A newsletter featuring thoughts, art and poetry created by ShelterCare residents. Read the latest issue: Voices, November 2017
During this time of the year, we’re easily reminded of our early days as a small family shelter, and how far we’ve come throughout the years.
On Christmas Eve, 1970, ShelterCare first opened its doors thanks to a small group of community members who recognized the need for family shelters in Lane County.
“At the time, most shelters separated men and women, which made things difficult for many families,” said ShelterCare Executive Director Susan Ban. “We were one of the first places in Lane County where families could stay together.”
What was initially expected to be a “short-lived” housing program ended up being a helpful resource for many families, and a stepping stone to what ShelterCare is today. Not only did the program keep families together, but it provided them with the support they needed to build more stable futures. Today, this program is known as Housing, Health and Wellness (HHW).
“Family cohesiveness provides a sense of stability during a family’s homelessness episode,” said HHW Team Lead Yuki Kumashiro. “That stability plays a significant role in helping families transition into permanent housing.”
While a family is transitioning, HHW provides 3-6 months of shelter, as well as weekly support from a case manager who works with them on their barriers and goals.
“We discuss everything from their children’s school attendance, and transportation issues, to employment goals,” said Kumashiro.
Case managers also help connect families to important resources such as food banks, counseling, employment services, renter’s rehab, affordable housing, and other programs that help prevent homelessness in the future.
“Being able to support a family while they’re in such a difficult time of transition is invaluable,” said HHW Program Manager Katharine Ryan.
More often than not, families enter HHW without any belongings, which is why ShelterCare works with community partners to provide home starter kits. Kits include household necessities ranging from toilet paper and dish soap, to cookware and bedding.
“The home starter kit makes a big difference for those families that have lost all their belongings to a house fire, a domestic violence situation, an eviction, and other disasters,” said Kumashiro.
Most recently, SELCO Community Credit Union donated $5,000 worth of new household items from IKEA, which was enough to create 20 home starter kits for families in need. Each kit contains bedding, shower curtain, towels, trash can, a bathroom mat, broom and dust pan, cooking utensils, dishware, cookware, dish soap, doormat, flashlight, laundry basket, laundry detergent, mop, and paper towels.
SELCO had the items shipped directly to ShelterCare, and then assembled a team of employees who spent an afternoon sorting and packing the items into individual kits. The kits will be distributed to families at HHW as well as families in other ShelterCare programs.
Earlier this year, HHW played a significant role in helping ShelterCare resident Matthew Smith and his family move into their new home after 17 years of homelessness. Alongside receiving a home starter kit from ShelterCare, Matthew and his family also received furniture from Love, Inc., a community partner dedicated to helping people in need.
“Thanks to HHW, and all the other resources that ShelterCare has connected us to, we are finally home and here to stay,” said Smith.
Since January 2016, 72 percent of the families who have exited ShelterCare’s HHW program have exited into permanent housing.
Cameron Gates, Heather Trickett, and Casey Foltz are part of Oregon Community Credit Union’s Business Intelligence Department. To say they love numbers is an understatement. Digging through mounds of raw data is their thing, to look for insights, trends, and stories.
The purpose of the Business Intelligence Department is to improve the lives of OCCU members and employees by transforming raw data into meaningful, actionable information. They do this through database programming, report creation, process automation, and advanced analytics.
Several months ago, at a community dinner focused on housing, the OCCU team heard a presentation about ShelterCare Medical Recuperation and wanted to know what they could do to support this and other ShelterCare programs. They called ShelterCare the next day and were connected to Tim Cling, ShelterCare’s senior director of business operations. After a few meetings, the data analysis project was born.
The goal of the project is to provide a picture of how we’re doing, from our clients’ point of view.
Tim worked with the ShelterCare clinical team to collect voluntary surveys from program participants in our Supported Housing program. Participants were asked 13 questions including “How long have you been receiving services from ShelterCare?” and “Do you feel the ShelterCare staff understands your needs?”
One stand-out story so far—when asked if they would recommend ShelterCare to relatives/friends/people in the community, more than 90 percent answered yes.
The OCCU team is still reviewing the initial data, but the goal is to have the finished results available on our website in January 2018.
The partnership between ShelterCare and the OCCU Business Intelligence Department is ongoing, thanks to OCCU’s commitment to the community. All OCCU employees have the opportunity to volunteer during regular business hours with the nonprofit or school of their choice through the credit union’s C.O.R.E. (Community Outreach for Employees) program.
During this C.O.R.E. time, employees are compensated at their regular wage. This gives OCCU employees the chance to support the causes and organizations they feel passionately about, while fulfilling the organization’s goal to give back to the community.
My name is Jacob Fox and I have the honor of serving on the ShelterCare board of directors. I’m the executive director of the Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County (HACSA), and for many years we’ve partnered with ShelterCare to provide Housing First opportunities for Lane County’s most vulnerable citizens.
I would like to highlight two HACSA-ShelterCare partnership programs that have been tremendously effective, supporting our community’s goal of reducing homelessness by providing housing and services to those in need.
Shelter Plus Care
The first program is Shelter Plus Care (S+C), a federal rent assistance program that is part of the Lane County Continuum of Care (CoC) Program. The CoC Program primarily assists Lane County residents with serious mental illness. It is designed to alleviate homelessness by providing funding to nonprofit organizations, and state and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families.
The S+C partnership between ShelterCare and HACSA began in 1994. The federal grant requires that we serve 48 households a year. Because of the effective partnership between our organizations, however, on average we serve 67 households a year. The reason we can serve so many more households is that ShelterCare provides matching funds from other funding sources and also because ShelterCare is so good at stabilizing these households that we can graduate people from Shelter Plus Care into HACSA’s housing choice voucher program, and create more opportunities for unhoused people to receive assistance from the Shelter Plus Care program.
The second HACSA-ShelterCare partnership supports the Madrone program—another Lane County Continuum of Care federal rent assistance program. In 2016 HACSA was awarded this grant to serve 33 chronically homeless individuals and families. When the original service provider unexpectedly declined the partnership, we approached ShelterCare to help us deploy this rent assistance, help identify housing in the community, and provide the supportive services necessary to stabilize these individuals and families.
Because of the delay in getting a service provider on board, HACSA was in jeopardy of not meeting the grant requirements. ShelterCare has been a valuable partner and integral part of this program’s success. I’m pleased to report that through this program we have successfully fulfilled the grant requirements by housing the 33 formerly homeless individuals and families.
Our community is absolutely a better place because of the critical role that ShelterCare plays. I’m grateful for the leadership that Susan Ban and the entire ShelterCare team bring to Lane County and proud that together we provide homes to more than 7,000 households in Lane County every year.
After nearly 17 years of struggling with homelessness, ShelterCare resident Matthew Smith and his family are excited to celebrate the holidays in their own home this year.
“We aren’t going anywhere anytime soon,” said Matthew. “We are finally home and here to stay.”
Matthew and his wife, Charity, first became homeless in 2000 after Matthew was fired for being late to work. At the time, they were living in an apartment in Tigard, Oregon with their 7-year-old son, Christian, and their newborn son, Mattias.
“I was working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Matthew said. “One day I decided to sleep in, and everything changed.”
Throughout the next 16 years, Matthew and his family encountered more evictions, were homeless five different times, and stayed in numerous shelters from Washington to Oregon. During that time, their family also continued to grow. Their daughter, Petra, was born in 2002 and their youngest son, Zelig, was born in 2006.
Matthew, who has been drug-free for seven years, admits that his battle with addiction played a big role in the family’s longtime experience with homelessness.
Through their struggles, Matthew and Charity said they’ve learned that positivity, gratitude, and teamwork go a long way. These are also values they’ve taught their children, who they refer to as the “greatest kids on earth.”
Nearly two years ago, the family packed their bags and moved from Vancouver to Eugene for a fresh start. After living at the Eugene Mission for a while, the couple lived in their car with their youngest son, Zelig (11), while their teenaged children, Petra (15) and Mattias (17), stayed at Looking Glass’ Station 7 center for homeless youth.
Despite being separated at night, Matthew and Charity made sure their family kept normal sleeping, eating, entertainment, and school schedules. When Zelig, Petra and Mattias weren’t at school, the family spent time at First Place Family Center where they were able to shower, cook meals in the kitchen, do homework, and meet other families.
“We learned very quickly how fortunate we were compared to other homeless families,” said Charity. “Keeping that in mind helped us be more appreciative for what we had.”
While the family was connected to many great resources throughout their first year in Eugene, the stress from homelessness started taking its toll on Matthew’s physical health, and he began experiencing numerous seizures a day.
Following a seizure that Matthew had at First Place Family Center, the family was referred by the center to ShelterCare’s Housing, Health & Wellness (HHW) program in November 2016, which provides emergency shelter for families with children, and transitional housing for adults with psychiatric or medical conditions.
“He was having at least five seizures a day, and once we got into HHW, we were able to focus on finding out exactly what he needed to stop the seizures,” said Charity.
While the family temporarily stayed at HHW, they were encouraged to apply for ShelterCare’s new housing project, which helps chronically homeless families and individuals with a disability locate and acquire housing, get rid of debts to landlords, pay deposits for utility companies, application fees, and more.
After several months at HHW, and finding the best treatment for Matthew’s seizures, the family got a call from ShelterCare telling them they had been approved for the new housing project.
In June 2017, the family of five moved into their new three-bedroom home, and have enjoyed everything about it so far; including its spacious kitchen, which Charity calls “the best room in the house.”
“Every time I visit them they are cooking up a storm,” said the family’s case manager, Randall Apker, who visits them once a week.
“We are so appreciative of everything ShelterCare has done for us, but what we appreciate most is that ShelterCare isn’t interested in judging us like some other places have,” said Charity. “They understand that homelessness comes with mistakes and faults, and they work to help people fix them rather than dwell on them.”
This will be the first time in years that the family will be spending Thanksgiving in a place of their own. They will be celebrating the holiday by cooking and eating “a lot of good food” thanks to a large food box donated from South Eugene High School.