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.  


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


The Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust

Yes For Affordable Homes!

yes 54

We’re thrilled to announce that in the month since the Portland City Council referred an affordable housing bond measure to the November ballot — and the Yes for Affordable Homes campaign officially launched — 54 organizations and businesses have endorsed the measure!

From the Yes for Affordable Homes website:

Working parents and seniors should be able to afford housing, and still have enough money for groceries and necessities – but our community’s skyrocketing rents are making that impossible for too many. Portland has a shortage of about 24,000 affordable homes and apartments for families and seniors making less than $37,000 per year.

On November 8, Portland voters will have a chance to vote YES for affordable housing, by approving a historic bond measure. This bond funding would help fill the affordable housing gap, creating safe, affordable housing for thousands of people who live and work in our communities.

Yes to Affordable Homes is a broad coalition of individuals and organizations working to support the affordable housing bond measure, and make Portland a place everyone can afford to call home

Depave event at Human Solutions Family Center

Check out these photos from our Depave event this Saturday!

Depave, a non-profit whose mission is to remove unnecessary pavement from urban areas to create community green spaces, partnered with Human Solutions to help create a green space at the Human Solutions Family Center.

We had a great turn out at the event and a whole lot of fun! Thank you to everyone who came out and made this event a huge success!

Stay tuned for more information about our progress, as we complete the space with raised garden beds, a rain garden and a children’s play area.

Thanks for Attending Seed Today for Roots Tomorrow

Thank you to everyone who attended Dennis 7 Dees’ Farm to Table Garden Party!  We raised over $8,000 for Human Solutions’ programs to serve families in need.


What could be better than helping children foster a love of gardening?

Please join us for a benefit dinner & garden party to help raise funds for Human Solutions’ gardening programs.

With your partnership, we work to help homeless and low-income children achieve their full potential. Your support will provide the needed plants, tools, equipment and materials necessary for gardening projects. Gardening is used as a tool to unlock a child’s ability to nurture and helps them grow into responsible adults. As the gardens develop and bloom, so will the children who create them.

Wednesday, July 27th @ 6:30pm
at the SE Portland Garden Center.
6025 SE Powell Blvd.
Tickets are $100

Delicious food and beverages, tomato tastings, live entertainment, raffle prizes and much more!


Former strip club opens as family homeless shelter

From The Portland Tribune:

Human Solutions opened its new family homeless shelter Tuesday, just 10 weeks after the organization announced the purchase of the former strip club on the border of Portland and Gresham.

Andy Miller was just a few days into his job as the nonprofit’s executive director when he had to sell Multnomah County commissioners on the idea of converting the Black Cauldron club into a shelter.

“It wasn’t just a strip club,” Miller remembered. “It was a dark, vegan playground. That’s what the sign said. It was dark and dirty. The poles were still up.”

Miller announced the purchase in October, around the same time that Human Solution’s shelter at Southeast 161st Avenue and Burnside Street was opening for the winter. That shelter will now close.

Gresham-based Human Solutions was in desperate need of a new place that could be open year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with more space for families and individuals.

“The housing crisis that we’ve been reading about is all too real,” said Miller. “There are forces of displacement punching this community in the face.”

On the outside, the Black Cauldron still looks like a neglected A-frame mountain lodge that was once the Woodshed restaurant. Inside, it’s now unrecognizable as a strip club. There are crisp, white walls and new hardwood floors. The bathrooms are big and bright and have showers. There’s a play area for children, a meeting room and an outdoor sitting area.

The shelter accommodates up to 130 adults and children and has semi-private areas for mothers and infants.

Human Solutions purchased the Black Cauldron for $950,000 with the county providing about three-quarters of the money. HDC Community Fund also helped finance the project.

Last year, Human Solutions served 960 people, with over 50 percent of those people being children.

“A project that moves this quickly requires a ton of people to move toward the finish line,” said Miller.

He gave special thanks to Holst Arhitecture, which did design work for free, general contractor Colas Construction, shelter director Charles Hodge and his staff.

Celebrating opening a shelter is tricky business for an organization whose goal is to end homelessness, Miller acknowledged.

“We are thankful and thrilled to be delivering the shelter, but I wish we didn’t need one,” Miller said. “I wish we were closing one.”

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury echoed those sentiments.

“It is with mixed emotions that we come here today,” Kafoury said. “The fact that we are opening a shelter that is necessary is troubling.”

Kafoury became emotional when she talked about visiting the shelter and seeing children waiting out in the cold and rain to get inside to a warm bed.

“It is not enough,” Kafoury said. “We need to work together to ensure that there is a home for everyone.”

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Jo Ann Hardesty, a Human Solutions board member, speaks Monday at the grand opening for the non-profit groups new family homeless shelter on East Burnside Street.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA – Jo Ann Hardesty, a Human Solutions board member, speaks Monday at the grand opening for the non-profit groups new family homeless shelter on East Burnside Street.

Jo Ann Hardesty, a member of the Human Solutions Board of Directors and president of the Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was grateful to see the strip club become something positive for the community.

“I live four blocks down the street so having a strip club turn into a family center is near and dear to my heart,” Hardesty said. “I live in a community that most of the time feels like it’s forgotten. This is what it looks like when leaders listen to the people they represent.”

Hardesty finished her comments with a challenge to the politicians in the room, including Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Gresham councilors Kirk French, Lori Stegmann and Council President Mario Palmero, to address the need for affordable housing.

“I want to remind you this is not a home,” Hardesty said. “When talk about affordable housing, let’s talk real numbers. “If you’re working for minimum wage, you cannot afford to live in the city of Portland.”



Keep Portland Warm!

2nd Annual Blanket Drive: November 11-25

Pendleton Woolen Mills is once again partnering with Human Solutions to help homeless families at our family shelter keep warm this winter. Bring a new or gently used blanket to a participating Pendleton Woolen Mills store or purchase a $39 dorm blanket to donate to Human Solutions, and they will thank you with a 20% discount card to use for a future purchase. You will also be entered into a drawing to win a beautiful Pendleton throw. Pendleton will donate one dorm blanket for every five purchased.

Participating Stores:

Downtown Portland Store
900 SW 5th Ave.
Portland OR 97204
(Entrance on 4th Ave.)

Columbia Gorge Store
450 NW 257th Ave.
Troutdale, OR 97060

Washougal Store
2 Pendleton Way
Washougal, WA 98671