“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.” ~ Yogi Berra
Vol. 20, No. 1 • Mailed monthly to over 12, 400 homes in the Gateway & Parkrose Communities Free • MAY 2004
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Human Solutions helps low-income families
Face of urban renewal smiles at eviction
Sacramento third graders: clearing a path
The boys (and girls) of summer
Good housing makes good tenants

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Human Solutions helps low-income families

Human Solutions Inc., a Mid-County non-profit agency, helps families gain self-sufficiency by providing affordable housing, skill development, and family support services.


Human Solutions Community Relations Director Vynette Arnell (left) shows new parents Daniel Clark and Lorraine Lambert daughter Lunarah Clark’s new layette provided through the auspices of The Closet. The Closet is a Human Solutions program that receives donated clothing and household goods and distributes them to people in need.
In recent years, with a stagnant economy and one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, many families are struggling and finding themselves living in difficult times. Even my own family has been affected by the current situation. My husband is unemployed as a result of a lay-off from a job he had been at for over ten years.

Many families do work and have jobs, but are considered the “working poor” when their income does not meet basic needs. Heads of household make difficult decisions about whether to pay the electric bill or buy groceries. Even worse, families become homeless as a result of loss of income. This is where Human Solutions Inc., or HSI, helps keep families together. Their mission is helping families help themselves.

Human Solutions, Inc., is a community based non-profit organization that provides services to low-income families in outer east Portland and mid to east Multnomah County. They are the leading agency serving families between Northeast 82nd Avenue and the Multnomah County boundary line, a service area of approximately 245 square miles. Since 1987, HSI has assisted low-income families escape poverty, develop economic dependency and gain self-sufficiency by providing housing, skill development and family support services.

HSI began as the Multnomah County Community Action Agency, or MCCAA, in the ‘60s. Later the county decided to change MCCAA from a government agency into the community non-profit that it is today.

HSI provides vital services for distressed families. The major component of the organization is its housing programs. The programs range from emergency and transitional housing to permanent affordable housing. HSI has an emergency rental assistance program, which supports families in crisis and in need of temporary housing. For families who come in with no other housing options, HSI can help them avoid becoming homeless. The organization’s philosophy to solving homelessness is helping people acquire affordable, permanent housing.

Human Solutions Family Advocate Aldo Venegas-Moris (left) reviews intake paperwork with Leticia Bustillo (right), while sons Javier and Angel (center, left to right) look on.
Human Solutions volunteer Melinda Zarn sorts through donated clothing at The Closet.
Recognizing that one of the real solutions to homelessness is affordable, permanent housing; HSI in 1994 added housing development to their mix of services. As of 2004, Human Solutions owns 397 units of permanent affordable housing. Each project they build includes a maximum number of units affordable to families who earn 60% of the median family income for Portland.

Families in the transitional housing program receive safe housing while participating in classes to help overcome poverty. All classes are free of charge and offer childcare. Families study different topics from housing readiness, computer skills, financial budgeting, English as a Second language, parenting skills and employment.

As well as housing, HSI provides assistance with electric and natural gas bills. They operate the Low Income Energy Assistance Program and Oregon Energy Assistance Program. Families having difficulty paying utility costs as well as water and sewer bills may come to Human Solutions for help.

HSI provides clothing through The Closet, which is stocked with clothing and household items. Homeless and low-income families can shop at The Closet. It is free to HSI qualified families. In addition, HSI offers a professional closet with clothing geared to prepare people for job interviews and new careers.

When I visited the facility, I saw a display of baby items with various baby necessities prepared for expectant mothers and their newborns. Last year over 8,000 families (30,000 individuals) received items from The Closet

Items in The Closet are sorted, laundered, and organized by the many tireless, dedicated volunteers who offer their time at HIS. Within the last year, more than 200 volunteers donated over 15,000 hours of their time. Equivalent to over $230,000 worth of paid labor.

HSI has an annual budget of 1.5 million dollars and the overhead is approximately 15% of that. Primarily local governments, foundations, businesses, churches and individuals fund HSI. Many of the social service programs are provided through a partnership with Metropolitan Family Services, also Multnomah County and the Cities of Portland and Gresham.

HSI has a paid staff of only 26 people to deliver an extensive and intensive range of services to a large service area. Last fiscal year, HSI provided services for more than 45,000 individuals in over 10,000 families.

HSI offers the opportunity for families to improve and create new, self-sufficient lives and find affordable permanent housing. They have helped many families for many years in Mid-Multnomah County. We as a community can contribute and be supportive to their mission. Next time you are cleaning out closets and clearing out reusable household items think of Human Solutions. You’ll know that your donations go to families here, in our own community and are not resold for profit. Too much is never enough for HSI’s The Closet, which is visited by families in need daily. Let’s be part of the solution in our community. Reusable clothing and household items are accepted Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 2900 S.E. 122nd Avenue, just south of Division Street. For information regarding volunteer opportunities, HSI can be reached at 503-988-5200.
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