Volunteer "Rolls It Forward" for CCC Veterans

Nov 08, 2019

Michaelle, a peer support specialist with Central City Concern’s (CCC) Veterans Grant & Per Diem Program, was home one evening when she noted a post on the St Johns neighborhood’s NextDoor.com page.

“I’m looking for an organization that can take donations,” the post read.

Looking to give back, St. Johns resident Jenni Jo planned to run a donation-based introductory body rolling class and was looking for local nonprofits that could use the donations. Michaelle’s thoughts went immediately to the veterans she works with, many of whom come to the program with nothing, sometimes straight off the street. She quickly responded to the post.

The two connected and established a plan. Michaelle would survey the veterans in her program for a list of items they needed — things like coffee pots, sheets and day planners — and Jenni Jo would host a free introductory body rolling class for donations of new or gently used items and cash. The connection they made there would create effects that rippled out in both the CCC’s and Jenni Jo’s communities.

Also known as “The Tension Tamer” and “massage therapist to the rock stars,” Jenni Jo is a successful businesswoman who has been recognized for her unique approach to taming tension and pain management through body work. Her choice to pursue a career in tension taming was inspired by a childhood spent seeing her grandmother live with rheumatoid arthritis. Knowing people suffered from chronic pain, feeling trapped in their own bodies, she was driven to pursue alleviating pain. One of her favorite methods? Body rolling.

“Body rolling is like your own massage therapist and physical meditation in a ball. It stimulates bone health, lengthens muscles and has many of the effects of a deep tissue massage, including stress relief and deep-seated therapeutic effects when practiced correctly.”

"Jenni Jo has a deep intuition about who is going to recoil. Even people who are normally very resistant to touch let Jenni Jo come and help adjust them. Her personality is so welcoming and gives confidence to everyone.”

While Jenni Jo describes herself as nomadic by nature and an avid traveler (including going on international tours with rock stars), she is also incredibly grounded in her local community. Last year, she decided to do something to impact her neighborhood of St. Johns. The original idea was simple: Jenni Jo would host a free class for people interested in learning more about body rolling. The class would be donation-based to benefit a local nonprofit.

As Jenni Jo and Michaelle worked together, it became clear that Jenni Jo had a deeper connection with the veteran program at CCC than just living in the area. Her family history, including chronic pain and PTSD from military service, gave her insight into the experience of our veteran clients. Connecting over their shared compassion, Michaelle invited Jenni Jo to attend one of the monthly resident meetings and lead a body rolling session.

Jenni Jo arrived, various balls in tow, to greet a group of hesitant and unsure veterans. But when Michaelle and Jenni Jo started demonstrating the movements, the group quickly got into it. Jenni Jo led the group through some simple exercises and meditation aimed to reduce tension and pain, as well as to teach tools that allow practitioners to create quite moments of mental and physical peace.

Jenni Jo seemed to have a natural instinct for how to interact in a trauma-informed way. According to Michaelle, “Jenni Jo has a deep intuition about who is going to recoil. Even people who are normally very resistant to touch let Jenni Jo come and help adjust them. Her personality is so welcoming and gives confidence to everyone.”

These sessions were well received and many of the vets were able to use balls that Jenni Jo donated to practice on their own. But her impact on the program was just beginning.

As she shared stories of her volunteer work, her whole family became involved. Her father and her children helped run some of the sessions. Jenni Jo’s stepfather, a Vietnam vet, donated many high-quality items of clothing...

As she shared stories of her volunteer work, her whole family became involved. Her father and her children helped run some of the sessions. Jenni Jo’s stepfather, a Vietnam vet, donated many high-quality items of clothing; Michaelle eventually set up a “shop” for the veteran clients. According to Jenni Jo, this meant a lot to her stepfather:

“Because of his PTSD, he doesn’t often have the ability to engage personally in volunteer work with fellow veterans. So it was really special for him to be able to give back and see his donation go to such a good cause.”

When Jenni’s mother heard about her work with CCC, she nominated the organization for a grant from Leupold and Stevens, where she serves on the charitable giving committee. To the surprise and joy of Michaelle and CCC, L&S donated over $10,000 to the veterans program. This donation gave Michaelle and other staff the ability to provide special holiday gifts to the veterans. Even her children got involved with spreading the good work. Jenni Jo and her kids made goody bags with hand warmers, granola bars and information about how veterans could access services. She handed these out to her clients to give to homeless veterans they might see. Her hope was to inspire connection and maybe help veterans experiencing homelessness find their way to services.

Her decision to get her kids involved was a way to show them the importance of volunteering. “I am a single mom and it is incredibly important to me to teach my children to know what is going on in the world, teach them compassion and not to take things for granted. I want my kids to have really big hearts and to know they can make a difference and think outside of themselves.”

We are all inspired by Jenni Jo’s work at CCC and in our community. We look forward to other ways her kindness and compassion “roll forward!”

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.”


Catching—and Finding—Breath

Apr 28, 2017

Volunteer Manager Eric Reynolds visited a Living Yoga session at Central City Concern's Letty Owings Center, our residential addiction treatment program for pregnant or parenting young women. What he saw was an opportunity for the mothers to reflect and rest in the midst of their intensive work to build better futures for themselves and their blossoming families—an opportunity they wouldn't have if not for Living Yoga's volunteer instructors. Learn more in our latest National Volunteer Week blog below!

• • •

The class began with introductions that included each participant’s name, their reason for wanting to try yoga, and their sobriety date. In a true embodiment of the “inherent honesty in communication” that serves as a Guiding Value for Living Yoga’s practice, the instructor initiated this introduction with each subsequent participant. With the most formal portion of the class out of the way, the next hour was filled with smiles, laughter, and a few well-timed groans as seven new “yogis” planked, scorpioned, downward dogged, and child posed their way to reconnecting their mind and bodies.

The young women who begin substance use disorder treatment at Letty Owings Center have a lot on their plate. They are pregnant or parenting a young child, fairly new to a recovery-oriented lifestyle, and adjusting to unfamiliar guidelines, procedures, and regulations that will best aid in her treatment. They attend groups with their peers and meetings with counselors; they take classes to fill their life-skills toolbox with budgeting, meal planning, and parenting knowledge. The attention and effort that goes into this adjusted life, while worthwhile, can be exhausting.

Do these young women ever have a moment to simply catch their breath you might ask?

Thanks to Living Yoga’s volunteer instructors who visit Letty Owings Center twice a week, they can now stretch muscles that might have previously gone ignored, unwind themselves, and find respite. With some combination of heavy substance use, homelessness or poverty, and pregnancy and/or recent childbirth, LOC participants have experienced serious stressors over the years. The patient trauma-informed yoga Living Yoga volunteers bring to Letty Owings Center is an ideal avenue through which to aid the women’s mental, physical, and even spiritual recovery.

“I have bad anxiety so I feel like this will help a lot,” stated Danielle after completing her first-ever yoga session. “I don’t really pay attention to my breathing very often but it was relaxing with the breathing techniques. It helps.”

In conjunction with the mental gains of her foray into yoga, Danielle appreciated the physical benefits as well. “The stretching piece felt really good. I honestly don’t remember the last time I stretched like that.”

Through their volunteer instructors, Living Yoga’s goal is to “create a safe environment in which the practitioner can learn to befriend bodily sensations, to increase self-knowledge, to improve self-regulation, and to create a place of refuge within oneself.” Learning how to create a bank account, budget for a trip to the grocery store, or repair a torn pair of jeans with a sewing kit make life a little bit easier once a participant graduates from the Letty Owings Center. With a little help from Living Yoga we can now add destress through breathing, strengthen through stretching, and finding inner peace to that list as well.

Suicide Prevention 2016

Sep 08, 2016

The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds, and up to 25 times as many make a suicide attempt. At Central City Concern (CCC), we are making strides in helping people through those life crises, those times when suicide feels like the only way out. We now know more than ever how to create hope, develop safety plans, and engage a network of support that help people through the desert of feeling suicidal.

 All CCC staff are now trained in how to ask about suicide thoughts, and what to do when the answer is yes. Old Town Clinic adopted the goal of "zero suicide" and now provides immediate support (within 5 minutes) with a mental health professional for anyone with thoughts of suicide or feelings of hopelessness, regardless if the patient is in the clinic or calling in on the phone. And patients who are suffering can receive extra support and intervention, even daily support, which often prevents any need for hospitalization. Today's suicide intervention is about collaboration, support and hope. And it works.    

Help bring suicide out of the shadows. September is Suicide Prevention Month, the 5-11th is Suicide Prevention Week, the Sept 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day!



Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Jan 02, 2015

From new partnerships and expanded facilities to exciting events and new milestones, 2014 was an amazing, busy year for Central City Concern. Our staff in housing, healthcare, employment, peer support, and administrative programs spent the year exercising compassion and kindness to help those we serve find stability and a path toward self-sufficiency. Our supporters - hundreds of donors, volunteers, and advocates alike - made much of the work we do possible. Our clients, patients, and residents trusted us to provide the support to help them gain their footing and work toward achieving their higher potential.

Take a look below for a recap of some notable highlights from Central City Concern's year. Thank you all for making 2014 an incredible year, and here's to an even better 2015!

From Homeless to Working! We Celebrated at City Hall!

Jul 01, 2011

at left: Selena, happy customer employed (and promoted) at Burgerville with her supervisor
Daniel Cogan.

I want to congratulate the 200+ individuals who turned out Wednesday night at City Hall to celebrate the accomplishments of the 460 customers of the Employment Access Center (EAC) who became employed in 2010.  Customers were placed in jobs across 15 different sectors in 53 zip codes with an average hourly wage of $13.46. 

above: David Wynde at left, Rachel Beaudoin in center with her supervisor and manager from U.S. Bank

It was a remarkable event that was organized and orchestrated by the entire team of 24 staff at the EAC and Kathy Pape.  Ed Blackburn, Commissioner Nick Fish , Mayor Sam Adams, Customer Walter Ryce, Customer Rachel Beaudoin and U.S. Bank Employer and Vice President David Wynde all spoke so beautifully about the importance of employment in recovery and ending homelessness. 

Jennifer Wilcox then handed out 91 graduation and outstanding achievement certificates after which everyone enjoyed a large spread provided by VOA’s food services.  May next year be as bright as 2010!

Rachel Post
Director of Supportive Housing and Employment
Central City Concern

One great loss, many enduring lessons

Feb 10, 2011

Recently, Central City Concern grieves the loss of a very special friend, Hal Saltzman. From the beginning, Hal was part of the family. When we weren’t discussing Central City Concern’s Veterans programs, we discussed local and national politics, sports and, of course, family. Hal is survived by Ruth, his wonderful wife and best friend of 57 years, and four children, Debbi, Cindy, Stephen and David. Although Hal was a successful businessperson, professional pitcher, Marine captain who served twice (once in World War II and the Korean War) and dedicated civic leader, family was his first priority.

His many values, and order of those values, were always reflected in our conversations. The last time Hal and I spoke on the phone, he asked me the same five questions he always asked:

What’s new at Central City Concern?

How are you?

How is the running?

How is your boyfriend?

Do you have “plans” (insinuating marriage, of course)?

He always began with business, and ended with family. All of it was important to Hal.
Hal was an extraordinary person with deep character who positively impacted lives. At Hal’s memorial service, various loved ones spoke about Hal’s compassion, strength and upstanding moral character, all of which affected his family members and friends. One man said Hal was his mentor for over a decade, and it was from Hal who he received the soundest advice. Hal Saltzman created, and hosted, Central City Concern’s Veterans’ Celebration Picnic held in June these past few years.  On average, 100 Veterans representing over 300 years of military experience, attended the picnic. The Veterans enjoyed a picnic lunch and music from the 60s and 70s performed by The Shwing Daddies. It was an opportunity for everyone involved to stop and appreciate the individuals who have done so much to protect our country and freedom, some at a high expense. Hal reminded us of what was truly important, and he lead by example.

Success is defined in many ways. Hal was an incredibly successful person, and not because he always “won.” Like everyone, Hal suffered his own hardships. However, he handled the ups and downs of life with a grace that few can claim. He embodied an optimistic yet realistic spirit, compassion for others and drive to be the best form of himself, whatever the task or goal. The following Ralph Waldo Emerson quote reminds me of Hal. It reads:

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!”

If the terms in Emerson’s quote are the barometer, Hal was an outstanding success. He will be gravely missed by Central City Concern. He was a teammate, leader, strategist, volunteer, donor, advisor and friend.

The world is indeed better because of you, Hal. Thank you for your many enduring gifts. 

Celebrating Successful Veterans! Inviting Others to Find Success at the Stand Down Nov. 16 & 17th

Nov 10, 2010

Stand Down & Job Fair

Central City Concern serves upwards of 800 Veterans every year. We revel in our success stories and share the following to inspire your Veterans Day – tomorrow – November 11, 2010!

Dedicated Father
A 36-year-old US Army Veteran came to CCC’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) seeking assistance with employment and housing. A father to 5 young children, he came to us homeless, separated from his family, and determined to be reunited with his partner and children. He worked diligently with his HVRP Employment Specialist and the Job Developer to build his resume and increase his computer skills. All of his hard work eventually paid off and he took a temporary job through CCC’s Clean & Safe Program, and has since then obtained a permanent position. Despite these difficult times, he and his family have stayed together and, through it all, he has worked hard and has stayed positive.

From the Streets to His Own Apartment
Another of our veteran customers arrived in Portland from Las Vegas only to find himself sleeping on the streets. We were able to provide temporary shelter through vouchers to City Team Ministries until he was accepted into TPI. He completed his HVRP pre-employment action plan and became active participant in our job club. He obtained a 6-month position with CCC’s Clean & Safe, and then became a janitor, earning nearly 50% more than in his previous position. He is currently living in his own apartment, and has moved into retention with HVRP.

A Veterans Program Specifically for Women Makes the Difference
One customer recently found herself homeless again, and was living in the woods. While reluctant to return to traditional programming, the fact that Central City Concern now has a female specific program attracted her enough that she re-engaged. As a result, she is now accessing safe housing and employment development support as well.

Grant Approval: 22 New Beds for Female Veterans

Oct 04, 2010

Central City Concern is pleased to announce approval of a VA Per Diem grant specifically for female veterans. We now have access to 22 beds for female, homeless veterans in need of safe housing. This grant will be a huge support to a Homeless Veterans Reintegration Grant for Women we received earlier in the year.