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 firstname.lastname@example.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:
- Ibram X. Kendi’s “How To Be An Anti-Racist” and his new teen book: “Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism & You” really hit home. Here’s a quick clip with Dr. Kendi and co-author Jason Reynolds on The Daily Show. SPECIAL NOTE: We are very pleased to be hosting an event with Dr. Kendi this fall (see above for details)
- NPR’s “A ‘Forgotten History’ of How the U.S. Government Segregated America” offers an excellent 35-minute listen. Something we noted: when we say “the government did it” it sounds as if people didn’t do it, but we’ve all collaborated with systemic racism in America.
- US News’ “Segregation’s Legacy.” Fifty years after the Fair Housing Act was signed, America is nearly as segregated as it was when President Lyndon Johnson signed the law.
- NY Times “America Needs Some Repairs: Here’s Where to Start,” is an excellent, thorough opinion piece laying out a roadmap to greater economic equality. We couldn’t agree more with the article’s tagline: “This nation began as a set of promises that it has yet to keep.”
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 email@example.com. 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!).
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.
Andy Miller, Executive Director
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. No time, but want to support us? Thanks! You can always contribute online, 24/7.