From Shawna: August Volunteers are All About Action!

I hope this note finds you and yours healthy and well. These are challenging times for all of us, in different ways. In the midst of all the distress in our community, something that remains incredibly heartening is the way people keep showing up. In addition to working directly with those in need, we are also working to build a supportive community where we all play a role in ensuring everyone can thrive – and the housing and economic justice that underpins health, well-being and, yes, the pursuit of happiness.

All that said, I am writing to share some fun news and invite you to help out as we meet our community’s needs. One thing we have heard over and over from those volunteering and donating important items: it sustains them, too, providing meaning when we aren’t always sure how to be useful.

 

Partnerships Make It Possible

We are so grateful for our partnerships with the Sunshine Division, the Portland Police Bureau’s charity arm, and the Hood to Coast COVID response team. Together we have been providing free fresh food boxes – filled with produce, dairy and meat - to 150 families in our affordable housing communities every week. In July, our generous friends at Titan Freight – including Keith Wilson and his daughter Lily, pictured here with a lot of new friends they met while social distancing – picked up and delivered the boxes to several locations. It really does take a village.

This fresh food box program is one of several new partnerships that are helping us increase resources available to our program participants. Big thanks this month also go to Eastside Starbucks and Red Lobster, who are stepping up to share food with our networks. 76 BBQ, a SE Portland food cart, is cooking for us weekly now, and Portland Rescue Mission continues to be an incredible partner, feeding our shelter residents from their own job training program. We feel fortunate to have such generous and caring partners in this difficult moment.

 

Meet Brielle, Our Newest Team Member!

Welcome to Brielle Jones, our new Volunteer & In-Kind Donations Specialist! You may have met Brielle at our Powell Blvd. office reception desk, where she has been fielding calls for assistance and helping to manage our offices. We are thrilled that she is joining our team this month, working with me so we can expand our volunteer and in-kind donation opportunities and better meet the needs of our community. Welcome, Brielle! When you  contact Human Solutions, you’ll be working with one of us to find the right volunteer opportunity.

 

New COVID Shelter for Women-Identifying, Non-Binary & Gender Queer Folks

As you may be aware, our 90-bed women’s shelter is a group setting, so to meet social distancing requirements during COVID we have worked with Multnomah County to reduce the number of people staying there. To continue sheltering 90 people, we opened a new motel location for 60 people where they can have their own room and bath, a safer layout for those vulnerable to COVID. We are working closely with the new shelter team to find out what they need in the way of volunteer help. The new location is near Mall 205 in East Portland, in case that’s convenient for you. You can read about this new shelter and two others the County is opening in this press release.

 

Summertime = Sewing Time!

There are several active, local quilting/sewing communities supporting our work, bringing everything from scarves and COVID masks to beautiful home-made blankets all year round. This month we have a special shout-out to Gladstone Church of the Nazarene, who donated over 30 quilts - plus a pile of hats and scarves for our family shelter. It may not be cold right now, but it will be before we know it.

This cheerful team had already donated once, but realized they had more to give, so they circled back and added to their offerings!  HUGE thanks to all the crafters and sewing-machine artists for your work, your commitment and your heart! We’ve lost count of how many lovingly sewn COVID masks you have given for residents of our shelters and affordable housing communities.

 

Special Kudos

With big love and thanks, we bid a fond farewell to our rockstar volunteer Sara De La Torre Rust (pictured here with her husband Jacob), who worked with us for several months as she completed her studies at Portland State University. Sara made a name for herself when she repeatedly helped pick up food donations for our shelters -- at odd hours and at zero moments’ notice! Thanks, Sara! You will be missed.

(Could you fill these shoes? We always need folks who can pick up and deliver food and other donations – on call or regularly. It’s a low-contact way to volunteer during COVID. Call or text me @ 503.278.1637 and find out how you can help

Ready to Help? Great. Let’s Get Started…

I check in weekly – sometimes daily – with our emergency shelter managers and resident services team at our 17 affordable housing communities. That way, I can share with you what their top needs are now. Here’s what they’re telling me this month:

  • Bath towels
  • Bed linens (twin, queen)
  • COVID masks
  • Drivers to pick up and deliver donations – on-call or regularly.
  • Group dinners (for 40, 60, or 120 people)
  • Sack lunches
  • Toiletries (razors, travel-size soap, shampoo & conditioner, hand sanitizer)

If you’ve been looking for a way to make a difference and feel more connected to your community, this could be just the thing! Contact me to learn more, or sign up today: 503.278.1637 or volunteer@humansolutions.org.

 

Save the Date: A Virtual Conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

We hope you’ll join us on the evening of October 1st for a very timely virtual art performance and conversation about being anti-racist. We are thrilled to be hosting brilliant thought leader Dr. Ibram X. Kendi  (“How to Be An Anti-Racist,” among other books and articles) and Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty, longtime policy reform activist who also serves as our Board Vice-President. Details to come. For now, please mark your calendar for 6-7:30 PM on Thursday, October 1, 2020. It should a thought-provoking event for all of us.

Thank you, as always, for all the wonderful contributions you are making these days. It’s meeting needs and spreading joy around East Portland / East Multnomah County, one of the hardest hit areas in the state during this health and economic pandemic.

Yours in community,

Shawna Hoffman, Volunteer & In-Kind Donations Coordinator

PS – Short on time but still want to help? You can make a financial contribution right here 24/7. THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO!

Your July Update: Be Part of this Moment With Us!

Hi Folks,

I hope this message finds you and yours healthy - and that you are finding hope for the future we are building together. This moment is a stark reminder that our current economic and housing systems are failing too many of us. At the same time we are more inspired than ever to keep doing what we have been doing: partnering with people to push back against the oppressive forces that make it harder and harder for people struggling to meet their needs. One thing is for sure: those who are oppressed by the systems that are failing them are the best architects of an equitable future. As a multicultural organization, our job is to center their experiences, voices and ideas as we build a better tomorrow. We are living in tumultuous but exciting times, and we are glad you are here with us to make the very most of it.

In this month’s eNews we have a smorgasbord for you, from a new shelter to volunteer opportunities and a fall event you won’t want to miss.

New (Temporary) Emergency Shelter: The Chestnut Tree Inn

For a handful of years Human Solutions has partnered with Multnomah County to operate two emergency shelters, one for adults who identify as women/non-binary/gender queer and another for families with dependent children. During the COVID pandemic, we have worked closely with the County and fellow shelter operators to ensure safety across the region’s shelter system, which is especially important given the medical vulnerability of many shelter residents. To do that, we have opened new spaces to enable the social distancing needed to halt community spread.

Starting this month, Human Solutions will be temporarily operating a third shelter, this one also for adults identifying as women. We’re in a motel near Mall 205 in East Portland called The Chestnut Tree Inn, and we welcome your engagement as we meet residents’ needs. Our top need is always meals, but from time to time other donated items come in handy, too, like art & craft supplies, hygiene items and new/gently used bedding and towels.

If you’re inspired to help out (and we hope you are!), please contact Shawna, our volunteer and donations coordinator, at 503.278.1637 or volunteer@human​solutions.org.

SAVE THE DATE: How to Be an Anti-Racist with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

We are honored to host a special event with national thought leader and writer Dr. Ibram Kendi, who wrote the now bestselling book, “How to Be an Anti-Racist.” He is the founding director of Boston University’s Center for Anti-Racist Research and more than anyone has defined and promoted our need to become “anti racist,” which requires much more from us than simply being “not racist.” At Human Solutions, we have committed to Dr. Kendi’s goal of becoming a consistently anti-racist organization and are taking active steps toward that goal.

While we had originally planned to host Dr. Kendi in person in Portland, we have pivoted to creating a COVID-safe event that we think you’ll love. Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty, a longtime police reform advocate and the Vice-President of our Board of Directors, will help host this event that is shaping up to be a pre-election day highlight of the fall season!

I sincerely hope you will join us on Thursday evening, October 1st for this important conversation. We will be sharing more details and an opportunity to RSVP in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we recommend that you grab a copy of the book from the library or order one from one of these Black-owned bookstores.

What We’re Reading: Anti-Racism & Fixing Our Inequitable Economy

You’re probably tracking your fair share of media these days to stay on top of COVID and better understand our nation’s racist history and the urgent need for racial justice. We sure are! A few readings and other sources have really captured our attention, so we wanted to share:

Spring Appeal Helps Us Bounce Back

Thanks to all who helped make our Spring Fund Drive, which we launched in the wake of our postponed gala this Spring, a huge success. We are overwhelmed by the response from our community, which helped us secure a $25,000 match from a generous donor - and then some! As you might imagine, the need in our community is real: participants in our programs and residents in our affordable housing communities face a daunting array of obstacles, from higher-than-average COVID infection rates to job loss and the burden of our region’s ongoing housing emergency. We asked, and you responded. Words cannot express our gratitude for the caring, commitment and generosity of our supporters. Here are the highlights:

  • 220 people pitched in with financial contrbutions!
  • Some folks gave their stimulus checks. One said: “You can put my IRS stimulus to better use than I can."
  • The largest gift was $15,000
  • The smallest gift was $10 (every dollar counts!)
  • All together people’s individual contributions added up to something BIG: $68,395 in donations + $25,000 match = $93,395.

And don’t worry, if you missed out you can still join this collective effort by giving online or mailing your donation to: Human Solutions, 12350 SE Powell Blvd., Portland, OR 97236. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!

Juneteenth: Re-Learning American History

On June 19th, for the first time in our organization’s 31-year history, Human Solutions observed the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the day when President Abraham Lincoln's troops liberated enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, two and a half years after they had been legally free.

We know that commemorating an important moment on our nation’s path from slavery is not the full answer to our long history of racial injustice, but it is one of many ways we can call attention to and make space for reflection and action about this very relevant history and the related injustices in our present.

Human Solutions’ commitment to and work toward racial justice is central to our work and spelled out in our Strategic & Equity Plan. You can read the email I sent to our entire staff announcing this new holiday and other actions we are taking to support our Black staff and continue moving our organization toward the anti-racist, truly inclusive workplace we strive to become.

HOW TO HELP: Volunteers Move Mountains for Our Community

You all have really been coming through with meals and donations for our shelter residents and other program participants in 2020 (including hundreds of beautiful hand-sewn masks!). Thank you for diving into community in this way – we appreciate you. This month, our top needs are:

  • Drivers to pick up and deliver donations, often food.
  • Meals, lovingly prepared by you (hot dinners, sack lunches, breakfast muffins, and more)
  • Hygiene items, especially travel sizes for shelter residents.
  • Arts & craft supplies for women in shelter.
  • Sewing machine and fabric to sew masks (and we are still accepting donated masks, too!).
  • Kids activities and toys for families in shelter.

You can gather items from friends and family, shop online and have it sent to us, or shop in local stores and deliver it. Up to you! We maintain several Wish Lists on Amazon that you can just click and ship from the safety of home. Learn more and/or sign up by contacting Shawna, our awesome volunteer and donations coordinator, at 503.278.1637 or volunteer@humansolutions.org. Thanks for all you do!

As always, thanks for reading and being part of our thoughtful and growing community. We’re inspired to do this work and when we do it with you by our side, it’s really powerful.

Take good care and let’s build back better - together.

 

 

 

Andy Miller, Executive Director, and the whole team at Human Solutions

PS – Reminder that you can still contribute to our Spring Fund Drive (even though it’s Summer!).

Memo from the ED: Juneteenth (6/19/2020) will be a paid holiday at Human Solutions this year and other steps to support our staff of color in this moment

from: Andy Miller

To all Human Solutions Staff:

 

I write this Monday afternoon to share a few steps Human Solutions is taking to more deeply support our staff of color, especially our Black staff, at this moment of uprising and anguish as our nation confronts our history and current state of racial injustice.  All of these suggestions came in some form from input from our Anti-Oppression and Diversity Committee members and from other black and brown staff about how we can better support black and brown members of the Human Solution team – thanks to all who took the time to respond to my request to share your thinking.  What follows are a list of changes we are making immediately to better align our organization with anti-racism and to provide staff who may need time and space with the means to take it:

  • Juneteenth:  This Friday, June 19th, we will celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth – a special day in our history that acknowledges and celebrates the legal ending of slavery in America in 1865.  Human Solutions will add this day to our Holiday calendar for 2020  and will close our organization and treat it as a paid holiday pursuant to our Personnel Policies.  As with any other Holiday, staff are free to utilize the day as they wish. I do want to broadly encourage staff to seek more meaning and understanding of this day and to join local Juneteenth events, including this one, which will include local music and speakers livestreamed from a local venue.  We will be seeking board approval to add this holiday to our policies for subsequent years.  Given that Friday is also a timesheet day, we ask that you complete your timesheets by the end of Thursday. Sorry for the short notice on this new Holiday and Happy Juneteenth!
  • We will be adding 3 days – 24 hours (pro-rated for part time staff) – of limited, special bereavement leave for impacted staff to use upon demand to process their grief and emotions, participate in activities that advance the cause of making black lives matter, lend their time to black-led movement organizations or to otherwise create needed space and time right now given the moment we are in.   Human Resources will be sharing updated procedures for requesting and making use of this added time off very shortly.
  • We have asked all managers to check in directly and often with their BIPOC staff and to encourage offers of time and space and to remind folks of the availability of our Employee Assistance Program.
  • Human Solutions will pay bail - up to $5,000 – for any staff arrested while participating in activities related to advancing the cause of Black Lives Matter.   This is intended to support staff’s participation in local or national actions intended to seek racial justice.   HR will also be providing information on how to access this new employee benefit.

We do not believe that the above-outlined steps begin to address all of the pain and inequity experienced by our staff of color.  My hope is that they do signal that we are listening, and that the voices of our BIPOC staff will increasingly shape the ways in which our organization can ensure a more equitable, supportive Human Solutions for all staff.  Soon, we will be announcing some additional ways in which we will be coming together in the next few months to continue our work to advance racial equity.

As always, please feel free to share with me your thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams as we continue to grow Human Solutions to become the truly anti-racist organization we all envision.

In Solidarity,

Andy Miller, Executive Director

Human Solutions

Pronouns: He/Him/His

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on the Fourth of July

Hi Everyone --

This isn’t just any July 4th holiday, is it?  This year, this traditional holiday is an opportunity to reflect on the very meaning of our nation – and its promise. At Human Solutions, we know that building a better future depends on understanding and acknowledging our past. We are both realistic about our traumatic past and optimistic that together we can build a better future where Black Lives Matter and all of us experience housing and economic security in a society defined by racial justice. For us, these are the bedrock foundations of a just society. We can accept nothing less.

America is struggling on this July 4th. We are grappling with a pandemic we did not adequately prepare for and a national reckoning of our four centuries of racial injustice in the wake of the unjust murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and so many more. COVID-19 has, not surprisingly, exposed our persistent inequities, as Black and brown Americans bear the brunt of the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus. As we acknowledge our shared pain, we at Human Solutions are also focusing on making the most of this moment to intentionally and equitably build the road ahead – for our community and our nation - so that we make our collective way to justice, quickly. When we arrive, what a celebration we will have!

As we help build the road to justice, we turn to those with lived experience to lead the way. Some Black leaders we are listening to in this most American of moments (links to their Twitter feeds):

  • Mia Birdsong, whom we hosted last fall in Portland to talk about building community and seeing people in poverty as strong, not weak.
  • JoAnn Hardesty, our own Board Vice President and Portland City Commissioner whose longtime work to reform the police is so relevant today.
  • Nicole Hannah Jones, whose work on “The 1619 Project” opened a nation’s eyes to the early and cruel beginnings we are still reeling from today.
  • Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, who will join Human Solutions for a virtual event in October to talk about what it means to be an anti-racist.

We hope to see you with us on this most important of journeys. Now more than ever we need each other.

Yours on the road to justice,

 

 

Andy Miller & the whole team at Human Solutions

PS – Want to jump into this work with us? Great, we’d love to have you. Connect with Shawna, our volunteer & in-kind donations coordinator: 503.278.1637 or volunteer@humansolutions.org. No time, but want to support us? Thanks! You can always contribute online, 24/7.

Our Community is Really Stepping Up: Here’s How

Our Work Must Be Driven By and Toward Racial Justice

I sincerely hope this message finds you and yours healthy and safe. It goes without saying that this is a trying time on many levels for our local and our global community. Human Solutions condemns the violent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor - and all who have come before, names we know and others we never will - and stands with their families and friends in their call for justice. Our hearts right now are with our Black staff, program participants and partners; we support them as they endure more painful reminders of the simple injustice that it is still not safe to be Black in America. At Human Solutions, we have pledged to advance the cause of racial justice every day and will continue to work to undo the knots racism and anti-blackness tie around our strangled community. In fact, our 2018-2023 Strategic & Equity Plan lays out that work and we invite you to review it here.

In East Multnomah County where Human Solutions has made our home for 32 years, we are doing everything we can to support our team and our neighbors through one of the most trying times in recent history. As you may know, the east side of the Portland metro area has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 - it also is one of the most diverse areas of our state and one that has suffered from years of disinvestment and institutional neglect. It comes as no surprise to us that People of Color and other oppressed communities living in our service area suffer disproportionately from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

For Human Solutions, these facts only increase the importance of our work to counter the forces causing poverty and homelessness and reinforce the urgent need to build the healthy neighborhoods that our community has been demanding. We are determined to use this moment to shine an even brighter light on the racism built into our housing and economic systems so that we cannot simply recover from COVID-19 - but can in fact can #BuildBackBetter. We plan a reset, not a reopening, because what we had before the pandemic only set the stage for its grave impact on our community. Our vision has been and remains a region that works for everyone, where housing and economic justice become the air we breathe, where the toxic forces of White Supremacy and patriarchy that cause poverty, homelessness and oppression are vanquished. If it sounds like a big vision and a lot of work, that’s because it is.

THANK YOU for being part of the Human Solutions community; together we are capable of accomplishing this most important task.

- Andy

A Note from Shawna, Our Volunteer & Donations Coordinator

Hello from Human Solutions!  I sure hope that you and your loved ones are staying healthy. I am writing from my home office, aka volunteer central for Human Solutions J  Those of us who can are still working remotely until it feels safe to return to our offices. Our frontline workers are doing hero’s work in our emergency shelters and other support programs. As the volunteer and donations coordinator for our two emergency shelters

I am writing today for two reasons: 1) to update you on the amazing community support we are seeing in this moment and 2) to share ways for you to plug in if and when you are able. We know not everyone has time right now or can get out. If that’s you, we invite you to help by shopping our Amazon WishLists or making a financial contribution.

We Are So Grateful! Incredible Community Support Happening!

Huge thanks go out from everyone at Human Solutions to all of you who have stepped up to make our programs work and to invest time, energy, and donations of all kinds. You are showing us what it means to build a supportive community where every one of us has an affordable place to call home and the economic autonomy to pursue their dreams. Thank you!

A few awesome things to share:

  • We have been partnering with Blanchet House on the west side to bring hundreds of sack lunches to shelter and affordable housing residents. Here’s a photo of me delivering some to the Gresham Women’s Shelter! We’re grateful to them and all the folks around the region making the lunches. What a community effort!
  • We’re also partnering with the Portland Rescue Mission to prepare hot dinners some nights, which residents love. They also treated both shelters to their mobile food truck last week, rolling in and serving street tacos one night and BBQ the next. Pre COVID they operated the truck as a for-profit business to help fund their programming, but with that business at a standstill they are donating their meals to keep their job training program running.
  • In another important new partnership, we’re working with The Rosewood Initiative and Prosper Portland in a win-win arrangement where government funding is being used to help small, local businesses cook meals for our shelters. East Portland restaurants Chai Thai and Nelly's Taqueria are feeding nearly 150 shelter residents every Sunday and Monday night through June. The Rosewood Initiative has a GoFundMe to keep the program going once the Prosper funds run out.
  • Folks are sewing us masks! Wow, the sewers in our community are very busy and generous, too! Thank you to all the industrious sewers out there who have reached out and helped us make sure that our staff and program participants have the protection they need to stay healthy right now. Aren’t the rainbow of masks in this photo gorgeous? A local woman made them for us! Building community is beautiful J

Wow, right? Our community is really stepping up right now and it feels so great! Let’s keep it going forever, right? I think we can!

How You Can Help Now: We Still Need You!

I touch base with our shelter managers weekly if not more to see what they need from the community. At the moment, topping their list is:

Lilac Meadows Family Shelter (drop off at 7740 SE Powell)

Gresham Women’s Shelter (drop off at 162nd & E Burnside)

  • Hygiene items like shampoo/conditioner, razors, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste
  • Art supplies like colored markers and pencils, art paper for painting, coloring books (adult), other creative supplies (jewelry making, knitting, etc…)
  • New or gently used bath towels
  • Here’s our Amazon Wish List for this shelter.

LearnLinks Kids’ Program (Contact Tonya at tparson@humansolutions.org)

Do you have a license, time and access to a car? We are building a list of volunteer drivers to help us pick up and deliver donated items when needed. Just email or call me and I’ll add you to the list and be happy to answer any questions you have.

We’re also very open to your ideas! Please reach out anytime – some of our best ideas come from you out in the community.  You can reach me three ways:

I look forward to connecting with you soon. It’s really heartening in these times to see our community take care of those impacted hardest by COVID and our inequitable economy and housing markets. Thank you for being part of this community we love and call home.

 

Voters Said: Yes, We are All Here Together!

Local voters made history this week by supporting ballot measure 26-210 to robustly fund services  for people experiencing homelessness in our region.

The Portland metro community voted yes because they want to #BuildBackBetter and emerge from the coronavirus pandemic as a stronger, healthier community that takes care of its most oppressed members. We know everyone is safer when they get the services they need. On election night, people embraced a vision of our future that reflects our values more fully and rejects lowering our expectations based on fear and selfishness. This was an unprecedented opportunity to do what literally no other region in the country has attempted: to put together a measure that would fund resources at a scale and for a duration that would help end our chronic homeless crisis.

Everyone at Human Solutions is thrilled that Portland area voters supported Measure 26-210. This measure will not only bring the significant resources needed to solve a significant problem, it addresses the inequity underlying our economy that leaves so many with so little while others have more than enough – because the system is rigged. It’s time to really roll up our sleeves and ensure that everyone in our community has an affordable place to call home – especially People of Color who have been harmed by housing racism since the beginning of our nation.

--Human Solutions Executive Director Andy Miller

Human Solutions was proud to play a role in this victory as an active participant in the HereTogether coalition, a passionate coalition of advocates, leading members of the business community, nonprofit organizations, and elected leaders, we engaged with area voters during this period of #StayHomeStaySafe. Voters showed we truly are all here together.

We didn’t come together to pass an initiative, we united to end our homeless crisis. Passing this measure  is not the end of our efforts. It is the beginning.