Central City Concern

Providing comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness
and achieving self-sufficiency.

Recovery News and Recovery Month at CCC

Oct 07, 2015

Central City Concern (CCC) began in 1979 as a recovery organization and we’d like to update you on some recent enhancements and expanded capacity in our recovery programs. As you may already know, we have an array of programs and we believe in tailoring programs to meet the needs of individuals. Increasingly, these three themes are driving our thinking:

Peers are important

In Our Housing and Through the Recovery Mentor Program
The value of peers is well documented when it comes to recovery and when we formed the Recovery Mentor Program in 1999, we quickly saw the enormous difference that peers could make.

Multnomah County has recently echoed our belief in this kind of programming by helping us expand the Recovery Mentor Program, adding three staff positions and 43 additional apartments for participants, nearly doubling the number of clients we can serve. (The full Mentor team is pictured here.)

Central City Concern is also expanding the use of peers for recovery services throughout the agency, often embedding such staff positions in our housing. We have added eight peer support positions in four buildings and have increased training of our front desk staff who are in frequent contact with the people we serve.

Domestic Violence/Recovery Project
Multnomah County is also supporting a domestic violence/recovery mentor project to coordinate care for women who are affected by both domestic violence and substance use disorders.

Estimates are that between 50-90% of women who have substance use disorders have experienced domestic violence. By using peers, we can present strong role models for women to inspire hope that change is possible through this integrated approach to treatment. Peer mentors will provide community outreach and engagement at domestic violence shelters and at alcohol and drug treatment programs. There will also be opportunities for cross-training and consultation between staff from programs.

We recently discussed this new program with leaders from the State of Oregon and Multnomah County at a Get to Know the Real Central City Concern event. You can watch the full panel discussion here. Get to Know the Real Central City Concern is a series of exclusive events offered throughout the year to community members who are making significant investments in Central City Concern’s work. 

Choice can drive success

Opiate epidemic calls for urgent action
Central City Concern offers choices in housing, like our Community Engagement Program, with strong outcomes. We are moving more toward recovery choice, striving to bring the right resources and approaches to every individual.

In recent years, the treatment field has had to step up to respond to the epidemic of opiate dependence and overdose deaths. While CCC continues to strongly support and value abstinence based recovery, we also have medication assisted alternate opioid treatment and overdose prevention initiatives in place throughout the agency. This has been a bold step for Central City Concern and our staff members are bringing an extraordinary level of openness and compassion to these new practices.

Culture Counts

The Latino Community
In 2005, Central City Concern began offering recovery services for Latino adults and teens, filling a dire need in the community. Spanish-speaking staff members work with clients from an appropriate culturally-specific vantage point. Puentes staff members also serve mental health needs and reach approximately 170 people annually. With Multnomah County support, the program will soon add two staff positions and will expand by nearly 30%, with intentions of reaching 240 people annually. 

The African American Community
African Americans are over represented in the homeless population and for many years, Central City Concern has provided both mental health and addiction services to African Americans. This year, these programs will operate in an integrated fashion with oversight from a Director of African-American Services. This collective set of services is under the program name of The Imani Center. “Imani,” the seventh principle of Kwanzaa, means "faith" in Swahili.  Central City Concern chose this name as a positive expression of faith and hope. You’ll hear more about this new program in the coming year.

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CCC Celebrates National Recovery Month

Thank you to everyone for being a part of Recovery Month at Central City Concern. The month was packed with ways we recognized that the stories of those in recovery are visible, vocal, and valuable. Some Recovery Month highlights include:

CCC Participates in Hands Across the Bridge
On September 7, many people from the CCC community joined thousands of others at Hands Across the Bridge to celebrate the strength and unity of recovery. Central City Concern was proud to be an event sponsor.

Recovery Mentor Program 15th Anniversary
More than 200 alumni of the Recovery Mentor Program gathered at the Ambridge Event Center to celebrate its 15th Anniversary! 

CCC executive director Ed Blackburn gave the audience some historical perspective of the program. Marissa Madrigal, Multnomah County’s Chief Operating Officer, recounted the ways in which the county has partnered and supported the program because it is simply a program that has strong outcomes and save lives. She also spoke about the recent exciting growth of the program, which includes three new recovery mentor staff positions and 43 new units of available housing. She ended her remarks by reminding the alumni that their lives are visible, vocal, and valuable.

Two CCC programs were recognized for the integral support they provide new mentees. The Community Volunteer Corps, represented by Rachel Hatcher and Paul Flynt, and the CCC Recovery Center, represented by Melissa Bishop, were given awards.

The night was capped off with Recovery Mentors Doug Bishop, Torrence Williams, Lynda Williams, and David Fitzgerald each receiving recognition for their immense dedication to the Recovery Mentor Program and the individuals who come through in need of guidance and hope. A program alum introduced each Mentor, speaking to how each Mentor influenced (and continues to influence) their lives.

Recovery Month Photo Project
At the Recovery Mentor Anniversary party, attendees took photos holding up a board that completed the sentence, “Recovery has allowed me to…” and the resulting photos have been such an encouragement and inspiration to share. Resulting photos were organized into panels, which were shared on our social media throughout Recovery Month. You can see all the panels from the series by visiting the "Recovery Has Allowed Me to..." album on Facebook.

We also compiled all the photos into the poster at right. Click on the image for a higher-resolution version.

Panel Discussion on Women, Addiction, and Homelessness
As noted above, CCC hosted a panel discussion between local experts to explore the unique challenges women working to treat and manage their addiction face, especially when their addiction is compounded by domestic violence, poverty, and homelessness.

Telling a Colleague’s Recovery Story
We had the privilege and pleasure of sharing the recovery journey of CCC’s own Leonard Brightmon, whose outlook and perseverance is an inspiration to many in the community. You can earlier, you can read it at: .

Shining the Spotlight on a Volunteer in Recovery
Jennifer Fresh volunteers as an Old Town Clinic Concierge. We also had a chance to feature Jennifer Fresh, an Old Town Clinic Concierge volunteer, on our blog's Monthly Volunteer Spotlight. She spoke about what makes the path of recovery so compatible with volunteerism and how her life has changed since finding sobriety. 

• • •

On behalf of the estimated 23 million+ people in recovery in our country and the thousands who are in Central City Concern’s daily care, thank you for your interest in our work!


A Second Chance to Make Downtown Memories

Oct 05, 2015

On Friday, October 2nd, in Downtown Portland, the Clean & Safe District, managed by Portland Business Alliance, honored Central City Concern employee Chris Perkins as the 2015 Clean & Safe Cleaner of the Year. Officer Stephan Marshall was announced as the Security Officer of the Year while the late Vic Rhodes was recognized as this year's Downtown Champion.

Scan the crowds of tourists who visit Portland every year and you’ll see thousands of people making memories in our beautiful city. For Chris Perkins, however, every trip up and down the streets of downtown Portland is a chance to redeem old memories he made during darker times.  It wasn’t too long ago when he found himself on these very same streets under very different circumstances – desperate, using drugs, and unsure of what his future held.

“But now on bike duty, I get to go around and reclaim those places.”

“Those places” Chris refers to are the 213 blocks of the downtown area he covers as a Clean & Safe Special Project Bike Operator. He responds by bike to clean up difficult or hazardous messes that other Clean & Safe employees are unequipped to respond to safely or effectively. As one of two Special Project Bike Operators, Chris works the weekends and early morning shifts, providing assurance that calls can be addressed. He performs his job with an attentiveness and an urgency that downtown business owners have quickly grown to appreciate.

Jay McIntyre, Clean & Safe Program Manager, says, “Chris has only one speed: go. We get phone calls from businesses praising his work ethic and his fantastic attitude.”

Chris arrived on the streets of Portland in 2010 after several years of struggling with drug use. Though Chris experienced what he describes as a “pretty normal childhood,” he was forced to grow up quickly. When Chris was a high school sophomore, his father encountered serious health issues that required his sons to become his caretakers. Chris dropped out of high school and earned his GED. Meanwhile, “taking care of my dad became a full-time thing” until 2001, when his father passed away. Chris was in his early 20s.

Chris found a job and proved himself to be a hard worker, working his way up to a managerial position. But he was soon introduced by a co-worker to pills, heroin, and other opiates. What started as experimentation quickly escalated into full-blown addiction.

“My life became unmanageable. My relationships were painful. I also never really dealt with my dad’s passing. He was my life.”

His mother, who had moved to Oregon after separating from Chris’s dad in the early-90s, heard about his descent into addiction. She paid for Chris to enroll in a local faith-based treatment program. Nine months in treatment kept him clean and sober for a while but he soon began using heroin again.

“After treatment, I didn’t do any work like going to meetings and finding accountability that help sustain sobriety.”

Chris’s losses piled up in rapid succession after falling back into old habits: he lost his apartment, broke up with his girlfriend, got fired from his job, and lost the support of his mother.

Directionless and desperate, Chris remembered hearing about a place called Hooper Detox, Central City Concern’s (CCC) inpatient medical detox program. He tried hard to keep up with outpatient treatment at the CCC Recovery Center, but without stable housing, the stress of living outside contributed to multiple relapses. Still, Chris wanted another life. In the days leading up to yet another trip to Hooper, Chris reached the end of his rope.

“I pictured myself in a room. If all I had was a room somewhere, I knew I could stay clean.”

September 19, 2013 was the last time Chris entered Hooper and the last time he was ever under the influence of drugs. After completing treatment at Hooper, he was given the keys to his own room in Central City Concern housing.

“I laid down on the bed and felt relief. I felt safe. It was a small room, but it was mine.”

Chris engaged with the alcohol and drug-free community in CCC’s housing, attended meetings, and kept every outpatient treatment appointment. He found the support of people who were also in recovery. He also enrolled in CCC’s Community Volunteer Corps (CVC) program, which gives people a chance to build skills over the course of 80 volunteer hours.

Once he completed CVC, Chris was hired as a six-month Clean & Safe janitor trainee. There, his old habits – the positive ones that earned him a managerial position years ago – resurfaced. Chris became known for frequently jogging with his cleaning cart to service calls.

“Whatever I’m doing, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”

Due to his enthusiasm and quality of work, Chris was quickly promoted to a permanent janitorial position, a role in which he continued to thrive. He was entrusted to train all new trainees, becoming an insightful mentor to many.

This May, Clean & Safe was ready to add a second Special Projects Bike position to its fleet; Chris was the obvious choice to fill this important position.

“Chris has proved over and over that he’s an asset to CCC, Clean & Safe, and everyone that works in or visits downtown Portland,” McIntyre says.

Chris is now two years clean and sober. After so much loss, he’s made incredible strides to fulfill his potential and rebuild the significance of these streets, block by downtown block.

“I have a job I love that lets me make new memories. I have family and real friends who love me,” Chris says. “I’ve come too far to lose what I’ve regained. There’s a lot more ahead.”

Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: Recovery Month Edition

Sep 23, 2015

September is National Recovery Month, a time to celebrate recovery and share stories about how substance use treatment and mental health services have helped people live healthy and rewarding lives.

So for this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, we are privileged to introduce you to Jennifer, a volunteer at Old Town Clinic who also identifies as someone living in recovery. We sat down with Jennifer to find out what makes the path of recovery so compatible with volunteerism, how her life has changed since finding sobriety, and what her volunteer experience at the clinic has been like so far.

• • •

Name: Jennifer Fresh

Position: Old Town Clinic Concierge

What are your volunteer duties?
I do whatever I can to make whoever is at the clinic more comfortable. In my experience, people at the clinic are typically not feeling well. A lot of patients probably have their own negative experiences with the medical system in the past. It can be a hard experience for a lot of people. I try to help put people at ease.

Sometimes that means helping people who have a hard time getting up and down the stairs. Sometimes I help them find their appointments. A lot of the times it’s just listening.

What drew you to Central City Concern?
I got sober at the end of 2007. For me and for a lot of people, service is a part of staying sober. I graduated nursing school recently and I feel that as a nurse with a little bit of sobriety, I can offer people the ear that they need or maybe just a little bit of hope.

I didn’t use any CCC services on my way to getting sober, but there were many years I didn’t get any health care or dental care so it’s nice to be on the other side. Some people I’ve sponsored have been through Hooper Detox Center. Some of the meetings I go to have people who have gone through Letty Owings Center. A lot of people I know have used other services here, too. I know that CCC has done great things for people.

I feel grateful and lucky to be able to put my hand out now.

How does volunteering inform your recovery? How does recovery inform your volunteerism?
One of the things that I learned when I first got sober is that when you’re in active addiction, everything turns inside yourself. Your focus is very small. It’s about me, my needs, my wants. And you have zero energy for what’s going on around you.

Drug use was a coping mechanism for me. So in the very beginning of my sobriety, when I wasn’t able to use that coping mechanism, there were a lot of days when I felt jump-out-of-your-skin uncomfortable.

When I got sober, I was taught to turn my focus outward. I had a wonderful sponsor who taught me that if I ever felt uncomfortable or terrible that I should just go say hi to somebody and see how I could help them.

My addict brain thought “how do I have time for [service]?” But each time, I realized that reaching out my hand makes me feel better while helping someone else. That’s what I got to learn and that’s what I get to re-learn every time I come to volunteer at the Old Town Clinic.

Fear kept me inside myself. It’s wonderful to reach out my hand now that I have something to share.

What did you expect when you first started volunteering?
Well, I can tell you what I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to be able to create trusting relationships with people. Honestly, I’m only there a few hours a week, but I do run into a lot of the same people. I feel like the interaction has gotten deeper and I think I’ve been able to gain some people’s trust which is so important with this population.

I feel like a lot of our clients are extremely vulnerable and they just need to be advocated for. I see a lot of people who are incredibly strong people who just have very tough circumstances. Inherently in that there’s hope. If we can meet people where they’re at, that’s where we’re going to make a difference. There’s no point being in denial about things and shaking our fingers because that absolutely helps nobody.

I just feel like all I can do is be that smiling face and reach out my hand.

Has anything surprised you?
It surprises me all the time how there’s still hope.

Even though I’ve gotten sober myself and have a nursing background, the types of challenges that CCC clients have to navigate and get through everyday still surprises me. It’s hard enough to have a chronic issue like diabetes or mental illness; those are, in themselves, very hard to manage. And when you combine that with homelessness, there are so many challenges.

You mentioned that you recently graduated from nursing school. Did recovery play a part in that pursuit?
I got clean when I was 33. I had no hopes or aspirations before that. I’d been using for most of my adult life and hadn’t done anything really significant.

When I got clean and sober, I had a little time to get my head straight and I felt like I had a clean slate. I got a little job, which kept me busy. Then I got a better job, and another. Little by little, my self-esteem and confidence started growing the more useful and accomplished I felt. I want to be of service to people. I want to help people, and use my experience. And I thought nursing would be a good way to do all that.

What would you tell someone who is hesitant about volunteering?
Volunteering is a small investment. It’s more than nothing. It’s something. It’s so cliché, but you literally get so much more than you put in. You get the feeling of usefulness which is better than anything.

• • •

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Coordinator, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org.

Central City Bed®

Central City Bed® - unfriendly to bed bugs, stackable, easy to clean and reuse. Appearing at national trade shows. Check Central City Bed for details. Learn more »

Volunteer Spotlights

What motivates CCC volunteers? What do they do when they volunteer? Why do they choose to give their time to those we serve? Find out by checking our Monthly Volunteer Spotlight! Learn more »

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Through craft roasting coffee in Portland, OR, Central City Coffee supports the clients and mission of Central City Concern. Available at local retailers and as office coffee! Learn more »
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