Central City Concern

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

EAC Celebrates Clients, Honors Employer of the Year

Jul 23, 2015

Central City Concern has always had great fondness for Floyd's Coffee in the Old Town neighborhood. For many staff members, it’s an ad hoc office and place for quick meetings. For our Employment Specialists at our Employment Access Center, it’s the go-to spot to hold mock interviews with the people we serve to better prepare them for employment.

And when we asked Floyd’s co-owner Cris Chapman (right) if she might be interested in hiring some of our clients, not only did she say yes but she proceeded to create three unique, part-time jobs for some of our clients who needed an extra level of flexibility.

So for all of us who know Cris and co-owner Jack Inglis, it was no surprise that Floyd’s Coffee was selected as our first-ever Employer of the Year, recognized for their extraordinary contributions in helping individuals attain self-sufficiency. This recognition was made on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at Portland City Hall at our annual Employment Access Center celebration where we honored more than 30 clients for exemplary achievements in attaining and retaining employment with more than 150 well wishers in the audience!

The event was a great night to celebrate people reaching their higher potential! Congratulations to all the clients whose hard work and commitment to obtaining employment was honored, as well as their families and friends. We also thank Mayor Charlie Hales for sharing City Hall, George Hocker for representing Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, and Patrick Gihring from Worksystems, Inc. for joining us and sharing their thoughts from the podium.

Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: July Edition (Part 1)

Jul 10, 2015

Our Monthly Volunteer Spotlight series thought it could sneak away summer vacation, but because we have so many incredible volunteers, we’re going to bring you two spotlights in July. For the first, meet Noelle, who has been a volunteer with Central City Concern for more than one-and-a-half years. Her time with us is winding down as she heads off to start her Master of Social Work program at Portland State University, but we feel immensely grateful to have worked with her!

• • •

Name: Noelle Al-Musaifry

Position: Arts and crafts group facilitator in CCC's supportive housing program

What are your volunteer duties?
On paper, I’m responsible for putting together an art project during each arts and craft group. I explain what we’re doing and how each participant can get to an end product. I gather up materials, bring them to group, and we have fun.

That’s what I technically do. I think that the most important thing that I do is just being a person who will consistently listen to them and give positive feedback and encouragement. Interacting positively with the participants… I think that’s appreciated.

I really wanted to create an environment where people feel safe enough to take the emotional risks needed to make art. I think that can be difficult for a lot of folks. The participants often say to me “I’m not a creative person” and “I’m not an artist” and “I can’t even draw a straight line” – so I think people need encouragement around that.

What drew you to volunteer at Central City Concern?
I have a family member who was in a situation in which she could possibly have benefited from CCC services. Ultimately it wasn’t the right fit, but in doing research to find an organization that could provide help, I came across Central City Concern. The more I learned about what CCC was doing, I was sold.

I think that CCC is probably one of the cornerstones of Portland that makes me love this city. The mission [to end homelessness and help people achieve self-sufficiency] is important work and I wanted to be some part of it.

What did you expect when you first started volunteering?
Like I said, I knew I wanted to be a part of what CCC was doing in the community. When I approached CCC about volunteering, the skill set I had wasn’t 100% directly correlated to the mission, I don't think. My background is in science, and I did some dance, and a little bit of art, but not that much.

When I started, I think my biggest hope was to create community around the mission and the people being served by it, the people who were working hard to find stability, work on their recovery, things like that. It took a while, but it slowly emerged.

What have you learned during your time volunteering?
I’ve learned a lot more about the particular struggles and journeys of the individuals CCC works with.

I heard from some of the people who have come to the arts and crafts group about the obstacles they were facing to start over and thrive. I saw a lot of the struggles my family member has gone through reflected in the residents and vice versa. Those struggles are a lot more universal than I thought. I didn’t know that would be the case when I started volunteering.

While I volunteered, I also really solidified my decision to pursue work like this. I had been thinking about pursuing a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, but I wasn’t sure. It was risky and I had a lot of doubts.

But after seeing up close the importance of this work that needs to be done, I’m not hesitating to jump into it. This is work that needs to be done. I could be better qualified and I could have more to offer by pursuing an MSW.

Is there a particular experience that will stick with you?
I feel like I’ve become invested in the progress (often non-linear!) of some of the folks I’ve worked with. There’s one person in particular I feel like had a big impact on me. He was the first art group participant who showed up consistently. I don’t know what it was, but he was ready to work. Maybe not always ready to talk, but ready to work and create. I think he was bringing that same attitude to his recovery groups, too.

After some amount of time, he decided that I was trustworthy enough to talk with, and I know that can be a difficult decision for people who have endured hardships and trauma. I feel like we got close over the months.

He ended up moving into more permanent housing, and I had the privilege of being a reference for him. He’s working now and progressing in his goals and sobriety.

When you meet someone, you never really know off the bat who they are or how your relationship is going to turn out or unfold, and I feel really grateful to know him. It’s amazing.

What advice would you give to someone apprehensive about volunteering?
There’s a lot to be gained from removing your ego when you walk in to volunteer.

Many people are facing battles that feel Sisyphean, and so, understandably, it might be hard for them to always be happy or polite. And as a volunteer, you might be on the receiving end of that. But if you can check your ego at the door and be kind and empathetic to people anyway, then get in there and be a positive presence. It speaks volumes.

Any parting thoughts on your time with us?
This sounds so cliché, but it has been such an incredibly rewarding experience. I feel like I’ve undergone some real personal growth in understanding issues like addiction and poverty by listening and being present. I’m so grateful.

• • •

Noelle's dedication to showing up and helping our residents engage in creative expression has made a big impact on our community. Thank you, Noelle, for being a part of our work. All of us here are sending you best wishes as you start your MSW program!

 If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at Central City Concern, contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Coordinator, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org

To Know We're Not Alone

Jun 18, 2015

“We read to know we’re not alone.”

For many book lovers, this quote from author and theologian C.S. Lewis captures their connection to the written word. Books transport us to far-off places and far-away times. They stretch our imaginations. They reaffirm and challenge us. Books remind us that we are all a part of a big, beautiful world.

For Anne Arthur, a health educator at Central City Concern’s Old Town Clinic (OTC), Lewis’s sentiment has led to a lifelong love affair with books.

Anne says, “I love to read. It’s such an important part of my life. I think it’s such a valuable thing.”

Her belief that books provide an intimate and necessary connection to the world also inspired her to reach out to patients of the Old Town Clinic in a unique way: a lending library accessible to all OTC patients.

We caught up with Anne to learn more about this wonderful project.

First off, what do you do as a health educator at the Old Town Clinic?
I provide brief interventions around drug and alcohol use using motivational interviewing. I check in with patients about where they are with drug and alcohol use. If they want resources or education around reduction or quitting, I help transition them to a counselor.

I also do work with a smoking cessation program. I do a lot of one-on-one quit plans with our patients. Most patients are pretty open to talking about these things and making changes. We’re seeing people quit and reduce over time!

How does the lending library work?
There’s a sign posted on the library that explains how it works. The sign asks that patients not take more than one book per week, and most patients have been really respectful of that expectation. Once they’ve taken a book and have read it, they can keep it or return it – it’s up to them.

A lot of people do bring the books back, but I’m glad the ones that don’t come back are out there being used.

Where did the idea for the lending library originate?
My office is located right around the corner from the 2nd floor Old Town Clinic waiting room. Sometimes, patients are experiencing a lot of stressors and it’s understandably brought into the waiting room with them. Initially, my thought was that having books to ready might help to make the waiting room a calmer place for everyone.

Also, for people who are living on the streets or maybe getting housing for first time, I think books can be a really valuable thing to take us out of our own situation, to imagine ourselves in other situations… escapism in a good way.

Some of our patients are getting housing for the first time in a long time. I really like the idea that they can have a few books that become their own to help make their space more of a home. Or they can pass along the book to a friend.

What kind of books are available?
I want to make sure that there are books of all kinds: fiction and non-fiction, political, theological, humor and cartoon books – everything. There’s also larger coffee table books that are photo-centric for patients with lower literacy or for patients who don’t enjoy reading as much.

I noticed that a lot of patients love National Geographic. I also noticed that self-helps books tend to go quickly, which is understandable when many of our patients have experienced trauma or are looking to gain healthier habits.

What do you think the lending library means to Old Town Clinic patients?
I would hope that it symbolizes that our clinic goes above and beyond basic healthcare. And of course, the lending library isn’t the only thing that does that. So much of what we do at CCC and the Old Town Clinic is really that humanity piece: we acknowledge and embrace our patients’ humanity.

I hope that this library makes the clinic a warmer and friendlier place. Other staff members have told me that patients have said that they really appreciate it and it makes them feel valued and respected to have that available.

The lending library is also a way to honor their trust in us at the clinic by showing them in other ways that we trust them back – from the rules of the lending library, to trusting them to pick books that are right for them.

What does the lending library mean to you?
I didn’t realize all the benefits of the library. Like I said, I originally thought it might help keep the lending library just a little calmer.

But I’ve gotten so much out of it – I recognize all the benefits, but I feel so happy. Sometimes I walk through the waiting room and seven out of the 10 patients waiting will have a book or a magazine. We also have a kids’ table in the waiting room if someone’s waiting for mom or dad, there are some children’s books. I walked through the other day and a mom was reading a book in Spanish to her child.

Have there been other benefits that have surprised you?
Yes! At the clinic, we have literature towers with handouts for patients. They intentionally have a lot of photographs and are written to meet the needs of people with low literacy (using simpler sentences and language). They have information about diabetes, pre-diabetes, exercise and eating, transgender resources, domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse – a lot of health information and some community-based resources patients might want.

I feel like the lending library works really well in concert with this literature. On one hand, the literature is very concrete and specific to their health and what their immediate health needs might be. After they pick up or read that literature, they can go find a book from the library. It’s a nice blend. It’s great to see patients who grab several handouts that pertain to their health but then also grab a book.

Many patients have started asking if they can donate books or magazines to the clinic. One patient said to me, “This clinic has done so much for me, and I don’t have a lot of money, but I’d love to donate some books as a way to give back.” What a feeling it was to hear that.

• • •

If you are interested in donating books to Old Town Clinic’s lending library, feel free to contact Anne directly at anne.arthur@ccconcern.org. If you are interested in making other types of in-kind donations, please contact CCC’s donor services manager at catharine.hunter@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 »

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 »
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