2019 Year-end Review

When I spoke at the plenary session of the 2019 Philanthropy Northwest Annual Conference a few weeks ago, I remarked that although Meyer Memorial Trust’s course toward equity was set about six years ago, this was the year we really started sailing into the deep waters. That’s the story of 2019 at Meyer. We’ve been digging deep into the work of dismantling barriers to equity in education, housing and the environment and improving community conditions with our sights set on the horizon: a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

The final year of the decade was my first full calendar year as Meyer president and CEO, and it has been a formative time for the organization. I’m proud of what we have accomplished through the hard work and dedication of our staff and trustees and alongside our partners across the state.

Meyer’s Housing Opportunities team hosted an Equity Housing Summit that was two years in the making and brought together hundreds of housing-focused grantees and homeless service provider partners to share strengths, insights and lessons to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the field. The Building Community portfolio shifted to a two-part funding strategy focused on supporting systems change to create a just, complex, multicultural society where everyone can thrive. The Equitable Education team hosted their second annual Teachers of Color Gathering, bringing together more than 30 educators of color from around the state. The Healthy Environment team added its first program officer, Mary Rose Navarro.

After 10 years and more than $18.5 million invested in the health of the Willamette River, Meyer’s Willamette River Initiative transitioned into the independent Willamette River Network to continue and expand the Willamette Basin restoration movement. We said a fond farewell to our longest-serving trustee, Debbie Craig, who retired in April. Our trustee, Toya Fick, became our new board chair. And a few months later, we were delighted to welcome our newest trustee, Alice Cuprill-Comas, who brings strong expertise and a well-versed background in business, nonprofit governance and corporate law.

We hit the road, determined to get to know the state of Oregon through the eyes of its original inhabitants. Between October 2018 and October 2019, Meyer staff and trustees visited all nine federally recognized Tribes in the state, seeking to forge new, strong relationships with these sovereign nations.

We hosted the fourth lecture in Meyer’s Equity Speaker Series with a riveting, powerful talk by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. In collaboration with Literary Arts, the Equity Speaker Series will continue next March with award-winning author Tommy Orange, as the culminating event of Multnomah County Library’s 2020 Everybody Reads program.

We have also been looking to the future. Next year, Meyer will undergo an exciting transition when we move from rented office space in Portland’s Pearl District to our new and permanent campus, currently under construction in North Portland’s Eliot neighborhood. Preparing for the move across the Willamette River has inspired us to think deeply about what it means to be a neighbor. We are looking forward to deepening our connection to North Portland and the community of historic Albina. We are also committed to making the campus a physical embodiment of Meyer’s mission and values, which means using the new building as a resource that will provide us the ability to offer new types of support and further investment in communities across the state.

2020 promises to be a big year for Meyer and for Oregon. Each and every day we will be looking to do more, in addition to grantmaking, to invest in change at the systemic level to ease inequities and disparities. Stay tuned for more news in the coming months as we work with our peers in the Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon to support efforts to ensure an accurate count in the 2020 census. Visit our website and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things Meyer in the new year.

Until January, all of us at Meyer wish you a warm, joyous holiday season.


Meyer staff and members of the Burns Paiute Tribal Council pause for a photo after an afternoon of dialogue, learning and connection.

Meyer staff and members of the Burns Paiute Tribal Council pause for a photo after an afternoon of dialogue, learning and connection.

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Reflections on Meyer's 2019 Equity Speaker Series lecture with Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

I’m lucky to be working at an organization that holds significant privilege but has asked us to take a “learning stance” to better understand the issues that face those we serve. Meyer Memorial Trust envisions a Meyer that, among other tenets, requires us to build our learning muscle to step out of our traditional philanthropy ivory tower and reduce our distance from the organizations we fund and the communities they serve.

To that end, Meyer has established an “Equity Speaker Series,” bringing national leaders to Portland two or three times a year to ignite dialogue on issues of race, equity, inclusion and diversity.

In partnership with the Coalition of Communities of Color and the Oregon Center for Public Policy, Meyer hosted 2019 Equity Speaker, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, in November. Rev. Barber is a nationally recognized social justice advocate and pastor who has built a broad-based grassroots movement to strengthen civic engagement and inspire people to imagine a more humane society.

Rev. Barber has served as the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, since 2003 and as president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP from 2005 to 2017. Calling himself a “student of morality and public policy,” Rev. Barber founded Repairers of the Breach. The national leadership development organization began a series of “Moral Monday” rallies outside the North Carolina statehouse to protest laws that cut funding for public education and health care, suppressed voter turnout and further disenfranchised poor White, Black, First Nations and LGBTQ+ communities. The movement waged successful legal challenges to voter suppression and racial gerrymandering, and it engaged massive voter registration and education efforts.

Expanding on the Moral Monday movement, Rev. Barber has also revived Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign for the twenty-first century. In recognition of his selfless street-level activism and long history of leading national civil rights campaigns, Rev. Barber was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” in 2018.

Although the issue of U.S. poverty is deep and challenging, Rev. Barber reminded us that it may not be as complex as we make it out to be. When it comes down to it, the mandates that we hold as foundational and even sacred as stated in the Constitution require us to interrogate what it really means to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” when 140 million people are living in poverty in this country.

Additionally, he asked the audience to consider that the racialization of poverty has only supported policies that keep poverty in place. Population data show that in raw numbers, there are 40 million more White people living in poverty than people of color. In Oregon, that equates to 1.3 million. At the same time, people of color are overrepresented in the poverty and low-wealth categories. Making poverty a race issue divides us to create and maintain racist, and therefore, morally corrupt policies. We need to work together across races to address poverty. As Rev. Barber stated, “If we can’t pay the light bill, we’re all Black in the dark.”

In past positions and as Meyer’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion manager, I have theorized, planned and trained around DEI issues. But as much of these things I’ve done, and as passionate as I feel about equity and inequities, there is something so simple, and perhaps even more moving, about Rev. Barber’s logic. His call for us to stand together against the racialization of poverty and build bridges across race to address this moral crisis make total sense to me!

We are truly grateful to Rev. Barber for sharing his message in Oregon. Want to hear more from Rev. Barber himself? Watch his speech here. Want to talk more about this or Meyer’s Equity Speaker Series? Please reach out to carol [at] mmt.org

P.S. If you missed the event, you can watch Rev. Barber’s keynote on Meyer’s YouTube channel here.

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II on stage at the Alberta Abbey during Meyer’s 2019 Equity Speakers Series

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II on stage at the Alberta Abbey in Portland during Meyer’s 2019 Equity Speakers Series.

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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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Myth: Disparities in education are not an issue of race but rather an issue of povertydarion Mon, 08/12/2019 - 11:46

In partnership with Dr. Ann Curry-Stevens, Meyer’s Equitable Education portfolio debunks incessant myths that act as barriers to education equity in Oregon. This blog is intended to provoke both thought and action, offering an opportunity to look beyond common myths and re-imagine a public education system rich in opportunity.

Historically, when issues of racial equity are talked about people will often say that the problem isn’t racism but rather that people of color are more likely to be poor and that any discrepancies that exist (either in terms of opportunities or outcomes) are more the result of poverty than race.

A study produced in Oregon by the Center to Advance Racial Equity compared racial groups within similar income categories to see what level of academic achievement was attained by each group.1 The findings showed that in Oregon, when comparing academic achievement of higher income students (wealthier students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch subsidies) to other students, students of color were not as able to reach the same levels of academic success. And that “while income remains a protective factor for all student groups (meaning high income students do better than low income students), even economically advantaged students of color are, on average, unable to gain the educational results attained by economically advantaged white students.”2

Academic achievement differences were visible in elementary and middle schools, presenting about a 5 percentage point difference in test scores, both in English and math. In high school, the gap doubles and more affluent white students have test scores that are approximately 10 percentage points higher in both math and literacy. Graduation rates are also significantly better for white students, at 85 percent compared with 81 percent for students of color.3 In short, even among the more affluent students, students of color face barriers that interrupt their educational progress, while white students are able to take fuller advantage of the benefits of higher incomes.

The second study looked at these patterns across time and found that, in comparison with the 1950s and 1960s, there is in fact a reduction of the influence of race on student success and rising influence of family income.4 This insight does not invalidate the prior study, but it brings forward a troubling view that suggests progress has been made in reducing the influence of racism in student achievement.

But not so fast …

This isn’t much of a good news story. The main cause is that income inequality has been surging in the past 40 years and low income students increasingly are part of single parent families where fewer adults being present narrow the likelihood of enough time to support homework and reinforce academic needs. Also implicated is that students of color are increasingly likely to attend high poverty schools,5at levels eight to 10 times higher than that of white students.6 In essence, income inequality is outpacing the influence of racial dynamics. Racial disparities by income remain intact (as the first study indicates), though they have reduced over the past two generations, but inequities have worsened due to rising income inequality.

These data are important to disprove the idea that racial disparities are simply an indicator of more important consequences of inequality—income. These aren’t data that absolutely disprove that income matters more than race but are evidence that confirm beyond any doubt that a large comparative study of students is needed, collecting their racial and income demographics, tracking income changes and how that impacts their academic performance over time. Simply put: The study should track all students in a district or state and assess how incomes and race influence school performance. The current problem is that the education system does not track income, except for student eligibility for free and reduced lunch programs, which captures those with incomes up to about twice the poverty level.

Until this comparative study is done, we draw from the best available evidence that shows even affluent students of color still are unable to get the same level of academic achievement as their white counterparts. We ask that educators build the ability to shoulder the possibility that racism exists in their schools, classrooms and teaching. We also know that most people, including educators, do not want to believe themselves capable of racism, despite the fact that studies show 96 percent of educators hold unfavorable bias toward students of color.7 It’s easier to believe that educators fail students due to income barriers rather than race bias.

Is it really hard to believe that our schools are not performing well enough to support children of color and many educators deflect issues of race and redefine them as poverty or income related?

Frankly, it’s easier to think we fail students because they don’t have enough resources at home than because we educate white students better than students of color. The available research shows that racial equity and educational dimensions that include harmful elements of racism and white privilege must be the focus of school and education system reform efforts.


  1. Sinkey, A. & Curry-Stevens, A. (2015). Equity in education: Disaggregating student outcomes by race and income in Oregon. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University. 

  2. P.36, in Sinkey, A. & Curry-Stevens, A. (2015). Equity in education: Disaggregating student outcomes by race and income in Oregon. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University. 

  3. P.36, in Sinkey, A. & Curry-Stevens, A. (2015). Equity in education: Disaggregating student outcomes by race and income in Oregon. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University. 

  4. Reardon, as cited by Bernhardt, P. (2013). The Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) Program: Providing cultural capital and college access to low-income students. School Community Journal, 23(1), 203-222. 

  5. Reardon, S. (2011). The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations. In G. Duncan & R Murnane (Eds.), Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools and children’s life chances (pp.91-116). New York: Russell Sage & Spencer Foundations. 

  6. Wise, T. (2016). What is your perception? Unpacking white privilege. At Teaching with Purpose. Portland, Oregon. 

  7. Clark, P., & Zygmunt, E. (2014). A close encounter with personal bias: Pedagogical implications for teacher education. The Journal of Negro Education, 83(2), 147–161. 

The Franklin High School Class of 2013, celebrating on graduation day. Photo credit: Matt Morton

The Franklin High School Class of 2013, celebrating on graduation day. Photo credit: Matt Morton

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Housing shouldn’t depend on immigration status

Equity and fair access to opportunity are core values for Meyer Memorial Trust. 

It’s rare that Meyer uses its voice to call out federal policy, but we felt called to comment on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule about mixed-status families. The more we heard from partners about HUD’s plans to evict thousands of families, seniors and children into homelessness, the more we knew we had to speak up and use our platform to support Oregonians on this important issue. 
On May 10, 2019, HUD proposed a rule change that would no longer allow “mixed-status” families — households with both documented and undocumented members — to qualify for federal housing assistance based on their immigration status. This proposed rule would force families out of public housing and Section 8 programs, effectively spurring homelessness, forced family breakups and/or loss of housing assistance. The proposed rule would give current residents nearly no time to react or prepare. There are some great in-depth explainers here, here and here about the proposed rule and its effects. 

This is even worse than it looks. It would have a devastating impact on not just the families directly affected by this rule but also our local communities across Oregon. Not only would the proposed HUD rule revoke housing assistance to families who are entitled to federal housing assistance but it would also without a doubt increase homelessness in Oregon. It also would impose new reporting and documentation guidelines on legal residents and U.S. citizens that feed a climate of fear, distrust and division.

It’s time for more people to say “enough.” Enough using families and children as props for a political gain. Enough terrorizing some of our most vulnerable neighbors with intimidation, fear-mongering and inciting hatred from other groups. The proposed rule change is racist. It’s not a strategy to address immigration or housing. It seeks to target the Latinx community, and HUD itself has admitted that there would be no benefit to families on housing wait lists and the rule could lead to reduced quality in housing. If it takes effect, it would jeopardize the housing stability of American citizens and legal residents of the U.S., as well as undocumented residents (who are already prohibited from receiving federal housing assistance). It is estimated that nearly 700 Oregon households, including 1,700 children, would be directly impacted by this proposed rule. This would create a significant burden on communities and local governments across Oregon that do not have the resources to respond to an increased wave of homelessness and emergency support needs.

Meyer stands with all Oregonians to make Oregon the best it can be for everyone who calls it home. And Meyer intentionally stands with communities of color. We strive to use our position of power and privilege to call out policies and programs that threaten the livelihood of our neighbors and communities. 

Every day our nonprofit partners doing on-the-ground work across the state change individual lives and transform communities. This proposed HUD rule is a direct assault on those efforts and on Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon. 

— Michelle J. DePass, President and CEO 

Read Meyer's public comment on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule about mixed-status families here or below:

I am writing on behalf of Meyer Memorial Trust in response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed rule to express our strong opposition to the changes regarding "verification of eligible status,” published in the Federal Register on May 10, 2019 (RIN 2501-AD89; HUD Docket No. FR-6124-P-01). We urge the rule be withdrawn in its entirety and HUD’s long-standing regulations remain in effect.

Meyer Memorial Trust is a private foundation in Portland, Ore., whose mission is to work with and invest in organizations, communities, ideas and efforts that contribute to a flourishing and equitable Oregon. We see the proposed rule as a direct affront to our core values — and to the values that define America. Foundations have long devoted resources to address society's problems, including funding programs to help address and alleviate the homeless and housing crisis.

This is likely the first time Meyer Memorial Trust has commented on a pending federal housing rule. We are moved to do so by HUD’s willingness to use families and children as props in a political drama that will destabilize communities across the United States and directly increase homelessness and trauma among Oregon’s 4.2 million residents. We are deeply alarmed at this effort to divide Americans, to sow fear and distrust and anger, and to stigmatize our most vulnerable neighbors.

The proposed rule will hurt tens of thousands of immigrant families, including many citizen children.

There is no legitimate policy purpose behind the proposed rule. HUD itself has admitted that there would be no benefit to families on housing waiting lists and it could lead to reduced quality in housing. If it takes effect, it would jeopardize the housing stability of American citizens and legal residents of the U.S., as well as undocumented residents (who are already prohibited from receiving federal housing assistance). It is estimated that 100,000 households, including 55,000 children, would be directly impacted by this proposed rule. This would create a significant burden on communities and local governments across Oregon that do not have the resources to respond to an increased wave of homelessness and emergency support needs.

The proposed rule would bar children who are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from maintaining and seeking federally subsidized housing. The proposed rule would severely and immediately impact thousands of people, many of them children, in Oregon. We know all too well the human, social and financial cost of homelessness; we are appalled to see the federal government propose policies that would make this crisis worse. And the message behind the proposed rule is already contributing to a climate deeply at odds with the work Meyer aims to support. We know from our partners working with Latinx communities across Oregon that the federal government’s demonization of undocumented workers, families and children is having a chilling effect — preventing people from accessing services and benefits to which they are eligible, feeding a reluctance to have any contact with government, and feeding a climate of fear and distrust. The proposed regulations are in direct conflict with their underlying statute and ignore amendments that Congress made to Section 214.

HUD has not adequately addressed the administrative burdens created by the proposed rule.

Housing providers and landlords would be significantly burdened by the rule. The rule’s impact would not be limited to immigrants and their families. Under the proposed requirements for documentation, tens of thousands of public housing agencies and private property owners and managers would need to collect documents “proving” the citizenship of over 9 million assisted residents receiving HUD assistance who have already attested citizenship, under penalty of perjury. They would also have to collect documents on future applicants for assistance. Housing providers would also need to collect status documentation from 120,000 elderly immigrants. Additionally, the proposed rule calls for public housing authorities to establish their own policies and criteria to determine whether a family should receive continued or temporary deferral of assistance. These requirements would place a significant cost burden on housing authorities and other subsidized housing providers that are completely unaccounted for in the rule. Housing authorities, charged with administering the public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs, have spoken out against the proposed rule.

For the past five years, Meyer has worked to foster relationships between housing service agencies, public housing authorities and private landlords. Nonprofits and landlord groups have made significant progress to work together and streamline better public housing authority processes across Oregon, making housing placement smoother and faster, benefiting all parties involved. Most Oregon landlords own and self-manage fewer than 20 units. The proposed rule would create an undue burden on hundreds of Oregon landlords and small public housing authorities, strain existing positive relationships and complicate housing placement of all low-income families eligible for public assistance.

Meyer Memorial Trust strives to use our position of power and privilege to call out policies and programs that threaten our neighbors and communities. This proposed HUD rule is a direct assault on our core values and on our vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

We urge HUD to immediately withdraw its current proposal and dedicate its efforts to advancing policies that strengthen — rather than undermine — the ability of immigrants to support themselves and their families. If we want our communities to thrive, everyone in those communities must be able to stay together and get the care, services and support they need to remain healthy and productive. We urge the secretary and the administration to join us working on positive solutions to the issues affecting us.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed rulemaking. Please do not hesitate to contact me at michellej [at] mmt.org if further information is needed.

A residential complex for multifamily housing.
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Teachers are telling us something, let’s listen

On May 8, public school teachers across Oregon planned a walkout to advocate for more state funding. Districts responded by cancelling school for the day, adjusting calendars and, in the case of Portland Public Schools, demonstrating support for increased public education funding: “Our educators and students deserve better. It is long overdue that we prioritize schools in Oregon,” said Guadalupe Guerrero, Portland Public Schools superintendent.

As Oregon teachers continue to advocate for deeper investments in schools statewide, Meyer supports their efforts by investing in a system that not only guarantees teacher voice, but also sees it as a trusted, integral part of how schools operate and how students learn. As we elevate the voices of all teachers, Meyer is deeply committed to centering those who have been our communities’ most marginalized: teachers of color.

Meyer’s Focus

A key outcome for Meyer’s Equitable Education portfolio is diversifying Oregon’s public education workforce. Data show that racially diverse teachers have a significant positive impact on the achievement of priority students, specifically students of color, but we and others would argue all students benefit. The Oregon Legislature is seeing this need, too; the Joint Committee on Student Success is currently reviewing House Bill 2742, which directs the Department of Education to distribute grants for the purpose of developing and diversifying Oregon’s educator workforce, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Meyer believes incorporating teacher voice is crucial to our state’s education puzzle. Legislation, district policies, grants and scholarships alone will not move the dial on our biggest challenges: We must build mechanisms designed for inclusion, created to recognize expertise where it exists and engendered to promote agency in determining the most effective solutions. Led by these principals, Meyer has sought opportunities to participate in education discussions centered on this topic. We discovered that those who are the most critical to defining challenges and creating solutions are often missing from the conversation entirely.

For Meyer to make informed decisions on investments that further our outcome of diversifying Oregon’s public education workforce, we needed to engage those closest to the subject. To do so, we connected with our statewide networks and gathered together teachers of color from across Oregon who are known equity champions in their schools and districts. This diverse group of 23 teachers of color discussed what brought them to teaching, what keeps them teaching and what daily challenges push them to consider leaving the profession. Most importantly, we discussed their recommendations for how public education in Oregon can attract, sustain and retain teachers of color.

The information below was collected during our gathering. It has informed Meyer’s present work and will serve as a guide for future investments.

Group Profile

Meyer’s Teachers of Color Gathering was facilitated by Zalika Gardner, a teacher of color who taught for more than 15 years and now serves as education director for KairosPDX — a school she co-founded in North Portland in 2012. The 23 participants were from different racial and ethnic groups and identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Latinx, Native American, South Asian and multiracial (identifying with two or more races). The educators’ experience teaching varied from less than five years to more than 20 years and one administrator with five years of experience. The teachers came from cities and school districts across Oregon: Portland, Hood River, Clackamas, Medford, Gresham, Eugene and Seaside. Most teachers had earned their teaching credentials in Oregon. The few who earned their credentials out of state earned them in California or New York. One participant was a credentialed teacher in Mexico but was not able to teach in Oregon without earning a master’s degree in education in the United States.

Many participants commented that they had never been in a space with such a diverse group of teachers, primarily folks of color. Those who had experienced a similar space said that it did not happen in Oregon. Within the first few hours of the gathering many teachers began to express that eight hours would not be enough time to grapple with the topics of the day. It was clear that the event itself was serving a crucial need for networking and relationship building among educators of color within Oregon.

What We Heard

Teachers of color are mission-driven. The core message from participants was their love for their students and communities compelled them into the teaching profession and that passion for their students and communities keeps them teaching and persevering through common challenges.

Throughout the gathering, four themes emerged as central to transforming Oregon’s public schools and education system into an institution that attracts and retains teachers of color:

  • Teacher preparation programs must do a better job of educating emerging, pre-service teachers in culturally affirming pedagogy. At the same time, programs must create honest and nurturing spaces for pre-service teachers of color to share experiences and build support networks with other teachers and mentors of color that will sustain them as they enter the teaching workforce and face biases on a daily basis. Key programs cited as exemplary: Sapsipkwala program, Portland Teachers Program, and the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program at Portland State University.
  • Excellent, culturally matched mentors matter. In almost every activity, the necessity and influence of effective mentorship surfaced as a central reason participants remained in teaching. Participants insisted that placing emerging teachers with content-specific and grade-level specific mentors who are honest, culturally empowering master teachers is critical to achieving and retaining a diversified teaching workforce.
  • Teachers of color need an organization that shares the values and concerns of diverse teachers. This idea emerged as a “collective” or hub that offers resources for professional coaching, mental health support, legal support, lobbying and advocacy services. Teachers of color don’t always feel represented by their unions; leadership is predominantly white and trails behind national educator organizations on issues of equity. Because the majority of Oregon’s teaching workforce is white, the union serves the agenda of the majority of its constituents. Some participants felt they were vulnerable to being marginalized, tokenized and forced to stay quiet when union decisions and actions put them directly at odds with the organization charged with representing them.
  • The higher you move up in education leadership in Oregon, the whiter the population becomes. Currently there are 197 superintendents across Oregon and just seven of them are leaders of color: Guadalupe Guerrero (PPS), Paul Coakley (Centennial), Danna Diaz (Reynolds), Katrise Perera (Gresham/Barlow), Gustavo Balderas (Eugene), Koreen N. Barreras-Brown (Colton) and George Mendoza (La Grande); less than 4% of district leaders. Oregon’s teachers of color rarely have leadership that understands what teaching or leading in a school building feels like as a person of color. The cohort of teachers identified more responsive, culturally affirming training for emerging school building administrators and thorough ongoing professional development and equity training for those already leading buildings. Teachers believed that school building leaders set the framework for cultural norms in the building. Thus, this is a crucial role, one that has an immense effect on whether or not a teacher of color remains a teacher. It’s important that these leaders know how to lead, affirm and develop a diverse teacher workforce.


Meyer’s Teachers of Color Gathering uncovered clear alignment in why participants chose the teaching profession: their love for their communities. Teachers also shared the central issue that challenges them to stay: biased co-teachers, building administrators and others openly dismissing, belittling, disparaging and underestimating teachers, children and families of color.

If we truly seek to create an educator workforce that reflects Oregon’s increasingly diverse student population, we must not only examine how we prepare and train teachers of color, but also radically reshape the expectations for pre-service white teachers and administrators. A training system that exposes and examines biases isn’t one class or a few discussions but a central area of mastery essential to becoming a teacher or administrator in the state of Oregon.

Next Steps

Meyer remains committed to elevating the voices of teachers and administrators of color. We will continue to work with this core group of educators to determine meaningful investments toward our outcome of sustaining and increasing Oregon’s education workforce diversity. Heeding the feedback we received from the first gathering, we will hold another gathering in winter 2019, bringing back this core group of educators and adding more, including administrators of color who are leading for equity. We also plan to connect pre-service teachers of color with this incredible collection of educators to promote networking and relationship building for these burgeoning teachers.

We look to our partners: Oregon Department of Education, Educator Advancement Council, Counsel of School Supervisors and Administrators, Oregon Education Association, Portland State University, University of Oregon, Western Oregon University, Chemeketa Community College, Columbia Gorge Community College and school districts around the state and others to share in our commitment. All Oregon’s public school students deserve an educator workforce that is representative of their communities in their school buildings and district offices, and we’ll work diligently to support those dedicated to this equitable goal.

— Bekah

Five educators participate in a group activity during Meyer’s 2018 Teachers of Color Gathering at Northwest Health Foundation.

Five educators participate in a group activity during Meyer’s 2018 Teachers of Color Gathering at Northwest Health Foundation.

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Drawn to Meyer’s commitment to equity

The start of the year initiated a new chapter of life for me. I joined Meyer with 20 years in philanthropy, most recently serving as vice president of programs at the Brooklyn Community Foundation in New York.

Why did I come to Meyer? It was simple: I was drawn to Meyer’s top-to-bottom commitment to equity, both internally and externally, and the ability to guide this level of resources to invest in critical issues. Not only is equity guiding the grantmaking work but it is also guiding investment decisions as well, building to use all of our assets to advance our mission. Plus, I was pleased to see the hard work of living equity values internally has started here as well.

Meyer has one of the most diverse teams I’ve seen in philanthropy: an all-women, majority people of color executive team led by a visionary African-American woman; a diverse board, also led by an African-American woman; and a bold, diverse and thoughtful team. Among Meyer’s staff of 41, more than half identify as people of color or Indigenous, more than half have taken part in nine or more days of equity training and a third were raised in a home speaking a language other than English. My partner jokes that it took a move from NYC to Portland to find a foundation as diverse as Meyer, but it is indeed an amazing organization and I am excited to be a part of this thoughtful, talented and committed team.

I am thrilled to be here in Oregon. I moved with my spouse and two sons in January and have been welcomed with friendliness and warmth, and we respect and are falling in love with our new home state. For me, taking part in visits to Tribal councils and Native communities around the state has been a wonderful start to learning more about the land and communities here. And I am looking forward to getting out of the office to meet all the grantees and communities that we are in service to and partnering with.

My role isn’t a new one entirely at Meyer, but adding the word strategy to my title was an important shift for the organization. I’ll be working to foster organization wide collaboration and making sure we build a stronger learning culture inside Meyer, while also developing and implementing programmatic strategies that reinforce the foundation’s four portfolios and leverage underlying intersections among them. The goal is to implement best practices of the sector to help Meyer continue as a leader in the field, specifically to move from a culture of metrics and compliance to a culture centered on building connections with communities.

I look forward to working with you to tackle inequity and disparity and make our home of Oregon a place that is equitable and flourishing for all. I look forward to meeting with you soon.


Meyer staff and Asian Health & Service Center CEO Holden Leung, attended a two-day program team retreat to delve deeper into equity work and programmatic strategy.

Meyer staff and Asian Health & Service Center CEO Holden Leung, attended a two-day program team retreat to delve deeper into equity work and programmatic strategy.

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Capitalizing on housing momentum

As our portfolio name suggests, it is indeed a time of Housing Opportunities across the state. Sizeable new funding resources, innovative public-private partnerships and passage of statewide tenant protection legislation are evidence of the impressive energy and creativity responding to housing challenges across the state. In this moment of great potential, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio is pleased to open its doors for our 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity.

This is the fourth Annual Funding Opportunity cycle since restructuring our grantmaking program. We continue to refine and (we hope!) clarify the process. The list below highlights those elements that are the same this year, followed by those that have changed.

What’s the same in the Annual Funding Opportunity?

1. Our overarching housing goals are essentially the same:

• Preserve and increase the number of affordable housing rental units for priority populations

• Support the housing stability and success of priority populations

• Foster stronger, more equitable and more effective affordable housing systems and strategies

We’ve tweaked the goal language here to reflect a focus on priority populations — the people who experience the impacts of historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices. These impacts are widely felt by people of color, Indigenous communities and Tribes, as well as people with disabilities and other marginalized communities. To achieve our vision that every Oregonian has a stable, safe and affordable place to call home, we strive to focus on those who face the disproportionate impacts of housing discrimination and instability. More on that below.

2. Grant-funded work should connect to and advance the outcomes we’ve identified under the three goal areas. In addition to the nine outcomes offered last year, we have added three more. This chart provides a snapshot of the funding goals, outcomes, funding ranges and grant types to help you assess the best fit. The grant types and ranges are the same as last year. Don’t forget to take a look at the shorter list of what doesn’t fit well within the portfolio.

3. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to ongoing growth through the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles into both their external programming or services and internal structures and operations. We seek organizations that share our values and are making progress toward DEI integration.

As part of those DEI values, Meyer believes people experiencing housing challenges are experts on their own situations and key stakeholders in housing solutions. We seek to support work centering the lived experience and expertise of people benefitting from programs and also building the capacity of impacted communities that have faced systemic housing disparities to define and implement their own solutions to housing needs. (This ties to a new outcome around Community Influence.) We are more likely to fund projects that demonstrate meaningful involvement by the people with lived experience in defining the issues and solutions proposed.

4. General operating support grants face a high bar. As noted in our funding guidelines, we have heightened expectations from organizations that are awarded unrestricted operating support. First and foremost, they should be housing organizations (do a majority of their work in affordable housing) and strongly advance the core funding goals in our Housing Opportunities portfolio. Additionally, they should play a unique and/or important role in the field and have wider impact for the sector (e.g., as an intermediary, seen as a field leader in Oregon or nationally); demonstrate leadership for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the context of the communities where they work; and have DEI strategies as a meaningful part of their work plan for the grant period. Reach out if you have questions about whether to apply for this funding type.

5. The Annual Funding Opportunity continues to be a competitive process, with limited funding. In the past two funding cycles, the Housing Opportunities portfolio has funded about half of the proposals we received. This means we’ve had to turn down many solid proposals. We also expect the 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity to have robust demand, due in part to the fact that the Housing Opportunities portfolio will not be offering other Requests for Proposals (RFPs) this year. Moreover, our funding amount for 2019 is smaller ($3.5 million, compared with $3.9 million last year).

What has changed in the Annual Funding Opportunity?

  1. The application process will be open for four weeks instead of five. The application period opens Monday, April 15, this year and will stay open for a month, closing at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
  2. In lieu of multiple information sessions around the state, the Housing Opportunities portfolio is offering an on-demand webinar on our website. Potential applicants are encouraged to watch the webinar and review the online resources. Those with specific questions can then email questions [at] mmt.org to sign up for a 20-minute phone consultation with a member of the housing team. We want to spend more time giving personalized and concentrated feedback to applicants and less time in big, general sessions or travel.
  3. We’re trying a one-step application process this year. We heard from many of you that the initial application in our two-step application was much more intense than a typical “letter of inquiry.” This year, we’re going to try a one-step application that looks fairly similar to the questions asked last year. By combining the inquiry application and the full application, we hope for less duplication of content. By early July, we will notify applicants who are invited to move forward in our process. For selected organizations, due diligence will look pretty similar to our previous process with one exception: We will prioritize in-person site visits for newer organizations or complex projects. Applicants who have had recent site visits may only receive a follow up via phone conference.
  4. Income of people served will be a factor but not the most prominent factor in our analysis. In the past three years, we have asked all housing projects if they intend to serve people living with low-incomes (at or below 60% AMI). This year, the emphasis is on serving the priority populations who have experienced historical and current housing discrimination. Applicants should understand historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices that have created disparities and focus their work to eliminate those disparities.

Time and again, we have seen that having a “one size fits all” approach to solving housing instability tends to be less successful than projects that use strategies designed with community input, tailored to the needs of a specific group of people. Foremost, we want to know how your project is designed to serve the needs of priority populations. The language of our goals was revised to connect all of the outcomes to the priority populations. More information on the priority populations can be found in our webinar.

Additional resources
Want more information about what we look for? We’ve gathered a set of Applicant Resources, with everything from building a budget to understanding our definition of collaborations and learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion. You are encouraged to review those resources as you prepare your proposal.

Final thoughts
Your work inspires us every day. Your efforts to serve the person in front of you, while keeping an eye on the larger systems-level changes needed to address housing discrimination and disparities. You push for new tools and resources to bring housing stability to more Oregonians and then figure out how to align resources and efforts for maximum impact. We hope to be the thought-partners and funders that you need to bolster your efforts.

Yours in partnership,


Photo caption: The exterior of Carolyn Gardens

The exterior of Carolyn Gardens in Southeast Portland. Photo source: Human Solutions

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Six projects help extremely low-income people access private market housing

If you are apartment hunting, an already daunting task can feel impossible if you are low-income and have a spotty rental history, especially in a neighborhood of your choice.

When low-income tenants find housing that they can afford, they are often subjected to stringent screening criteria and considered "high risk" tenants, in addition they are rejected for reasons such as relatively minor nonviolent criminal records, prior evictions, poor credit histories, limited or no rental histories and outstanding debt. Families with children, people of color, non-English speakers, people who have experienced homelessness and people who were formerly incarcerated also face increased challenges to finding affordable housing. These renters are at increased risk of homelessness, unstable or unsafe housing situations, extreme rent burden and being asked to pay exorbitantly high security deposits.

Five years ago, case managers tasked with helping clients find housing had a group of landlords they could call regularly and access to tools for renters who were considered "higher risk." Today, that is no longer the case. In a nutshell: The housing market has changed dramatically over this time and the cost of housing has drastically increased, and incomes have not kept up. Market rate housing on the lower end of the pricing spectrum is limited and very competitive. Housing placement agencies and case managers are finding that strategies that used to work just a few years ago are no longer as effective. Even if a renter has a rental assistance voucher, if they can't pay for multiple applications or the security deposit, it may be several months before they can secure housing. This all contributes to lost individual savings, longer shelter stays, housing instability, increased trauma and lower utilization of public support systems like rental vouchers if families can't find a home.

Last summer, Meyer released a Request for Proposals for pilot and demonstration projects with potential for future scaling or replication that would increase low-income people's access to rental homes with private market landlords. Projects that proposed replicating an existing strategy to a new population or geographical community or significantly scaling an existing project were also encouraged. Meyer received 18 proposals from across the state requesting a total of $2,060,754. With a strong field of proposals, six projects were funded totaling $809,600 over two years.

These six grants wrap around Oregon, from the coast and southern regions to the central most parts of the state. Most of the proposals recommended for funding are aimed at supporting households exiting homelessness or families that are at high risk of homelessness. Each project actively leverages other resources, especially public funds like rental assistance vouchers. These projects are designed as proof of concepts of a missing element in current available housing support that is needed to effectively utilize public resources. We are confident that the selected proposals will complement efforts to address the housing crisis across Oregon.

Meyer's hope is that with more flexible and risk-tolerant funding, organizations can develop new or modified housing placement strategies to support low-income people to overcome housing barriers, enabling a family to lease a long-term rental home faster and reducing time spent in shelters or homeless.

Meyer awarded the following organizations through the 2018 Private Market Request for Proposals. These grantees will document the impact of their work and hope to demonstrate the effectiveness of these strategies for broader learning:

Hacienda CDC (For work in Multnomah County) $125,000 - To plan an equitable and inclusive community-based accessory dwelling unit (ADU) development and rental program structured to serve tenants at or below 60 percent Median Family Income (MFI) in the displacement-risk neighborhoods of Cully, Lents and Inner North/Northeast Portland.

Homes for Good (For work in Lane County) $150,000 - To expand the Move Up Initiative, Homes for Goods permanent supportive housing program, by adding a housing navigator and piloting a leasing bonus strategy for landlords housing 50 high-risk and high-barrier households.

NeighborImpact (For work in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties) $150,000 - For piloting a debt-relief strategy for 60 high-barrier tenant households exiting homelessness.

Northwest Credit Union Foundation (For work in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties) $149,600 - To develop a demonstration project of a low-cost security deposit loan program led by credit unions that can rapidly be scaled to meet the needs of 120-150 low-income households a year, in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties.

Oregon Coast Community Action (For work in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties) $115,000 - For replication of Yamhill Community Action Partnership's (YCAP) landlord engagement and retention program to support 30 families receiving case management services who are exiting homelessness or unstably housed.

Yamhill Community Action Partnership (For work in Yamhill County) $120,000 - To scale YCAP's landlord engagement and retention program and add a debt relief strategy for households exiting homelessness, serving 123 high-barrier and extremely low-income tenant households.

We know that these grants will only address a fraction of the statewide need, if proven successful, but have potential to create game changing strategies for the entire housing industry.

— Elisa

Affordable Housing Initiative program officer Elisa Harrigan during a 2018 convening with Meyer grantees

Affordable Housing Initiative program officer Elisa Harrigan chatting with a potential applicant during a 2018 funding information session.

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Apply Soon: Housing Advocacy RFP

Today, Meyer's Housing Opportunities portfolio released a new Request for Proposals to support housing advocacy efforts around the state.

We think of "advocacy" pretty broadly, including community organizing and mobilization, policy analysis and research, focused communications and education around housing issues, as well as targeted approaches to achieve specific policy goals. Proposals under this RFP can address local, regional and/or statewide issues but must have a strong connection to affordable housing.

This RFP will focus on two tracks: Campaign Leaders, for work that is focused on a clear policy or systems change goal and is led by a strong coalition of partners, and Advocacy Mobilizers, which may be more broad and less focused on one specific issue or for the early stages in mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities.

For either track, strong proposals will reflect a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; a clear sense of the issues to be addressed and obstacles to be overcome; and some track record doing the kind of work proposed. We strongly encourage proposals that bring in voices and collaborators that may not have been part of affordable housing advocacy in the past.

Those awarded grants under this RFP will be invited to participate in one or more convenings and will have a chance to network with and learn from other grantees in the cohort.

An application under this RFP does not preclude organizations from submitting proposals for other Meyer funding opportunities and grantseekers may apply to this RFP regardless of any other active Meyer grants.

Two information sessions are scheduled to explain the RFP in detail and answer questions. Register to attend a session at 10 a.m. on Jan. 29 or 3 p.m. on Feb. 5. Register online here.

Proposals will be accepted online (via grantis.mmt.org) until Feb. 26, 2019. Funding decisions are expected in late spring, with grant payments going out shortly thereafter. Make sure you're signed up for our Housing newsletter to stay current on this and other funding opportunities!

— Michael

Preview this RFP

Housing Opportunities: 2019 Advocacy RFP details
  1. Information sessions

Funds will be awarded in two tracks: 

  • Campaign Leaders: grants intended for focused and targeted efforts with a clear policy or systems change goal led by a strong coalition of partners with a credible plan to succeed. Maximum of $75,000 available per year, for a total of $150,000 over two years.

  • Advocacy Mobilizers: for organizing efforts that may be more broad-based and less focused on one issue, or in an earlier stage of mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities. Maximum of $40,000 available per year, for total of $80,000 over two years.

Final award decisions are expected in May 2019, with first-year payments released in June 2019.

Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and be available to answer questions at two information sessions:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 10:00-11:30 a.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 3:00-4:30 p.m.

Both information sessions will be held virtually. Visit our official event page to RSVP.

Housing advocacy grantees at the Oregon capital
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