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 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.

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 can not 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.

Building Back Better with Measure 26-210

Speaking of building back better, we believe that last month’s victory for Ballot Measure 26-210 – Metro’s Homeless Services Funding Measure -  will prove a game changer in our effort to end our homeless crisis. We are grateful to the voters in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties for supporting this significant new resource and to the Here Together Coalition for working so hard to create a solution and move it across the finish line. Human Solutions played an active role in shaping and supporting the measure, and we look forward to more fruitful collaboration across the government, private and non-profit sectors to apply the new funds where they are need most. The Measure’s resources will focus on expanding solutions proven to support the permanent end of homelessness for our most chronically unsheltered neighbors. We also appreciate that Measure 26-201 leads with racial equity and will allocate resources to prevent the homelessness of black and brown families who have endured generations of racial discrimination in housing. We’ll continue to update you as the process to put funding to use becomes more clear. You can stay current on Metro’s website, too.

A Win-Win in COVID Times: Partnership: Food for Shelters, Business for Restaurants

With Governor Brown’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order allowing restaurants to offer only takeout, many restaurants have had to close and may not survive. Hardest hit are often family-owned restaurants in less prosperous areas like East Portland. Working with The Rosewood Initiative, a local non-profit near us, we hatched a creative solution to meet two needs: support local business – especially those owned by People of Color – and feed the hundreds of folks staying in our emergency shelters.

Here’s how it works: With $24,000 in funding from Prosper Portland (the city’s business booster), The Rosewood Initiative has contracted with two small, family-owned restaurants in the Rosewood neighborhood of East Portland: Nelly’s Taqueria and Chai Thai. They, in turn, prepare dinner weekly for the 220 or so residents of Human Solutions’ two emergency shelters, Lilac Meadows for families and the Gresham Women’s Shelter.

Right now, the effort costs $8,000/month for 1,450 meals; each restaurant earns $4,000 each month – badly-needed income at this time. Volunteer drivers transport the food from the restaurants to both shelters in time for dinner. Would you like to keep this effort going? We welcome donations to extend this partnership – you’ll be supporting local businesses and feeding shelter residents – we’re almost 1/3 of the way to our goal!

Tamara Holloway, Human Solutions’ Family Shelter manager, is very grateful:

“Our shelter team is doing amazing frontline work right now during the COVID pandemic. When a hot, ready-to-serve dinner is delivered by a volunteer driver from a local restaurant, our staff and shelter residents feel cared for by our community. We couldn’t be more grateful for this delicious food and all the donations we have been getting from everyone in our incredible community. Thanks to each and every one of you. We are for sure stronger together.”

Human Solutions’ New Office and Parkside Housing Development

Our catalytic mixed-use development with an anchor office for our team and 75 apartments in East Portland’s Gateway neighborhood is under construction and on schedule to be occupied in Spring 2021! We’re thrilled to be putting down these roots and were so pleased to be featured in the Daily Journal of Commerce earlier this month. As you can see from this aerial photo, we’ll be adjacent to a vibrant city park and right in the heart of the thriving Gateway business district. This project realizes our goal of helping to build healthy, equitable neighborhoods across East County. All of this is as wonderful as it is thanks to our awesome partners: Gerding Edlen, Holst Architects, HUD, LMC Construction, Multnomah County, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Prosper Portland, and the Portland Housing Bureau. What a stellar team! We plan to host a grand opening celebration next year to show you how it all came together - if and when it is safe for us to gather. Because affordable housing development is something we focus on as a long-term strategy to ensure housing security for all, we are hard at work on several other affordable housing communities across our service area. Never a dull moment on our housing team!

Need Help?

Many of us need help right now, whether it’s finding food to feed our families,understanding new unemployment benefits or finding an affordable place to live. We’ve compiled some resources here that we hope are helpful for you:

Two Powerful Reads: Knowing our History, Building Our Future

Of course we are avidly reading about the situation at hand, as we bet you are. A few articles have really stood out for us as especially relevant and powerful, and we wanted to share them with you:

  • Our Past IS Our Present: Dr. Ibram Kendi is an important thinker and historian who drew powerful connections between the COVID situation and our origins as a slaveholding nation. How did we get from there to here? “We’re Still Living and Dying in the Slaveholder’s Republic” is an article you won’t soon forget.
  • Our Future Is What We Make It: This piece from the Center for American Progress is more data, policy and a concrete path forward to build a better system, one that works for every one of us, not just the privileged few. “The Economic Fallout of the Coronavirus for People of Color” is a blueprint for the kind of future we are working toward at Human Solutions
  • How Did We Get Here? The Root provides some powerful context for why we are where we are in America in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in “

The key for us in these three pieces is that you can’t plan a brighter future without knowing, understanding and wanting to heal the past.

Want to Help? Great! It’s What Community Looks Like.

We are consistently amazed and heartened by the generosity of our community. Our volunteer and donations coordinator, Shawna, is amazed by how often her phone rings with another offer to help:

“Everyone at Human Solutions is honored and heartened by the outpouring of support from our amazing community. From diapers to towels, hand-sewn masks and meals for 90, my phone is ringing off the hook! Together we really are building the kind of community we all want to live in, one where we care about and for each other so that each and every one of us has the economic security to pursue their dreams.”

Most Needed Items Right Now:

  • New & gently used bath towels
  • Blankets for twin, full and queen sized beds
  • Baby diapers and wipes – larger sizes
  • Hand-sewn COVID face masks (child and adults sizes)
  • Hygiene items for women (shaving razors, hair care products, toothpaste & toothbrushes)

It’s super easy to shop our Amazon Wish Lists from the comfort of home, knowing that these are the items our program teams most need:

  • Activity kits to keep the kids in our after-school program busy while home
  • Basics to keep our emergency family shelter running well

Questions and ideas? Reach out to Shawna Hoffman, volunteer@humansolutions.org, 503.278.1637 (call or text)

As always, thank you for your interest in Human Solutions and your commitment to the equitable future we are working urgently to build. Right now, those harmed most need the rest of us to step up. We appreciate you being right by our side as we do that work - today and into the future.

Warmly,

Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – Our Spring Fund Drive is still happening: please give what you can and we’ll put it right to use helping our community recover and #BuildBackBetter. Thank you!