The Pizza Challenge

The Pizza Challenge

“I want to give you a challenge, a pizza challenge to try one new topping on your pizza. Will you accept this challenge?” asked Rebecca Marson, Program Assistant with Oregon State University’s (OSU) SNAP-Ed program. For the last three summers, OSU Extension’s Food Hero program has come to Arbor Glen, one of Human Solutions properties, to teach elementary school children how to cook nutritious meals.

Gathered in the classroom at Arbor Glen's community space

 

One summer Tuesday, nine kids raced up the stairs to accept her challenge. The ingredients they chose from included foods from all the MyPlate food groups: green peppers, red onions, mushrooms, olives, pineapple, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. In place of dough, they placed their toppings on half of an English Muffin, which the My personal pizza recipe from Food Hero suggests (it’s do-able at home!).

Like true chefs, the kids sampled the ingredients before designing their pizza. Of course not every child was eager to experiment with new flavors! When asked about her favorite toppings, Harmony answered “olives and bacon.”  She piled olives on top of her pizza until they were falling off.

There is an incredible sense of community among these kids; they are eager to help each other. Julian, one of the youngest, asked for help crafting his pizza, until he saw his friend JuJu making one all by himself. Wanting to be like his friend, Julian tried to make his own but when he struggled a bit, MaKaylah, one of the oldest, stepped in to help him.

Tristan with his pizza art

While impatiently waiting for their food to cook, the kids colored pictures of pizzas. “This pizza has a lot of colors,” Tristan said, as he was eager to show off his artwork. Food Hero recipes incorporate colorful ingredients, so they’re not just nutritious but appealing to kids, too.

All Food Hero recipes meet rigorous recipe criteria, including:

  • Appropriate for a busy household.
  • Utilize limited number of ingredients.
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  • Are low cost.
  • Nutritious (of course!)

Time to eat! Yum 🙂

Pizza is certified kid-friendly, but some of the program’s recipes have really expanded beyond stereotypical kid food. Dished like Asian Beef and noodles, Mushroom Bulgur pilaf and Banana pancakes. The kids LOVED the pancakes. “We cut up the bananas,” Shaelynn recalled her favorite part of making the pancakes. When asked about what other tools she used, she shouted with joy “THE SMASHER!!”

OSU’s Rebecca asked the kids to raise their hands if they thought they could make the pizzas at home, and all arms shot up with smiling faces. Kids are encouraged to take recipes with them as they leave. Harmony grabbed an extra pizza coloring page for her brother, who is too young for the class, and decided her mom also needed one.

We are grateful that OSU’s Extension Program partners with Human Solutions’ Resident Services team to provide such fun, hands-on programming for the community. They work hard to bring opportunities like this for residents to master new skills.

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!

eUpdate: It’s Nearly Summer!

As summer nears, we’re as busy as ever at Human Solutions. But we did squeeze in time for an all-staff retreat last week, where we snapped this pic of our whole team:

We came together at the retreat to exchange ideas about the 5-year strategic and equity plan we’re working on. After 30 years, we’re excited to focus our work on equity, systems change, and long-term positive outcomes for the people and places in East Portland/Multnomah County. Stay tuned - we’ll be rolling it out soon!

ANNA'S SUCCESS!

Just $107 stood between Anna, a resident at one of our rental housing communities, and a possible eviction back in October. Anna is the sole provider for her husband and their 6 year-old daughter, because dad had a chronic health condition that prevented him from working. When Anna became pregnant, she got quite ill for a month and was under doctor’s orders to not work. Without any other source of income, the family was at risk of eviction and Anna felt she could not take time off.

Human Solutions provided rent assistance to the family, making it possible for Anna to rest per doctor’s orders and return to work without endangering her or her baby’s health. Anna and her family were able to come through this unexpected financial crisis and keep their housing - because they received rent assistance at a critical moment. In such cases a little truly goes a long way.

OUR CFO IS ONE OF THE BEST!

Chief Financial Officers aren’t usually the people you first think of when you think of an organization. But they are critically important to the stability and sustainability of an organization. Human Solutions is thrilled to have had Tanja Lux serving as our CFO for over two years now. She has the mind for non-profit finance in a complex organization and has helped us identify areas for improvement and ways to ensure we are here for the community for years to come.

It was no surprise to us that Tanja was a finalist in the Portland Business Journal’s “CFO of the Year” awards program. Thank you, Tanja, for your smart thinking and dedication to our organization and mission. We’re sure glad she’s on our team!

VOLUNTEER TO COOK A MEAL AT OUR WOMEN’S SHELTER

We’re excited to roll out a new way to volunteer at our women’s shelter: join us to prepare a Seasonal SundaySupper. Here’s how it works: every quarter when the season changes we gather to cook and serve a meal together. It’s a fun and rewarding way to serve and connect with your community.

Our 2018 dates are: Sundays June 24September 23December 23, and March 18, 2019. Learn more and sign up here. Join us!

 

WHAT WE NEED NOW

At an organization like Human Solutions, we always need a few things to deliver our services better. Right now, we need:

  • 4 farmer’s market style tents. We need them to provide shade when we distribute food from the Oregon Food Bank this summer.
  • Basketball gear for teen kids. Six boys who live in our affordable housing communities have an opportunity to attend basketball camp for a week this summer, and we want to send them with the right gear so they can fit in and feel a little special. Ideally they can select shoes, shirts and shorts, and a ball themselves. Maybe even a great duffel! (New items only, please!)
  • Diapers. We can never have enough for the families we work with. When money is tight, people make trade-offs. Diapers are expensive so it’s one way we can help their budget.

If you’re the right person to provide any (or all!) of these items, please be in touch with Andie at 503.548.0283 or adoo@humansolutions.org. Thank you!

FREE SUMMER FUN & MEALS

School’s nearly out and you’re likely wondering what the kids are going to do all summer – and worrying about how much it will cost.

  • The City of Portland has a great guide to a whole lotta free summer fun – check it out!
  • The City of Gresham has a free “Summer Kids in the Park” program to look into, too! Learn more.

When school’s out, so are free and reduced breakfasts and lunches, unfortunately. This guide will help families find the nearest summer meals program – just enter your city or zip code to find out.

SAVE THE DATE: OUR 30THANNIVERSARY GALA & AUCTION

We’re planning a big party to celebrate our 30th Anniversary on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Please mark your calendars now, and we’ll be back to you later 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!

eUpdate | April 16, 2018

Hello from Human Solutions!

Well it's been another busy few weeks in East Multnomah County! I hope you'll take a moment to see what's going on - and how you can engage, including nearly 10 job openings!

LIKE TO COOK? HAVE WE GOT A FUN ROLE FOR YOU!

We provide emergency shelter to thousands of adults and children every year and we work hard to provide three square meals a day for all. Currently we are seeking cooked meals for large groups – as in 90 people. While that may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be! We have kitchen facilities and when you go with dishes like lasagna, spaghetti & salad, or a hearty soup with bread, it starts to sound easier 🙂 You can also put together sack lunches - with a hearty sandwich and piece of fruit! This a perfect service activity for students, families, workplace teams, churches, and more. Get details and sign up by contacting our amazing Emergency Services Volunteer Coordinator, Christina, at: CNewcomb@humansolutions.org.

 

IMPORTANT BOOK ON HOUSING ISSUES

If you’ve not yet read Matthew Desmond’s important book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, we highly recommend it. According to one reviewer,

Evicted is a superbly written, often harrowing case study of eviction in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that also shines a light on the income inequality and housing crises occurring in cities across the U.S. Matthew Desmond combines sobering research with fascinating portraits of the families and landlords trapped in a cycle of poverty and eviction, paying special attention to the plight of children. Given the growing conversation about Portland's housing shortage and homeless population, and ongoing revelations about Wall Street's ties to the predatory mortgage industry, Evicted qualifies as a must-read. It's one of the best books of 2016: sad, maddening, beautiful, and necessary.”

No time to read? Then listen to the radio interview here.

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

WATCH THIS: The Numbers

With Oregon exploding onto the national scene in the last decade, becoming one of the most popular destinations to move to, the area east of 82nd Avenue—including East Portland, Gresham, Troutdale, and Fairview—has come to be affectionately called “The Numbers.” It has one of the area's highest concentration of school-age children, a sky-high poverty rate, and an uncommon diversity of race, ethnicity, and language.

New businesses, new people, new income—what does this all mean for The Numbers? Here’s what some young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 had to say about how they envision the future of their neighborhood.

SAVE THE DATE: NEW 30THANNIVERSARY 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.

Yours,

Andy Miller, Executive Director

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

Fair Housing Laws

April is Fair Housing Month. Last week, Multnomah County highlighted the work of the Housing Stability Team which works to ensure people who already have homes don’t lose them. And this week we're making sure everyone knows what laws protect them from housing discrimination in Multnomah County.

Help keep our community safe and ensure equity by sharing, printing and posting the poster below in any area where people may see it.

Download, print and post the fair housing infographic poster.


Infographic text:

There are fair housing laws to protect you in Multnomah County

The federal Fair Housing Act and the Fair Housing Amendment Acts, Oregon law, and Multnomah County protect you from discrimination.

No one can discriminate against you because of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Marital status
  • Source of income
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation including gender identity
  • Family status
  • Domestic violence
  • Disability
  • If you are age 18 or older

Fair housing laws apply to:

  • Individual homes, duplexes, multifamily housing (apartments, condos, and townhomes), retirement housing, adult foster homes and long term care facilities, homeless shelters and other nonprofit housing.
  • Sales, rentals, mortgage lending, building and construction, home insurance, appraisals, and inspections, land use regulations, zoning, as well as neighbor-on-neighbor harassment.

You might be experiencing discrimination if:

  • Someone refuses to rent to you or terminates a lease because you’re in one of the groups above.
  • A landlord creates different terms or standards for different tenants.
  • A landlord refuses to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant with a disability.

Who to contact if discrimination happens:
Call the Fair Housing Council of Oregon(link is external) at (800) 424-3247 ext. 2 if you believe that you or someone else have been victims of illegal housing discrimination. Remember to: 1) Write down what happened, including dates, times, who was involved, as well as the names of possible witnesses. 2) Keep an ongoing list of events. 3) Save any written materials that relate to your case. The Fair Housing Council will advise you of the appropriate next steps and may refer you to services and organizations that can help.

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

 

Family Center Update

As you may have heard, Human Solutions made the difficult decision with our partners at Multnomah County on February 7, 2018 to temporarily suspend operations at our Family Center Emergency Shelter while we investigate the status of our roof. The building’s roof has experienced some slow leaks that have caused some areas of the ceiling to peel away. Safety for our guests and staff is our number one concern.

Families staying at the shelter have been relocated temporarily to area motels where they will be safe and supported while we complete an assessment of the aging roof and ceiling structure. After a building safety assessment is completed, we will provide an update as to whether and when the Family Center might reopen. Until then, we will continue to support and shelter families already staying with us off site.

Families needing shelter or assistance should contact 211 or visit 211.org for additional information about available shelter beds in Multnomah County.

We are grateful for the outpouring of community support for both the clients we serve and our shelter facility.  We welcome your help – in fact, it’s part of how we do what we do every day. While the Family Center is being assessed, we are asking volunteers to help us in two ways:

  1. Provide food to relocated families by buying easy-to-cook food from our Amazon Wish List. It’s super easy: you shop online, Amzon delivers it to Human Solutions, and we distribute it to families.
  2. Volunteer at our Gresham Women’s Shelter, which also depends on volunteers to make and serve meals to our 90 nightly guests. Contact Christina for details and to sign up (cnewcomb@humansolutions.org).
  3. Visit our volunteering page for all opportunities with Human Solutions.

If you are interested in providing construction materials or services at the Family Center to help reopen it, we ask that you email Christina (cnewcomb@humansolutions.org) so she can keep you in mind if/when that need arises. We are working hard to complete an efficient but thorough building assessment in a few weeks time.

THANK YOU for you continued support of our clients and our work in the community. We appreciate you!