Tag Archives: JOIN

Sex, lies and homelessness


Maggie Lorenz-Todd looks out from the bedroom of her Portland home. “We’re going to do everything and anything we can to not be outside at night. It’s survival.” Photo by Christopher Onstott

By Alex Zielinski, Staff Writer

When DeWanna Harris first walked through the doors of Transition Projects five years ago, she was at the end of her rope.

“I was so, so tired of life just tearing me up,” Harris, a Portland native, says. Continue reading

We say no to Constitutional Amendment 79!

Street Roots, The Community Alliance of Tenants, JOIN and the Oregon Opportunity Network are all coming out against Measure 79.

Constitutional Amendment 79: Amends the Constitution: Prohibits real estate transfer taxes, fees, other assessments, except those operative on December 31, 2009.

Summary: Current statutory law prohibits a city, county, district, or other political subdivision or municipal corporation from imposing taxes or fees on the transfer of real estate (with certain exceptions). However, the state legislature has the authority, subject to Governor approval, to impose such taxes and fees or to change current statutory law.

“We do not want a private, national trade organization spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in our state to rewrite our constitution under the fog of false necessity,” says the Street Roots editorial team. “We have a statewide ban on real estate transfer taxes. We have a system that allows for the people of Oregon, our elected officials and due public process to both keep it that way and reserve the right to consider our options for the future. Likewise, real estate transfer fees are not the taxation boogie men they have been made out to be. They can be constructed to provide relief to first-time home buyers, lower-priced homes and long-term homeowners. And they can be directed to support real community needs, right here in Oregon, in ways that benefits all residents.”

Measure 79 isn’t something Oregon wants or needs.

To find out more about No on 79 go here. Also follow on Twitter and FaceBook.

About the groups: Continue reading

A very gendered experience: Survey reveals startling statistics about the health and experiences of homeless women

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

Karen Creed’s walk is a limp. As she moves down the concrete path near southeast Portland’s St. Francis’ church, she heavily favors her right leg. Her left one sticks out to her side. She explains that her knee is fused, and she cannot bend it.

Creed, 49, has arthritis and osteoporosis. Her ankles are clearly swollen, and her fingers are becoming gnarled. “I’m a mess, physically,” she says.

Sleeping outside, most often times on concrete, exacerbates her physical health. Creed feels bruised and sore each morning she wakes up, and has problems standing up because she can’t bend some of her joints. “I have to get up like a crab, go sideways,” she says.

Her voice is deeply raspy, which Creed says is caused by breathing in the fumes and dust of cars driving by each night. She often wakes up multiple times a night, and has headaches in the morning because of it. Continue reading

Street Roots joins housing group on a two-day peer learning trip to Seattle

Street Roots is joining  Commissioner Nick Fish later today (by bus due to a mudslide along the Amtrak line) — along with an array of city and county representatives, the Portland Business Alliance, and non-profit leaders for a two-day trip to Seattle to look at resource development and best practices for housing and homeless services.

“I’m excited to learn from Seattle’s best and brightest affordable housing experts this week.  In the midst of shrinking budgets and increasing demand for help, we need to develop sustainable and flexible sources of funding,” says Fish.  “Seattle has a proven model, and we are meeting with leaders in philanthropy, government and community development to learn from their experience.”

Due to the on-going economic slump and possible federal cuts to housing programs along with projected revenue declines, specifically through the tax-increment financing system that helps fuel affordable housing projects — the region is faced with various challenges when it comes to ending homelessness and creating affordable housing in the future.

This comes on the heels of the merger of the Bureau and Housing and Community Development and portions of the Portland Development Commission, a new strategic plan by the Portland Housing Bureau, and several new affordable housing projects launched this year.

The trip sends a strong signal that the Portland Housing Bureau under Fish, and the county are being aggressive about how to properly plan for the future of housing.

The group will be meeting with a powerhouse of Seattle foundations, both local and federal representatives, housing levy advocates, and the local Housing Authority to look at many of the challenges and possibilities outlined above.

SR will be doing interviews with different folks along the way, and writing a news piece about the trip for the March 18 edition of the newspaper.

SR is also taking part in the trip to learn more about the inner workings of government, foundations, the business community and nonprofits and how they relate to homelessness and affordable housing to better understand where to prioritize our news coverage through the newspaper, and advocacy efforts in the community.

The trip is being financed by the Enterprise Community Partners (Northwest) — a national nonprofit focusing on community development and affordable housing, and the City of Portland. (Street Roots and the Portland Business Alliance are paying for their own expenses.)

Those headed to Seattle for the meetings this week include: Beckie Lee, Chief of Staff for Deborah Kafoury; Margaret Van Vliet, Director, Portland Housing Bureau; Andy Miller, Manager of Strategic Housing and Planning, Portland Housing Bureau; Daniel Ledezma, Policy Director for Nick Fish; Marc Jolin, Executive Director JOIN; Jesse Beason, Executive Director, Proud Ground; Shane Abma, Vice President of Downtown and Central Services, Portland Business Alliance; Carly Riter, Government Relations, Portland Business Alliance; Amanda Saul, Pacific Northwest Senior Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners; and Mary Li with the Multnomah County DCHS.

— By Israel Bayer

Talking faith-based community and homelessness

By Israel Bayer, Staff Writer

Paul Schroeder is the author of “On Social Justice: St. Basil the Great,” and the creator of Building the New City, a curriculum on homelessness for faith communities in use by congregations throughout Portland.

Schroeder currently serves as Faith-Based Resource Coordinator for JOIN, a Portland-area non-profit supporting people in their efforts to end their own homelessness.

He is also an organizer around the Day of Homelessness Awareness with social-service agencies and churches throughout the community, including Street Roots. (The event is taking place tomorrow on Tuesday, November 16. Find out more.) He recently sat down with Street Roots to talk about the broader faith-based movement in Portland.

Israel Bayer: The faith-based community is very engaged with homelessness and poverty issues. Can you talk about what the faith-based community is already doing beyond the upcoming event?

Paul Schroeder: There are a lot of things happening in the faith community. All of the family warming shelter beds that exist in the city are being provided in partnership with the faith community and churches. There are a lot of churches involved in the Daybreak Shelter Network and offering meals, the list goes on and on.
One of the things I would like to emphasize is that there are a lot of ways that faith communities can become engaged just by developing relationships with people who are sleeping outside. I used to be the priest the Holy Trinity Greek Orthadox Church here in Portland and we started a Greek cooking class that is still going on. Doing things like this is a great way of breaking down barriers for people on both sides and building authentic community.

I.B.: Can you talk about the Daybreak Shelter Network to give readers some context?

P.S.: It’s a network of congregations throughout Portland that provide shelter to families on a rotating basis one week at a time. I believe there’s about 25 or 30 people that have accessed shelter through this network. There is also a variety of other congregations involved in providing meals and other services through the network. It’s an amazing thing.

I.B: I think sometimes people take for granted the amount of work and organizing the faith-based community is doing around these issues

P.S.: There’s not a real clearinghouse for the faith-based community to know exactly how to engage in things like the 10-year plan to end homelessness, or ending poverty, but that’s changing.
At a basic level we are working to draw attention to what’s being done so people can look at something and say, yeah, I can do that. We then work to educate people on what then is possible. If you look at the one night street and shelter counts the past two years there’s about 2,500 people who are sleeping outdoors. Maybe the real number is twice that, close to one percent of the population of our city. But the really good news is we’re working at engaging over 500 congregations in Portland. If we could get every congregation to engage on this issue and create authentic community we could transform the reality of homelessness in this city.

City pumps $1 million into housing bottleneck

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

The Portland Housing Bureau announced this month how it plans to spend a $1 million special allocation to address the rise in homelessness in Portland.

The money is being used to alleviate the housing bottleneck by placing homeless people currently in shelters or transitional facilities, into permanent housing, and to then use those empty shelter and transitional beds for people now living on the streets.

The Housing Bureau expects that 200 individuals or family members will be permanently housed, the incomes of 47 people will increase through job and employment training, and 105 beds in shelters and transitional housing will open for people currently living outside.

“It’s a crisis time in our system,” says Portland Housing Bureau Director Margaret Van Vliet, speaking about the economic pressures put on the homeless network of services.

“If we can help people who are a little bit stuck and ready to transition to the next level of housing…then we free up more space along the continuum,” Vliet said.

“There will be people who will be permanently self sufficient because of this money,” Traci Manning, Central City Concern’ s chief operating officer, said.

The $1 million is funding two collaborations of service agencies, one serving homeless adults and the second serving homeless youth.

The adult collaboration is composed of seven social service agencies, led by the outreach agency JOIN. The other agencies are Central City Concern, Cascade AIDS Project, the Black Parent Initiative, the Salvation Army’s female shelter, and Catholic Charities’ El Programa Hispano and Housing Transitions Programs.

The collaboration received $820,000. JOIN’ s executive director, Marc Jolin, said JOIN will focus on placing people into permanent housing and provide rental assistance, move-in and moving costs, and other support services so people can stay in their housing.

Manning said Central City Concern will use its portion of the money to provide eviction prevention and rent assistance, move 40 people into permanent housing, and help 30 people find employment or apply for Social Security benefits.

The other agencies will provide housing placement for people living with HIV/AIDS, ethnic minorities, and homeless women.

The youth collaboration is made up of New Avenues for Youth, Janus Youth Programs, the Native American Youth and Family Center, and Outside In. The collaboration received $180,000. $51,000 of that money will infuse Janus Youth’ s outreach programs, which suddenly and unexpectedly did not receive a $100,000 grant from the federal government earlier this month.

Dennis Lundberg, a Janus associate director, said the money will be used to rehire two full-time outreach staff he was forced to lay off after the federal grant fell through. Ken Cowdery, the executive director of New Avenues, said the remaining money will be used to house 20 youths and provide employment and job training services.

Mayor Sam Adams gave this one-time allocation to the Housing Bureau in April to address homelessness in the Portland’ s downtown core. The money was originally meant to increase the amount of shelter beds, but City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the Housing Bureau, convened meetings of stakeholders, including social service providers, activists, law enforcement and business leaders. The group decided to use the money on permanently housing homeless people.

The stakeholders involved have perspectives about homelessness that are often extremely disparate from each other. For instance, the Portland Business Alliance has long advocated for the increase of shelter capacity, which is at loggerheads with Portland’s emphasis on spending resources placing homeless people directly into housing.

Sources say the process of applying for the funding was no different than other proposal applications. What was slightly unusual, sources said, was the inclusion of very specific language regarding how many people were to placed in permanent housing.

Jolin described the goal numbers the proposal process identified as “aggressive,” but says they will not be impossible to meet because of the collaborating agencies’ ability to leverage their existing services.

“What’ s exciting is that it is going to allow us to serve some people who are difficult to house,” Jolin said. “Otherwise), we wouldn’t have the ability to house them.”

Given that the money is one-time funding, none of the agencies will be hiring additional staff. With the city expecting to lose revenue this year, it is unlikely that the money will be renewed.

“I am going to assume that the chances are not very high,” said Van Vliet, although she said it was possible that the Housing Bureau would seek the money from community sources, such as local businesses, especially if outcomes are successful.

The city has also announced its winter shelter initiative, to begin in mid-November. Transition Projects will receive $190,000 to operate an overnight warming center for single women living on the streets. The Salvation Army will receive $180,000 to help operate winter emergency shelter and day services at its Harbor Light facility at Second Avenue and Burnside.

Mother’s Day, 2010: A view from the street

By Nana M., Contributing Columnist

Surreal…an out-of-body experience…can’t really be happening to me. I wandered around near my old home in southeast Portland, searching for a likely place to lay my sleeping bag, thinking that at almost 57 years old, my arthritic body does not respond well to sleeping on the cold ground.  The youngsters refer to it as ‘camping’; for me, a fun day outdoors has always consisted of a day hike, followed by a night at the Four Seasons Hotel, with a hot shower and Jacuzzi. I’ve always tried to be a kind person, raised my daughter alone while my ex-husband ran away to Australia to avoid paying child support, returned to college at age 34 after working two jobs as a waitress to support us, then raising two grandchildren for ten years, and devoted myself to the citizens of Portland working as a social servant. Isn’t this supposed to buy me some Karmic points??

After I wallowed in pity for a bit, I realized that I am where I am, so how do I begin extricating myself from this situation? And exactly what was the recipe for disaster that landed me here? One part dysfunctional family issues, three parts medical, including physical, emotional and mental health, financial problems following a lay-off, and issues with my neighbors that I could not work out. Ultimately, I was laid off at the end of November and became homeless by the end of January. I began living in motels, spending all of my unemployment checks there, and began taking out payday loans to supplement for the other expenses. Eventually, the minute my check hit the bank electronically, all of it was whisked back out to pay the loan, and I was left with no money for shelter.

On my journey in the streets, I have met the very best and worst of humankind. I was extraordinarily lucky that the violence was limited to being spat upon, urinated on, called ‘dirty’ and other names in more than one language, and having all of my belongings sprayed with some type of harsh chemical while I used the bathroom at The Cheerful Tortoise. (Incidentally, PSU is my alma mater, and I often ate there while studying for finals, so if you are the students in question, please be aware that the people you see on the street probably have far more things in common with you than differences.) I believe that life would have been much worse for me had I not had my service animal, as folks are very territorial about the places they choose to sleep, and I began to understand this concept after being asked to leave several places, and having all of my belongings soaked with three-way sprayers in others. I met a very kind police officer who had arrived at Creston Park to investigate a group of kids who had scaled the fence to partake of the swimming pool. It was about 3 a.m., no more buses running, and he kindly did not run me off, seeing that all of my stuff, including me and the dog, were saturated. That same early morning, a different officer came by, wanting to know if that was really my dog, and laughed at me. I had experienced that same question earlier by a little boy, who could not conceive that the dog could be mine, as he could only visualize me in the current snapshot of time. I could expect that from the mind of a child, but was stunned by the lack of vision from a police officer. I guess that as with any agency, there are all levels of intelligence and compassion.

While I would never ask for money, there were folks who offered it, and usually at times when I was most in need. Most memorable for his kindness is the man who ran to catch up with me at the McDonald’s near PSU. His words were very healing at a time when I had begun to feel that a “bag lady” was who I was, rather than my current circumstance. He folded a $20 bill into my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “I am so sorry that you are in this situation.” My eyes filled with tears, and all I could do was nod and say thank you. Sir, if you are reading this article, please know how much those words meant. I had begun to feel less than human, and you reminded me that it was indeed a circumstance in my life, not who I was as a person. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Also, Barbara Harrison paid for a night’s stay at Motel Six from her own pocket. She could have had the attitude, as many would, that it would be a waste of money, I would only be in the same situation the following night. Instead, for that night at least, I was safe.

My housing angel turned out to be Brad Taylor with JOIN, who responded to the telephone call I made during a meltdown. We did not connect on that occasion, but a few months later, I wandered into the JOIN office, seeking information about local resources, and by some miracle, Brad was at the front desk, remembered my story, and was able to get me into housing by the end of August, just a few days before our record monsoon.

Local social services such as Catholic Charities Housing Connections, SAFES, and Rose Haven allowed me a place to catch my breath, get a shower and change of clothing, and most importantly, gain awareness that I was not alone. These organizations allow people to maintain some sense of dignity. For those who are considering where to contribute to assist homeless people, I encourage you to support these organizations, as well as JOIN.

Housing placement agency moves east — along with their clients

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

Celebration was in order on Friday, April 16 in an unassuming looking, one-story building off NE 82nd Avenue and NE Halsey that once housed a sketchy bridge club and boxing ring.

The day marked the grand opening of JOIN’s new location. It is a momentous occasion for JOIN, a small, social service agency providing outreach and housing services to Portland’s homeless.

The organization’s prior location is enough answer why. Located off of SE 17th Avenue a little bit too close to the railroad tracks, the “Brooklyn JOIN,” as it is now called, was small, cramped, and the building was old and in need of repairs.

“We were working in a much less than ideal circumstance,” says JOIN’s executive director Marc Jolin. “It was too small for what we were trying to do. People came in cold and tired, and it was almost impossible to find a place to be quiet. It didn’t really meet people’s needs well.”

Now there are six bathrooms for homeless people, two showers, and a large, well-lit day space where families can spend time together. A small conference room serves as a library and a quiet space for people to read, fill out paperwork, and use a computer. Continue reading

Miracle on Portland’s streets

Street Roots and Leah Nash recently highlighted  Melissa and Sean’s lives and their struggles with mental health and homelessness. Through the stability of Street Roots and working with JOIN, we have a success story. Melissa and Sean recently signed a new lease for an apartment and we are happy to report they will be safe and warm for the holidays.

Melissa in her new apartment. (Photos by Leah Nash.)

Also, if you read Melissa’s personal account, you’ll know her and Sean’s love for knitting. A reader and Street Roots supporter brought yarn down to the office for the couple to enjoy. (Thanks Sheila!)

The life of Leo Rhodes

Leo Rhodes is a Street Roots vendor, columnist, board member and homeless advocate. His work has been highlighted in the newspaper throughout 2009.

He sells the newspaper almost daily in the Hollywood neighborhood in Northeast and has been a staple at city council meetings and homeless protests over the past year.

His tireless work has led him to work with the Portland Housing Bureau on the 10-year plan to end homelessness and to reform laws targeting individuals on the streets, while being a vendor rep on the Street Roots board of directors.

Elizabeth Schwartz, a local photographer and Street Roots volunteer spent the last five months documenting Leo’s work in the community for a recent photography show at Albina Community Bank about the lives of people who sell the newspaper.

Leo at his vendor location in Hollywood.

Leo showing Housing Commissioner Nick Fish his recent column in Street Roots.

Leo at the Street Roots office with volunteer Becky Mullins and Kreeg Peoples.

Leo speaking at City Council. Continue reading

Loss of low-cost housing routing poor from downtown

monopolycrop30Affordable housing for Portland’s poorest residents has declined significantly in the city center, even as more high-end housing increased.

According to the Central City Housing Inventory, released in July by the Portland Development Commission, the city center lost more than 22 percent of its lowest income housing options, but gained nearly 12 percent more in the number of units for higher incomes.

The result, according to those in the business of placing people in affordable housing, has been a shift of poverty from the central city area to outer parts of Portland and Multnomah County.

“Here in mid-county and in east county we are seeing an increasing number of people seeking low-cost affordable housing,” says Jean DeMaster, executive director of Human Solutions. “And we believe part of it is the lack of housing in the central city areas and the decrease of housing in the central city area.”

The sources interviewed for this article all point toward a growing trend: the displacement of low-income people, who can no longer find affordable housing in the central city, to other parts of Portland and Multnomah County.

The increase of people looking for housing in eastern parts of Multnomah County has been happening for the last three or four years, DeMaster says, but Human Solutions saw a “marked” increase in the last six months, corresponding with the deepening of the recession.

The inventory, published every three years, monitors whether or not the city is adhering to its “No Net Loss” policy. Passed in 2001, the No Net Loss policy establishes that the same number of rental units available to people earning 60 percent of MFI or below in 2002 would remain the same through preservation or replacement. That number is 8,286. Continue reading