CCC Breaks Ground on New 51-unit Family Housing Community

Aug 03, 2017

On Wednesday, August 2, Central City Concern (CCC) broke ground on the first of three buildings in the Housing is Health initiative—a pioneering commitment from local hospitals and health systems in supportive, affordable housing. CCC also announced the name of the building—Charlotte B. Rutherford Place—which honors one of Portland’s pioneering African American families and their impact on the entire community.

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Providence Health & Services - Oregon Regional Chief Executive Dave Underriner, KeyBank Key Community Development Corporation Vice President Beth Palmer Wirtz and the Honorable Charlotte Rutherford spoke.

The 51-unit apartment building (34 one-bedroom and 17 two-bedroom units) is part of the City of Portland’s N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy to address displacement and gentrification in the historic neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland by prioritizing longtime or displaced residents with ties to the community for new affordable housing opportunities in the area.

Hon. Charlotte Rutherford is a community activist and former civil rights attorney, journalist, administrative law judge and entrepreneur. Her parents, Otto G. Rutherford and Verdell Burdine, were major figures in Portland’s Black civil rights struggle. Her father was president and her mother was secretary of Portland’s NAACP chapter in the 1950s, and they played an important role in passing the 1953 Oregon Civil Rights Bill. Her grandfather, William, ran a barbershop in the Golden West Hotel—now a CCC residential building—and Otto worked there as well. Charlotte still lives in Portland’s Albina District, in the same house in which she grew up.

     

"I'm so honored to accept this for the entire Rutherford family, especially my mom and dad," Ms. Rutherford said.

Charlotte Rutherford Place major contributors include KeyBank, Portland Housing Bureau, Oregon Housing and Community Services and the Housing is Health coalition of six health organizations: Adventist Health Portland, CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health, OHSU and Providence Health & Services - Oregon.

“The Housing is Health contribution is an excellent example of health care organizations coming together for the common good of our community. Housing for lower income working people is critical to the improvement of health outcomes.” said Ed Blackburn, CCC president and CEO. “This housing will remain affordable for generations and it couldn’t come at a better time.”

The design and development team is Home First, the architect is Doug Circosta and the builder is Silco Construction. CCC is engaged in a $3.5 million capital campaign to complete funding for three buildings that will all break ground by the end of October.



Getting the Most out of Life

May 30, 2017

I lost my kids at 26 years old. They were ages eight, seven, and three. The only one I got to keep was the one I was pregnant with. I turned 27 in jail, the baby due in three months, and nowhere to go when I got out. That’s when I turned to Central City Concern. Having been in my addiction on and off for 12 years, in and out of jail, homeless, and unable to take care of myself, let alone three little kids and a newborn, I was out of options. While in jail, someone told me about Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center (a residential treatment program for pregnant women and those with young children).


I entered treatment on March 3, 2011—the day I stopped harming myself, and started healing. Going into an in-patient program was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There were schedules, expectations, lots of sharing, and so much emphasis on accountability and self-care. I gave birth to my son Tristyn while at Letty Owings Center. He was baby number 232 born to a clean and sober mother while at Letty Owings. I was so proud to be that mother. Tristyn was healthy, and I was fully committed to learning how to be the mom he needed. Letty Owings Center exposed me to a different way of thinking and gave me new skills like planning, healthy meal preparation, money management, handing conflicts in a respectful way, positive parenting, and patience. I used a lot of the tools they taught me while I attended ongoing treatment sessions and I still use the tools today. I learned to accept help, to live life on life’s terms, and most of all I learned how to stay positive and what it takes to be a good parent. The experience I got at Letty Owings Center set me free to seek a better life for me and my family.

After I completed in-patient treatment, Central City Concern provided Tristyn and me with a studio apartment at Laura’s Place (three to six months of transitional housing for women who complete treatment at Letty Owings Center). There was more flexibility at Laura’s Place but I still had a lot of work to do on myself so I stayed on a schedule and didn’t rush the healing process. I tried to remember everything I learned at Letty Owings Center and every day, I managed my life better and better. I did outpatient treatment at Central City Concern Recovery Center four times a week. I went to recovery meetings, mental health appointments, and made an effort to listen to others. I didn’t have to fake it anymore, or be afraid, because I was actually learning how to function in society. I wanted success and I wanted to get all my kids back so I could show them a different way of life than what we had during my addiction. I was inspired by other women who were facing similar challenges, and gained confidence every day. When a bigger unit became available, my daughter Cheyenne, who’d been in foster care for a year, was able to come live with us. Life was improving.

We lived at Laura’s Place for four months and then I was given the opportunity to move into a Central City Concern family housing community. That’s when my son Ellias and my daughter Reyna got to move in. I was drug- and alcohol-free, physically and mentally thriving, and had all four of my children under the same roof. The support I got while in family housing was amazing. I had a mentor who I still keep in touch with today. She helped me through the death of my best friend, and motivated me to keep making healthy decisions. I was able to go back to school and pursue a promising future—one that I was given the freedom to envision while in safe and secure Central City Concern family housing. 

Through it all, housing played the biggest role in my transformation. Housing was the first stable piece. Once I had housing I was able to work on everything else—my recovery, going to school, paying off student loans, getting employed and off public assistance, doing therapy with my children, and teaching my kids right from wrong. I was able to move from one step to the next, not out of desperation but out of growth and informed thinking. If you don’t have a place to call home, it’s hard to get any traction. 

Housing gave me peace of mind because I knew where my kids and I were going to be sleeping every night. It gave me a safe place to start getting the most out of life. I want to be a good mom for so many reasons. Most of all because my kids deserve it. I put them through the wringer with unpredictable behavior, foster care, and not being there when they needed me.

I want them to know that your past doesn’t have to be your future. I want them to know that life doesn’t have to involve a screaming mom. They’ve been so resilient and I am so proud. My kids are smart, respectful, and well behaved—not what you would expect after what they’ve been through. Today, they would describe me as strict, fair, and fun. I feel like that describes a good mom.

Every day I look in the mirror and I’m amazed: I look calm, I look happy and I look in control of my life. There are still challenges, but I take them on with a clear head—one day at a time. Six years ago I could not have imagined that I would be the person I am today. I’ve earned an Associate’s degree and am currently in school working toward a Bachelor’s in Human Development. I could not imagine that all four kids would be with me and that I would have my driver’s license back and that I would be where I’m at education wise, career wise, and family wise. Every single step I’ve taken along the way was fundamental in getting me where I am today. It all became possible when I was offered housing and got the support I needed in order to grow into the person my kids can count on. It all became possible through Central City Concern.



Another Successful We Are Family Fundraiser!

May 22, 2017

Central City Concern's annual fundraiser for the Letty Owings Center and Family Housing programs took place on Tuesday, May 2, at the Multnomah Athletic Club.During the program, CCC's Dr. Rachel Solotaroff sat down with Jamie (right) and her son, Dante (center), to talk about how CCC's Letty Owings Center and Family Housing have changed their lives.CCC Executive Director Ed Blackburn kicked off the program by welcoming the crowd of nearly 400.CCC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rachel Solotaroff spoke about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), how they contribute to cycles of poverty, and how those cycles can and are broken.
Chief Housing & Employment Officer Sean Hubert spoke about generational poverty and the steps CCC is taking to provide housing for families in need.Former CCC Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Birenbaum made a heartfelt pitch to the audience of the need to support CCC's Letty Owings Center and Family Housing programs.Dante was a fantastic helper during the evening-ending raffle!We were thrilled to have Letty Owings Center Co-Founder Nancy Anderson (left) join us for the evening, pictured here with with CCC Executive Coordinator E.V. Armitage (right).The evening's entertainment was provided by  Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Famer Shirley Nanette.

Central City Concern's annual fundraiser for the Letty Owings Center and Family Housing programs took place on Tuesday, May 2, at the Multnomah Athletic Club. Click on a photo to begin the slideshow.

• • •

On May 2, Central City Concern held our annual “We Are Family” fundraising dinner for Letty Owings Center, celebrating 20 years as a Central City Concern program, and our Family Housing programs. The big event took place for the fourth consecutive year at the Multnomah Athletic Club in southwest Portland. Rain couldn’t keep the partygoers away and a good time was had by all.

The evening’s program was led off by Executive Director Ed Blackburn, then Chief Housing and Employment Officer Sean Hubert offered thoughts on generational poverty and the steps Central City Concern is taking to provide housing for families in need. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rachel Solotaroff followed Sean with powerful insight on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). She spoke of how CCC addresses childhood trauma while helping people break the cycle of addiction and poverty.

Our featured guest was Family Housing resident and mother Jamie, along with her 10-year-old son Dante. Jamie shared her story of overcoming addiction in the safe and supportive environment of Letty Owings Center, a six-month residential addiction treatment program for pregnant women and those with young children. She also talked about her transition from Letty Owings Center to CCC Family Housing, where she has a family mentor, has learned basic money management, and continues to safely raise and care for her three children. Jamie’s goals include pursuing a career as a medical assistant after completing the prerequisites at Portland Community College.

Entertainment was provided by Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Famer Shirley Nanette and Friends. Stumptown Photo Booth added to the to the picture perfect night.

All in all, close to 400 guests attended to celebrate and support our families and raised over $120,000 for the Letty Owings Center, which has witnessed the births of more than 270 babies, and the Family Housing program, which is home to 154 families.



​‘Tis the season for CCC's Adopt-A-Child Program!

Nov 04, 2016

This year, Central City Concern opened a new building in Clackamas County, which became home to 60 families. That makes 148 families now living in Central City Concern family housing.

We are thankful for 236 children sleeping, learning, and growing in safe, supportive, and healthy homes. Now it’s time to give them some unforgettable holiday memories. Our goal is to make sure all 236 children have gifts to open this year.

     

Please consider fulfilling the wish list of one or more children by registering individually, or as a group, to help provide holiday presents for all. We will share the first name and gift wish list of each child you choose to adopt.

Additionally, here are a few other ways you can help during the holiday season:

- Start a Toy Drive at your workplace.
- Send gift cards for families to fulfill wish lists.

For more information on how you can get involved, please contact Melissa Bishop at 971-352-8715 or melissa.bishop@ccconcern.org.

Thank you so much!

 



Town Center Courtyards Is Keeping Families Together

Jul 25, 2016

Amber L. is absolutely over the moon. The 27-year-old mom is moving back to Clackamas, Ore., where she grew up, into a brand new apartment. “I am so happy to be coming back with my son to a safe, beautiful home,” she told the crowd of close to 100 people who attended the grand opening of Town Center Courtyards on Wednesday, July 20.

Town Center Courtyards will become a stable, supportive home for families who are homeless or vulnerable to homelessness. The 60-unit, mixed-income apartment complex is a shining example of form and function. All the units have exterior doors and overlook courtyards where families can socialize and kids can play. The apartments are spacious and bright. There will be two Central City Concern (CCC) staff members on-site to help residents with life skills, employment, educational development, recovery, parenting and wellness support. The neighborhood is well located near public transportation, public schools, public parks, child care centers, grocery stores and numerous employment opportunities.

CCC Family Housing has served more than 1,000 families since 2000. Just last year, our Family Housing program served 122 families that included 189 children:

- 75 kids were able to stay with their families and avoid foster care.
- 79 of those families were able to find permanent housing.
- 30 of the parents found employment and 20 entered school. One parent even graduated from college.

But clients can wait as long as six months to access family housing. Town Center Courtyards will add 60 units (20 one-bedroom, one-bath; 32 two-bedrooms, one-bath; 8 three-bedrooms, 1.5 bath) to CCC’s existing 92 units of family housing.

Town Center Courtyards was completed on time and ahead of schedule. Families should start moving in during August. This is just one of several CCC affordable housing projects moving forward this summer.

Town Center Courtyards is the result of robust collaboration between CCC, Clackamas County, Oregon Housing & Community Services and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, as well as many foundations and individual donors. These partners are providing the opportunity for families to have a safe, affordable place to call home.

During the grand opening, Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader, Director of Clackamas County Housing & Community Development Chuck Robbins, Director of Oregon Housing & Community Services Claire Seguin, Vice-president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation Ann Melone, and CCC’s Senior Director of Housing and Recovery Support Services Sharon Fitzgerald all spoke of the importance of supporting the community by providing affordable housing in which families can thrive.

Amber says she was filled with gratitude when she cut the ribbon to officially open Town Center Courtyards. “Thank you for making my dream come true," she said.



One Dad. One Daughter. One Day at a Time.

Jun 13, 2016

“We have a good relationship today,” says Easten B., of his daughter Zoe, an accomplished high school sophomore.

But things weren’t always that way. Easten was absent for six years of Zoe’s life battling drugs, alcohol, and homelessness. Since getting clean and sober almost three years ago, a lot has changed for Easten and Zoe. “It all started at Hooper,” he says, referring to Central City Concern’s Hooper Detox, where life took a dramatic turn for the better. It was there, in 2009 that Easten committed to “living a life free of fear, shame, and regret.” He wanted to be a good dad and he wanted to pursue his dream of owning a farm like his great-great grandfather once did.

Soon after completing treatment at Hooper Detox, Easten was accepted into Central City Concern’s Recovery Mentor Program, which included supportive housing in an alcohol- and drug-free environment at the Estate Hotel. He was surrounded by people who were hungry for a new way of life and positive change. He worked with CCC counselors and fellow residents to get and stay healthy. He joined the Community Volunteer Corps (CVC) and engaged in group projects that involved everything from pulling ivy at the Oregon Zoo to folding newsletters at the Hollywood Senior Center in northeast Portland.

“CVC gave me a sense of purpose—that is so important in early recovery.”

The following year he secured a 6-month trainee position in Central City Concern’s Downtown Clean and Safe program. He was able to get into a daily routine that not only added structure to his life, but also helped build self-esteem.

While in treatment at the Central City Concern Recovery Center, a counselor told Easten to work every day to get better. He told Easten to beware of life’s plateaus and to keep reaching for more.

So Easten has kept reaching. He recently began work with Progress Rail, a contracting company for Union Pacific Railroad, doing maintenance, safety tests, and inspections on train cars in the field. The job has enabled him to get his own apartment in northwest Portland. It’s a long way from the tent he used to live in under the St. Johns Bridge.

He’s also kept reaching in another important way: to be a good Dad to Zoe. To Easten, that means being “available, patient, understanding, and willing to love unconditionally.” Easten doesn’t want the disease of addiction to take away anymore birthdays, holidays, or opportunities to participate in his daughter’s life.

“I wasn’t good at being a dad the first time around, and I’m so grateful to get another chance. I taught Zoe to fish and to skateboard. And now I’m teaching her to drive.”

Zoe is a standout student who makes her father proud. He sees unlimited potential in the effort she puts forth every day in and out of the classroom.

“She’s in a Technical Theater Program and signs fluently. Her choir took first place in a big competition this year and she competed in Battle of the Books. She’s a good student who’s outgoing and cares a lot for others. All of this is a big deal to me,” says Easten. “She’s going to be great ... I know it.”

“My mind and body are healthier than ever now,” Easten shares. “I couldn’t have done any of this without Central City Concern.”

• • •

Honor Easten or any father by making a donation to Central City Concern today.



“Aaaahhhh. I’m home!”

Dec 08, 2015

That’s what I thought when I walked through the doors of Central City Concern’s Estate Building for the first time. After decades of chaos, pain pills, and couch surfing, I had finally found a safe place to lay my head. 

It took me far longer to find that place than I care to admit. 

My story isn’t an easy one to tell. But I tell it with the hope that others may be helped by it. I’ll spare you a lot of the messy details. 

I grew up in New Jersey, surrounded by brothers and dogs—or “dawgs” as they say out there. We moved around a lot. My dad—and guardian angel—died when I was 10. Not long after, Mom sort of went off the rails. Our home became party central. Drugs, sex, and strangers ruled. Bad things happened around me and bad things happened to me. 

At 17, I left home. I hadn’t a clue how to get a job, find an apartment, or pay my bills. I lived on the streets of New York City for about a year before turning to Mr. Not-Quite-Right for help. At 19, I was pregnant with my precious daughter, Jessica. Then the pains in my gut began. The diagnosis: Crohn’s disease, which would most likely lead to multiple surgeries over my lifetime. Mr. Not-Quite-Right didn’t stick around after that. 

Pain pills became the answer to all of my problems—the Crohn’s, the loneliness, the bewilderment, the fear.… The feeling that everyone but me had been handed an instruction book for life … I didn’t know how to take care of myself and I didn’t know how to take care of my little girl. I turned to my mother for help. 

My not-so-great mother was a really terrific grandmother to Jessica. She created the safe home for Jessica that she hadn’t been able to for me. 

And thank goodness she did! At this point in my life, I had become so racked with pain from Crohn’s and ashamed of my own failures as a mother, that I added cocaine and methamphetamines to the mix. I would do anything not to feel. I was again couch surfing and living on the streets. 

This nonsense went on for a while. I turned to my mother for help again. By this time, she and Jessica were living in Bend. I joined them, sobered up, did some dog- and house-sitting here and there to earn money, enrolled at Central Oregon Community College, and became a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Things were pretty good for about five years. I really enjoyed my counseling work and the opportunity it gave me to help others like me. Then my Crohn’s flared up bad. There was more surgery, there was more pain, and there were more pain pills. I was taking too many and I was turning to the streets to get more. Alone on a rural highway in an opioid daze one night, I crashed my car. 

That near-fatal wreck led to a life-saving trip to Central City Concern’s Hooper Detox. Over and over, the Hooper counselors told me I was going to be okay. I thought, “If I can get out of this, I’m coming back here to help others.”   

Once the drugs were out of my system, I went to Central City Concern’s Recovery Mentor Program. I was given a little apartment in the Estate Building. The minute I walked in, I felt safe. And that’s when my life began to change. 

I had a roof over my head. I had food to eat. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to succeed. I received intensive addiction treatment counseling at Central City Concern’s Recovery Center. At Central City Concern’s Old Town Clinic, I learned ways to manage my Crohn’s that didn’t involve pills.  

I joined Central City Concern’s Community Volunteer Corps. I hired on with the Clean and Safe crew so I could start to rebuild my resume. It was a little humbling, but there’s something really gratifying about starting at the bottom. 

Eventually, I moved into Central City Concern’s Sally McCracken Building, where I was again surrounded by a community of people who wanted the same things I did: sobriety, stability, and safety. I felt so welcome there. My room in the Sally McCracken became a little sanctuary. I was able to live on my own and be self-sufficient for the first time in my life. 

Over the next several months, I met frequently with staff at Central City Concern’s Employment Access Center. They helped me find meaningful work while I waited to earn recertification as a drug- and alcohol counselor. Once I did, I kept my promise: I went back to Hooper Detox to work as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Every day, I get to give back in the place that saved my life. 

During this time, my daughter, Jessica, started her own family. The self-examination and character-building work I have done with the help of Central City Concern has allowed me to become a good mother to her and a grandmother to her children. 

Central City Concern gave me a little place to call home when I needed it most. Then they gave me everything I needed to build a new life. It was like I finally got that book with the instructions for life that everyone else was born with. Now I’m employed full time and looking for a place of my own, so that someone else can have the little place at the Sally McCracken that was so important early on to my sobriety and my sanity. 

Central City Concern told me to trust them each step of the way, and I did.  

They never let me down.    



Holiday Adopt-a-Child Needs Your Help!

Nov 24, 2015

Season's greetings! The cold weather abruptly rolling into Portland reminds us that the holidays are getting closer. Soon many of use will be getting ready for the holidays, thinking of preparing special meals, and buying the perfect gifts for our loved ones.

Parents in Central City Concern's family housing are doing the same. But for many of these parents, it is a time of stress and worry about how they are going to make these special memories for their families.
 
Before letting you know how you can help, we want to share this short video of Randi with you. She is an example of how living in a supportive environment like Central City Concern can transform people's lives.
 
Like Randi's mom said in the video, "it takes a village, and that's truly what Central City Concern is." You are a part of that village!

Now, how can you help? Central City Concern's Family Housing has an annual “Holiday Adopt-A-Child Program” and with your help we can bring much joy and unexpected happiness to the 88 families who currently live in our low-income and drug-free communities.

These moms and dads have made a commitment to become better parents and community members. Some juggle employment with school, and others are just starting the path to a better way of life. They are all in need of some assistance during the holiday season.

Here are a few ways you can help.

1)  Register to Adopt-A-Child for this Holiday Season
You can register to adopt one or as many as children as you wish. We will provide the first name and gift wish list of each child you choose. Please contact Catharine Hunter as soon as possible to get registered: e-mail her at catharine.hunter@ccconcern.org or call her directly at 503-200-3903.

2) Send a gift card
We encourage the donation of gift cards for our families. Over the years, we’ve learned that gift cards are deeply appreciated by families because they not only provide supplemental holiday items, but they also give parents the opportunity to personally purchase items for their children.

Please send gift cards to
Attention: Catharine Hunter
Central City Concern
232 NW 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97209

3) Purchase and deliver items from our Gift Ideas list
Based upon children’s wish lists, we have compiled a general Gift Ideas list from which you may purchase individual items.

These items can be dropped off at the following:
Central City Concern Administration Office
232 NW 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

OR

Central City Concern Sunrise Place
5724 NE Prescott
Portland, OR 97218
Saturday, December 12th and/or Sunday, December 13th between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
 
If you would like to arrange a time outside of these options please contact Catharine Hunter at 503-200-3903!
 
We are very grateful for you partnering with our Holiday Adopt-A-Child Program this year and look forward to hearing from you. Your contribution to this program will make such a big difference in the lives of many Portland families during the winter holidays.



Leslie's Story

Aug 26, 2015

As a kid growing up in Oregon City, Leslie P. always loved the start of a new school year. 

Not because it meant shopping for new clothes. Not because it meant she’d get to show off her smarts in class. Not because it meant she’d get to see all of her friends everyday. Leslie P. loved the start of a new school year because it meant she’d have a safe place to go for seven hours a day, five days a week. 

Leslie’s mom died when she was a baby. Not long after, Leslie’s alcoholic, drug-dealing dad sent her to live with her grandparents. The one rule there she and her older brother had to abide by? Be out of the living room by 5 p.m. so Grandpa could drink his drink and watch the TV news. 

And so began a childhood of being shuttled from one drug-addicted relative to another, one foster home to another. In spite of the chaos, “I didn’t get into too much trouble,” Leslie says. “But I went over to the wrong houses so bad things happened to me . . . .” 

No wonder Leslie sometimes looked for hiding places when it came time to board the 3 p.m. school bus back home. 

At age eight, Leslie picked up cigarettes. At age 13, she picked up pot. Then came alcohol, methamphetamines, pain pills, and heroin. She dropped out of high school, found work at a fast food restaurant, and intermittently continued to ply a trade she learned from her dad when she was a teenager—drug dealing. 

Over the next several years, Leslie would get it together for a few months, then slide back into addiction, couch-surfing, and chaos—a cycle that continually repeated itself. At age 20, she gave birth to first child, Joshua. Six years later, Emma arrived. Three years later, Leslie was arrested for dealing drugs. Leslie’s children were placed in foster care—just like she had been. 

That quiet little voice in her head that had been telling her to get help finally roared. “I couldn’t function. I couldn’t parent my kids. I couldn’t take care of myself.” 

Leslie discovered she was pregnant with a third child. She begged for help. The judge and attorneys on her case arranged for reduced jail time and a referral to Central City Concern’s Letty Owings Center, a residential addiction treatment center for women in poverty who are pregnant or parenting young children. Finally, Leslie’s life began to turn around. 



When she entered the Letty Owings Center in March 2012, Leslie began learning the life skills her own parents never taught her. Emma came to live with her there five months later. 

Leslie was worried. “I had missed her whole year of preschool. She was going to be a kindergartener. I wondered how I was going to get her school supplies and clothing.” 

Central City Concern helped them get everything Emma would need to start kindergarten right. 

A month later, in September 2012, Leslie gave birth to Malakai. In October she, Emma, and Malakai moved into one of Central City Concern’s alcohol- and drug-free family housing communities for women with children. There, Leslie continued to receive support and guidance from addiction treatment specialists, case managers, certified peer mentors, and employment specialists

“When I moved in, all the girls came over and helped me, and cooked dinner for me, and made it feel like home. It was like I found a new family. I had unconditional support.” 

Leslie is now working full-time as an entry-level administrative assistant and pursuing an associate’s degree at Portland Community College. And she is trying to be the best mom she can be so her kids don’t have to have the kind of childhood she did. Right now, that means letting her first-born son, Joshua, stay with his dad.*

And it also means getting Emma ready to start third grade. “I want school to be a place where Emma learns about everything and anything she wants. I don’t want it to be the same way it was for me—a place where I went to hide from things that were hurting me. I want it to be a place where Emma can follow her dreams.” 

Emma tore through her summer reading list. The family’s morning routine includes Emma reading out loud to Malakai at the breakfast table. Leslie hopes this practice will better prepare Malakai for when it’s time for him to start school. 

Leslie is grateful to be in Central City Concern’s safe, supportive, affordable housing as she continues in this new phase of her life. And she’s grateful for the opportunity to be a good neighbor and role model, giving back to the people who are just starting out at Central City Concern. 

“I have a job, an apartment, my kids. Had I continued on the path that I was on, I wouldn’t be alive right now. My kids wouldn’t have a mom. I’m in a really different place right now. It’s an amazing feeling.” 

You can help other moms like Leslie! Click here to donate to Central City Concern.

*We recently had a chance to reconnect with Leslie and she had some wonderful news to share. Soon after this story was published, Joshua moved in with Leslie, Emma, and Malakai. Leslie was so happy to share this amazing update with us. She says her home now feels complete.



One Mom, Two Kids, and a Reclaimed Story

May 26, 2015

Children of addicts are fated to repeat their parents’ destructive patterns. Addiction leaves broken families in its wake. The cycles of poverty and addiction doom the next generation to predictable, bleak fates.

That’s what the studies and stories say.

But Ruthann is more than a statistic, and she’s determined to write her own story. Ruthann is a survivor. A devoted and fiercely loving mother. A testament to transformation and hope for something better.

Ruthann’s family history is marked by addiction and substance abuse. Her mother and grandmother used methamphetamine. When Ruthann was 12, her mother died from drug-related complications. Then Ruthann started using, becoming a part of that painful legacy.

She became a mother in 2001 when her daughter, Kaylee, was born. She had her second child, Kingston, six years later. Being a mother didn’t stop her from using. Even as she used, Ruthann’s smarts kept her employed for a while, but she eventually lost her job.

Soon after, Ruthann experienced a much bigger loss. Because of her chronic drug use, she lost custody of her children to the Department of Human Services. Eleven months passed by the time she could demonstrate she was ready to be a mother again.

But in late-2011, she left her children in the care of an acquaintance she barely knew and disappeared for six days to use. She recalls this choice with regret and shame. When she came back for her children, 10-year-old Kaylee refused to continue living with Ruthann.

“My daughter was done with me at that point,” says Ruthann. They arranged for Kaylee to live with a responsible contact who had been introduced to the family when DHS first intervened.

With only Kingston in tow, Ruthann went on what she describes as “a long, bad run.” For months, Ruthann lived aimlessly: no job or place to call home, and endless time to use drugs. All the while, a DHS worker was trying to locate her.

She and Kingston eventually made their way to a hotel. Their stay was a revolving door of people dropping in to use.

Ruthann began noticing 3-year-old Kingston behaving differently.  He threw prolonged tantrums. He slept in the bathtub. Otherwise normal sights and sounds overstimulated him. Knowing that their surroundings were unhealthy and dangerous, Ruthann chalked up Kingston’s behavior to their environment.

Tired, homeless, and nearly broke, Ruthann eventually called the DHS worker. She confessed her most recent months of drug use. She said she’d consider getting help, though she didn’t truly mean it.

The case worker drove Ruthann and Kingston to a local residential treatment center. Ruthann’s first full day in treatment – May 10, 2012 – is also that last time she ever used illegal drugs.

As Ruthann began the arduous process of re-training her body and mind to function without drugs, she also entered into therapy with Kingston to better understand his behaviors. Eventually, Kingston was formally diagnosed with autism.

“At first they couldn’t tell if he had a neurological disadvantage or if I had inflicted so much trauma on him that this was his brain’s natural response to it. I either created [the conditions for] his response or I neglected Kingston’s needs. Either way, I felt so bad.”

While she grappled with her newfound insight into her son’s behavioral struggles, Kaylee visited Ruthann. Ruthann offered her a chance to come live at the treatment center.

“She told me, ‘I’m not going to live with you until after you’re done with treatment. Your mom OD’ed when you were my age. I don’t want to live with you while you do that to yourself,’” Ruthann remembers.

Kaylee’s words stung as much as they were true. Ruthann felt challenged by her daughter and burdened by the guilt she felt about Kingston’s development. She was at a crossroad.

Would she live and die as her own mother did? Would she leave her kids to grow up as Ruthann had?

“I made the choice to be a mom, for my kids to have a mom,” Ruthann says.

A day after Kaylee’s birthday, Ruthann and Kingston moved into the Letty Owings Center (LOC), Central City Concern’s residential treatment program for women who are pregnant or parenting very young children. The move “was the best thing I could have given Kaylee,” Ruthann believes.

Typically, the sense of community that mothers create during their time at LOC becomes an integral part of their treatment. But because Kingston couldn’t get along with the other children, Ruthann found it difficult to build relationships. She was constantly pulled away from treatment classes because he would get kicked out of daycare. Ruthann often felt defensive or guilty about her son’s struggles.

With the help of LOC staff, Kingston soon enrolled in a nearby school that worked specifically with children with behavioral and sensory needs. Ruthann knew that this school, combined with the therapy Kingston continued to receive, was exactly what he needed to find stability and success.

“The date Kingston got into his school is as important to me as my clean date.”

Slowly but surely, Ruthann gathered momentum. She was able to attend LOC’s treatment classes consistently. Her counselor helped Ruthann “learn about myself and about my own worth.” Ruthann became an indispensable volunteer teacher’s aide at Kingston’s school, a role that unearthed her exceptional abilities in a classroom setting. LOC’s environment gave her opportunities to use the skills she learned from Kingston’s therapists.

“We would actually get through a meltdown,” she recalls. “It was empowering. I felt like I was making a difference in my kid’s life. He taught me to love from this other place in my heart that I had never used.”

Ruthann gradually grew to trust the other mothers and one today is like a sister.

In December, Ruthann graduated from the Letty Owings Center. She moved into Laura’s Place, CCC’s supportive transitional housing program for women who have completed treatment at LOC, while she waited for longer-term housing to become available.

She continued to strengthen the foundation of her sobriety by completing an outpatient addiction counseling program through the CCC Recovery Center (CCCRC).

Soon after, Ruthann received the keys to her own apartment at Sunrise Place, one of CCC’s alcohol- and drug-free family housing communities. At long last, she and Kingston were reunited with Kaylee.

Ruthann’s kids now have a focused, sober mother. They have a home and stability. She works with CCC’s family mentors, who provide Ruthann’s family with ongoing support and encouragement. They create community with other Sunrise families.

“This is where my kids and I learned to eat at a table together every night,” Ruthann explains. “My son was able to build friendships. My daughter found friends. Our family traditions were built here.

“All these programs – LOC, CCCRC, housing – allowed a woman like me to stand strong and come out of it on her own two feet.”

Ruthann’s own two feet stand at the edge of a road paved with potential: features of life that her history said weren’t in the cards.

She works now as an assistant claim manager at a local carwash, a position she was promoted to. Her employers know about her past; their lack of judgment makes her love the job more. But it’s no secret that Ruthann’s sights are set on 2017. That’s the year her criminal record will be expunged, giving her the clearance necessary to work as an employee in a classroom setting.

Through her church, she’s begun leading a support group ministry for single mothers. Under Ruthann, the group has grown to nearly 20 moms, most of whom are also on the path of recovery. The group works to “remind ourselves that it’s not about moms getting their kids back; it’s about kids getting their moms back.”

Ruthann glows when she talks about her son’s progress. Kingston is meeting multiple academic and behavioral benchmarks. She gladly picks up extra shifts to pay his tuition because Kingston “is where he needs to be.”

Kaylee is a responsible, studious 8th grader with an artistic side – “an old soul,” Ruthann says proudly. But she sees something deeper in the daughter who, upon visiting her in treatment, demanded better of her mother.

“When I look at my daughter, I feel forgiven. I feel loved,” Ruthann says. “I feel like Kaylee shows that the cycle can be broken.”

Ruthann’s story is of a daughter who never had the chance to be raised by a sober and present mother. She’s determined to make sure that Kaylee and Kingston know that their mother’s presence is unwavering.

“Being a mom means unconditional everything. I get to show up every day,” says Ruthann. “Kaylee shows me that my story is not her story. Her ending can be different.”

The cycle of poverty and addiction began writing Ruthann’s story for her. But the tenacity and love that pushed Ruthann to take full advantage of CCC’s programs to become the mother her children deserve are the very same qualities that have allowed her to reclaim her story.

Ruthann’s ending will be different, too.

“CCC has helped me change my whole life.”