Always Family

Apr 23, 2018

Kassy F. grew up in Gresham in a loving household with her parents and older sister, but her struggles with ADHD made it difficult for her to control her temper and concentrate in school. Her emotional and behavior issues escalated, and by the time she reached her teens, she landed in residential mental health facilities.

Her newborn son's medical emergency was the flashpoint for Kassy to take her recovery seriously. Today, Kassy is well on her way to becoming a drug and alcohol counselor.She started drinking at age 13 and using meth at 16. She dropped out of school at 15. When she was 21, she started working in a strip club and selling methamphetamine.

Her family was devastated. Of course they wanted to support Kassy, but they didn’t want to enable her. They simply didn’t know how to help her. Kassy avoided them until she needed something, and they often didn’t know where she was. “She had to want to change,” her dad John said. “We couldn’t do it for her.”

After eight years working in the club, Kassy was arrested with her boyfriend. He was sent to prison but she was pregnant and the judge allowed her to go to CCC’s Letty Owings Center (LOC).

“We were so thankful to finally know where she was,” her mom Cindy said.

After Kassy’s son Ace was born, she continued to live at LOC, but wasn’t really interested in getting better. “I was just going through the motions to stay out of jail,” Kassy said.

She had a complete change of heart a few months later when Ace became ill and landed in the hospital with a respiratory illness. “I realized his life depended on me,” she said. “If I had been high, I might not have gotten him help in time.”

From that day forward, Kassy has poured everything she has into her recovery and becoming the best mom she can be. She gained her GED diploma and Mental Health Peer Support Mentor certificate. She is now studying to become a drug and alcohol counselor. And the best thing: she and her family are back together. They spend time together every weekend, and Kassy knows they are there to help her and Ace if they ever need it.

Kassy and her family shared their story for this year’s We are Family fundraiser video. See the video and meet Kassy in person by attending our annual fundraiser for the Letty Owings Center and CCC's Family Housing program on May 2. Purchase your tickets today!



Meet We Are Family Headliner, Julia Ramos!

Mar 23, 2018

Central City Concern’s annual We Are Family fundraising dinner is coming up on May 2. The event raises funds in support of Letty Owings Center (inpatient treatment for pregnant women and mothers with young children), and our Family Housing programs. This year, guests will be treated to the unique and entertaining perspective of Portland stand-up comic, Julia Ramos.

Local comedian Julia Ramos will headline Central City Concern's We Are Family event on May 2, 2018. She tackles tough subjects, like her personal experience with addiction, through her comedy.Julia has made her mark by leaving no issue in her life off limits. She’s been invited to perform at the Northwest Women’s Comedy Festival and the All Jane Comedy Festival, and is a co-host for Minority Retort, a showcase in Portland highlighting the talents of local and non-local comedians of color. Julia’s main goal is to keep the conversation open on topics that aren’t always easy to discuss. She feels a solid punchline is the best way to fuel that conversation.

We recently squeezed into Julia’s busy schedule to get a few more details.

CCC: How long have you been doing comedy?

Julia Ramos: I've been doing comedy for a little over six years, however I've been doing comedy sober for almost six years. Stand-up comedy has been a dream of mine since I was five. Television and comedy for me was my first escape. I was fascinated with words and making a group of people laugh. Especially darker subject matter—the ability to turn dark subjects upside down and create laughter from them is powerful.

CCC: Why did you get into comedy?

JR: I really wanted to do comedy writing. I wanted to create sitcoms and be in writers’ rooms with other creative and funny types. Stand-up to me was something I wanted so much, but I felt more comfortable behind the scenes. I read books on comedy writing and all of them stated the only way to see if jokes would work in a taped show, was to try them out in front of a live audience. The books recommended stand-up, so I knew I needed to at least try it out.

CCC: What is your favorite part about entertaining?

JR: It's selfish. Entertaining people and getting a laugh feels good. It feels great. The feeling of relating situations I used to feel shame about is adrenaline inducing. Entertaining others gives them an escape from their lives for a few minutes. That's my job when I'm on stage, I bring them into my world and give them a mini vacation.

CCC: Why are you interested in helping to raise money for Letty Owings Center and Central City Concern’s Family Housing programs?

JR: I like helping, in any way I can. I'm grateful to be an addict; my life is better because of what I've been through. My wish is to give the same opportunity to others, helping women and children especially. I can't think of a more important cause than women, children, and addiction. If there's anything I can ever do to take the stigma from addiction away, and give other humans a foundation into the life they were meant to live, sign me up.

To sponsor a table at the event or two purchase individual tickets to We Are Family, visit our ticket purchase page!

Still curious about Julia and her comedy? Check out one of her hilarious sets!



"It’s overwhelming at times, in a good way"

Jan 16, 2018

Working at Central City Coffee after nearly two-and-a-half years of recovery, Christina S. learned new skills, trained others, supported her family and built a new life. “I know myself and I love myself for the first time ever in my life, really, that I can ever remember. And it seems that things get better and better and better.”

On Mondays, she and a crew of four others prepared bags of coffee in Old Town Portland. Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays, too, were for production, with delivery throughout the Portland metro area the rest of the week. “It’s been amazing to learn all kinds of different things completely out of my comfort zone,” she says. “But also really nerve-wracking and overwhelming at first.” Training other people felt especially great: “My self-confidence, everything has been boosted, I feel just better about myself.”

Christina built up that self-confidence in Central City Concern’s (CCC) Community Volunteer Corps and outpatient treatment, which she says taught her “you need to complete things, that if you sign up for something to see it out and finish it.” The same quiet confidence comes through when she speaks about parenting her five children and one grandchild now that she’s in recovery. When asked if she feels she’s a resource and support for other people, she laughs: “Yeah, which is weird.”

Although she grew up with addiction in her family, she says “nobody talked about it,” even after her father died of an overdose. As her own addiction progressed, it took away her career, her housing, and her children. “That’s when I knew I had a problem,” she says, “when I walked away from my kids.” Talking about those years is not easy for her, but she insists it’s vital to not hide addiction or keep it a secret. “We need to talk about it to prevent it. If I would have had knowledge about it, maybe things would have been different.”

"We need to talk about [addiction] to prevent it. If I would have had knowledge about it, maybe things would have been different."
-Christina

Breaking these family patterns has been the common thread to the challenges she’s faced in recovery, which she names without hesitation: “Talking to other people. Opening up. Adjusting to my kids. Adjusting to myself.” She feels she learned the tools she needed in CCC’s outpatient treatment, while CCC’s supportive housing gave her the necessary time and space. Remembering her early recovery, she smiles and says people told her “that once I started talking, I’d get really red-faced, and I probably looked like I was having a heart attack. But then slowly but surely my voice was there. I finally had a voice.” Coming off the streets, she first found shelter in CCC’s Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center. From there, she moved into transitional recovery housing and then into drug-and-alcohol-free housing for families with children. That housing was crucial, she says, for her to slowly rebuild trust with her children and bring her family back together. “I feel safe there and I know that I have people I can always count on and always go to.”

Christina’s cheerful, matter-of-fact style gives way to powerful feelings when she talks about her life in recovery. “It’s emotional,” she says, “because I feel so strongly about what’s happened, and I’m so grateful and blessed that all these things have happened. And for who I am now. I get to experience the fact that my kids are right there with me. I get to experience having great people around me. And it’s overwhelming at times, in a good way.”

"I get to experience the fact that my kids are right there with me. I get to experience having great people around me."

Toward the end of her Central City Coffee training period, Christina joined the HealthCareers Northwest WorkSource program through CCC’s Employment Access Center. HealthCareers Northwest is a funding program that enabled Christina to return to school and earned her Certified Nursing Assistant 2 certificate. In January 2018, she quickly got a job at a local long-term acute care hospital, and is now thrilled to be working in an exciting field with plenty of career potential. “I really think I’d like to be a nurse someday,” Christina said. “I think I can do it.”



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.