Learn more about the history of the collaboration of the Church of North Portland to serve homeless families in our community. Please click on one of the options below.
In in the fall of 2011, a collaboration of pastors from a number of churches that make up the Church of North Portland, gathered for an initial conversation about how they could work together to serve the North Portland community. Each recognized that with a collaborative effort, more could be done to respond to the challenges families in their congregations who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless were experiencing. They were all able to share stories of people who had approached them with a need for housing. Each of them had the same reaction; not only were they unable to help, but a survey of over 100 nonprofits in the area revealed that there were no transitional housing facilities in North Portland. The pastors realized their church communities shared a passion and desire to help those in need of more permanent housing. David Brewer, Director of AllOne Community Services helped to unite them and led them in bringing this to fruition. The vision of AllOne is to exhort and mobilize The Church of North Portland in order to help them serve the community in a collaborative fashion.. During the spring of 2012, the churches involved agreed that the Community of Hope (COH) would be a collaboration ministry of AllOne Community Services. The following four churches formed a committee and began to work in conjunction with AllOne to see the Community of Hope become a reality. Since then, many other churches have joined COH in serving our community.
- Grace Christian Fellowship, 7325 N. Bank St., Portland, OR 97203, Pastor Kelly Cohoe
- Red Sea Church, 7535 N. Chicago Ave., Portland, OR 97203 Pastor Josh Duncan
- Rivergate Community Church, 4737 N Lombard St, Portland, OR 97203 Pastor Carren Woods
- St Johns All Nations COGIC, 9486 N Buchanan St., Portland, OR 97203 Pastor Clifford Chappell
Starting in October of 2012, Linda Jo Devlaeminck began to work part time as Program Director to set up the program. She researched best practices in serving homeless families and developed the program for the Community of Hope. She networked with agencies, businesses, government officials, and neighborhood groups and formed partnerships to help provide services to the families. She also began fundraising efforts and raised enough money to begin the program.
Finding a place to house the Community of Hope proved to be a challenge. Eventually, Red Sea Church offered space, but COH had to go through a permitting process with the City of Portland to get permission. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz helped pave the way and the Bureau of Development Services was able to work with COH to meet the safety standards needed for a temporary permit. Swapnplay, which is located in the lower level of the church, vacated some rooms for COH to use as their nighttime space. Red Sea has also donated rooms in their annex across the street for daytime space.
This collaboration paid off, and in February of 2014, the Community of Hope opened with the first family. When they opened, they served families only after school and overnight during the week, and only overnight on weekends. Within a couple of weeks, it became clear that COH would not be able to fill the overnight shifts with volunteers, and they hired a gifted couple to meet this need. Although they were able to help one family who appreciated what COH could do (including remaining open during the day during a snowstorm when they were sick), it became clear that they would not be able to serve their target population of mothers and children if the families had to be out at 8:00 every morning. In March of 2014, COH started to work toward being open more hours and in May of 2014, they hired staff to cover weekend daytime hours, providing a place any time the women needed a place to stay. They were able to attract more families and provide the stability needed for them to begin to heal and work on the skills they need to improve their lives.
On Feb. 1, 2015, COH leased the building called the HUB and now called Hope House that is owned by Red Sea Church. We now have exclusive use as a 24/7 shelter. Starting in April, the families began to sleep at the HUB, eliminating the need to move between the daytime and night time spaces.
In 2015, COH went through a Conditional Permit Review and received permission to expand to house eight families at a time. They established a relationship with the Home Builders Foundation, who is committed to oversee the renovation process to expand the facility to increase the capacity from five to eight families.
From May 15 to October 15, 2016, Hope House closed for renovations. Under the direction of the Home Builders Foundation, we brought the building up to code, increased our capacity from five to eight families, added shower and laundry facilities, and made the whole building beautiful.
Within the next two to three years, we will complete meeting all the codes, replace windows, siding and roof, add air conditioning, and replace bedroom doors with windows in them with solid doors.
Homelessness exists 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 to provide the next generation with more stability, maturity, and skills needed for success.
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. Residents live in a building called Hope House, owned by Red Sea Church. Families shower in a shower trailer located on site.
Application process: This program serves homeless single mothers 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 may choose to participate in Christian activities if they wish, but are not required to. They do not have to be Christians or go to church.
Length of Program: 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.
Program: Studies show that in order to transform lives, people need four things. In order to provide the greatest chance of success, the Community of Hope provides three of these four. People need 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).
The required classes e 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 mentoring (similar to case management) is done by Community of Hope staff. Each adult in the program meets weekly to talk about her goals and the progress she has 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 also provide ongoing support both during their stay and after they move out into their own homes.
Volunteers: 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.
As we look around us in the North Portland neighborhood, we see many of our brothers and sisters in great need. There is a housing crisis in North Portland. As a community of North Portland churches, our mission is to be committed to help those of us in need of more permanent housing.The entire community is affected when these families can’t grow, flourish, and contribute to our neighborhood. If we can focus our resources on helping people achieve stable work and home environments, fewer resources will have to be invested in crisis management.Remembering Paul’s admonition to care for those parts of the Body of Christ who are weaker and need greater care (I Cor. 12: 22-23), we work to appreciate and care for every member. With each of us using all the gifts God gives us, we embrace Solomon’s adage that “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” Therefore we believe that, working together as churches, agencies, and individuals, we can help make North Portland a better place to live and work.