According to New Greater Hope M.B Church minister and New Greater Hope Family Services–NE Campus founder and leader Dr. Alvin Ellerby, the first crew of hopeful souls who started his program in mid-November 2015 have transitioned to permanent housing as of April 3. According to René Duboise, Oregon Department of Human Services’s (DHS) Multnomah County district manager, this is a first housing-included project in Multnomah County under a nearly five-year-old statewide child-family restoration program called Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families.
Congratulations could certainly be in order for all involved in making history.
But Dr. Ellerby, a faithful gospel minister, ended each Memo interview with the same assist: “To God be the glory.”
This is his true-believer way of deflecting kudos directed his way for what appears even in its infancy to be a very successful—some would say model—transitional housing program at the former Portland Value Inn location at 11936 N.E. Sandy Blvd. in Parkrose. (“Parkrose motel becomes oasis for families in transition” MCM January 2016).
Dr. Ellerby set out to “take a property that wasn’t being used … restore people who are homeless, not to just have a roof over their heads but to fix [their] circumstances.” Can a partnership between a faith-based organization and government work? Emphatically yes, said Dr. Ellerby.
Dr. Ellerby describes the relationship between Family Services–NE Campus and its constituents as “working with, not for.” In other words, according to Dr. Ellerby, his operation simply provides a “one-stop shopping model” for its clients to obtain all needed transitional services, including temporary housing, parenting skills training, assistance in securing permanent housing, credit repair, mental health counseling and reduced-rate bankruptcy and criminal record expungement legal advice through funding from the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) that continues beyond its clients’ relatively short four-month tenures at Family Services–NE Campus.
Doing the hard work is up to the client, but they are not without a helping hand from DHS caseworkers, Family Services–NE Campus transition coordinators and third-party providers.
So who pays whom what? Oregon Department of Human Services actually is the lessee on the old Portland Value Inn property. DHS obtained a two-year lease from the property’s owner, Guru Ent LLC, which also owns and operates other Value Inns properties in the Portland area, according to DuBoise. Family Services–NE Campus’s clients pay no rent. And Family Services–NE Campus is compensated by DHS for its hard work, said Dr. Ellerby.
The limited liability corporation run by Dr. Ellerby—out of its $250,000 DHS compensation—pays the Family Services–NE Campus lease, general and auto accident liability insurance, maintenance and repairs, supplies, paint and everything else that is not donated or volunteered.
Saved to Serve Ministries supplies personal items for two families such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, tissue, soap, napkins and washing liquid, for example.
The transitional housing term depends on the needs of the client, the capacity of the facility and compliance with rules imposed on the client including a strictly enforced no-visitation policy and curfew. There is a four-page set of rules, said Dr. Ellerby, to which each client pledges allegiance in writing. The few souls who do not make it through the four-month transition—Family Services–NE Campus has an 80 percent permanent placement rate—either broke the rules under a three-strikes-you’re-out regime or their problems proved incapable of solution within four months, according to Linda Ellerby.
Children are a central concern of Family Services–NE Campus, and only intact single-parent or two-parent families qualify, said Leslie Johnson, DHS’s family service team manager and an eighteen-year DHS employee. DHS screens its clientele and only refers qualified and motivated families to Family Services–NE Campus. DHS’s interest is in parents with an open DHS case and parents whose children are recently reunited or imminently losable.
Avoiding the creation of another foster child seems to be a priority for DHS. “Life is not free. It takes work to move upward,” said DuBoise. “[You need to] participate in your life,” continued DuBoise.
Dr. and Linda Ellerby described the facilities provided to the families in transition who are temporarily housed at Family Services–NE Campus. They include daily continental breakfasts, healthy snacks and evening Meals on Wheels. They also include classes and one-on-one coaching in life and job skills, parenting, personal finances, nutrition, property-related debt reduction or discharge, Chapter 7 (personal) bankruptcy, etc. The classes are taught by DHS caseworkers or Family Services–NE Campus staff members in the upper floor of the front office.
Services are also supplied by third-party affiliates like KeyBank (a community-oriented bank augments personal finance training), Empowerment Services and Shelmire and Associates, which provides AA/NA meetings and therapeutic counseling services beyond the capabilities of Family Services–NE Campus (billed not to DHS but instead to OHP) and the Portland chapter of Embrace Oregon, which provides housing, cleaning, welcome boxes and other volunteer services for children.
The lower floor of the front office also provides a meeting room with a TV and a full kitchen where residents and their visitors may prepare foods or pick up nutritional snacks like fruit from Meals on Wheels.
“We’ll work with Catholic Charities,” Linda Ellerby said. “We’d [help clients] get a green card, SSI (disability) or IEP (individualized education) for a child. We coordinate OHP [health insurance], SNAP [food stamps] and TANF [temporary cash for the needy] benefits for them.” She added, “Each family is different, but you need to plan to get each family to stability.”
An important part of planning for stability for each family is the multicultural aspect that recognizes different backgrounds, cultures, languages and religions, according to the Ellerbys. Thus, family meetings are scheduled with a broad demographic of caseworkers, and the caseworkers come to the Family Services–NE Campus facility regularly to meet the resident families.
Supervision and help is close by and nearly real-time. Ditto accountability, wherein an infraction is known no later than the next day by the errant resident’s DHS caseworker.
When Dr. Ellerby describes their role as system navigator, he means they provide an experienced hand to steer the residents to needed resources, whether the resources come from DHS, Family Services–NE Campus staff or third-party providers.
The Ellerbys are not yet done building something new, greater and more hopeful at Family Services–NE Campus. They are soon adding a building to the property. The new building is of modular construction on a concrete slab foundation—so it is movable by the Ellerbys when Family Services–NE Campus’ two-year lease expires—and is expected to be done within a couple of months. The addition provides another 4,300 square feet of space and expands and distributes the local-classroom offerings to create a truly full-service integrated campus.
“And what happens after we’re done?” asked Dr. Ellerby of himself. “Church and other service-oriented organizations continue or complete the work that [Family Services–NE Campus has] started.”
For more information about Greater New Hope Family Services–NE Campus, contact Dr. Ellerby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-459-7474 or contact Johnson at email@example.com or 971-673-6800. n