Working Together Toward Housing for All
Shelly Stevenson never imagined that one medical crisis would thrust her family to the brink of homelessness.
The single mother of four had a good job, health insurance and savings, and had lived for seven years in the same comfortable three–bedroom apartment. She hadn’t missed work in 10 years.
After a medical screening last year, everything changed. “I got diagnosed with heart disease and went into cardiac arrest three weeks later. I had stents put in my heart. And I needed infusions that cost my entire savings,” Shelly recalls. “In less than six months, I exhausted my family, my 401K—I pulled from everywhere.”
Shelly needed $2,000 to pay rent and a utility bill, or she would face the prospect of moving her family into a shelter or her car.
Several agencies and charities told Shelly they couldn’t help—she wasn’t yet homeless, and she earned too much money. A web search led her to Path Home (formerly Portland Homeless Family Solutions), where she got rent assistance that kept her family in their home.
Shelly’s story illustrates trends affecting people all over Oregon, from small rural communities to cities and suburbs. Rising rates of housing insecurity and homelessness led OCF to step up efforts to understand the underlying issues and engage our donors and partners to take action.
Path Home provides families with shelter and services like rapid rehousing and parenting education, as well as helping families like Shelly’s stay in their homes and never experience homelessness in the first place.
Their $5.5 million Family Village—funded through broad–based community support, including 800 individual donors and several OCF funds—houses 25 families (up to 100 parents and children) with a groundbreaking approach called trauma–informed design.
“Homelessness is a very complex, very large challenge that no single community will ever be able to solve on its own. It’s going to take all of us working together.”
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Path Home
“When people are experiencing something as stressful as homelessness, their brains are in a constant state of stress response, releasing stress chemicals that turn off people’s ability to regulate their emotions and think critically,” says Path Home Executive Director Brandi Tuck. “What we’re trying to do with Family Village is called trauma– informed design and architecture, which research shows changes the chemical response in the brain and leads to people feeling in control of their lives and hopeful for the future.” Trauma–informed design features include natural light, soothing colors, rounded forms and natural materials to create a healing, supportive environment.
Donor funds support a broad range of services to address this complex issue, from emergency support such as meals and hygiene all the way to affordable homeownership. Our donors have contributed millions in grants to provide affordable housing and services centered on homelessness.
Related OCF work includes loans for affordable housing and the establishment of the Housing Stability and Ending Homelessness in Oregon Fund, which pools gifts of $25 or more to provide grants for an array of services.
Oregon’s growing crises of housing instability and homelessness put our most vulnerable residents at risk. These complex challenges require a full understanding of the issues, collaborative approaches, and sustained delivery of a continuum of supports ranging from emergency services and shelter beds to workforce training and affordable housing.
Working together, we’re building solutions.
Make a gift to the Housing Stability and Ending Homelessness in Oregon Fund to support OCF grantmaking statewide. You can make a gift in any amount online. If you are an existing OCF donor, contact your donor relations officer, who can direct you toward more opportunities to support nonprofits and agencies.