When Chris moved to Portland in 2006, she was luckier than most - within a few weeks, she had a great job, an apartment, and life was looking good. Then in April of 2009, everything fell apart. In one month, she got laid off from her job, and found that her roommate had disappeared with her half of the rent. This led to her eviction and made her, for the first time in her life, completely homeless. For half a year, she lived between emergency shelters when she could get a bed in one, and fearful nights spent on the streets.
"I was so miserably depressed," says Chris of these uncertain months. "I didn't want to get a job, I didn't want to do anything. And I certainly didn't believe that I would ever be able to find a job, or housing, again."
But then Chris moved into Jean's Place. She started working with the staff who, Chris happily discovered, "really care about you, and really motivate you." She took the volunteer-led employment classes and the Rent Well tenant education class, and started meeting with our mental health specialist to manage the depression she'd felt since being on the streets.
In May, Chris moved upstairs to Level 3 at Jean's Place, where women have the option to lease an affordable room for up to six months in order to rebuild their rental history. She has continued working with her case manager toward permanent housing and employment goals. Last month, her dedication paid off: she started a job as a recruiter for a market research company.
"My life had disintegrated, and I felt like I didn't have a future. Now, things are turning around - I've got my own room to go to when I want some privacy, I've got a job I like, and I'm about to get my first paycheck and start putting it away for a place of my own."
Thanks in large part to the work of our Outreach case managers, over seventy percent of Transition Projects clients who move into housing are still in the same housing twelve months later. One of the keystones of this department's success is their housing retention groups, a chance for clients - placed in housing from the streets or from one of our shelters - a chance to come together to access information and resources, and socialize and build community.
Outreach case managers started organizing housing retention groups in 2008, after recognizing a need to continue to serve as a support network for clients, particularly in a social, group setting, after they have been housed. This idea proved so popular to clients that there are now two retention groups each month. With more than forty clients invited to each group, participants reconnect with each other and their case managers, and learn about community resources from guest speakers.
Staff realized that in addition to the need to reconnect, their clients also had needs for personal and household items, which their household budgets couldn't provide for. To meet this need, they expanded their retention groups to include a quarterly "garage sale," where clients can come in to acquire much-needed household items.
"Our clients have very low or no incomes, so they often can't afford to do things in the community," says case manager Shelley Dixon. "I thought about having a 'garage sale,' to provide the things that they need in everyday life but can't afford." The staff also uses the sale as a budgeting tool to help clients develop and refresh their money management skills.
Case managers now set aside some of the household items that come in as donations, and allot a small amount of money to purchase other inexpensive but necessary items to offer at these sales. Clients will earn "money" for each retention group they come to, which they can spend at the sale to buy the things they need, such as cleaning supplies, linens, and kitchen items. Sale participants are asked to prioritize their needs and wants, keep a list of the items they purchase, and calculate their total spending at checkout.
"They love the sale, as a chance to get things they need," says Dixon, "and it's a fun social event that gets them out of their homes."
These wonderful groups wouldn't be possible without the help of our donors. To support the retention groups, you can make a donation on our website, or bring donations of household items to our Glisan Center at 435 NW Glisan St.
Stocking Up for Winter
It's that time again - as we bid farewell to summer, we start planning for our annual Coat & Blanket Drive. Each fall, we collect thousands of coats, blankets, and other cold-weather gear to equip our clients for the winter months - and we need your help to do it!
We will be partnering once more with Windermere Realty's Share the Warmth campaign, providing barrels to Windermere offices throughout the area to collect these much-needed donations. Windermere's donation drive runs from October 25th through December 17th. We are also looking for other sites to host collection barrels - if you are interested in holding a drive this year, let us know!
The Coat and Blanket Drive depends not only on donations, but also on volunteers to collect these donations and bring them to us. We are recruiting now for volunteers to "adopt" each of our collection sites, and deliver their donations as the barrels fill. This ensures that we have a steady supply of coats and blankets to give to the people who need them.
-Host a barrel to collect donations at your office, church, etc.
-Volunteer to adopt a collection site! Contact us to fins a convenient location for you to collect donations from, and deliver them to us
-Donate your gently-used coats, blankets, gloves, hats, umbrellas, etc - we will keep an updated list of drop-off locations on our website at www.tprojects.org
To be a part of this year's Coat & Blanket Drive, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 503-823-4926 x4. Help us make sure that everyone stays warm this winter.