Neighborhood Affordability, An Invitation & Your Impact

Happy summer from everyone at Human Solutions! We hope you are finding some time to enjoy the good weather and long days. We remain busy and focused on completing our 5-year strategic plan and our day-to-day work in the community where the need is greater than ever. Here are some highlights from our work as well as relevant news we think will interest you.

How affordable is YOUR neighborhood?

Every year the National Low Income Housing Coalition issues a report about housing affordability compared to wages called “Out of Reach.” The 2018 report is now available online and we highly recommend it – here’s a link to the Oregon data. In addition to interesting national data to give you a sense of how this issue plays out across our country, there’s an interactive tool (scroll down on this page to find it) where you can enter your own (or someone else’s) zip code to get affordability analysis about your own neighborhood!

A quick overview of the findings for Oregon doesn’t surprise us:

  • In the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area, it takes 2.4 full-time minimum wage jobs – or an annual income of $53,000 - to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.
  • The “housing wage” in our area is the highest in the state at $25.58/hour. (Housing wage = hourly wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at fair market rent)
  • 40% of households in our area are renters.

For those earning less than 30% of the area median income (many of the people we work with), the monthly affordable rent is $611 (for a 2-bedroom unit).

“Thank You” from a Grateful Mom & Dad

We want to share a thank you letter with you. It came to us from parents - with a small but meaningful financial contribution – because two of our amazing staff had worked with their child who was in crisis. You can read the whole letter here. As a parent, this letter really hits home. Here’s an excerpt:

Please let [your staff] know how much we appreciate her being non-judgmental, compassionate, and responsive. It is very difficult for some people to ask for help, to reach out, to expose one’s vulnerability. [Your staff] made a traumatic and somewhat embarrassing situation less difficult to process. She is amazing. Thank you for helping the sons and daughters of worried and helpless moms and dads.

While we’ve blocked the names of our two amazing colleagues mentioned in the letter for privacy, we are not surprised at their incredible and kind work - and we are proud to have them on our team. At Human Solutions, we know when we receive a letter like this that it is supporters like you who make this life-changing work possible!

Give Now: Make a Difference in Someone’s Life Today!

When you give to Human Solutions, you are making a real difference in the lives of people like these parents, paving the way for her to move from homelessness back into stable housing. As I am sure you see every day in the Portland area, too many of our community members are experiencing housing instability and homelessness thanks to our high and rising housing costs. It’s so important for all of us to be part of the solution.

One way you can do that is by making a gift to our work with the most vulnerable in the community. Just click here to be the difference in your community. We’ll put it to work right away providing emergency services for the neediest among us, helping families keep their housing, and supporting those ready to pursue their dreams. Your gift means:

  • Homeless children and their families have emergency shelter
  • Families are keeping their housing
  • Job seekers are going to work
  • Kids from low-income families are getting homework help
  • Parents are learning key child rearing skills

Thank you for helping with a gift today to keep this meaningful work going strong. We appreciate your generosity!

Join us at the Oregon Public House!

Big thanks to the Oregon Public House for welcoming Human Solutions as their “Charity of the Day” on Monday, August 20th. We hope you will save the date to join us for a happy hour where you can grab a bite to eat and connect with our staff experts to learn about issues that are on everyone’s minds: how are we helping people experiencing homelessness find stable housing? How are we helping to solve the housing crisis? What is working to create a community where everyone can afford stable housing? Come at 5 pm for the Happy Hour prices, stay till 6:30 to hear from Human Solutions' program experts. Invite friends and remind yourself with our Facebook event. I look forward to seeing you there!

Our Ballot Measure Endorsements for November

It’s high summer now, but we’re looking ahead to fall when you’ll be voting on several important ballot measures. Human Solutions has endorsed several and we want you to know which ones and why:

  • Metro Regional Housing Bond. The Metro Council is asking voters to support a $652.8 million regional affordable housing bond that is expected to construct new low-income homes for up to 12,000 people around the Portland metro region within seven years. That's about 3,900 homes. We’re pleased that up to 50% of that housing would be for people earning 30% of the region’s median family income, and no more than 10% of homes would be offered to people making 60-80 % of the median family income. Half of the new homes will be large enough for families to comfortably move into, with at least two bedrooms. Learn more.
  • State Constitutional Amendment. The state legislature referred a constitutional amendment to voters in its 2018 session that would allow bond revenue to fund nongovernmental affordable housing (unlike Portland’s housing bond which is limited to government actors meaning slower application of funds to the problem). This will ease restrictions on spending so the money can go farther, by relying more on nonprofits and the private sector to help build housing. Learn more.
  • Portland Clean Energy Fund. The Portland Clean Energy Fund is a story about us creating our own clean energy future, where new renewable energy and energy efficiency investments improve our homes, improve our city’s environment, train our workers, and support our businesses. The Portland Clean Energy Fund will lift up a community-led vision that builds resilience and wealth in the face of climate change and federal inaction. Our community can take proactive steps to fight climate change while addressing social and economic inequity by providing major new economic opportunities for low-income Portlanders, including communities of color and women. Learn more.

Thanks, as always, for your interest in our community and support of our work to make it work better for more people. We appreciate you!

Congratulations Nancy Jason! Our 2018 Hilltop Award Recipient

For almost as long as she can remember, helping people, making connections have been a central part of Nancy Jason’s life.

In middle school, and then in high school and beyond, she made time to volunteer with homelessness service organizations, feeding people in need and getting to know them. Even as a graduate student in England, Jason volunteered helping adults transition out of homelessness.

All the while, she drew on her own background as the youngest of three children in an immigrant family enduring the same ups and downs that sent others to the streets. For years, the family filled a one-bedroom apartment in Queens. Later, they left for California, moves that sent Jason to different schools for sixth, seventh and eighth grade.

“It's always been there, my heart and my passion to connect. It's always been about making a  connection and hearing someone's story,” she said. “Some people have this fear of the unknown. That's sometimes why there's such a stigma or negative perception of people who are homeless. But that kind of fear has never been a part of me.”

Today, after years of working directly with families experiencing homelessness, Jason supervises a team of advocates and others at Human Solutions, a service provider dedicated to serving families in Multnomah County who face housing instability and homelessness.

And, at the same time, she’s advising her agency’s senior leadership on best practices, helping to instill a culture of trauma-informed care at the agency and to grow the agency’s equity committee to better reflect the role that institutional racism and bias plays in poverty.

That commitment has earned Jason this year’s HILLTOP Award for Agency Staff/Volunteer Achievement.

The programs Jason oversees go to the heart of Human Solutions and Multnomah County’s shared mission of serving as a safety net for people in need.

She manages the Multnomah Stabilization Initiative, which offers flexible help to families in poverty, a rent assistance program that specifically helps parents seeking employment aid, and a housing assistance program, in partnership with the County, that works with families at Alder Elementary School.

“She brings a high level of compassion, commitment, and organization” to those programs, her nomination letter says. “Her staff respect and adore her. She expects a lot from them and she gives just as much back. She is dependable, smart, and engaged at the program level, with staff, and in her community.”

Threaded through all of that work is a commitment to pushing against institutional barriers — like racism and the trauma and lack of generational wealth it leaves.

“My own family lived close to poverty as an immigrant family in New York, but we also also had a lot privileges because we were Asian,” Jason said. “You can give someone a house, food and clothing. But it's not just about those resources. It's also about shifting a whole society and making a shift in people.”

That’s also why, she says, she strives to build trust with clients and let their experiences serve as a guide.

“It’s asking not, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ but ‘what’s happened to you?’ It helps get things in perspective,” she said. Otherwise, “you can really get lost in this field.”

 

 

Learn more about Multnomah County Volunteer Awards

The Latest @ Human Solutions

Spring Update: Lots Going On @ Human Solutions!

Dear Friends of Human Solutions,

Happy Spring! We’re ready, how about you?

We’re writing today to update you on what we’re up to here at Human Solutions these days. As usual, it’s a lot, so we picked a few highlights:

YOU'RE INVITED! BENEFIT CONCERT @ THE OLD CHURCH

We hope you’ll join us for a terrific concert this Saturday night, March 24th at The Old Church in downtown Portland. Our young Ambassador Board members put together a fun line-up and there’ll be some great raffle items, too! Get your tickets in advance here or buy them at the door (same price).

READING, WRITING, EVICTED: IMPORTANT OREGONIAN SERIES ON HOMELESS STUDENT ISSUE

In case you missed it, back in February Oregonian reporter Bethany Barnes wrote an investigative series about the impact on students of being homeless. You can read the whole series here. At Human Solutions, we work actively with the local school districts where our clients live to promote connection and open communication.

WORK WITH US! WE’RE HIRING.

Human Solutions is a rewarding place to work. We’re hiring for a range of positions right now and encourage you to see if there might be a good fit for you or a friend. Take a look and spread the word!

LOVE TO SHOP ON AMAZON? SEND US A CARE PACKAGE!

Supporting Human Solutions couldn’t be easier when you’re already shopping on Amazon, because our Women’s Shelter staff have created a “Wish List” of the things they need most. If you’re wondering what we need and how to help provide it, this is a great way to quick send a much appreciated care package! [Please Note: The delivery location is undisclosed, but it will reach us!]

SAVE THE DATE: NEW 30TH ANNIVERSARY GALA & AUCTION DATE

We’re planning a big party to celebrate our 30th Anniversary – and we shifted the date to make it the best one yet. The NEW date is Saturday, November 17, 2018 (it had been April 7, 2018). Please mark your calendars now, and we’ll be back to you this summer with details. Here’s a link to learn more – including how to sponsor the event and donate to our auction. See you this fall!

 Thanks for reading and for always supporting Human Solutions and the wonderful folks we serve.

Andy Miller, Executive DirectorYours,

PS – Care to make a donation online? It’s easy right here – and thanks!

Human Solutions Statement on OPB’s Series about the Family Center

Dear Friends & Supporters of Human Solutions,

Like many of you, I woke up Tuesday, February 20th to hear a sobering, difficult and, in places, one-sided account of the history of our Family Center by OPB reporter Amelia Templeton. We welcomed Amelia into our Family Center a few months ago to help tell the hidden story of family homelessness from the perspective of our shelter guests - who are struggling to secure permanent housing within a system stressed and overcrowded by the increasing demand for services, compounded by the local housing crisis that has made shelter stays too long and exiting homelessness into permanent housing a very difficult process for most of our families.  

Amelia’s reporting changed over time to focus on what she believed to be a history of issues with our acquisition of the site, health and safety concerns with our building and low-barrier approach — a system that for most of our time in operations turned no family away. We cooperated with her reporting, provided her access to our staff and guests and shared documentation of our historical efforts to address conditions at the shelter in a timely and thorough way. The first of Amelia’s reports aired on the 20th, and we understand additional reporting will air over the next several days.   

While today’s report questioned the safety record at the Family Center, we  believe a more fair and balanced portrayal would have focused on the balancing act our staff was asked to perform daily and nightly as we managed - in the most compassionate way our limited budget and staffing capacity allowed -  an ever-growing demand for shelter in an aging building. We acquired the building over two years ago in cooperation with our partners at Multnomah County as a site to provide temporary shelter because - with modest modifications and public investment - the building provided a significant upgrade from our previous shelter site that lacked showers, laundry, sleeping cots and a kitchen.  The relatively low level of required public investment stemmed from the fact that the building, while aging, included an operable kitchen, ADA compliant restrooms and infrastructure that could easily accommodate the addition of needed showers and laundry facilities. It was located near transit and in the area of the County in which many of our clients called home before experiencing homelessness. Our plan at acquisition was to operate the shelter on a temporary basis for 5 to 6 years — the “best guess” anticipated lifespan of the aging roof - after which we planned to tear the shelter down and redevelop the site into badly-needed affordable housing.  We would use that window to work with Multnomah County on plans for a more permanent shelter.

Almost immediately after opening in February, 2016, Human Solutions experienced a substantial increase in demand for shelter services and, unlike any other shelter in our community, we turned no family seeking shelter away. In order to accommodate every family who needed shelter, we made use of overflow space across the street in a church as extra sleeping space to accommodate the high demand. That meant that the shelter’s showers, laundry, kitchen and common areas were regularly very crowded, and that the infrastructure at the shelter was used more heavily than anticipated.  Last winter, the building’s roof, predicted at purchase to have about five years of usable life, took the beating of an icy, rainy winter and showed its age. Recently, we have had to tarp the roof to stop small water leaks and ultimately have decided with the County to temporarily suspend operations while we assess the condition of the roof and other major infrastructure. We will be completing that assessment over the next few weeks to determine what investments will be required to safely and sustainably reopen the Family Center. 

Last fall, as our nightly shelter census expanded to almost 500% of what our average census was at the time we planned the acquisition and opening of the Family Center, we worked with Multnomah County to suspend the “no turn away” model to reduce crowding and improve conditions for guests and to create a more manageable workload for our staff. It was a difficult decision that likely put some families in need of shelter at risk of living on the cold streets. But it was the right decision for our operation and has made a difference in our ability to support families in the Family Center and nearby emergency stay motels and - perhaps most importantly -  to successfully move more families into permanent housing.

We take any and all safety and health concerns seriously.  This week’s OPB story was sobering, and we will stay tuned to the balance of OPB’s series and may post additional comments and factual clarifications. While we appreciate that conditions in the heavily used mass shelter were at times crowded and that maintenance and sanitation issues in an aging building presented constant challenges, our team responded quickly and diligently to concerns as they were called to our attention. Mass shelters are hard, stressful work environments, and we salute and uphold our Family Center workforce that continues to support our sheltered families, for now in local motels.   

We will be using this pause in our shelter operations and the current reporting to assess how we can better support our shelter teams to respond to the emerging needs of our guest families as we move forward. Excellence is always our goal, and we will do what it takes to serve our community to meet our highest standard in everything we do. While we acknowledge that we did not meet that standard every day at the crowded Family Center, we believe our record of caring compassionately for the safety of families we serve is strong and that the context in which we have been working was important to share with each of you. We found the omission of that context from the report deeply troubling.      

We appreciate your continued support of Human Solutions, which includes not only emergency shelters but also permanent affordable housing, resident services, and employment support for many who call East Multnomah County home. If we can answer any questions you may have about these stories or our work, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are as committed and passionate as ever about our work to not only provide shelter to families experiencing poverty and homelessness, but to support them on a pathway to a better place.  

Yours,

Andy Miller, Executive Director

On behalf of the Board and staff at Human Solutions

 

Thank you, Weston Kia!

source: Gresham Outlook

Three local nonprofits dedicated to supporting the less fortunate in the community received a generous donation from Jan Weston and Weston KIA during a reception Tuesday morning, Jan. 31, at My Father's House, 5003 W. Powell Blvd.

Human Solutions, SnowCap Community Charities and My Father's House all received $15,000 each.

"I am proud and honored to give a gift to these three organizations," Weston said. "They all do a lot of good work in our community."

Weston made the donation in part to honor the memory of his father, Jim Weston, who died Dec. 26 at the age of 78. Jim was a generous person whose charitable actions defined his life.

"My father loved to give, so we are following that tradition through these donations," Jan Weston said.

About 30 people attended the reception. Several representatives from each nonprofit organization also spoke, talking about how the money will be used.

Representing Human Solutions was Executive Director Andy Miller and Board Chair Carla Piluso; for SnowCap it was Executive Director Judy Alley and Board Chair Merlin Aufdengarten; and for My Father's House it was Executive Director Cathe Wiese.

All three of the groups receiving donations work closely together throughout the year.

"It's not hard to partner together, because we all deal with a specific piece of the pie," Wiese said. "It is an opportunity for all of us to work together to make things better for families."

The groups expressed how timely the donation was, especially in light of recent weather events that curtailed fundraising events. This left a void of resources during a time when many struggle to pay their bills.

"This donation couldn't have come at a better time," Miller said. "Our community is facing a housing crisis of epic proportions."

The sentiment was echoed by SnowCap.

"We are very short on supplies," Alley said, "and with low-income students having to eat at home during the days without school, mothers need food now more than ever."

At the end of the reception Weston was presented with a certificate of appreciation, thanking him for the financial support.

• Human Solutions works to help low-income and homeless families and individuals gain self-sufficiency by providing affordable housing, family support services, job readiness training and economic development opportunities. It can be reched at 503-548-0200.

• SnowCap is an organization created to provide food, clothing, advocacy and other services to the poor. It can be reached at 503-674-8785.

• My Father's House is a shelter ministry that works to meet the needs of homeless families by providing a safe environment for families to address spiritual, physical and emotional needs. Connect with them at 503-492-3046

acoustic snip 2016

Acoustic Awareness – A Benefit for Human Solutions

The Human Solutions Ambassador Board would like to invite you to a special acoustic concert benefiting Human Solutions at 7 pm on November 19th, 2016 at the Old Church.

And And And with special guests Ill Lucid Onset and Alyce Fernley will ditch the amps and electronics for a one-time-only special all acoustic concert to benefit Human Solutions. Come for the music and the unique ambiance of the Old Church, and leave knowing you have benefited a local organization that provides services and support to homeless and low income families in the Portland area.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Eventbrite here.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page to show your friends that you are going and spread the word!

What: Acoustic Awareness – A Benefit for Human Solutions
Where: The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97201
When: November 19th at 7:00 pm

Thank you for your support and we can’t wait to share this exciting experience with you!

Strategic and Equity Planning Request for Proposals – Closed

Human Solutions is seeking an experienced organizational consultant to work with the Board of Directors, senior agency leadership, staff and selected stakeholders to develop a Strategic and Equity Plan that will guide the direction, priorities and key business decision-making for the agency over the next three-five years.

For more information about this opportunity, read the Request for Proposals here or contact Tanja Lux, Chief Financial Officer.

Thank you for supporting LearnLinks!

A big THANK YOU to the following foundations for awarding grants to our LearnLinks Program, which provides academic assistance, mentoring, and leadership opportunities to youth living in affordable housing complexes in East Portland and East Multnomah County. Their support is making a difference for more than 100 youth this year!

reserThe Reser Family Foundation

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The Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust