Central City Concern

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

Black History Month: The Roots of Imani

Feb 01, 2016

February is Black History Month, and Central City Concern is excited to celebrate this important and valuable observance. Last year on the blog, we featured several reflections on the equity and culturally specific work taking place at CCC. This year, we are thrilled to honor Black History Month by introducing you to the Imani Center, a new CCC program that offers African American-centered mental health and addictions services. Each week throughout the month we’ll share a different facet of the Imani Center’s story. Our first post comes from Sonja Ervin, our Director of Cultural Equity, who shares why and how the Imani Center came to be.

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We wanted to do more. We wanted to do better.

Central City Concern demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that everyone we serve through our addiction treatment, healthcare, housing, and employment services feels a part of the CCC community. We also recognize that we can and should strive to do better. That desire to do and be better resides at all levels of the CCC community; just as importantly, CCC recognizes that authentic change and improvement must be driven by those who “own the experience.”

People of color face stunning disparities in health and socioeconomic wellness in Multnomah County as reported upon last year in the Report Card on Racial and Ethnic Disparities. Central City Concern wants to play a role in addressing such disparities.

With the desire to do better, and the wisdom to understand that those who own the experience must drive the process, in fall 2014, CCC’s Executive Director asked a group of our African American staff and community members (many who have lived experience in poverty, homelessness, addictions and treatment) to come together to talk about how CCC can do more and do better for those we serve from the African American community.

We got together and talked about experiences, opportunities and challenges. We looked at what was offered—at CCC and in the community—and where the gaps were. What do we as the African American community need? How should it be provided?

What did we hear? Essentially, our community was seeking culturally specific leadership, treatment, and support services that address the barriers that are uniquely experienced by African Americans in mainstream programs.

One meeting led into months of work to develop recommendations, a plan and a proposal to combine current programs with expanded resources to create a comprehensive program for African Americans by African Americans.

Between the experience, knowledge, and wisdom of the African American community, the agency’s commitment to listening to and serving the community better, and the support of partners like Multnomah County, an idea—now fully realized as Central City Concern’s Imani Center—took root and began to grow.

In August 2015, Linda Hudson, a longtime CCC employee with deep experience in behavioral health service, as well as culturally specific programs serving the African-American community such as The Real Program, African American Health Coalition and the OHSU Avel Gordly Center for Healing, was selected as the Director of African American Services and hiring of staff began.

The Imani Center has been serving clients experiencing disproportionate barriers to reaching a higher potential since November 16, 2015. The Imani Center has already seen the culturally specific approach to addiction and behavioral health treatment make a difference in those being served.

The program name “Imani” means “faith” in Swahili. This name was chosen to provide participants and CCC with a foundation of faith—faith in our services and our agency, and for the participants’ faith in themselves. We look forward to continuing the work of empowering and supporting the needs of the African American community.


Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: January 2016 Edition

Jan 28, 2016

After a brief hiatus, Central City Concern’s Monthly Volunteer Spotlight makes its return in 2016! This month, meet Scott McKnight, the first on-call volunteer to be featured on the blog! Read on to learn more about his many roles and why he enjoys volunteering with CCC.

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Name: Scott McKnight

Position: On-call volunteer

What have some of your volunteer projects been?
Let’s see… I went down into the basement of one of the buildings which I was told was part of the old tunnel system in Portland to fold some donated clothing and linens. It was strange but it was definitely interesting! I did some childcare with toddlers at one of the family housing sites to free up moms to attend a support meeting. I helped serve Thanksgiving dinner at one of the housing buildings. One of the most satisfying things I did was help put together overdose kits for Old Town Clinic.

What do you enjoy about the flexibility of the on-call position?
I like to do different volunteer jobs. I like it for the social aspects, too; I always meet nice people. I haven’t really done volunteering exactly like this, so it’s a bit different from what I’ve done. And I’ve done something different almost every time.

Why is volunteering important to you?
It lifts you up to go and volunteer for somebody else. It’s something I enjoy doing. I like helping out where I can. It makes me feel good.

I think it’s just part of my duty as a citizen. I feel really fortunate to have been raised in a middle-class family and now I’m part of that middle class. I set my own work hours so that allows me to get out and do some volunteering. I feel that if you can give back, then that’s something you should be doing.

What drew you to CCC?
Actually, I had never even heard of CCC before volunteering. I was searching for something work-related but then I came across CCC in the search results. I must’ve just clicked a link to send an email to Eric, the volunteer coordinator, and here we are.

But now when I come into downtown, I always see a CCC truck or a van.

What, if anything, have you learned so far?
It’s a great mission to try to get people off the streets and help them manage their addictions. We’re facing massive issues of homelessness and substance abuse and to try to just help that, to break the chain of substance abuse and poverty, is worthwhile.

Is there a particular volunteer experience that sticks with you?
Serving a Thanksgiving meal hit home. It was emotional to see all those people there. For one thing, doing that made me feel really fortunate.

The most emotional story from that day for me was talking with a woman having a meal. She said she couldn’t have her kids there because they weren’t able to stop using drugs long enough to come down and visit her. It was upsetting to hear that her past substance use had been passed on to the next generation. She had thankfully put in the work to escape it but her children had fallen into it.

Just being there and being with the actual people who were being helped by Central City Concern was meaningful. This might surprise people, but the residents just looked like everyday people, like me and you.

What would you say to someone who was on the fence about volunteerism?
Just try it. See what people you meet and see how you feel afterward.

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We’re grateful for on-call volunteers like Scott, who often respond to needs on short-notice and always show up with a fantastic attitude and a willingness to do work that helps our programs serve the needs of our clients and patients better.

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 or visit our volunteer webpage.


A Moment to Say “Thank You”

Jan 22, 2016

The support that Central City Concern received through our end-of-the-year giving campaign, starting in November and up through the holiday season, was truly breathtaking. Together, the Central City Concern community gave $210,000 to support our programs and the people we serve. Now a smidge past the halfway point in January, we at CCC finally have a moment to take a beat to truly let the outpouring of community support sink in, and we want to say, THANK YOU.

In early November, we shared Elyse’s story of years getting knocked down by addiction, homelessness, and disease, but eventually stabilized, built up, and put in position to thrive with the help of Central City Concern’s continuum of services. Her courageous journey struck a chord with our community, as we received donations to support the programs that were so crucial to Elyse’s success.

Our 2015 Willamette Week Give!Guide campaign—just the third time CCC has participated—was our most successful to date. Give!Guide is a community-wide effort to encourage year-end giving throughout the Portland area and a celebration of the good work being done by local nonprofits.

Many others found their way to our website to make a year-end gift to CCC through our online donation page.

The causes of homelessness are complex; in turn, our services are comprehensive. And thanks to your support, Central City Concern can continue to provide those life-transforming programs that help individuals and families not only get off the street, but remain housed and work toward a life that fulfills their higher potential. It takes a full range of supports—integrated primary and mental healthcare, addiction treatment, housing, peer mentoring, and employment services—that you make possible.

Thank you for trusting Central City Concern to do this work in a way that honors each person’s unique journey. Your support means the world to us and those we serve. Here’s to a most fulfilling 2016.

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 »

Central City Coffee

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 »