From addiction and homelessness to a career, and service
Steve has spent the last few months volunteering in the Computer Resource Center at the Clark Center, helping residents with basic computer skills, job and housing searches, and resumes. But five years ago, Steve was on the other side of the desk, homeless and living at the Clark Center.
Steve points to one major factor when asked about the root causes of his homelessness: his addiction. Prior to coming to Transition Projects for help in 2005, he had been staying on and off with his grandparents, and had been using on and off during the same period; eventually his relationship with meth caused enough damage to his relationship with his grandparents that they kicked him out.
"I was homeless and using, couldn't stay clean," Steve recalls. "I remember the last time that I used, after having been clean for a little while. It turned out to be good, in a way, because that relapse showed me the powerlessness of the path I was on -- seeing the situation I was in, the people I was with, it showed me where I was going to end up, and I knew I needed to change some things."
With some help from his grandmother, Steve started working with the outpatient detoxification services offered through the Portland Alternative Health Center. His case worker there, on discovering that he was homeless, referred him to Transition Projects.
"Transition Projects was key in helping me turn things around," Steve says. "There was no way I could have gotten clean on the streets, I was so caught up in the cycle of using. I'd sleep for days on end, then get loaded and stay loaded until I couldn't find any more, then sleep it off for another week."
With support from PAC and Transition Projects, Steve did get clean. While staying at the Clark Center, he found an apartment. Unfortunately, when he found a job that required him to travel, he lost that apartment. When he decided to start an electrician's apprenticeship, his grandparents opened their doors to him again and said he could stay until he finished his apprenticeship.
"I told them, you know that's four years, right?" Steve laughs. "I stayed with them through those four years, though, but finally, this year, I'm five years clean, I'm a journeyman electrician, I've got my own place, my daughter is living with me, and now I'm here giving back."
"That's one thing I got out of being in that position, staying in a shelter. Seeing volunteers come in every night with dinner, makes you think about giving back." Steve started volunteering with the Clark Center to fulfill a service requirement for the last class in getting his associate's degree, but he has stayed on as a regular volunteer even after fulfilling his course requirements.
"Being here is good for me, because being here, and talking to the guys, I can see where I came from. And having been here, I can really appreciate the need to give back."
A Successful Jean's Place Luncheon
The third annual Jean's Place Luncheon, held on May 21st at First Christian Church, was a rousing success. Over 160 guests attended to support Transition Projects' 55-bed transitional program for women.
Keynote speaker Margaret Carter, former member of the Oregon Legislature, and current Deputy Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services, spoke to the critical need for programs like Jean's Place. As a longtime advocate for women's rights, and for those less fortunate, she stressed the importance of supporting those in need in our communities, and honored luncheon guests by closing with a song.
This year's luncheon also saw the presentation of the first annual Homeless Women's Advocacy Award. Executive Director Doreen Binder presented Gretchen Kafoury with this honor, in tribute to her steadfast commitment to services for women throughout the city of Portland. Kafoury, who has served as an Oregon State Respresentative, a Multnomah County Commissioner, and member of the Portland City Council, has long been an advocate for women, as well as for the homeless.
"Gretchen created the plan that led to the development of Jean's Place," says Binder. "She has been our staunchest ally, as a leader who put our issues at the top of her priorities, and delivered."
Thanks to all of the sponsors, guests, and speakers who helped to make this year's Jean's Place Luncheon the biggest success yet. All funds raised through this event go right back to Jean's Place, to helping women make the transition from homelessness to housing.
Resource Access Center Update
Construction on the Resource Access Center is moving swiftly along - the building has grown by two stories in the last month! Transition Projects directors were recently able to have a walk-through of the site, exploring the spaces that will soon be home to the new and improved Community Service Center, and 90-bed transitional shelter for men.