History & Impact
In the fall of 2011, a collaboration of pastors from a number of churches that make up the Church in North Portland, gathered for a conversation about how they could work together to serve the North Portland community, particularly those experiencing or on the verge of homelessness. That conversation took root and now Community of Hope exists to empower homeless single-parent families to cultivate hope, healing, and stability while living in a safe, supportive environment.
Place and Hours of Operation: The Community of Hope is located at 8911 N. Leonard St. Portland, OR 97203 in St. Johns in North Portland. Up to 8 families at a time live in a building called Hope House, owned by Red Sea Church.
Application process: This program serves homeless single parents and their children. All applicants must be clean and sober and pass drug screening tests. They cannot be currently at risk because of domestic violence. They must agree to the program requirements, be willing to work or find another way to become financially stable, and want to make changes in their lives.They do not have to consider themselves Christians or attend church. They may choose to participate in Christian activities if they wish, but are not required to.
Expectation of Transformation: Families are encouraged to stay in our program for 4-6 months. This gives them the opportunity to work on their healing process, gain new skills, and learn new habits they can continue when they graduate from the program.
Studies show that in order to transform lives, people need four things:
- an experience that helps them see they need to change (being homeless)
- training (classes)
- accountability (care mentoring)
- and a support group (the residents living together and the volunteers partnering with them).
Required CLASSES include:
- Rent Well, a series of classes developed by Home Forward to support families with housing barriers.
- A trauma recovery class which helps participants to see why they do what they do as a result of difficult experiences, how their body reacts to that, and how to make the changes they want and need to make.
- A budgeting and financial management class
- Communication skills classes
- Parenting classes
Optional classes in how to write a resume, how to interview well, nutrition, shopping skills, cooking, exercise, the arts (including for children), and other skills are available. They are open based on whether we have a teacher and on the interest of the residents. Child care is provided during classes only.
We do not duplicate services already available in the community. We make referrals to WorkSource or the JOBS program for TANIF clients, Oregon DHS, AA, domestic violence, counseling, legal services, housing specialists and other programs that are offered by agencies in our community as needed.
Care & Support
CARE MENTORING (similar to case management) is done by Community of Hope staff. Each adult in the program meets weekly to talk about their goals and the progress they have made in meeting them. We do not do anything for the residents that they cannot do themselves.
Living together and going through these classes as a group provides the SUPPORT GROUP needed. Our community life provides many opportunities to practice communication skills, grow in self-esteem, and hone the soft skills need to be successful in work and life. Also, volunteers who partner with families often provide ongoing support both during their stay and after they move out into their own homes.
All volunteers go through background checks and attend training to support them in doing their work at the Community of Hope. They are part of the larger community who walks alongside the residential community of families participating in this program. They must maintain confidentiality at all times. Volunteers do not have to be Christians, but must be respectful of Christian beliefs.
Homelessness in North Portland
Portland Public Schools have identified over 150 families in the nine schools of North Portland that are homeless. 80 teens who attend Roosevelt High School are either couch surfing or living in the park. In addition, many North Portland families teeter on the edge of homelessness.
The entire community of North Portland is affected when these families can’t grow, flourish, and contribute to our neighborhood. Over half of the families in North Portland make less than $25,000 annually. Rent for a two or three bedroom home exceeds $1000 a month. Many of our neighbors truly live on a fiscal cliff; they face the instability that comes with low or no employment. Many fear losing their homes; many already have.
When this happens, many families are forced to stay with other families and friends. These families often move from location to location as hosts are unable to support them for any extended period of time. These types of living situations often are not safe for children. Drug use, alcohol abuse, and unknown adults coming and going are common problems associated with these “multi-family” housing situations and are a common phenomenon seen in the North Portland community.
The children who are living in crisis are affected physically as well as emotionally. The elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol over a long period of time interfere with the development of their brains, causing greater learning difficulties and susceptibility to infections even as adults. By forming a collaboration to help families meet their needs so they have enough energy to provide a stable, caring environment for their children, we will help provide the next generation with stability, maturity, and skills needed for success.