• The Value of Peer Support

    The Value of Peer Support

    “When you see them (participants) accomplish something, even something small, it’s like a world of opportunities opens up for them,” says Ash, ShelterCare Peer Support Specialist, “I get to be the first person to witness that.” As a Peer Support Specialist, Ash spends much of his time working one-on-one with young adults on life skills and achieving their goals, “I have a passion for working with at-risk youth and young adults. As a young adult, I had to overcome a lot of really big barriers to get where I’m at today and I feel like I really relate to a lot of these participants.”

    Peer Support Specialists are, “People with lived experience from either addiction, mental health, or both, who have made it through their recovery and are now in a position to walk other people through their recovery,” explains Crys, Traditional Health Worker Supervisor at ShelterCare. After five years at ShelterCare, Crys’ role is now to oversee the agency’s Peers.

    Melissa is a Peer at ShelterCare, she explains the value of peer support, “we can walk side by side with somebody, shoulder to shoulder. We’re not there to do for them. We’re not there to tell them what to do, but we’re there to work with them and they can look at us and see that there’s hope.”

    Many of ShelterCare’s program participants have experienced years of homelessness and the trauma that comes with it, “A lot of these people have hit rock bottom and I think there’s something really beautiful about hitting rock bottom, and then having that be the solid foundation on which your life is built upon,” explains Ash. Peers are there to support individuals through that rebuilding process.

    Trauma around homelessness can make it difficult to accomplish day-to-day tasks, so Peers are there to, “be that one, steady person,” according to Crys, who can help our program participants rebuild their confidence and life skills. A 2022 study by the University of Ottawa reported that 91% of unhoused individuals have experienced at least one traumatic event, and 99% experienced childhood trauma, so the support our program participants receive from Peers is an important part of their journey to stability.

    “I had this one participant that was really nervous about navigating the bus system again,” explains Melissa, “so I rode the bus with them a couple of times and I got a phone call one random Friday afternoon, and they were just so excited and elated. And they’re like, “I rode the bus by myself. I went and got iced coffee and I went to a doctor’s appointment!” And it just feels so good to be a part of that.”

    These small wins are part of a bigger strategy, “We work with them collaboratively to identify and set goals to achieve their own independence,” Ash says. This allows the program participant to be in charge of their own journey in a supportive environment. “There was this gentleman who was convinced his life was never going to get better and that he would never get a new pair of glasses again. We worked together and found him a therapist and his outlook on life has greatly improved. We even got him a voucher and he got a new pair of glasses,” Ash explained, “Watching him say, “Oh my gosh, I can actually read a book again! I can read the street signs!” is one of my biggest successes.”

    Social services work can cause burnout, so our staff support each other and celebrate wins to stay motivated. Crys explains the joy in seeing her peers succeed, “now I supervise people who are providing peer support for people, who I used to provide peer support for and I get to see how they’ve succeeded. I can be a part of their journey still.”

    Crys has the ability to be a support system for our Peers in her role. She explains that one thing she works with Peers on is practicing Intentional Peer Support, “In Intentional Peer Support, before you would self-disclose information to someone about your recovery, we have to ask “What is our intent?” It’s usually because we know that’s a step, and once we lay that step, then the person we’re supporting will come along with us.”

    Crys says, “We have a lifetime of lived experience, which is no more or less valuable than a formal education,” especially when supporting someone experiencing trauma.

    Lived experience creates a high level of empathy, which is so important when supporting our program participants. Melissa expressed her compassion for the individuals she serves, “It doesn’t matter your age, race, or your mental health disability, we will be there to help anyone in need. I feel like we need to all treat each other with kindness and respect, and we should all have the same rights. We should all be able to get the same mental health help.”

    ShelterCare believes that all individuals deserve a chance to achieve their greatest level of independence and resilience. “No one is beyond help,” says Ash, “even if someone seems like they’re too far gone, there is still a person in there who just wants to be loved.”

    In 2023, ShelterCare’s Peer Support Specialists have provided support to over 130 people on their journey to become and remain stably housed. Your donation supports the work Melissa, Ash, and Crys do to help ShelterCare’s program participants gain and maintain their independence and stability. Will you support ShelterCare by making a donation today?

  • Voices: A Consumer Council Newsletter – Summer 2023

  • I Finished High School… Now What?

    I Finished High School… Now What?

    By Abhayroop Pawar

    I had an irregular high school experience. When I needed something from the staff, I got it, when I had questions, they were answered, and most critically, I could tell that the staff wanted me to succeed and would do what was needed to make sure that happened. My best friend’s experience, however, was the complete opposite. It felt like the school gave up on him without giving him a chance. I later realized that many of my other friends had similar experiences and that support for young adults could be hard to find, especially after high school. This is why I want to highlight my internship experience because I discovered a new world of mentors whose sole mission is to uplift us young adults and provide us with avenues to a career.

    My name is Abhay. I am an incoming freshman at the University of Oregon and will be pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Business with a concentration in Marketing. Ultimately, I plan on pursuing an MBA with the same concentration. Knowing that marketing is quite a competitive field, I tried to find out what I could do to better prepare myself for my professional life, and this is when I found out about Connected Lane County and its Elevate program. Through this outstanding program, I was able to get an Internship with ShelterCare, a non-profit that provides housing and mental health services to unhoused individuals. 

    A wall with ShelterCare’s vision statement
    The break area at ShelterCare’s main office

    ShelterCare is an extremely unique organization to me; in a town that has the highest concentration of nonprofits IN THE COUNTRY, ShelterCare is able to consistently hit and exceed fundraising goals and create a measurable community impact. This can be partially attributed to the amazing Development and Marketing team. Just as a side note, I say “team” but I really just mean two people…yeah, that’s not a typo, two people do all the marketing for a top-performing, legacy nonprofit, y’all will always have my respect. Anyway, I had never really thought about the fact that a nonprofit needs a robust marketing plan, as they cannot simply fall back on a product or brand recognition. Marketing is how many donations are procured, and without donations, there can’t be services. Although critically vital in all industries, marketing in the nonprofit world takes on a different level of importance.

    Art created by program participants in the art therapy group is displayed on a wall at ShelterCare’s main office

    Interning for ShelterCare has really given me a crash course in a lot of the standard procedures of marketing. For instance, in my short time here, I have already made email advertisements, created a social media campaign from the ground up, and have been a part of many workplace meetings. My absolute favorite part of this internship is the networking. Connections are everything – this is a lesson I was taught pretty early on, so once the scope of ShelterCare’s network became apparent to me, I got pretty excited. An assignment I am currently working on is interviewing different business professionals around town. I feel this experience is unique to ShelterCare as their network is just so vast; 50+ years in the community will do that.

    I voiced my interest in networking during my initial meet-up with Alyssa, ShelterCare’s Development and Communications Coordinator, during the Elevate internship orientation. This is a sort of four-day boot camp that all the interns must attend. The orientation is intended to allow interns to make new connections, as well as teach critical information about finance, workplace safety, and interpersonal control which is necessary in preparing us at multiple levels for a real workplace environment. The Elevate program provides high-school-aged youth with a paid summer internship among other great career-connected learning opportunities to a broader age range. Because it is a paid program with limited capacity, youth must apply and be accepted into the Elevate internship program. From there, the Elevate team contacts their local businesses partners to match students with businesses that cater to their interests. As a participant, this process was not difficult at all and the amazing staff made sure communication was reliable and swift.

    Interns listen to Dan Lombardi, past Elevate project coordinator, during the first day of orientation

    This experience has been defined by the people; everyone helps, and everyone cares. On the first day of orientation we were met by a jubilant and eager staff, which honestly might have been a little much for a bunch of teens at 9 am on a summer day, had it not been for the fact that we could tell they were being genuine. Monica, a member of the Elevate team stated, “I have a soft spot for youth. I wasn’t able to have my own so in a very motherly way, this is my way of leaving a mark on the next generation.”  This was in response to the question, why do you do what you do? Shimea, another member of the Elevate team responded with, “I was an underserved youth, and helping underserved youth in this way, in this capacity, feels really good.” These aren’t answers that were memorized and recited to me, they came from their hearts. Everyone has a passion, something they could do for hours and still not be tired or bored – for the Elevate team, this passion is helping youth succeed. 

    A close-up of the break area at Connected Lane County’s, Spark at Booth Kelly facility

    The staff at ShelterCare are no different – a project that really highlighted their individuality to me was a video interview project. I would ask staff questions and get back very thoughtful responses, which really helped me get to know everyone better. Even though the marketing department is a little secluded, staff stop by all the time just to talk or wave bye on the way out. ShelterCare was also eager to take in interns. I asked Alyssa what her favorite part about working with interns was, she said, “I love that I get to help students find their direction, what they like and don’t like.” In my short time here, I have learned enough to really get a feel for my likes and dislikes within my field which is necessary in pinpointing what it is exactly that I want to do in life. Overall, these local nonprofits have given me a rare opportunity to prepare for my future and have done so for many others. They are truly worth supporting!

  • ShelterCare’s “Run for Your Life” 5k Fundraiser!

    ShelterCare’s “Run for Your Life” 5k Fundraiser!

    Save the Date and prepare to Run for Your Life!! On October 22nd, ShelterCare will be partnering with Thrill the World Eugene to host a zombie-themed 5k with 100+ zombies hidden around the Alton Baker race course!

    We are currently seeking sponsorships! If you are interested in being a sponsor, email us at development@sheltercare.org. Last year’s race had 250 runners and over 100 volunteers!

    Help us spread the word by following the event on Facebook and inviting your friends HERE!

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    Title Sponsors:

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    Undead Level:
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  • Creating Hospital Discharge Solutions for The Unhoused and Medically Fragile

    Creating Hospital Discharge Solutions for The Unhoused and Medically Fragile

    About the Author:

    Chris Cunningham recently completed her five-year term as a ShelterCare board member, serving as the board liaison with the agency’s program participants. She continues to participate as a member of the ShelterCare Public Relations committee, and also is a participant with NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Statewide Policy Advocates.

    Nowhere to Go

    Bill remembers limping after injuring his left foot, but he certainly wasn’t thinking the worst. The pain continued, and he learned he had a broken toe, and to complicate matters, diabetes. PeaceHealth Riverbend quickly scheduled his surgery to amputate three toes.

    The 55-year-old man had recently moved back to Oregon from Georgia, where he had been working part-time in a restaurant and caring for his elderly parents during COVID. He attributes his diabetes to the sugary soda pop he drank in large quantities at his workplace, but he figured it was a better alternative than the large amounts of alcohol on which he had become reliant.

    When Bill returned to Eugene, he had nowhere to go and ended up living with an acquaintance. However, he didn’t want to burden him while he was recovering from surgery. So, the social worker at PeaceHealth Riverbend wrote a discharge plan for Bill to stay in a pallet shelter encampment at St. Vincent de Paul on Highway 99.

    It’s hard to imagine being discharged from a hospital with nowhere to go, especially when our local social safety net for people who are homeless is fragile. ShelterCare recognized this gaping hole in the healthcare continuum in 2013 and ever since has been providing post-hospital recuperation to people who are medically fragile and unhoused.

    While the temporary shelter was safer than the streets, Bill said maintaining a diabetic diet and caring for his surgical wounds was next to impossible. Once a chef, who prepared healthy vegetarian meals at venues like Breitenbush Hot Springs, Bill knew he needed to adopt a diabetic diet as well as dress his surgical wounds. But he didn’t have ready access to a kitchen and running water.

    Because Bill was able to walk, bathe himself, administer his own medications, and was eligible for the Oregon Health Plan, he was approved for a room at ShelterCare’s Medical Recuperation Program (SMR) on Highway 99. Each unit has a shower and toilet, a small sitting area, and a microwave and refrigerator. ShelterCare’s 18-bed program is funded primarily by PacificSource and Trillium, both Coordinated Care Organizations for Oregon Health Plan consumers.

    Located in a repurposed hotel in West Eugene, ShelterCare’s SMR program has provided Bill, since early 2023, with a warm room, three cooked meals a day, transportation, and case management to help him heal and eventually transition to permanent housing. A visiting nurse stops by to change the dressings on his foot. Bill hopes that access to all these services will strengthen him enough for future employment.

    The SMR program staff have also helped Bill establish a relationship with a primary care physician (PCP), who monitors his medications and who early on referred him for physical and occupational therapy, and mental health services. Bill’s fragile condition and acute medical needs have warranted a far longer stay than the average of 60 days, requiring his physician and insurance provider to approve extensions every month.

    ShelterCare Provides a Healing Place Post-Hospitalization

    Scott Eastman, Short-Term Housing manager at ShelterCare, says about 30 percent of SMR’s participants are on diabetic diets, the result of not having access to nourishing foods, healthcare, and medicine. What’s more, from May 2022 to May 2023, 49 percent of SMR participants had three or more concurrent medical conditions post-hospitalization, including mental health and chronic health issues, substance use disorders, and physical disabilities.

    SMR provides case management to facilitate longer-lasting solutions to its participants, including long-term housing. While such efforts don’t guarantee a perfect ending for everyone, some 68 percent of the program’s participants transition to more permanent housing arrangements. “We want to increase their options when they leave,” Eastman says.

    “It’s taken a lot of time to fine-tune the process,” Eastman admits. But the care SMR has taken to create collaborative relationships with local hospitals and insurers has paid off.  “Insurers love us because we provide care at a fraction of the cost of hospital care,” he says.

    Eastman says there are hidden costs involved in not providing care to people who are unhoused and discharged from the hospital or emergency room. Without post-hospital care, many are readmitted to the hospital, make frequent visits to emergency departments, and experience poor health outcomes—defined as shorter life expectancy, greater use of acute hospital services, and higher mortality and morbidity.

    Sadly, across the country, many hospitals do not have policies that adequately address post-discharge challenges for people who are unhoused. Research shows that most people who are homeless are discharged to emergency shelters or to the streets. With few options, it is difficult if not impossible to clean wounds, prevent infections, get restorative sleep, and eat nutritious meals.

    Housing is Healthcare

    Bill is one of thousands of unhoused people who can’t rely on a safety net after an acute medical episode.

    Research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information notes an increase in hospitalizations among the unhoused population. Although the reasons for the increase are not known, speculation suggests that an aging homeless population and a lack of access to preventive care may be two contributing factors.

    Recent legislation in Oregon emerged following the death of a Salem woman who didn’t have a place to go after her discharge in winter, 2022. Seeking a change in the current state system are three Oregon elected officials: Senator Deb Patterson, a Democrat from Salem, Senator Kayse Jama, a Democrat from Portland, and Representative Paul Evans, a Democrat from Monmouth. This year, the senators introduced Senate Bill 1076 which would require hospitals to have specific procedures for the discharge of homeless patients.

    The bill received mixed support, Patterson writes, but a broad coalition supports another bill, SB 1079, that has established a Joint Task Force on Hospital Discharge Challenges to address the issues that hospitals face when trying to discharge patients to appropriate post-acute care settings. A broad coalition of stakeholders, including the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Associations, supports SB 1079, which has until November 1, 2023, to submit administrative changes to the governor that do not require legislative actions.

    According to the National Institute for Medical Respite Care, SMR’s program is one of two programs in Oregon—the other is in Portland—that provides safe emergency shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness and have been discharged from the hospital following an acute medical episode that necessitates additional time and care to heal. Across the country, some states do not have any post-discharge options, typically referred to as medical respite, medical recovery, or medical recuperation programs, and offer varying services. In the meantime, SMR will do what it can to assuage the conditions for unhoused people, like Bill, who are leaving hospitals in Eugene/Springfield, and to provide an environment that lends itself to improved health outcomes and enhanced well-being. Bill grants that his extended SMR stay has played a significant role in his healing. “I’m grateful for the ShelterCare program,” Bill says.

  • Michelle’s Vlog: A Year in Review

    To close out this fiscal year, ShelterCare CEO Michelle Hankes reflects on what we’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done.

  • A Compassionate Approach to Property Management

    A Compassionate Approach to Property Management

    “I think we (ShelterCare) get to address tenants with a level of compassion you won’t fi nd elsewhere,” says Amanda, ShelterCare’s Property Manager. “I’m not just evicting people immediately. In a traditional setting, if you’re a week past your rent, they’re starting to file eviction on you. What I like about ShelterCare is that we’re able to give tenants a little more time to figure it out…the support I have from the staff means we get to do a lot of skill building stuff that gets people through really tight spots,” explains Amanda.

    ShelterCare’s Property Management program, run by Amanda, responds to tenant and neighborhood complaints, working to resolve issues swiftly by communicating with support staff to intervene. Staff assist the tenant in making efforts to modify the behaviors that pose a risk to their housing. Amanda works to identify when a tenancy is not a good match for the property/community and begins to search for alternative housing ahead of any eviction date. She also conducts regularly scheduled home inspections to ensure lease compliance and to help our program participants remain housed.

    A big part of the process is the partnership between Amanda and our case managers, she explains, “every document I send to a program participant, their case manager sees it so they can support them through whatever it is. It might be a notice that feels scary because they might think their housing is being threatened.”

    It is Amanda’s goal to help our program participants feel as stable in their housing as possible. One strategy is to mitigate the panic that can come with serving a notice to a tenant, “I’ve literally had people tell me, “I got your notice and I’m packing to move out,” and I’m like, “No, I’m just letting you know you can’t store your barbeque on the porch, you don’t have to move out!” That zero to 100 panic is what we try to backpedal. I want people to take the notices seriously, but I want staff to support them so they are able to make good choices and not panic because that spirals really fast.”

    It is common for those that Amanda works with to feel like their housing is not permanent due to trauma. She explains how she continuously works to encourage and support them through these feelings, “they think it’s going to be gone tomorrow and they’ve gotten used to sleeping outside, so they say, “I’m not setting my bed up, I’m not turning my heat on, I’m not unpacking my bags. I’m sleeping on the floor.” I have to tell them, “you’ve been here a year!” It doesn’t matter how long, they are worried it will get taken away from them twice.”

    Amanda comes from a long background of property management, “I did property management for about 15 years in the private industry,” she says, “It was never as rewarding…it never felt like something I wanted to make a career out of.” She was looking for a career change that would make a difference, “I wanted to work with unhoused people, I didn’t want to be a Property Manager anymore,” she explained, “I was getting to the point, while looking for jobs, where I thought I had to be a Property Manager since it’s in my skill set. Then this was the first one I applied for. I just wondered, “How did this happen?” I love it. I’ve been here ever since.”

    Amanda has positively affected many ShelterCare program participants, such as John* in our Birch program. Birch offers transitional shelter and case management to divert people with serious mental health needs from jails and psychiatric hospitals. John* explained how Amanda treats tenants with compassion, “Amanda is a real comfortable person to rent from and to talk to. She is approachable. She shines with consideration.”

    Amanda says being ShelterCare’s Property Manager isn’t always easy, but is worth it, “It’s a little bit of being the bad cop. Property Managers are never going to be anyone’s favorite, but the way I’m able to do it here feels so much better.” It’s the successes that keep her going each day, “I’ve been here three years now, so I’ve seen people who came into these programs so broken and so hopeless, thinking they can’t do it, and maybe they didn’t do it the first time, maybe they’ve moved three times, but now it’s sticking and they’re housed and they’re proud. I come here everyday to do that.”

    Amanda discussed how each person she works with has their own individual story and a big part of her job is to advocate on their behalf, “All of my participants are not criminals…I am breaking down those stereotypes every single day…nobody’s story is the same.”

    She explained a couple of the biggest misconceptions about those she works with, “There are certainly people who, through homelessness, have gotten criminal charges, either through actually being homeless, like trespassing, or just in their time surviving on the streets. Maybe their criminal charges made them homeless. That exists, but everyone out there is not actively engaging in crime and they don’t all abuse drugs and, if they are struggling with addiction, that doesn’t make them bad people, or even bad tenants.”

    ShelterCare’s Property Management program provides the support that helps over 200 people remain stably housed; approximately 85-90% remain housed after the first year. Your donation supports the work Amanda does to help our program participants maintain the independence and stability that comes with being a renter. Will you support ShelterCare by making a donation today?

  • Ronald’s Trek to Mental Health

    Ronald’s Trek to Mental Health

    ShelterCare Behavioral Health program participant, Ronald, grew up in the rural parts of Oregon where it is more difficult to find mental health services, “I’ve had insomnia my entire life, and the best solution I could get there (Klamath Falls) or in La Pine was “we got a phonebook (to read),” he explains, “Have you ever heard of a sleeping pill? They never notice if you have anxiety or depression…and they were the professionals.”

    Ronald has been in Eugene now for 12 years, 11 of which he has been with ShelterCare, “I went to WhiteBird and was connected (to ShelterCare) by the therapist I was seeing there,” he explains about the referral process, “ShelterCare was the first program I got into after WhiteBird and I stayed with it because they were a really great support group for me.”

    ShelterCare’s Behavioral Health program provides mental health treatment to individuals diagnosed with a mental health condition, including trauma disorders, which often are related to the trauma and stress of homelessness. Current services include individual and group therapy, skills training, case management, telehealth, and healthcare coordination.

    Ronald explains how these multifaceted services have helped him, “I was with ShelterCare for a year before my social security started coming in, then they became my payee, which was useful because I am, and always have been, terrible at managing money. If it wasn’t for them (ShelterCare), I would have no money.”

    ShelterCare’s therapy program has worked wonders for Ronald, “Unlike other therapists, she’s (Linet, his therapist) actually been able to break through to me, which is usually difficult. It usually takes a long time,” he says.

    Ronald lives in his own apartment with his cat, “Her name is Sweet Pea. She’s a tortoise shell,” he says. Recently, there have been some issues with people blocking the entrance to the complex and loitering, “They were hanging out there overnight and not letting tenants in,” Ronald describes, “I have social anxiety, I don’t like being around people and I know other people there (his apartment complex) have the same problems.”

    It can be extremely difficult for someone experiencing a mental disability to handle situations like this, but with the encouragement of Ronald’s therapist Linet, and his skills trainer, Lizzy, he says he found success speaking up for himself and other tenants, “I eventually went and talked to someone who worked on-site about doing some things that would probably help. I was able to connect with her…just reaching out like that is a stretch for me because usually, I don’t even want to leave my apartment. Since that time, they put up a fence and we now have locked gates!”

    Linet has worked at ShelterCare for a total of 33 years. She says she sticks around because of the unique experiences she has each day and the support of her coworkers, “my favorite parts of working at ShelterCare are that we work as a team, and support each other in the work; and that there is never a dull moment, there is always something new to learn, something new to experience.”

    M’Ress, One of Ronald’s Favorite Star Trek Characters

    Being stably housed and connected to the behavioral health services he needs allows Ronald the time and space to enjoy what he loves: watching science fiction, particularly Star Trek, with his cat! He excitedly explained, “I like science fiction – Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Stargate…I watched Equinox part 1 and 2 (episodes from Star Trek: Voyager) before coming in today! I just found a Star Trek Channel on Pluto TV – not that I don’t own the originals on DVD, including the one you may never have seen: The Animated Series. It’s a classic! I particularly like M’Ress; she’s a cat woman!”

    Ronald says he is thankful for what ShelterCare has done to help him, and many others, create a safe and stable life for themselves, “It (ShelterCare) has helped a lot of people. I think it would be good if the public knew more about what ShelterCare does for people who have been homeless and have mental issues to get them into housing, to get them off the streets, and to help them get on track.” Last year, ShelterCare helped over 1,800 individuals move forward on their journey toward housing stability and independence.

    Like a true fan, Ronald says, in regards to his goal for the future, “Star Trek: Picard is out Wednesday, I’ll be watching that!”

    You can make a difference in lives like Ronald’s. Support from a therapist like Linet has changed his life forever. Your donation will help us provide behavioral health services to more individuals and continue moving our program participants forward in personal growth. Will you support ShelterCare by making a donation today?

  • Letting Perfect Get in the Way of Progress

    Letting Perfect Get in the Way of Progress

    Michelle has been busy out in the community lately – see her above with a journalist from Germany, accepting a check from the Eugene Realtors, and at the Eugene Chamber of Commerce Celebration of business!

    With the Governor’s recent executive orders recognizing homelessness as a state of emergency, there’s a mixed reaction of excitement that there is potential forward momentum in finding solutions and cynicism that the budget and policies being put forward won’t be enough to fix anything.

    Admittedly, for those of us who have been working to address the needs of the unhoused for the past several years, we’re frustrated when we hear people say, “It’s about time someone does something.” Seriously? Walk a mile in our shoes! We also know how frustrating it is that, for every person we can help find and keep housing, there are ten more that we haven’t been able to serve. I heard one of my peers say the other day that even the $130 million proposed is just a drop in the bucket for what is needed for lasting results.

    Hang on, everyone! This is where I’m going to start to preach.

    Homelessness is a complex issue. In fact, I would argue that homelessness isn’t actually an issue but an outcome of the intersection of MANY other problems: poverty, housing scarcity, mental illness, trauma, climate change, addictions, access to education, discrimination, and so on. There’s no single, perfect, magic-wand solution that will “fix” homelessness. Because of that, it takes many different programs and agencies to focus on their expertise while collaborating with other agencies doing what they do best. 

    This complexity makes it look like homelessness isn’t being solved at all. But what you don’t see is that change is happening–sometimes one person or family at a time–as multiple, unique needs are being addressed. 

    I get it. We want to see change happen now. We want homelessness to be gone. Tomorrow.

    Yet homelessness didn’t become a city (or state or even national) emergency overnight. All of those problems I mentioned before layered over themselves, year after year, as wages didn’t grow, available housing for all income levels didn’t expand, and capacity for healthcare didn’t keep up with need. Just to describe a few. 

    So what am I trying to say? I’m saying that every idea and every little bit of funding is important and that we can’t let finding the perfect solution get in the way of making any progress. Like the story where a child throws one starfish at a time back into the ocean and says she may not be able to help them all, what she is doing is important to the ones she can save. Being able to help those we can, should not be lost in our goal to reach everyone.

    So I suggest we put aside our cynicism that there won’t be enough change, and focus on putting the strategies we do have into play because helping one person is better than helping no one.

    Want to know more? Join ShelterCare on May 4th for a panel of experts answering questions on the local housing crisis! Click HERE to register.

  • A Home for the Holidays

    ShelterCare CEO Michelle Hankes

    I usually like to keep my blogs positive, even if the themes and issues I discuss are scary, frustrating and concerning. I like to point out how you and I can help each other and our neighbors in a call to action, or highlight the wins our community has had in the areas of homelessness and behavioral health.

    This month, I find myself typing and deleting several drafts of blogs that don’t follow my typical “can do” messaging.

    Perhaps it’s because this holiday season has been more challenging than most due to economic uncertainty, staffing shortages, and a housing market that has reached crisis level in the Eugene area. These alone make running a nonprofit focused on getting people into permanent supported housing a daunting task to say the least.

    But not impossible.

    The staff at ShelterCare have done some tremendous work this past year. The Medical Recuperation program was able to double its capacity in serving homeless individuals coming out of the hospital, after major medical treatment (thanks to partners Trillium, PeaceHealth, and PacificSource.) The Rent Relief Program was able to get over six million dollars out to landlords and keep thousands of local people in their homes, all while passing an audit to prove every dollar was spent wisely. The Birch, .370 Aid and Assist, program successfully got individuals back on their feet through housing and case management, and was awarded a grant to expand the program to reduce recidivism. 

    Hundreds of individuals and families have become housed through the many other permanent supportive housing programs funded through state and local dollars. It’s also important that you know that other individuals, with severe and persistent mental illness, remain housed through the support of our behavioral health clinical staff who provide therapy and skills training. 

    And yet… It feels like we’re up against barriers out of our control. Affordable apartments don’t exist in our community. Homelessness is the top issue in every survey sent out to our community members, and there are two solutions that we can’t seem to talk about: making it easy to build affordable housing units and eliminating poverty through livable wages for every type of employment. 

    Bottom-line, let’s get people into homes and keep people from losing homes when they have a personal economic disaster such as a job loss or medical emergency. 

    How can YOU help? If you are a landlord (or know one), work with ShelterCare on our Masterlease program. We can guarantee you’ll receive rent payment on time and make a difference in a person’s life. Make a donation to ShelterCare that isn’t program specific so we can direct it to where it’s needed most. Advocate! Come to one of our Open Houses to learn more about us and tell your friends about us. I’ll meet anyone over coffee to talk about ShelterCare. The hardest questions are the best questions.

    Together, hopefully next year, we’ll make sure many more people have a home for the holidays.

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