From the Gresham Outlook:
Six months ago, Chelsea George and her 17-month-old daughter Lucy had a bleak future. Lucy had an ear infection, Chelsea didn’t have a job, and the family had no place to live.
They stood in the now-closed Human Solutions family homeless shelter in Gresham (it’s since relocated a few blocks west to Portland) looking overwhelmed and scared
But on May 18, Chelsea and Lucy looked at peace and at home. In February, after seeing a flyer advertising a new mixed-use affordable housing and dental clinic complex at the shelter, the pair stood in line for nearly five hours to be one of the first families to apply to live in Rosewood Plaza
Just three days after George secured her spot, the waiting list for the 45 new and refurbished one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units at 18173 N.E. Couch Street had grown to more than 100 families.
Chelsea, 26, and Lucy look strikingly similar, with straight blonde hair cropped to their ears and brushed to the side. Chelsea has faint highlights of pink and blue running through her locks. The last time The Outlook interviewed them, Lucy was near inconsolable after spending all night in the emergency room to treat her ear infection. On Wednesday, the shy toddler showed off just a hint of a smile while playing a game of peek-a-boo.
George gets about $1,000 a month through social security and only needs to pay 30 percent of her income to live in Rosewood Plaza. Human Solutions even helped her with a payment plan to put down a security deposit.
She said living in the shelter was “exhausting and frustrating.” The transition to her own apartment was like “night and day.”
“We have a patio,” she described with excitement. “It’s nothing we could have afforded on our own.”
In the fall, Chelsea will head to Mt. Hood Community College to finish her degree to become a guidance counselor, and Lucy will go to the Head Start program across the street from Rosewood Plaza.
Chelsea said she suffered from anxiety and depression while at the shelter. But now? “I wake up every morning smiling,” she said.
On Wednesday, May 18, the mother and daughter celebrated the opening of Rosewood Plaza with a party thrown by the organizations that made it happen, Human Solutions and Wallace Medical Concern (WMC).
Human Solutions, under the direction of the former executive director Jean DeMasters, acquired the property in 2013. The project scope included a complete rehab of the existing 26 units and building a four-story complex to house a new dental clinic run by WMC and 19 more units of affordable housing owned and operated by Human Solutions.
Rosewood Plaza is an expansion of Human Solutions’ Rockwood Multi-Service Center campus located on an adjacent lot.
When the dental clinic is operating at full capacity, Wallace expects to provide about 7,000 visits annually to 3,000 patients, based on a sliding fee scale. The clinic includes seven exam rooms, an X-ray lab and facilities for simple oral surgeries.
A partnership with the Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry will place dental students in rotations at the clinic, expanding the availability of services and creating a pipeline of dental professionals skilled at serving low-income and homeless residents of Multnomah County.
Andrea Sanchez, the director of housing at Human Solutions, said Rosewood Plaza is opening at a critical time in East Multnomah County.
“This represents the connection between housing and healthcare,” Sanchez said.
The look of the new building is meant to send a message of “dedication and respect to our patients,” added Lisa Cline, executive director of Wallace Medical Concern.
The ribbon cutting ended on an emotional note, with Rosewood Plaza resident Rhonda Huggett presenting a giant teddy bear to the Human Solutions staff.
Through tears Huggett said, “I’m not on the street no more.”