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.”

 



Volunteer Spotlight: Jim

Nov 04, 2019

Recently, Volunteer Program Manager Westbrook Evans sat down with Jim, a volunteer in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Living Room program, which functions as a shared, safe place for Old Town Recovery Center patients, many of whom are actively living with and managing behavioral and mental health challenges. Read on to find out what drew Jim to volunteering with us, how volunteering aligns with his personal journey and more.

• • •

Tell me a little bit about your role here at CCC?

I volunteer one day a week at the Living Room at the Old Town Recovery Center. I help facilitate breakfast and group activities with members of the Central City Concern community.

What are some parts of your volunteer role that you particularly enjoy?

Hanging out with the community. The day I volunteer we do meditation. I meditate in my personal time, but it is nice to do it with a group of people. It is pretty powerful to have 20 people in a room taking a few minutes to reflect.

Has there been anything that has been challenging or difficult?

Getting up at 7 to make it to the Living Room! [laughs] It can be hard to get out of bed but I’m always glad I did. Every morning we start off with a “Hope Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine.

What drew you to wanting to volunteer with CCC specifically?

For a lot of my life I held a lot of fear and anger about injustice and problems in our society. I spent time in the Bay Area and Portland and I just found it overwhelming that as a wealthy, developed nation we can’t provide simple services for people who need help. Having experienced houselessness, drug addiction and alcoholism I felt a connection to the work CCC is doing. Part of my recovery and healing is sharing what I have and to be of service. I had volunteered with Alcoholics Anonymous but never volunteered with an organization like CCC.

"Every morning we start off with a “Hope Scale.” When I come in, I’m a six out of 10. When I leave I am at an eight or nine."

Can you share a little about how your recovery has led you to volunteer?

Something I have gotten better about through working with my sponsor is learning more about my mission. My mission isn’t to fix the world or every problem, but if I can help one person see a little bit of light in their recovery, my purpose for that day has been met. If we all did that a little, it builds.

There is a phrase you hear from old-timers in long-term sobriety: “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.” The only way for me to step out of my own self is to be of service to another person. When I am doing service in the Living Room or just asking someone how their day was, I’m not stuck in self-centeredness. I can finally be honest with myself.

When I first interviewed you to become a volunteer you had an interesting story about how you heard about us…

At the time I was already seeking some way to volunteer. A friend and I were having coffee when a Central City Concern truck pulled up to clean up a pile of trash. My friend started asking questions and we learned a lot of the guys were in recovery and working for CCC, keeping the streets clean. I found CCC’s website later that day and signed up to volunteer.

How has volunteering with CCC affected your life?

I see people all over town who are affected by CCC. I even see people who graduated from the Living Room, but they still go. I sit there and realize I was a few turns away from being at CCC’s door with a backpack. A few less supportive people in my life — easily. It is crazy to think about.

Some of the fear and resentment [about injustice] I had before starting my volunteer time with CCC was softened by realizing how much groups like CCC are doing in the community. It was a moment that showed me there is a collective community effort that has been going on for a long time. It is exciting to be a part of that work and start learning the intricacies of the work. It’s really impressive.



Attendees Put Compassion into Action at Annual Luncheon

Oct 18, 2019

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, Central City Concern (CCC) held our annual Compassion In Action fundraising luncheon at the Hilton Portland Downtown. This year, CCC used the opportunity to celebrate not only all that is possible when community members work together to bring lasting change to people in need, but also four decades of helping people find home, hope and healing.

With a blast of horns, Portland-based 12-piece funk and soul band Soul Vaccination kicked off the day’s program, performing their hit song “Funk P-Town” with several lyrics altered to celebrate CCC’s 40th anniversary.

CCC President and CEO Rachel Solotaroff then took the stage, thanking elected officials in attendance; the event’s Presenting, Home of Our Own and Ready to Work sponsors; and several corporate partners who have generously given to CCC for more than 20 years.

Rachel went on to speak about a concept that is vital to the staff members, clients and the very spirit of CCC: resilience. She shared that resilience “isn’t something people are born with. It’s something people are given, and they are given it through human connection.”

“Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism,” Rachel continues. “We are not the survival of the fittest. We are the survival of the nurtured.”

“Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism."

G. Robert (Bobby) Watts, CEO of National Health Care for the Homeless Council, served as the luncheon’s keynote speaker. Bobby tapped into the deep familiarity with CCC’s work that he’s developed as the leader of the nation’s preeminent membership organization of homeless health care organizations, people with lived experience of homelessness and advocates. CCC is, Bobby said, “doing some things that no one else is doing and they are doing some things better than most others are doing. We, as a council, are going to rely on them.”

Bobby then pivoted to speaking about homelessness as a national epidemic. He shared that our collective hope and goal should be moving toward “compassionate justice”: a society that not only sees housing and health care as human rights, but provides them as such. Our path toward that goal consists of doing what we know works: affordable housing and housing subsidies, health care to people experiencing homelessness, supportive housing, medical respite, practicing a Housing First approach, trauma-informed care, harm reduction and addressing racism.

The audience was treated to the premiere of “40 Years of Hope and Healing: The Human Connection,” a video feature that showed the transformative ripple effect of making human connection through the stories of two long-time CCC employees, Bobby T. and Medina. (Watch the video for yourself at the end of the post.)

     

Stacey Dodson, market president at U.S. Bank, followed the video to make the pitch. Before she began her ask, however, she shared about her intimate connection to the devastation that addiction can ravage on families, making the work of CCC all the more vital to our community.

Soul Vaccination closed the program with three more songs, including a raucous version of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September.”

In total, CCC’s 2019 Compassion In Action campaign raised over $290,000.

 



CCC Walks for Recovery

Oct 01, 2019

Central City Concern (CCC) wrapped up National Recovery Month on a powerful note this past Saturday, Sept. 28, at the second annual Walk for Recovery, where members of the Portland recovery community and their families united to improve Oregon’s fractured and incomplete addiction recovery system.

CCC staff and clients, along with their friends, family and hundreds of other community members and organizations, took part in the two-mile walk from southwest to northwest Portland, which felt more like a political march than a fundraising event. Key legislators and decision makers helped kick off the walk at an opening rally, sharing words of encouragement to participants about why mobilizing to address addiction is so important. Representatives from Oregon Recovers, which organized the Walk for Recovery, emphasized the goal of building a movement of people in recovery in order to drive widespread support for addiction prevention and treatment across Oregon.

During the walk, as participants passed by multiple addiction treatment and help centers — including CCC’s own CCC Recovery Center, Imani Center and Old Town Recovery Center programs — they proudly help up hand-made signs with messages of encouragement to those in recovery and calls to action for elected officials to increase access to treatment.

One of the largest contingents at the Walk for Recovery was made up of staff, clients and alumni of Puentes, CCC’s culturally specific recovery program for Spanish speakers. Ricardo Verdeguez, a recovery mentor and drug and alcohol counselor at Puentes, highlighted a significant barrier in recovery services: the lack of Spanish-language treatment programs.

"Today I have a life and I have a family because I am in recovery."

“After 30 years of battling addiction, there was no treatment for me as a third-generation Latino,” Ricardo shared during his speech at the Walk for Recovery rally. “I found treatment with Central City Concern and I’m grateful, because they have culturally specific treatment. Today I have a life and I have a family because I am in recovery.”

Puentes’ large presence at the Walk for Recovery was fitting, where increasing access to recovery services was a reoccurring theme. Oregon ranks 50th in the country — last place — in access to treatment. Puentes has worked hard to welcome Portland’s Spanish-speakers into a culturally responsive community where things like language, country of origin and documentation status are not barriers to beginning and maintaining a life in recovery. While much work remains in breaking barriers to preventing and treating addiction, we are proud to serve the Latino recovery community through our Puentes program.

With hundreds of Portlanders in attendance and over $100,000 raised to improve Oregon’s addiction recovery system, the Walk for Recovery was a success that CCC was thrilled to be a part of. While National Recovery Month might be over, our work to bring hope and healing to those struggling with addiction continues with the same determination and fire we witnessed during the weekend’s events.



Rooted in Community: Puentes

Aug 08, 2019

Since Ricardo shared with us last year in our CCC TurningPoints series that receiving treatment services from Central City Concern’s (CCC) Puentes program in his native Spanish language “was like music,” we’ve heard from many others who shared the same sentiment. Roberto, who also went through our culturally specific behavioral health program for Spanish speakers, says that his time receiving Puentes services helped him “feel like I belonged to a group of people that want to help the Latino community.”

But offering services in Spanish is only part of Puentes’ story. Over the years, thousands of clients have heard the music of treatment because Puentes worked hard to invite Portland’s Spanish-speaking community into a place they could trust. Puentes was never intended to simply drop into the Latinx community from above; Puentes staff members are the Latinx community, responding to the needs of their own. Puentes has worked hard to demonstrate that their services respect and respond to who the community is. They understand the Hispanic culture — in all its beauty, as well as its barriers — and the community has responded in kind.

Over the years, thousands of clients have heard the music of treatment because Puentes worked hard to invite Portland’s Spanish-speaking community into a place they could trust.

“Most Puentes staff are active community members inside and outside of Central City Concern,” shares Daniel Garcia, CCC’s director of Latinx services. “At Puentes, our clients finally feel at home, not only because we speak their language, we also understand their culture and their unique stories and histories.”

Historically in Multnomah County, the Latinx community has been disproportionately affected by poverty and by a lack of access to preventive services, including the knowledge of where to seek help, location of treatment facilities and childcare. Lack of insurance coverage has also been a significant barrier; even after Medicaid expansion in Oregon, documentation status still kept many from applying. The lack of Spanish-speaking providers who are trained to understand and meet the needs of Latinx individuals and families had also been a barrier to receiving care.

To start bridging the gap in treatment access, CCC received a federal grant in 2004 to serve Latinx families at risk of homelessness due to substance use disorders. Originally called Family Latino Outreach and Addictions Treatment (FLOAT), the program approached potential clients with care and humility, leaning on a partnership with Catholic Charities’ El Programa Hispano to establish trust with the Latinx community.

... from the start, Puentes integrated a deep and firsthand understanding of Latinx cultural values into how they approach and provide treatment...

Simply interpreting Western-style behavioral health treatment into Spanish would be setting up the program and its clients to experience many of the same cultural barriers to care and underwhelming results. Rather, from the start, Puentes integrated a deep and firsthand understanding of Latinx cultural values into how they approach and provide treatment, including:

  • Personalismo: upending the mainstream approach of providing care that is detached, overtly clinical and relatively impersonal, Puentes staff are intentional about being warm, willing to make a personal connection and self-revealing.
  • Respeto: Puentes staff understand that clients may avoid expressing doubt, disagreement or confusion in conversations with them, as Latinx culture lends significant importance and influence to authority figures like parents, elders and health care providers. In response, staff are trained to ask smart questions, listen to individual’s stories and validate their experiences.
  • Familismo and colectivismo: Puentes often embraces the potential that the family unit holds in the therapeutic process and its role in helping clients remain in treatment. The extended family serves as a support system for all members and puts the collective needs of the family above those of the individual.
  • Spirituality: The Latino culture tends to view health from a holistic position, implying a continuum of body, mind and spirit. Many cultural values and attitudes are heavily influenced by their spiritual beliefs that, in some cases, may become a barrier to care. On the other hand, la espiritualidad can provide a positive foundation for well-being and recovery.
  • Gender roles: The concepts of machismo and marianismo that reinforce gender roles can often be barriers for clients to talk about their addiction, mental health and traumas. Puentes staff provide treatment with an understanding of how these values affect how forthcoming and willing clients are about their addiction or mental health.

Some research suggests that Latinx clients, especially newcomers and Spanish-speaking clients who see Latinx therapists (who are both bilingual and bicultural), are more likely to remain in care and to have better outcomes. For people like Roberto, working with staff members who not only understood the values he was raised in but also created a treatment environment that acknowledged and worked within them “helped me have a special connection with the staff and even other clients of Puentes. I trust Puentes.”

Puentes has done well to earn that trust from its community of clients. People receiving care from the program have seen the program grow thoughtfully to continually respond to their needs: in addition to substance use disorder and mental health treatment, Puentes offers treatment for co-occurring disorders, early and specific interventions for Latinx youth who are using substances and are gang-affected, family support and connections to CCC’s primary care services. The program has even moved locations several times to relocate closer to the centers of Portland’s Latinx community, increasing accessibility.

For individuals and families, many of whom left behind extended families and friends to move to Oregon, Puentes has become a place where familiarity can promote healing, where shared values lead to communal victories.

“Geographically, we are so far removed from our home Latin American countries, and yet there is a place named Puentes, where Spanish-speaking people can come and receive treatment,” says Daniel. “We treat each person with the utmost friendliness, dignity, kindness and respect, leaving our clients without fears of being discriminated against, misinformed or misdiagnosed.”

For individuals and families, many of whom left behind extended families and friends to move to Oregon, Puentes has become a place where familiarity can promote healing, where shared values lead to communal victories.

The special connection that Puentes creates has also led to the development of a community within a community. Many people who complete treatment stay close to Puentes through El Senado, an advisory committee of former clients who find ways to give back and provide peer support and encouragement to newer clients. Empowering a community to recognize the collective strength of its experiences and to play an active role in its own healing is perhaps one of the truest hallmarks of how deep Puentes’ roots in the Latinx community have grown to reach.

“I am so proud that we can all — clients, former clients and staff —be leaders in and for our own community,” Daniel says.



Rooted in Community: Imani Center

Aug 07, 2019

Walk past the Imani Center on a sunny day and you’ll likely be greeted by a mix of staff, clients and neighbors chatting and connecting outside. An atmosphere of camaraderie is palpable, but it’s no coincidence that community building is a key feature at the Imani Center. In fact, it can be traced back over a century ago to the very building where the Imani Center now resides.

The Imani Center was once home to the Golden West Hotel, which opened in 1906 as the first hotel in Portland to accommodate Black patrons. Nestled between two of the most prominent Black churches in the city at the time, the Bethel AME Church and the Mount Olivet Baptist Church, the Golden West quickly became a social and business hub for Portland’s African American community. In addition to a hundred hotel rooms for Black workers who were denied accommodation in Portland’s white-owned hotels, the Golden West housed a number of Black-owned businesses including a barbershop, an athletic club and an ice cream parlor/candy shop. After 25 years in business as the largest Black-owned hotel west of the Mississippi, the Golden West was forced to close in 1931 due to the Great Depression.

The legacy of exclusion that spurred the founding of the Golden West Hotel was not unique – from the very start, Black communities were not supposed to exist in Portland or anywhere else in the state. Oregon joined the Union in 1859 as a “whites-only” state where African Americans were barred from living, working or holding property. In the 1920s, Oregon had the largest Ku Klux Klan membership per capita of any state, and KKK member Walter Pierce was elected governor in 1922. Oregon refused to ratify the 15th Amendment, which gave Black men the right to vote, until 1959, and did not ratify the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all Americans, until 1973.

The legacy of exclusion that spurred the founding of the Golden West Hotel was not unique – from the very start, Black communities were not supposed to exist in Portland or anywhere else in the state.

In addition to exclusion, Black Portlanders faced displacement throughout the twentieth century, making it difficult for African American residents to maintain close-knit neighborhoods and communities. Urban renewal and industrial expansion projects such as Interstate 5, Highway 99, Emanuel Hospital, the Civic Center, the Memorial Coliseum and others displaced thousands of residents in the predominantly Black Albina neighborhood. In 1948, one of the only places in Oregon where African Americans could buy houses – the city of Vanport – was decimated in a single day due to flooding, leaving 18,500 residents – 6,200 of whom were Black – without a place to live. This history isn’t relegated to the past: Portland remains the whitest major city in the US, with persistent racial disparities in employment, poverty, homelessness, health outcomes and incarceration rates.

Despite more than a century of exclusion, displacement and disinvestment in Portland and throughout Oregon, our African American communities have rich histories of resilience and strength in the face of racial discrimination and prejudice. And in many ways, the Imani Center carries this torch. The Imani Center is the result of Central City Concern listening to the experience and knowledge of the African American community and responding to the need for culturally specific leadership, treatment and support services. Since 2015, the Imani Center has provided comprehensive approaches to mental health and addictions treatment for African Americans, by African Americans. Imani Center’s services empower clients to build community with other African Americans working toward recovery, with the support of staff members who have lived knowledge of Black culture and the African American experience.

One way clients at the Imani Center build community is through peer support. Peer Service Specialists “wrap around” clients both inside and outside Imani Center to support them in navigating mental health struggles, addiction and recovery. As clients work to change their lives, they are surrounded by a peer who understands not only the experience of recovery, but the unique challenges of navigating mainstream treatment programs as an African American. The result is a pathway to recovery built on shared cultural experiences and genuine peer connections.

Like the Golden West Hotel, which was situated between two of Portland’s most important Black churches, the Imani Center is similarly built on a foundation of faith and the sense of community that flows from it.

Like the Golden West Hotel, which was situated between two of Portland’s most important Black churches, the Imani Center is similarly built on a foundation of faith and the sense of community that flows from it. “Imani” is Swahili for “faith,” representing the faith that Imani Center seeks to instill in clients: faith not only in themselves and their journey, but in the support of their community to help them reach their highest potential.

The Imani Center and the Golden West Hotel share much more than a building. Deeply rooted in the shared history that brought so many African American workers and families to the Golden West Hotel at the start of the 20th century, the Imani Center stands in stark contrast to Portland’s legacy of race-based exclusion and displacement. As Imani Center clients heal from their past and current experiences with addiction and mental health struggles, they also help to heal wounds wrought by Portland’s past. By building a home for African Americans working toward recovery, the Imani Center continues the Golden West’s legacy of faith, resilience and community.



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.

     

     



Central City Coffee Unveils a Bold New Look!

Oct 31, 2018

Wake up people! Women are finally getting the respect they deserve, especially at Central City Coffee.

Central City Coffee's previous branding was appropriate for a young social enterprise, but as the program has grown, the time was right to make a bold move.In 2013, Central City Concern (CCC) started a coffee roasting and distribution social enterprise to provide training and employment opportunities for people who live in CCC housing. In the beginning, our packaging featured coffee variety descriptions and highlighted CCC’s nonprofit mission. The coffee bags were kraft brown with pastel labels featuring our tag line: Drink well. Do good.

Over the past five years, Central City Coffee expanded our retail presence and is now available in more than 30 Oregon and Washington stores, as well as online.

Our training program has grown as well. Early on, we decided to train some of CCC’s most vulnerable clients: single moms working to rebuild their lives after facing homelessness and substance use disorder. We found that Central City Coffee’s full-time, day shift hours were a great fit for mothers who needed a set schedule and reliable childcare to reenter the workforce. And the skills they learned—marketing, office administration, sales—set them up for success when seeking meaningful employment after training.

Today, we remain committed to working with and training these amazing women. The Central City Coffee rebranded packaging is inspired by the hard work, determination and strength these women bring to our business every day. Our rebrand is a tribute to them.

Our new packaging is all about empowered—and empowering—women! With the help of design firm Murmur Creative, CCC’s Marketing Advisory Council and CCC staff and trainees, we have created bright, beautiful and bold coffee packages that showcase women, share their most inspiring qualities and stand out on store shelves.

The best part is our new tagline, created by one of our brilliant trainees: Nonprofit brew. Female crew.

Our new coffee line is infused with the spirit and resilience of the women who pull it all together every day. Please check us out at a specialty grocer near you. The women at Central City Coffee thank you for your support!


Varieties with new names:

  • Gutsy Goddess: French roast, bold, balanced, dark chocolate
  • Punk Princess: Dark roast, milk chocolate, nutty
  • Warrior Woman: Medium roast, most popular, caramel, pear, cinnamon
  • Magic Mama: Light roast, floral, berries, vanilla
  • Serene Sorceress: Medium/dark decaf, Swiss water processed, rich, nutty, chocolatey
  • Solstice Sister: Seasonal holiday medium roast, currants, spices, sweet


Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: September 2018 Edition

Sep 29, 2018

This month’s volunteer spotlight focuses on a volunteer with the Living Room program at the Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC). The Living Room is a shared, safe place for OTRC members, many of whom are actively living with and managing behavioral and mental health challenges. The Living Room functions as an empowering healing center, a place for members to come and hang out, eat, volunteer, build a community, and participate in regular group activities.

Lisa has been a dedicated volunteer at the Living Room and shares her story as part of National Recovery Month. Read on to hear how Lisa’s recovery informs her service at the Living Room and why peer representation is such an important piece of recovery.

• • •

What is your name and volunteer position?
My name is Lisa and I am a volunteer in the Living Room.

How long have you been volunteering with the Living Room? 
I think it was April, so about five months ago.

How did you find out about the opportunity? 
I just was online looking for volunteer opportunities and I read a description and I really loved the idea of this community environment for people with mental health and/or addiction issues, and the vibe of everyone being equal.

"A lot of people will ask me, 'Oh, do you work here?' or 'Are you going to school?' and I’ll say, 'No, I just like being here. I really want to be around you.'"

And have you seen the community environment and structure of equality in practice during your volunteering? 
Absolutely, yes. Everybody is here to support each other. I feel like the staff treats everyone that walks through the front door like family. It’s really lovely actually and helpful to me.

I have a history of my own mental illness diagnoses and as well as alcoholism and I was very involved in recovery for a long time, and then I had a relapse for about a year and I think that there is a definite connection between my current sobriety and volunteering.

Do see you role as a peer as important to your work in the Living Room? 
Yes, I feel like no matter what our outside life circumstances are, people with mental health struggles and addiction struggles speak the same language. Nothing really compares to that when it comes to feeling a part of a community and even the people who may or may not have the exact same situation for themselves, they understand in one way or another, either through family or other experiences that they’ve had. I feel at home here and I think that’s just because mental health is such a focus here. I come here and I get a lot out of it.

What do you think the importance of a peer is in recovery? 
It’s almost everything. If you don’t have anyone to relate to, you feel alone. I think it’s really important for the Living Room to have volunteers too. A lot of people will ask me, “Oh, do you work here?” or “Are you going to school?” and I’ll say, “No, I just like being here. I really want to be around you.” People that come in will say thank you and I’ll say, “Thank you for being here. I’m getting just as much from this as you are.”

"Everything happens here... all of it."

Have there been any stand out moments at the Living Room during your time as a volunteer? 
There’s so many, every time I’m here. Just washing dishes with someone and chatting about life is great. I find I have so much in common with people that I didn’t realize I would. And it’s not always about addiction or mental health, it’s just as people. And I’ve really enjoyed doing little craft projects here and there and seeing a smile on someone’s face from having a flower in their hair. It goes all the way from serious to something fun. Everything happens here... all of it.

And, our customary last question: What would you say to someone who was interested in volunteering but was on the fence?
I would say that you must be thinking about it for a reason, so it’s in your heart to do it and you can give it a shot. There’s a lot of opportunities here, so I think there’s something for everyone.



Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: August 2018 Edition

Aug 29, 2018

For this week's volunteer spotlight, we're turning to a volunteer who has already appeared twice before in our spotlights, but never as the sole featured volunteer. Given her dedicated service (Judy was one of thirteen volunteers to give more than 100 hours of service in 2017) we thought it was high time she got her own entry.

Judy is one of several volunteers who serve at the Old Town Clinic as a clinic concierge. The role was designed to help promote the clinic as a welcoming, inclusive place, where the first person you would encounter would be someone who is smiling and asking how you day is going. Judy exemplifies this role to a 'T.' In addition to the warmth she bringing to her conversations with people, where almost every sentence is punctuated with a smile and a laugh, Judy also brings experience into her interactions with patients at the clinic. Read on to see how volunteering helps her connect with her community and about the moments that have made the role particularly special for her.

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While Judy's career has spanned from community development to paleontology (really!), a deep personal connection brought her to volunteer with CCC.What is your name and volunteer position?
My name is Judy Sanders and I volunteer as a concierge at the Old Town Clinic.

How long have you been volunteering with CCC?
I’ve been here probably not quite a year-and-a-half yet. It was a year in the spring.

How did you find out about this opportunity and/or CCC?
Well, I knew about CCC because one of my sons was a client of CCC’s for a number of years. When I moved back to Portland after I retired for real—I retired once and went off and worked for ten more years—I wanted to do volunteer work. As you get older, you kind of start to question if you’re earning your place to still be around, so I needed something to do to make me feel like I had some function left in the world. So, I just called up and asked if you had volunteers.

Had you worked in a clinic before?
No, I had never done anything in health care before, but I had worked with people a lot. I did community development work for 20 years for the City of Portland, so I was used to working with all kinds of people. I was actually in charge of regulatory compliance, so I have come out and monitored CCC a couple of times over the years!

And your “other job” was in…?
Dinosaur paleontology. I did that for ten years while I still had a day job, then when I retired from the City my mentor said, “Come and work for me,” so then I worked in paleo full time for ten years.

“People sometimes come up and thank me for being there, but for me it’s like 'thank you' for letting me come because it’s some of the best fun I have all week."

Do you find that those jobs inform your work as a concierge?
Well, I’ve worked with all kinds of people, and I did oversee some projects in the city serving people experiencing homelessness. But probably more than anything it was my son, because he was homeless for some time and he had alcohol and drug addiction. One of the things that I remember he used to say—that I utilize here—is that he would talk about how he just wanted to feel like a regular person. He hated that everywhere he went he was a patient or a client and he just sometimes wanted to feel like everybody else. So, when I talk to people at the clinic we talk about all sorts of things.

And some people do want to talk about [their medical stuff] and that’s fine, but I do try to find something to talk to people about other than the fact that they’re sick or injured.

Since you’ve been here for a while, do you find that patients are recognizing you when they come in?
Yeah, a lot of them that come in regularly know who I am and I know more or less who they are. I was talking to [an acupuncture client] today and he was saying that it made him feel good to have someone there to talk to and I said, “Yeah, it makes me feel good to see you guys.” I think it’s nice for people to see someone who is familiar; I think it makes them more comfortable. But I think for a lot of people it’s just having someone smile and say hi, notice them. And for me it’s great. People sometimes come up and thank me for being there, but for me it’s like thank you for letting me come because it’s some of the best fun I have all week.

Have there been any stand out moments in your time so far?
One was just a younger fellow who reminds me some of my son, and this fellow is in and out of sobriety, and when he was in sobriety last he was staying with his mother and she would come with him [to appointments]. While he was in his appointment, I just sat with his mother and talked to her and she told me what she was going through and I shared a little of what I went through with my son and kind of said, “It’s okay to feel this way. I did too.”

And so I think it helped her to have someone to talk about it with, because I know when I was going through that with my son, you just don’t feel comfortable talking to people who haven’t experienced it because you feel like they can’t understand and they tend to judge and tend to think you did something bad and weren’t a good mother. So, it was nice to be able to be there for somebody else who needed to say what they had to say and not feel that someone was going to judge them or judge him.

“...it was nice to be able to be there for somebody else who needed to say what they had to say and not feel that someone was going to judge them or judge him."

There are also a couple people who are deaf that come and there’s one lady who’s really good at reading lips, but I decided, “I’m going to learn a little bit of sign language.” I just learned to say a few things and I was so proud of myself when she came in the first time and I signed to her and she perked up. And then there were two other ladies that came in later and they saw me talking to her and they came running over, because they were deaf as well, and said, “You sign?” And then they gave me some flashcards with the alphabet, because I always have trouble with some of the letters, so now those two ladies come in and we chat a little.

And what keeps you coming back to volunteer, now that you’ve done a year-and-a-half?
For me personally, one thing is just that I do need to be out and doing things, I need to feel like I’m still productive in life. But particularly now that I’ve been here a while and know some staff and a lot of the clients, I miss them if I don’t come. I wonder if they were there and if they were okay.

Usually my last question is what would you tell folks who were interested in volunteering, but since you host so many prospective volunteers who are shadowing the concierge role, I wonder if there’s something that you tell them about the role to win them over?
For one thing, I just tell people how much I enjoy it and just what a good time I have! I just find it really rewarding and if I have the chance to spend time with someone that you know really needed somebody to talk to, it just makes you feel good. I would always, with my son, hope that when he wasn’t around, there would be somebody that would be there to be nice to him. So, hopefully I’m doing that for other mothers who can’t do that for their kids.

Was there anything else you were hoping to tell us?
I think one of the things I like about having people come and shadow, particularly ones who haven’t really had much experience with [this population], is that I think it’s really important that as many people as possible get to be involved with all different parts of the community. The people that come to the clinic, they’re not any different than anybody else. They have the same issues and problems and I find, in life, that over the years people just live in their little box and you only meet people like you and it makes all the other people around in the world seem different. It’s not until you get to know people, and whether its people from other counties or life experiences, you just don’t understand that there is actually so little difference. So, I really like the fact that people are willing to come and try it out.