Housing Advocates Connect for JusticeTaryn Sauer Wed, 08/03/2022 - 15:11

At the end of June, Meyer Memorial Trust gathered an amazing group of 30 housing advocates, organizers and community leaders in Lincoln City for the Oregon Housing Justice Forum. For most of us, it was the first time in over two years we had been in a room full of people we hadn’t met in person before — and in a way that was the whole point. When Meyer’s Housing team started thinking (back in 2020!) about a multi-day gathering of housing advocates from across the state, our central focus was on providing space and time for people to connect, share what they are working on and identify new allies.

COVID-19 has made creating and sustaining relationships much harder for all of us and we knew people were craving an opportunity to step away from Zoom calls and day-to-day challenges to share visions, plans and hopes for housing justice. The last few years have been full of urgent housing challenges, tireless and smart advocacy, dramatic victories in public policy and new resources for housing needs. The forum was designed to serve as an important occasion for advocates to gather together, take a breath, step back and think about what’s next: how do we all contribute to sustaining and growing broad and resilient movements around equitable housing outcomes? We were particularly looking to center the conversation around the needs and priorities of communities of color and to nurture and promote emerging leaders working with those communities and others that have been historically neglected, marginalized and deprived of the ability to secure suitable housing.

In planning the event, we were fortunate to have the help of three savvy and experienced community members active in the field: Julia Delgado from the Urban League of Portland, Jenny Lee from the Coalition of Communities of Color and Loren Naldoza from the Oregon Housing Alliance. Their perspectives and advice as part of the planning committee helped us shape the event, refining the goals and intent, recruiting and selecting participants and the facilitator, I and actively engaging with other participants during the forum.

With the help of our stellar facilitators from the Luna Jiménez Institute for Social Transformation, the planning committee identified five outcomes that guided our approach to the event:

By centering BIPOC leadership, authentic allyship, relationship building, belonging and racial justice, the Oregon Housing Justice Forum will have:

  • Increased our understanding of the historical and current impacts of systemic oppression on housing policies, programs, collaborations and initiatives across sectors that lays a foundation for healing from housing injustices.
  • Formed a housing justice network (composed of BIPOC leaders, people who have experienced housing insecurities and committed allies) that is relationship-based, expandable, cross-sector and has the potential to become influential and sustainable.
  • Reimagined a housing justice ecosystem that launches a bold, inspiring and just housing future in Oregon.
  • Co-created key housing justice initiatives that build on past housing justice victories and learning and are designed and shaped by the insights and experiences of BIPOC communities and/or people who have experienced housing insecurity.
  • Felt inspired and more prepared to take bold action that fosters relationships and confidence in backing and centering BIPOC leadership and communities in the housing justice space that moves Oregon closer to a vision of housing justice for all. 

We decided to limit the size of the event to a group where everyone could engage in the same conversation and connect meaningfully with each other. That meant that we invited only 35 out of the more than 130 people who applied to participate. That roster of 35 was one of the most diverse and dynamic groups of housing advocates the state has ever seen, with notably only about one-third of attendees coming from Portland Metro. All participants brought deep community connections and more than two-thirds identified as indigenous or people of color. Some were familiar to us and connected with current Meyer partner organizations we know well; some were people we had not known of before the event. Core issues and passions represented ranged across the spectrum of affordable housing advocacy, from determined advocates for the houseless to people focused on increasing minority homeownership; from grassroots organizers to people with strong policy expertise to coalition-builders.

Over two-and-a-half days, this extraordinary group dug into the roots of Oregon’s overlapping housing crises, shared their plans, visions and fears around the work in front of them and bonded with new allies in conversations.

Meyer has a long track record of supporting advocacy and organizing work, particularly in affordable housing, and this event was both a natural culmination of that decade-long engagement and a bridge to our new focus built on centering impacted communities, supporting positive systems change and building movements and grassroots power. And the Forum is just the latest chapter in that critical work: we will be engaging with both participants and a wider circle of voices in the next few months to inform how we can support community-driven agendas for housing justice at both the local and statewide levels.

Michael Parkhurst

Graphic with text: Oregon Housing Justice Forum and event information below

Graphic promoting the Oregon Housing Justice Forum

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Moving the Needle: A Reflection on Five Years of Investment in Oregon’s Affordable Housing Landscape

What did five years and $16 million in investment in affordable housing mean for Meyer Memorial Trust and its partners active in affordable housing efforts across Oregon?

In our report, Moving the Needle: A Reflection on Five Years of Investment in Oregon’s Affordable Housing Landscape, Meyer staff reflects back on the challenges, setbacks, clear “wins” and lessons learned from designing and implementing a strategic philanthropic initiative.  In addition to robust and lively discussions among the team about what we take forward from this work, we reached out to dozens of key partners in nonprofits, other funders and government to get more perspective on how the Affordable Housing Initiative was received.  

We hope you’ll find this summary of the biggest takeaways useful and relevant.  We see this as a contribution to the rich ongoing dialogue about impact and strategy in philanthropy, and welcome comments, questions and dialogue to promote more shared learning and insight.

 

—  Michael

 

Drone view of Argyle Gardens housing

Argyle Gardens, a sustainable apartment community in the Kenton neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Transition Projects.

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Results from our Justice-Involved RFP

As we at Meyer look toward the future of what is needed for community safety and justice for all, we know that we cannot forget about thousands of Oregonians and families that have been harmed by incarceration or jail.

We also know housing can be a powerful catalyst for individuals involved in the criminal justice system to transition out of the cycle of incarceration and back into the community or workforce, and it reduces the likelihood of an individual returning to jail or prison.

In July 2020, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio released an open request for proposals focused on interventions and supports that address housing stability gaps for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails and juvenile facilities and those with past justice involvement and their families.

The goal of this strategy was not only to improve the living situations of 500 individuals but also to provide lessons and learnings to share with the broader housing field philanthropic sector around three crucial questions:

  1. What are the unique challenges and needs of Black, Indigenous and people of color who have been involved with the justice system and face community re-entry and reintegration?
  2. What ways can corrections and housing systems align to support individuals who have been justice-involved so they can reintegrate into communities successfully?
  3. What systems and policies need to be changed to improve rental housing access for people with conviction histories, especially for Black, Indigenous and people of color?

In service to these goals, organizations were invited to respond with proposals for a grant period up to two years with funding requests up to $150,000 for existing projects and expansion of existing re-entry programs. All projects were sought to directly support low-income Oregonians with conviction histories and to reduce barriers to housing access in the private market. In line with Meyer’s equity lens, there was a priority to fund projects with focused strategies to increase housing access for people of color and Indigenous people. We received 19 proposals and are excited to announce eight new grants totaling more than $1.1 million over the next two years to:

Cascade AIDS Project will receive $140,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) for a two-year project to build CAP’s capacity to serve Black and Latinx people who have a past conviction, have extremely low incomes, live with HIV, are unstably housed or homeless, and identify as BIPOC. CAP will serve 100 people and place 40 people in private-market housing.

Central City Concern will receive $150,000 (Multnomah County) for a two-year project for CCC to expand the Flip The Script program by specifically serving Black participants to secure housing in private-market rental units. For this project, CCC will serve 20 people and place 20 people in private-market housing.

Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency will receive $149,000 (Marion County) for a two-year project for MWVCAA to expand its re-entry program to specially serve Latinx individuals exiting incarceration by opening a satellite office in Woodburn and offering housing navigation services in Spanish. MWVCAA will serve 100 people and place 80 people in private-market housing.

Portland Leadership Foundation; dba The Contingent will receive $150,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties) for a two-year initiative for The Contingent to support the stabilization of justice-involved BIPOC parents with children in foster care through community-based crews offering peer mentorship and access to long-term private-market housing. The Contingent will serve 70 people and place 55 people in private-market housing.

Urban League of Portland will receive $150,000 (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties) for a two-year initiative for ULPDX to provide intensive services to justice-involved Black individuals through a peer cohort model focusing on long-term housing success. ULPDX will create a peer cohort of 35 people who have recently exited incarceration and are experiencing homelessness or are unstably housed to secure and maintain private-market housing.

WomenFirst Transition & Referral Center will receive $132,101 (Clackamas and Multnomah counties) for a two-year project to increase WomenFirst’s capacity to support justice-involved Black women in a holistic and culturally specific approach to achieve long-term housing stability. WomenFirst will serve 8-10 people and place 4-8 people in private-market housing.

Umpqua Community DevelopmentCorporation; dba NeighborWorks Umpqua will receive $130,601 (Southern Oregon) for two years to develop a southern Oregon regional approach to build community capacity to permanently house justice-involved individuals through collaboration with local Tribes, rental tenant education and financial stabilization. NeighborWorks will serve at least 65 people by helping them to secure private-market housing.

Yamhill Community Action Partnership will receive $130,500 (Yamhill County) for two years to support YCAP to increase its capacity to support justice-involved Latinx individuals experiencing homelessness to access and maintain private-market housing. YCAP will serve 90 people and place 68 people in private-market housing.

— Elisa

Justice Involved RFP
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Building a foundation for partnership

Many of us that have come through the public education system know very little about the nine federally recognized Tribal nations who have existed since time immemorial in this place we now call Oregon. It’s no coincidence: The invisibility of Native people is intentional and systematized. We’ve also been fed a steady diet of biased stereotypes and indoctrinated to colonialism, which allows us to overlook how the control and exploitation of Indigenous lands impact how we relate to one another and the natural world.

Unlearning these biases and dismantling colonial systems are critical if we are to move forward in building a just, multicultural, democratic state where all people can thrive.

Meyer and other organizations will never have the formal, government-to-government relationship that federal and state jurisdictions are required to forge with Tribal nations. For us to have a productive, voluntary relationship with Native communities, then, we need first to challenge ourselves to build a solid foundation for partnership. One that seeks authentic and deliberate relationship-building, cross-cultural learning, and an understanding of Tribal history, governance and current Tribal community priorities. Only then can we be ready for productive partnership.

Meyer staff and trustees have taken this challenge to heart. We worked to develop a base understanding of Native American sovereignty, to understand that Tribes are the original stewards of the land and waters and how rich traditional knowledge can inform our collective practices. We’ve invested time to meet with each of the Native nations in our state and listen to their unique histories, customs and wisdom as well as their current priorities and how we can partner with them. And we’ve started to decolonize our language and processes. Indigenous staff members at Meyer shape the culture of the organization, provide leadership around relationship-building with Tribes and remind us of the areas where more learning is needed.

One important partner in Meyer’s journey is the Institute for Tribal Governance (ITG) at Portland State University, which has helped us acquire knowledge of history as well as current Indigenous world views, Tribal politics and tribal community priorities. After two program directors (Jill and Theresa) participated in the yearlong Professional Certificate in Tribal Relations program at the ITG, we came away enthusiastic that other organizations could benefit from cross-cultural learning and intentional relationship-building.

In early December, Meyer is experimenting with ITG to bring a Tribal Relations workshop to a group of Meyer grantees in the Housing Opportunities and Healthy Environment portfolios whose work connects with Tribes or serves Indigenous people. Over two half-day sessions, the group will receive a condensed version of Tribal history and sovereignty. It is not nearly enough time for deep understanding, but it will serve as a springboard for more learning and create connections for nonprofits to figure out together how to build a strong foundation and show up as better partners with Tribes.

If the experiment is successful, we can help folks begin to move away from transaction-focused relationships and form relationships based on Indigenous understandings of reciprocity and kinship with humans, other organisms and living systems. Together, we must learn from and honor our past, include all voices at the table in our present, and build the foundation for a thriving and inclusive future.

— Theresa


Interested in learning more about building a foundation for partnership and decolonizing your workplace? Here are some resources for more learning:

Meyer staff in front of the Chachalu Museum in Grand Ronde.

Meyer staff in front of the Chachalu Museum in Grand Ronde.

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ICYMI: Good Company

Last week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Council on Foundations recognized Meyer Memorial Trust and a broad partnership working to address homelessness as a recipient of the 2020 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships.

Meyer was honored alongside six other foundations: Sheller Family Foundation, The Homeless Assistance Fund Inc., Quicken Loans Community Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, Bernard Project (SBP Long-Term Home Rebuilding) and MUFG Union Bank Foundation.

The Secretary’s Award recognizes cross-sector partnerships that have been crucial to transforming communities and improving the quality of life for low- and moderate-income residents across the country. Benefits include increased economic development, health, safety, education, housing access, disaster resilience, inclusivity and access to cultural opportunities.

Meyer was recognized for its partnership with Worksystems, Inc. on the Economic Opportunity Program (EOP), a network linking employment and housing services for formerly homeless families in Portland, providing low-income residents community-based career coaching and support. Many trusted community-based organizations were critical to the effort.

The innovative EOP collaborative weaves together state, federal and local resources and demonstrates how to align and strengthen local providers while expanding services to food stamp recipients. Other partners included local employment program funders such as the Joint Office of Homeless Services (the local Continuum of Care agency) and Prosper Portland (the local economic development agency), state grant administrators (the Oregon Department of Human Services which administers the SNAP 50/50 reimbursement), federal partners within HUD (Portland Field Office) and USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

“We want to commend our award winners for their efforts to show the importance of government and philanthropy partnership,” said Secretary Ben Carson. “Today’s announcements of these awards honor the collaborative and unites us all together so that more Americans have the opportunity to be successful.”

“The recipients of this year’s Secretary's Award are stellar examples of the transformational power of strong public-philanthropic partnerships to improve the quality of life for generations of families,” said Kathleen Enright, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. "The foundations and corporate philanthropies honored today provide insights and ideas for how to effectively respond to our nation’s most pressing challenges.”

Since the Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships was established in 2012, winners in the Northwest and Alaska include the Rasmuson Foundation, Home Partnership Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Raikes Foundation and Seattle Foundation.

Housing has long been one of Meyer’s highest priorities because we recognize that all people need a home that is stable, safe and affordable. The Housing Opportunities portfolio’s core goals address housing development and preservation, housing support services and sector strengthening. We are proud to support a strong network of nonprofit partners across the state that are addressing the needs of Oregonians and advancing Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

You can learn more about Worksystems and the Economic Opportunity Program here.

Read more about the recipients of the 2020 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships here.

Fred G. Meyer, founder of Meyer Memorial Trust. Image source: hud.gov

Fred G. Meyer, founder of Meyer Memorial Trust. Image source: hud.gov

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Accepting Applications: Housing Opportunities 2020 Justice-Involved RFP

Locally, nationally and around the world communities are demanding policing and prison reforms. Simply put: Our current justice systems are not working to provide community safety.

As we at Meyer begin to look toward the future of what is needed for community safety and justice for all, we know that we cannot forget about the individuals and families that have been harmed by incarceration or jail. The long-term negative impacts of trauma, family and community separation, extended periods of supervision and regulatory conditions, community stigma, limited income, and reduced housing options increase the chances of recidivism and reincarceration. Poverty coupled with historical and institutional discrimination have led to the over incarceration of Black and Brown communities, and mass incarceration and policies that were designed to be tough on crime have perpetuated cycles of poverty and incarceration that continue to leave devastating effects on our communities.

Philanthropy must rise to its responsibility and disrupt this system of injustice.

In Oregon, tens of thousands of people have criminal records and the Oregon Health Authority estimates that about 26,000 people are released from jails and 5,500 people from federal and state prisons back into the community every year. Data show that people of color are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system and people who have experienced incarceration or jail are more likely to experience higher rates of poverty, homelessness, addiction and mental health needs. There is growing recognition that successful reintegration into society for individuals involved in the criminal justice system benefits those individuals, their families and the broader community. Research from Prison Policy Initiative shows that housing can be a powerful pathway for individuals involved in the criminal justice system to transition out of the cycle of incarceration and back into the community or workforce and reduces the likelihood of an individual returning to jail or prison.

Supporting people who have been justice-involved to secure housing is one of the many ways that philanthropy can disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

In pursuit of Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon, the Housing Opportunities portfolio released a Request for Proposals (RFP) on June 22 inviting applications from nonprofits, government agencies and organizations with existing re-entry programs.

The focus of the RFP is to fund interventions and supports that address housing stability gaps for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails and juvenile facilities and those with past justice involvement and their families. This RFP will especially focus on funding work that addresses gaps in renter access due to past and present discriminatory systems and practices and efforts that advance marginalized populations in building a better life for themselves on a foundation of stable housing.

This funding opportunity will increase access to and retention of private market units for individuals living on low incomes who are also justice-involved by supporting effective strategies that engage private market landlords and management companies as partners in addressing affordable housing needs across Oregon communities.

Two funding information sessions will be available for this Request for Proposals:

  • Friday, June 26, at 11 a.m. PST
  • Wednesday, July 8, at 11 a.m. PST

During the video conference, we will provide participants with an informative overview of the new funding opportunity, offer ideas about what successful applications might look like for housing-focused organizations and much more.

You can find more details about the RFP here.

I look forward to connecting with you during the information sessions.

—Elisa


Applications for the 2020 Justice-Involved Request for Proposals are due by 5pm on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

RFP details

  1. Use of funds
  2. Information sessions

Meyer Memorial Trust invites proposals that will increase access to quality private market housing units for individuals living on low-incomes who are also justice-involved. Up to $150,000, over two years, in new funding is available.

Applicants will be notified of their award status in late November, with funding available in early to mid-December.

Grant funds can be used for a variety of purposes to support the proposed project’s goals, including the following examples:

  • Project management or consulting services dedicated to furthering the project.
  • Hiring staff to support the project.
  • Approaches and strategies that will reduce screening barriers for individuals living on low-incomes who are also justice-involved such as reasonable accommodations or appeals, utility debt relief, rental applications, etc.
  • Evaluation and assessment.
  • Development of educational material, toolkits, manual of project.
  • Other uses as approved by Meyer.

Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and answer questions during two online information sessions on Friday, June 26, at 11am PST and Wednesday, July 8, at 11am PST. To attend, please visit the event registration page to receive details for joining the session. Attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.

To register for the session, please visit: eventbrite.com/e/housing-opportunities-2020-justice-involved-rfp-registration-110711621440. Attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.

Apply soon!
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A conversation on housing and employment systems

Housing stability is inextricably linked with other systems of care – health care, criminal justice, child welfare and education, to name a few. We were intrigued to see a proposal in 2017 from a collaborative working at the intersection of affordable housing and workforce development. Worksystems, Inc. was leading a collaborative effort to link employment and housing services for formerly homeless families in Portland, giving low-income residents community-based career coaching and supports to achieve family-supporting employment.

We saw the project as an opportunity for systems to coordinate in intentional, equity-informed ways that could produce better outcomes for both employment and housing stability. Now, over a year into the work, we are following up with Stacey Triplett, community programs manager at Worksystems, to hear more about the collaborative’s progress.


Theresa: How is Worksystems’ project aligning with the homeless services system?

Stacey: The Worksystems’ Aligned Partners Network (APN) is a flexible set of community-based employment service providers who are experienced in a customer-centered approach. This network approach creates success in making relevant services available in our community for folks experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

Today, APN career coaches are a vital part of homeless services, working one on one with customers getting jobs, getting scholarships for occupational training and getting better jobs, all of which serves to stabilize their housing. High-demand, family-wage careers are open to those with a need for housing support if, and only if, they are able to set career goals and layer supports that are needed. Supports are timed to make progress possible; customers both gain skills and access employment opportunities.

The model for systems alignment is a “housing hub” approach where dedicated rent assistance coordinators bring housing market knowledge to customers in need of rapid rehousing or eviction prevention services alongside the work of the employment service providers of the APN. The same customers are shared across systems. The new normal is for career coaches to engage with their customers before, during and after they receive rent assistance in a manner that demonstrates that both housing AND employment stability are goals around which they engage their customers. This was a result of career coaches coordinating closely with and experiencing great support from the housing hub and its specialty knowledge to address short-term rent assistance needs.

Theresa: Can you share an example of a household that has benefitted from your work?

Stacey: Sure. Khalid had a master’s degree in electrical engineering and eight years of experience before he arrived in Portland as a refugee. To be recognized as a professional engineer in this country, his career coach helped with his resume and requesting the recommendations he needed in order to get approval to take the engineer licensing exam. He also had to take an English exam to qualify for the test.

At first, Khalid stayed with friends, and it was very crowded and noisy. He had difficulty studying for the English exam, but with only $300 a month in refugee assistance, landlords would not approve him for a unit. His career coach referred Khalid for rent assistance, and he was able to secure a unit quickly. His new home provides a safe and quiet space to study in order to pass the English exams and the professional engineering exam that he will be required to take in order to regain his certifications.

Once he had his own place, Khalid said, “I was able to focus on getting a job.” He found work as an electrical engineer at a construction firm and is working full time. Khalid has been approved to take the professional engineering exam in October and continues to study for it. His career coach will use support service funds to pay the costs and fees associated with taking the exam. At the same time, Khalid is already giving back to the community by helping others learn English and translating for them.

Theresa: Impressive work by Khalid and the team! How long have you been doing this collaborative work?

Stacey: This has been a journey of over five years. Meyer Memorial Trust supported work that brought all the relevant organizations together in these efforts. Human Solutions, as the housing hub, learned to share customers with IRCO, SE Works, Oregon Tradeswomen, Constructing Hope, Central City Concern and Human Solution’s own employment department. In more recent years, the network has grown to include Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Latino Network, the Urban League of Portland and Black Parent Initiative. Our project also prioritized production of data on how efforts that career coaches and rent assistance coordinators make on behalf of their shared customers increase their success by orders of magnitude compared to prior disconnected approaches. Specifically, in 2017 we measured greater income increases (almost double the rate of increase) for customers in the shared approach compared to those who were not. And they were also 53% more likely to leave the program employed.

Theresa: What special role do the collaborative partners play in the project?

Stacey: They are the absolute champions of this effort. All the day-to-day changes to accommodate this new model have been made in a very consensus-oriented manner with good participation and communication amongst and between career coaches and rent assistance coordinators.

Theresa: What kind of challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

Stacey: We’ve found that systems alignment challenges can best be overcome with frequent and clear communications. With our system alignment work with the housing system, understanding each other’s performance metrics can be difficult, but the deeper we dig the more that we understand the intricacies of each other’s work with participants and how our decisions impact participant lives and performance outcomes for both systems.

Theresa: What do you hope happens going forward?

Stacey: I hope how career coaches and rent assistance coordinators work together will be sustained by the benefits that both colleagues create for customers’ outcomes. It took time for each area to learn one another’s strengths, procedures and how to best stabilize customers experiencing housing instability while pursuing employment goals. Now there’s a natural alliance where housing and employment are “everyone’s business.”

There are many ways the network has embraced the customer-centered teaming that happens when career coaches appreciate the intricacies of operating the housing hub and rent assistance coordinators take cues from training timeframes and employment activities to make sure customers can achieve their goals.

Theresa: Are you able to share the results of your work to a broader audience?

Stacey: There has been interest in this work by many national bodies. Currently, Portland is featured in the 2018 Systems Work Better Together: Strengthening Public Workforce & Homeless Service Systems Collaboration report by the Heartland Alliance. Also, this work has been featured to inspire states outside Oregon to consider utilizing public resources such as are utilized here to fund “SNAP to Skills” efforts that the USDA supports nationwide. An Oregon Housing and Community Services webinar was held with participation from housing professionals, workforce development staff and local funders around the country.

Theresa: Congratulations! Anything else you would like us to know?

Stacey: This goal of systems aligning for customer benefit is that everyone comes to see the connections as the most logical, natural and smooth way of working and doubts that it was ever any other way.

Theresa: That’s a great ending thought. Thank you so much, Stacey, for sharing the progress on this collaborative work to align systems.

Economic Opportunity Rent Assistance Program participants share experiences of using the EOP program at the A Home for Everyone coordinating board meeting in April 2019.

Economic Opportunity Rent Assistance Program participants share experiences of using the EOP program at the A Home for Everyone coordinating board meeting in April 2019.

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Oregon’s housing advocates aim high

When it comes to affordable housing issues, the legislative session that just wrapped up in Salem was one of the most momentous ever. Advocates won major victories around additional state funding, tenant protections, preservation, attention to manufactured housing and more flexible zoning that will help create more housing choice in desirable neighborhoods across the state. So much important work happened we can barely keep track of it, but our friends at the Oregon Housing Alliance have put together a handy summary here.

It may have been tempting in the past for philanthropic funders to shy away from advocacy, worrying that involvement in “political” work could compromise their moral authority or broader influence in the community somehow. More and more, we all realize that that kind of hesitation marks a huge missed opportunity. Meyer’s housing work has become increasingly engaged in the past few years with supporting advocacy, simply because that’s the path to real impact on the housing issues facing Oregonians. If we want to make a real difference in affordable housing (or the other core issues that define Meyer’s agenda and mission), we need to help build a broader constituency and inform public discussions and decisions that shape how cities, counties and the state address those issues. A Meyer grant may be important to the success of a particular housing project or service program supporting housing, but addressing the issues we care about at scale requires shifting public investments and public policy.

We can’t take credit for the big wins in Salem (or in city halls and county offices around the state), but we’re proud to support grassroots advocates, nonprofit leaders, policy experts and journalists who are building momentum, mobilizing people and crafting effective messaging around affordable housing.

This spring, we released our fourth Request for Proposals specifically to support housing advocacy work, inviting proposals for up to two years, with eligibility broadly defined to include projects that expand the number and diversity of voices engaged in housing advocacy and promote concrete policy and systems changes at both the local and statewide levels. Reflecting the high level of interest and activity around the state, we received 40 proposals — more than any previous housing-focused RFP! We are excited to share the results: 11 new grants totaling $1 million over the next two years:

Better Housing Together $80,000 (Lane County)

For a two year initiative to enlarge and increase the effectiveness of BHT’s growing cross-sector coalition to advocate for stronger pro-affordable housing policies and resources in Eugene, Springfield and the rest of Lane County.

Farmworker Housing Development Corporation $73,448 (Linn, Marion and Polk counties)

To support the Rural Development Housing Advocacy and Communications (RDHAC) initiative over two years, educating community leaders about the need for and contribution of affordable housing in the mid-Willamette Valley, building a stronger and more durable constituency to support more affordable housing development.

Business for a Better Portland $76,750 (Portland Metro)

To activate business voices to support housing diversity, mobilizing and amplifying the voices of progressive business owners around affordable housing issues in and around Portland.

Human Solutions $134,800 (Portland Metro)

For a two year collaborative, in partnership with Northwest Housing Alternatives and REACH CDC, mobilizing and supporting tenants of publicly subsidized affordable housing in East Portland to advocate for themselves and for affordable housing broadly. This work will complement and support a broader statewide effort led by the Housing Alliance to engage affordable housing residents.

Oregon Center for Public Policy $150,000 (Statewide)

To support equitable reform of Oregon’s biggest housing subsidy over two years for policy analysis and education concerning the state’s tax deduction for mortgage interest. OCPP will lead an experienced and savvy coalition of advocates to continue a focused, strategic plan for reform that could redirect unprecedented resources to affordable housing in Oregon.

OPAL $80,000 (Portland Metro)

To advance the movement for housing justice and develop leaders in low-income communities of color in East Portland and East Multnomah County and to expand OPAL’s housing justice work in Clackamas and Washington counties.

Q Housing Project $80,000 (Portland Metro)

To launch a two year initiative engaging the LGBTQ+ community in the Portland Metro area around specific unmet housing needs and development of a clear vision and action plan around LGBTQ+ friendly housing for youth, elders and families.

Street Roots $80,000 (Statewide)

To support Housing: The Next Generation, a news series reporting in-depth statistics and information related to the daunting housing situations confronting younger people in Oregon, utilizing a strong equity lens specifically calling attention to homeless youth, Native American youth, youth aging out of foster care and youth trapped in cycles of generational poverty.

Unite Oregon $85,000 (Washington County)

To support Washington County Equitable Housing Coalition, a partnership including HomePlate Youth Services (HPYS) and Community Housing Fund (CHF), to advance an equitable housing agenda that amplifies and incorporates the voices of immigrants, refugees, communities of color and youth into key housing policy discussions taking place over the next two years in Washington County.

Urban League of Portland $80,000 (Statewide)

To lead a statewide campaign to bring tenant screening policies into compliance with Fair Housing law to enable greater access to rental housing for African Americans and people of color living in Oregon.

Welcome Home Coalition Housing First Public Advocacy (Portland Metro)

$80,000 over two years to inform and influence the region’s push to reduce homelessness and expand the availability of permanent supportive housing (PSH), by centering the experience of people with lived experience in PSH.

We hope you’re as excited about this list as we are! And as impressive as that list is, it doesn’t show ongoing Meyer support for other key partners like the Oregon Housing Alliance, Community Alliance of Tenants, and Housing Oregon.

Hopefully too this reassures anyone who wondered about how the transition that essentially folded Meyer’s Affordable Housing Initiative into the Housing Opportunities portfolio would affect Meyer’s commitment to support systems-level change and grassroots mobilization around housing issues. We see housing advocacy as a high priority and already look forward to the next million dollars worth of grants.

Michael

Katrina Holland, executive director of Community Alliance of Tenants, speaks at a 2016 rally for tenants’ rights. Behind her, from left to right, are Jeri Jimenez, D. Pei Wu, Pastor Mark Knutson and Justin Buri.

Katrina Holland, executive director of Community Alliance of Tenants, speaks at a 2016 rally for tenants’ rights. Behind her, from left to right, are Jeri Jimenez, D. Pei Wu, Pastor Mark Knutson and Justin Buri.

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Resources from Meyer’s Equity Housing Summit: A follow-up on equitable practices

In August, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio invited grantees that are keenly focused on housing or providing services to people experiencing homelessness to a daylong summit aimed at increasing equitable practices, policies and outcomes within the housing sector.

For nearly half a decade, Meyer has supported the efforts of many housing organizations in the development of their equity lens and work. The Equity Housing Summit was the culmination of those efforts. At Portland State University, Meyer’s Equity Housing Summit — Strategies to Advance the Fields, brought together more than 200 people to learn, connect and share insights and ideas as well as mark an important day for Meyer and the housing sector in Oregon.

During the event, plenary sessions grounded attendees with an equity framework for the day. An inspiring keynote from Meyer President and CEO Michelle J. DePass provided an honest reflection on our foundation’s equity journey and commitment to the work. Our special guest Glenn Harris, president and CEO of Race Forward, facilitated two enlightening plenary sessions focused on the “Racial Equity Imperative” and “Creating Racial Equity” and a breakout session about “Creating a Culture for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

During the breakouts, more than 40 different housing-focused organizations, from across Oregon, shared insights about the strengths and challenges they face in building equity into their work. With an emphasis on peer learning, the sessions offered a wide variety of presentations, such as Transforming Organizational Culture, Community Voice: Centering Lived Experience, and the History of Housing Discrimination in Oregon.

The summit was inspiring. People walked away with deepened commitments to equity and expanded connections with others in the sector who can strengthen and support their work.

Because equity work is always evolving, we hope that attendees continue to learn, connect and build stronger relationships with each other far beyond the summit. We also invite our partners and community members outside the Housing Opportunities portfolio to have access and learn from the information that was presented at the summit. To that end, we have created a new page on Meyer’s website dedicated to the Equity Housing Summit and sharing those resources. You can explore the new page here.

We hope our efforts keep the conversation going and keep us all learning. As Michelle J. DePass stated at the summit, “We have learned, and we keep learning, that is the only way we can inch forward.”

— co-authored by Lauren Waudé and Elisa Harrigan

2019 equity housing summit
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ICYMI: Housing and Health Care Under One Roof

Central City Concern is building a six-story, $52 million development, the Blackburn Center, to increase stock and access to health care integrated housing in Portland.

Affordable Housing Finance recently published an article about the new building that will include a 40,000-square-foot integrated health care clinic and 165 units of respite care, transitional and permanent housing units:

“This is our 40th anniversary as an organization, but this is the first time where everything we do and offer will be available under one roof. That’s really the exciting part here,” says Central City Concern chief housing and strategy officer Sean Hubert. “For us as an organization, it gives us the opportunity to pilot a new way of doing business, and I think it gives us an opportunity to put the client at the center of our work and to align and build the services around the client.”

Click here to learn more about CCC's new campus of integrated housing.

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center | Courtesy Ankrom Moisan Architecture

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center, courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architecture

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