old Town Clinic and our pharmacy continue to thrive there today. “We had leadership who had been community organizers, so their expertise in building relationships made the clinic into the national model it is today,” said Cobb.

OTC began a partnership with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in 2006. This partnership placed volunteer OHSU resident physicians in safety net clinics where they are trained by CCC staff to meet the medical needs of Portland’s homeless and low-income community. This “social medicine” partnership was a mutually beneficial one that allowed CCC to expand its medical services while training a future physician workforce to be familiar with and responsive to the needs of safety net clinics’ patient populations.

When Oregon began its statewide health system transformation to coordinated care organizations (CCOs) and expanded Medicaid coverage, CCC jumped on board to help achieve the triple aim of better care, better health and lower costs for all Oregonians. In 2012, CCC joined 10 other local health care and social service organizations to become a founding member of Health Share of Oregon CCO, which serves Medicaid members in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

In 2013, OTC was one of a handful of clinics nationwide singled out by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as an “exemplar practice” for our innovative work making health care more accessible to patients. The clinic hosts many innovative teams and programs, such as the Summit team that treats medically complex and fragile patients with integrated flexible care.

Being part of an organization that also provides affordable, supportive housing also gives OTC an unprecedented opportunity to serve its surrounding community. With some ingenuity, CCC’s Housed and Healthy program breaks down walls to lower barriers to quality care for hundreds of area residents.

Being part of an organization that also provides affordable, supportive housing also gives OTC an unprecedented opportunity to serve its surrounding community.

OTC and its pharmacy recently began using highly effective drugs to treat hepatitis C, a serious chronic liver disease that can lead to cirrhosis, cancer and even death. Oregon’s rate of hepatitis C is one of the highest in the country, and people with substance use disorders experience higher rates of hepatitis C. In 2018, OTC treated and cured 107 people who were infected with the hepatitis C virus, giving them a much healthier and brighter future. This treatment program continues to save lives.

Through OTC has hopped around the neighborhood and changed management over the past 36 years, one thing has always been constant: caring for the community that needs us the most. We respond to challenges with new ideas, and grow stronger with change. And we welcome and honor the people who entrust us with their health; they are the reason we’re here.



CCC Public Policy Mid-year Update

Jul 23, 2019

In December 2018 Central City Concern’s (CCC) Executive Leadership Team and the Board of Directors approved the 2019 CCC Public Policy Agenda, intended to guide our public policy and advocacy engagement efforts. Since then, CCC has sought engagement opportunities for staff, clients, residents and patients that aligned with the agenda. Dozens of staff and nearly 100 current and former clients have participated in advocacy activities across local and regional efforts, Oregon’s 2019 state legislative session and the 116th Congress and federal administration.

During the first six months of the year the state legislative session has dominated our public policy team’s attention; we reviewed and tracked more than 40 bills through the legislative process. Dialogue about any of our policy focus areas often circled back to two main issues: affordable housing and the needs of communities impacted by the criminal justice system. For example, the State of Oregon is currently working on a waiver update to the substance use disorder 1115 Medicaid waiver. When this effort was initially announced in January 2019, housing was not part of the expected changes; seven months later, we expect supportive housing and better engagement with reentry populations for the purpose of improving access to substance use disorder treatment.

Our public policy team, other staff and clients have also participated in a number of legislative activities since the beginning of the year:

City of Portland passed the Fair Access in Renting (FAIR) ordinance

  • Two CCC staff members attended regular meeting for seven months to support the crafting of this legislation
  • CCC’s Flip the Script program staff and participants provided public testimony and a joint letter of support during the council’s review of the legislation

Multnomah County Budget hearings

  • 100 clients and former clients from the Recovery Mentor Program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD® program) and Puentes attended to advocate for substance use disorder treatment, mental health care and housing investments
  • Eight clients and former clients provided direct testimony to county commissioners

State legislative session

  • CCC staff, clients and program alumni took 31 meetings with 14 of the 17 legislators that represent CCC programs/properties and sent in more than 140 emails to senators and representatives
  • CCC’s Health Service Advisory Council, a group of current patients, sent a budget letter seeking more funding for behavioral health and palliative care
  • Staff and clients participated in four lobby days with our community partners at, the Housing Alliance, Partnership for Safety and Justice, Oregon Primary Care Association and Oregon Council for Behavioral Health
  • Staff provided public comment at five committee hearings to advocate for palliative care, supportive employment, opposing criminalization of homelessness, supportive housing and self-sufficiency/wraparound services for families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Significant state budget and policy changes for which CCC advocated include:
     
    • – $334 million in new revenue for Oregon Health Plan
    • – $13 million to increase reimbursement rates for behavioral health
    • – $54.5 million capital and rental subsidy investment for permanent supportive housing
    • – $20 million for TANF recipients to access stable housing, employment and behavioral health services in addition to standard TANF benefits
    • – Substance use disorder was declared a chronic illness to support more health focused responses over criminalization
    • – 1% increase in the Oregon state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income families
  • CCC sent in letters to the federal registry opposing federal administrative changes that will hurt our communities

    • Public Charge: CCC opposes the federal government changing its policy on how low-income immigrant communities can use social services, including access to urgent care clinics and food stamps. While the “public charge” rule has been in place for several decades, the current administration seeks to make it even more penalizing for community members to seek assistance in times of crisis. We believe the current rule is burdensome enough and doesn’t need to increase targeting of low-income communities.
    • Mixed Status in affordable housing: CCC opposes evicting immigrant families from subsidized housing. Current rules prohibit non-citizens (including immigrants in the US with legal status) from using housing benefits. The current rules allow for parents of citizens or spouses of citizens receiving housing benefits to also reside in the same home. The current administration seeks to remove allowances for families to stay together in the same household even if the non-citizen member is not receiving the housing assistance directly.

    CCC advocated for some bills, including SB 179 for Palliative Care and HB 2310 for supported employment, that were not successful this session and we are committed to continuing the work needed to make these services available to those most in need. In the big picture, we saw great movement toward solutions for the communities we serve during this first half of the year.

    There is always more work to be done and more advocacy that will be needed to secure the future we know our communities deserve. For the remainder of the year we will stay focused on our priorities, including the Coordinated Care Organizations (CCO) 2.0 roll out, funding for Community Health Centers in the federal budget ($1.68 billion), ensuring equitable access to housing developed by funds from the Metro Bond, additional improvements to our criminal justice system and the statewide strategic plan for improving access to substance use disorder treatment.

    As we move forward, we aim to involve friends and supporters of CCC even more in our advocacy work! Check in regularly with our newly refreshed Advocacy and Public Policy page to find out what we're working on. You can also sign up below for our periodic advocacy emails to learn about ways to get involved, including attending meetings, contacting elected officials and spreading awareness about the legislative issues that affect those we serve.   

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CCC Celebrates the Grand Opening of Blackburn Center!

Jul 16, 2019

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 9, Central City Concern (CCC) welcomed nearly 300 community partners, funders and friends of the organization into our Blackburn Center in East Portland for a grand opening event.

The day marked a celebration of the building's completion, the start of services, the incredible breadth of partners and funders who made this possible, the impact Blackburn Center will make on the lives of thousands of people, and the tremendous amount of work that has gone into the project. Blackburn Center is the final and flagship project of the Housing is Health initiative.

As CCC's President and CEO Dr. Rachel Solotaroff reminded the guests, everything about Blackburn Center points back to the people we serve. "This beautiful space is a testament to the dignity and potential each person we serve holds, with an elegant and elevating environment to prove it," she said.

Blackburn Center is located at the corner of E Burnside and 122nd Ave.      CCC President & CEO Dr. Rachel Solotaroff opened the program.

Julie Smith, an apprentice laborer who worked on the building for Walsh Construction, shared her story, revealing that she had herself received CCC's services to find the path of recovery and stability. Working on the building that would serve thousands of people on similar paths as her own was so meaningful, she said.

Ed Blackburn, CCC's president & CEO emeritus after whom the building is named, reflected on what the services we offer here will mean to those we serve. Pain and hurt would enter through our doors, yes, but healing and hope would be shared back out into the world.

Other speakers included Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, and representatives from funders Portland Housing Bureau, Corporation for Supportive Housing, U.S. Bank, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Oregon Health Authority and the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association.

Representatives from each of the six Housing is Health initiative partners, who came together to provide a trailblazing $21.5 million gift to fund Blackburn Center and two other affordable housing projects, spoke as well: Adventist Health Medical Group, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University and Providence Health & Services - Oregon.

Julie Smith spoke about CCC's recovery and housing services crucial to helping her find stability. She was the event's honorary ribbon cutter.      Ed Blackburn, CCC president & CEO emeritus, was instrumental in bringing the six Housing is Health partners together under a common cause.

The first two floors of Blackburn Center are a community health center that will eventually serve 3,000 people each year with comprehensive and integrated primary care services, mental health and addiction treatment care, employment assistance, housing resources and a pharmacy.

The third floor is the new home of CCC’s Recuperative Care Program (RCP). Since 2005, RCP has offered respite care to 30 people at a time, offering medical care, case management and housing to people discharged from local hospitals with nowhere else to go and heal. With their move to Blackburn Center, RCP can now care for up to 51 people. Mental Health RCP will start in the next month, while 10 beds for people in palliative care will be added in the future.

Blackburn Center also includes 80 units of alcohol- and drug-free transitional housing on the fourth and fifth floors, and 34 permanent homes on the sixth floor. Integrated resident and health support services will help residents stay housed and in recovery.

Ankrom Moisan Architects, Inc. did an award-winning job on the design of the building; Walsh Construction Co. brought it into touchable, walkable, livable reality.

Thanks to all who joined in our journey to open Blackburn Center. And now we get to the real work of helping people find home, healing and hope.

Learn more about Blackburn Center’s services here. View the complete set of photos from the event here.

     

     



Donor Profile: Kelli Payne

Jun 11, 2019

CCC donor Kelli Payne (right) with her husband and baby.Central City Concern (CCC) supporter Kelli Payne is a courtesy signer for real estate closings, helping people through the paperwork for buying, selling and refinancing their homes. She donates five percent of her business proceeds to local nonprofits, including CCC.

“I’ve seen and experienced the transformation that happens when people have a loving home,” she says. “I’ve lived in cities where there were clear social problems, but it was easy to drive or walk faster past these problems and go about my life. I’ve been given the opportunity through volunteering to talk to people impacted by homelessness and mental illness and see my own human struggle and suffering reflected in their stories.”

Kelli finds it easy to simply share a portion of her earnings. “Giving a percentage makes my contribution manageable and ties my business to the incredibly impactful work of organizations like CCC,” she says. “When I conduct business I do it to better my own circumstances and to lift up my Portland community. This amplifies the meaning I find in my work and going about my day.”

“[Giving] amplifies the meaning I find in my work and going about my day.”

When it comes to choosing where to give, for Kelli, the choice was easy. “CCC does life-saving work of helping our Portland neighbors recover from homelessness to live productive lives,” she says. “CCC confronts the complex and often overwhelming issues around homelessness, and provides a tunnel out with resources and opportunities. Anyone driving around Portland can see that CCC is doing exactly what this city needs, helping people find a way into a life in recovery. I have a friend whose son’s life was saved by CCC. It’s an honor to carry their mission with me every day.”

Kelli recommends the percentage model when it comes to businesses sharing with the community. “Contributing a percentage has made it manageable,” she says.

“Giving back has improved my relationship with money as I’m better with budgeting and embraced an abundance mindset. I listened to my own heart song and took the leap, and it has been truly rewarding.”