Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Days

When I was first considering this blog entry, I was planning to describe a day that had gone quite well.

I had arrived at the JOIN office early and was happy to see that the box truck which I had signed out was there and ready to roll. I had an easy drive to a SE apartment complex where I met with a man that I met doing outreach and the manager of the complex.

He was receiving his keys to his new apartment and spirits were high. We had been searching for a place that would approve his application in spite of his two felony drug convictions one and two years before. Although I am confident that he will be a great tenant, finding a landlord who was willing to offer him a chance was not easy.

After touring his new place and exchanging happy words, I was back on the road and headed for the Community Warehouse.

JOIN helps folks find housing. The Community Warehouse helps folks create homes. The staff there are amazing and patient and helpful.

The man that I was meeting was waiting for me and we quickly went to work finding a fold out couch and two chairs and a table that would fill his small studio apartment. His experience finding a place was also challenging. He has an eviction within the last year along with significant time sleeping outdoors.

We unloaded the furniture into his apartment and I sat down to take in the warmth. We had worked hard and together to find a good place.

The rest of my day was spent stopping by the apartment of a guy that JOIN had helped move in to an apartment about a year ago, and visiting a man that I recently helped to move into the Clark Center Men's shelter, and a few campers out in the eastern part of my Southeast outreach area.

I remember driving home feeling that things had unfolded nicely.

And then the weather threatend.

Before the first of the frost hit, JOIN had issued a press release asking for donations of blankets and our office filled up quickly. Every outreach worker and several other staff loaded vehicles and hit the streets with blankets, coats, socks, hats, scarves and gloves. The once over-filled office emptied within a couple of days as we worked day and night checking in on folks.

Now the weather seems so familiar and the snow quite beautiful.

Donations are continuing to pour in and we are continuing to get them out to folks who are choosing to stay outside instead of seeking shelter in one of the warming centers.

I am so very impressed by the way that our community is looking at this extreme weather as an opportunity to look out for one another. I wish I could pass along the thanks I hear from people to those in the community who are donating clothes, money and time to help out folks who need it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Warming Center Opens in JOIN's New Building

Left: Marc Jolin and Nick Fish at the Warming Center Press Conference

Right: The new warming center

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 18th, 2008, by Mike O'Malley

Staff Meeting
The Join staff, just like any community, can be grouped along many different fault lines: meat-eaters and vegetarians; right-handed folks and lefty southpaws; coffee drinkers and tea sippers; loyal true-blue Democrats and ornery Nader-supporters; those who appreciate the work of Bruce Springsteen and those who feel that Bon Jovi is actually the best thing to ever come out of Jersey. To this list must be added: those who love meetings and those that tolerate them. I tend to fall into the latter of these categories, but, since I am lucky enough to work with some of the coolest, most extraordinary and talented people on the face of the earth, I don’t mind spending an hour every Tuesday morning in staff meeting. Sometimes we pick up some donuts to make the meetings more palatable—nothing like fried dough to take the edge off the morning. The donuts are noticeably lacking at this morning’s meeting, but there is a new staff member—her name’s MC, she’s a JV, and she’s AOK by me. We spend the hour discussing some of the pressing issues facing our agency right now and sharing stories with each other. Since I spend a great deal of time working on my own, I really appreciate this chance to check in with my co-workers and bask in the warmth of their company and their wit.

Moving Furniture
When the meeting adjourns, I head out in Join's furniture-moving vehicle, a giant white box truck that is the vehicular equivalent of Moby Dick. Today, I am bringing furniture to two people who Join helped move off the streets and into apartments. I am assisted in my efforts by Amit, a generous friend with a strong back and a work schedule that is flexible enough to allow him to volunteer a few hours for Join every once in a while. Together, we drive to the Oregon Community Warehouse and sift through their aisles and aisles of donated furniture and household items, the blessed detritus of our society ("We are totally dependent on America's habit of upgrading its home furnishings," one Warehouse employee reflects). Amit and I cram the great white whale with some nice pieces of furniture and head first to Sally's apartment.

I met Sally in 2001, camping near a freeway off-ramp in the Hollywood district with her longtime boyfriend, Ted. We've stayed in close contact over these past seven years as she struggled to survive on the streets while battling her addiction, eventually kicking heroin a couple of years ago with the help of the methadone program. It was a happy, joyous day last April when Sally finally moved off the streets and into her own one bedroom apartment, a beautiful place in Southeast Portland. I'm thinking about that April day as Amit and I pull up to her place and unload the furniture. Sally is there waiting for us and is extremely grateful for the recliner and queen-sized mattress, though I catch the emotional exhaustion in her voice. Last week, Sally came home to find Ted lying dead on her mattress in a pool of blood and bile, a victim of liver failure. On the same day, Sally was informed that her best friend in Portland had also died. Amit and I spend a while hanging out with Sally in her apartment and offer what emotional support we can, but this is a woman who has experienced the kind of bad day that few of us can imagine. Considering the hard rain of events that this last week has brought her, though, she actually seems like she is doing fairly well. "I just have to keep moving forward," she says. "It's what I've always done." I leave the apartment in awe at the strength and resilience of her spirit, with a promise to visit her again soon.

Our second furniture delivery is also in Southeast Portland, just down the road from Sally. Roger is another long time camper, someone that I have known since 2000. He moved off the streets a few days ago and has been sleeping on the floor of his empty apartment in a nest of gray disaster blankets ever since. Amit and I bring him a veritable IKEA's worth of household furnishings: bed, couch, coffee table, end tables, lamps, armchair, artwork, and various kitchen sundries. I can tell that Roger is very pleased with all that we have brought him, though he is not one to gush. To be blunt, he is a cranky, cantankerous, crotchety old-timer, but I am actually very, very fond of this weathered survivor and extremely happy to seem him safely inside before the winter cold descends on Portland. As we sit and chat in Roger's now furnished apartment, the subject of a telephone comes up. "I don't want one," Roger says emphatically. " People don't want to talk to me, and I don't want to talk to them!" Present company excluded, he assures me. I thank him for that honor and tell him that I'll come back and visit soon. Amit and I return to the box truck and head back to Join.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Day at the JOIN "House"

JOIN always inspires such a mix of emotions for me. I can feel sorrow, peace, frustration, anxiety and joy on any given day as I interact with our community. Human emotions are often laid bare here.

I help run JOIN’s basic services in our day space, “The House,” and I am continually reminded of how physically and emotionally taxing homelessness and poverty can be. The House can often be chaotic. New people looking for housing, regulars waiting for a shower, and people just looking for a safe place to rest all crowd into our small space. I’ve learned to focus on the person in front of me with single-minded intensity.

My friend Hank is facing the reality the he will go blind shortly unless he gets surgery on his corneas. Hank has no insurance. He doesn’t qualify for Oregon Health Plan. He is already $35,000 in debt. He spoke very casually about his predicament, perhaps because he has so many other health problems. He told me, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” I wonder if he will be able to navigate the lengthy appeals process for Social Security Disability in time to apply for OHP. We shall see. Despite the challenges his health poses, Hank is always eager to chat with me and often offers to help clean up our day space at the end of the day.

I’ve seen a spike in the number of families with children seeking housing services. It is so heartbreaking to see little kids who are worried about where they will sleep for the night. At the same time, small acts of kindness and beauty punctuate the community landscape here. One camper offers another a bus ticket after we have run out. People exchange tips on the best places to get meals. Morris, a JOIN regular, is so proud of the macramé bracelets he has been creating. A tiny kitten was recently a temporary resident of JOIN during the day. Scott and Angie’s cat had kittens, and we are helping to find a home for one of them. I make a point to wander upstairs periodically to join the crowd of admirers clustered around her. Scott and Angie have inquired about pet services, which can be difficult for low-income folks to get on a consistent basis. We are lucky to have a partnership with Pet Samaritan for our campers and their pets.

Jillian, House Coordinator

Thursday, July 24, 2008

She found a job. Now, how can she get to it?

JOIN has been supporting Josie Del Gato for a number of years. At 21 years old, she has regularly impressed us with her resourcefulness and incredible capacity to navigate the bizarre world of social service resources. Despite these gifts, Josie and her two year old son Franklin continued to struggle financially. She had been tied to the state welfare system and all its mandates, and didn't have much work experience to refer to with other employers. Josie and I spent alot of time filling out online applications and looking at craigslists for various jobs. Nothing materialized.

Then, one day Josie calls me about a job at the airport. She found an ad in the newspaper for baggage handler. I bring her and Franklin to PDX, and Josie fills out the application paperwork while Franklin and I run around the food court, greeting all the FTA staff. Two days later, Josie calls me thrilled that she was hired! While the pay rate was surprisingly low for such an important job, Josie's excitement was overwhelming. She arranges childcare and I make sure she has enough bus tickets to get to the airport, and she begins her training period.

The weeklong training flies by, and she gets her regular schedule for the remainder of her 90 day probationary period - Wednesday through Sunday 5am to 1:30pm.

5:00 am? Ouch!! Despite the wonderful transportation resources to and from PDX, there is no reliable or affordable way to get to the airport at that time of day, especially from her home in east Gresham.

The practical solution would be for Josie to have her own transportation... a car. Not only would this help her get to and from work, but it would provide greater independence in running errands, getting Franklin to day care or preschool, and so on. While I hate to admit it, a car is vital to the lives of many families (including my own).

I broach the idea of buying Josie a car with my coworkers. It seems like I'm the only one holding any hesitation. Can I justify investing that much in someone? What happens if Josie loses the job? What if she can't afford to keep the car up? What if other of JOIN's friends need a car... will we be setting a precident?

In the end, these concerns do not outweigh the fact that Josie is finding her own path to housing stability, and JOIN should do what we can to support her efforts. And, while I am procrastinating in my decision, Josie is sleeping overnight at the airport in order to make sure she can get to work on time. That's enough to get me out of the navelgazing and onto the car lot.

With some quick searching, Josie and I find a mid-90s Buick that appears in reasonable shape. The dealer seems willing to cut us a deal given her situation, and in a matter of three days, Josie owns her own car. She drives to work for the first time the next day.

Of course, owning a car is not the solution to all of Josie's struggles. She must now calculate gas and insurance into her limited budget. Franklin's child care expenses will increase as she further separates herself from the welfare entitlements she has received. And, unfortunately, she has already had to invest in some car repairs. Despite these continued challenges, Josie's optimism continues to carry her towards the long path out of poverty, and JOIN will continue to be there for her when we're needed.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Retention Event!!

At one point at a retention team meeting, we decided it would be a super great idea to try to organize a fishing trip as a retention activity- we all work with folks who love to fish but have no equipment, or any way to get to a lake or river.
After some negotiating with Lio and Quinn (two of our outreach workers and our resident fishermen), we scheduled the date. We had about 16 people who wanted to come, and I was super excited about it.
The morning of the trip, Quinn and I took one of our trusty vans to go pick up some folks who were unable to meet us at JOIN. We had planned to pick up 4 people, but as sometimes happens with events we plan, especially in the morning, three of them cancelled in the moments before we were to pick them up. Fortunately we were able to pick up another friend who had not made it to the bus in time to meet us at JOIN, so Quinn and I and our two friends headed back to JOIN to meet Lio and the rest.
Back at JOIN a few more people who had planned to meet us did not show up, so we invited a few folks who were at JOIN at the time, and headed west to Henry Hagg Lake with two vans and seven friends. We stopped at Fred Meyer on the way to pick up day fishing licenses and some food for a barbeque, as well as some last minute bait and other fishing supplies.
It was SUCH a beautiful day! In the seventies, sunny with no clouds in the sky, the perfect day to spend at the lake- we even had a few sunburns! Retention events are so much fun because so many of the folks we work with do not have the resources to enjoy our beautiful Pacific Northwest, and it's so amazing to get to take people out to enjoy nature- most of the folks who came with us hadn't been fishing in 20 years or longer!
Everyone seemed to have a really great time- it was so fun to see folks who had been friends on the street but hadn't seen one another in quite some time reconnect, to see friends who didn't know one another laughing, joking, and helping one another out- I am consistently awed by the sense of community we are able to create and maintain with our friends. We had a great barbeque, but the animal kingdom was not on our side- some birds opened and ate almost all our chips, and with nine poles in the water, we only caught three fish! The first one caught was the only one big enough to keep, and after Lio cleaned it we threw it straight on the grill- my friend L who caught it had a huge grin on his face as he took it around to everyone to share a taste- I didn't have any, but I hear it was delicious! Once everyone had a taste, the birds finished the fish off as well- I don't think there's any danger of the birds at Hagg Lake starving to death.
So after some fun in the sun, we packed up the vans and headed back to Portland. Lio, three friend and I were in our large, blue, 15-passenger van. Lio had a friend he was moving into an apartment in Cornelius, and we had taken some of his belongings with us, so we could drop them off at his place while we were out in that direction. After some trouble finding his place, we parked the van in the driveway, turned it off, and unloaded all his belongings. We all piled back in the van to leave, and much to our surprise, the van wouldn't start. Lio had just spent time fixing some electrical problems on this particular van last week, so we were fairly disappointed that we were unable to get it started. Immediately the three friends we had with us jumped out and huddled into a panel of expertise under the hood, trying different tricks and shouting instructions to Lio behind the wheel. We called Quinn, who by now was back in the city with the other vanload of friends, who agreed to drop our friends off at the MAX station and come back to Cornelius to get us. Finally one of our friends got a neighbor to give us a jump start, and we were on our way, calling Quinn to tell him nevermind.
Apparently that call was preemptive. We made it to just before the Zoo exit on Eastbound 26, when Lio slowed down for the rush hour traffic and the van died. In the middle lane of the highway. While moving. During rush hour. Thankfully we were on a bit of a downhill slope, and Lio was able to maneuver the van over into the right lane and coast down to the Zoo exit, where we parked in some gravel on the side of the exit just in front of the No Parking Zone (though I suspect that we weren't meant to park there either!) As Lio coasted up the exit ramp, I called Quinn back to tell him that we needed him afterall, and not a moment too soon- he was in the act of handing the van keys off to another co-worker when he answered the phone! Quinn came to get us, we loaded everything and everyone into the working van, and headed back to JOIN.
Despite our fishing and vehicular challenges, everyone had a great time. Lio and Quinn were able to get the van back to JOIN that evening, where it is currently parked awaiting either rescue or towing to an unknown future. We hope to be able to do another fishing trip with folks who were unable to make it to this one, though I'm fairly sure the blue van is not invited.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 9, 2008 Outreach by Jarvis Allen

I had this absurd plan that I would move in ten people (three households) yesterday. The first move, for a family of five living in outer southeast, went smoothly enough. I picked up furniture from our darling friends at the Community Warehouse and had it all unloaded at their new apartment by noon. I drove from there to move #2, for a family of four also in outer southeast. They piled into their van and followed behind me as I drove in the rusty trusty JOIN van. And here my grand plan for three moves unraveled, as their van broke down on the freeway. They were able to repair it quickly, and we continued on to the warehouse, but the breakdown was just enough to derail move #3. We loaded their furniture, amidst much good natured bickering, and drove back to their apartment. By the time we got everything unloaded and set in their apartment, it was 5:30, the warehouse was closed, I rescheduled my last move, and my day was done.

Or so I thought. I went home, ate dinner, and tried to relax, but I couldn't stop thinking about my friend Mr. S. I have been working with Mr. S for a year, and after a rocky start we have established an excellent rapport and fine working relationship. He is living in an SRO downtown, but has a section 8 voucher and has found a wonderful apartment in a very respectable building. It is a great opportunity, but there is some snafu in his application that is delaying his move, causing him quite a bit of anxiety. Anyhow, I couldn't stop thinking about him, so at 9 pm I went to his apartment to talk over the situation.

After an hour or so with Mr. S I went home, reflecting on the events of the day and my strange job. There is so much work to do, stopping work often seems arbitrary. We are never done. Even successes, like helping folks move indoors, are easily forgotten in the constant rush of new and ongoing work.

Monday, May 5, 2008

5/2/08 Outreach by Liz Weber

I meet Mike, my outreach partner in North/Northeast Portland, at 7 am. Earlier in the week we got an email message from a Crime Prevention Coordinator we partner with about some campers near Marine Drive and at Delta Park so we head out to North Portland in a light drizzle. There are no campers at either spot, but by 9 am, I have managed to get stuck on a fence, have completely wet feet, and am very much looking forward to a cup of coffee.

Mike and I then drive to St. Johns to visit our friends Sarah and Joe. The couple has been outside for about three years but Sarah just got her first SSI check so they are now looking for apartments. Joe is optimistic about a duplex they visited and we agree that if they are accepted, JOIN will pay the deposit and Joe and Sarah will pay the first month rent with her first check.

After coffee and some breakfast, Mike and I part ways and I pick up my friend, Linda, in North Portland.

The day before, we got the very good news that Linda's application for an apartment was accepted, so we go to her new residence to fill out paperwork for the Shelter Plus Care voucher that will be paying her rent. On the drive back to North Portland, Linda talks about all the things she is looking forward to doing in her new place. She says that since she has been outside, her daughter hasn't let her visit her grandchildren and now that she has a place, she is going to be able to reconnect with them.

I head back to the office, check my email and voice mail and pick up a JOIN van to help another friend move.

I arrive at 1:30. No one is there and the door is locked. Bad sign. My friend was supposed to be out of her apartment a couple days ago and the landlord is going to meet us at 3:00. I call my friend and she says she will be here soon. While I wait, I visit another friend who lives in the same apartment building.

At 2:30 my friend arrives but she doesn't have the key either. We have to wait for the landlord.

When he arrives and opens her door, it is obvious that she isn't even close to being done. We work for a couple hours but it is clear that we won't finish today. By 5:30, the landlord is annoyed, I am hot and tired, and my friend is very stressed out. The landlord agrees to give my friend the rest of the weekend to complete the move and we take the van load of stuff to her new apartment.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

4/23/08 by Courtenay Shinn

8:20am Drop-off a check (to cover a fee for late paid rent) to Caroline at 174th and Burnside. Husband Vincent invites me in for coffee but I am running late. After thanking me profusely for the rent assistance, he encourages me to come by again soon to visit.

8:30am Walter calls to say he's not coming on the Oaks Bottom trip and also can't make it to our afternoon appointment. We tentatively reschedule for Friday. Another fellow, Colin, also calls to say that I shouldn't pick him up for the trip.

8:35am Pick-up Ronald at 148th and Stark. He is disappointed to hear that Walter isn't coming. Ronald insists we listen to the CD that he gifted me yesterday; we rock out to rap tunes for the rest of the carride. We pick up Morgan at Motel 6 just before arriving at JOIN. Morgan has not been to the doctor about his infected surgical incision, but it is looking much, much better. He promises to go to the doctor tomorrow.

9:15am Field trip! Annie (HILLTOP award-winning retention worker) has organized a medicinal/edible plant walking tour of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. A decent crowd of 20ish folks are gathered at JOIN for the outting. Coffee and donuts are shared. It looks like Annie and Steve can fit everyone in 2 vans, so I decide to stay behind and get some computer work done.

11:00am Make calls to a dozen folks that I haven't seen or heard from recently. Nobody answers, but I leave messages inviting everyone on our trip to the gorge next week. Talk to Christy Sue who was recently evicted from her trailer park and had settled at a new one. She says the new place was a week-to-week trailer park, and she exhausted the maximum allowable time there. She and her partner still have their mobile home, but they haven't had any luck finding a new trailer park. I encourage her to come in and see Mike (her outreach worker) at the office next week on Tuesday.

12:30pm Lunch with Lio (outreach worker) at a cafe close to JOIN. We take the opportunity to discuss some of the folks that we both work with, but mostly we just catch up on each other's lives. Since much of our time at JOIN as retention/outreach workers is spent out of the office working one-on-one with folks, any time spent in the company of co-workers is a real treat!

1:30pm I really need to get out of the office and go visit a few folks at home, but Lio and I are waiting on Sherry to come in and meet with us. In the past 9 months Lio and I have put more time into supporting Sherry than almost any of our other households, as she battled DHS for custody of her kids, attended in-patient drug treatment, enrolled in JOIN's "Mothers Helping Mothers" mentorship program, and got her first job EVER. We are both incredibly proud of what she has done to turn her own life around, but recently she has not been in very good contact with us. We want to meet and make sure that things are still going well for her; we also need to discuss her housing voucher that will time-out next month.

2:30pm Still waiting on Sherry; Lio calls her to find out that she is running late and the kids are throwing tantrums on the bus. Sherry and Lio decide to meet tomorrow without me (and without the kids).

2:45pm I receive a call with some terrible news. One of my households had applied to live at a site-based Section 8 apartment, and while Doris had been approved, Ted had been denied based on his criminal record. The manager of the apartment is calling to inform me that Ted's appeal of his denial has been reviewed and again denied. I am devasted for Doris and Ted - they're an incredible couple that has been working very hard to find jobs and develop an income to afford their current apartment. Since they've had little luck finding work, moving into Section 8 housing when their voucher ends next month would have been a fantastic solution. The job search will continue, but I worry that we don't have enough time to resolve the situation.

3:00pm Janet appears at JOIN; she is hoping I can give her a ride over to the Pregnancy Resource Center to pick up a highchair and babygate that they have given to her. I definitely hadn't planned on running this errand today, but I know how much Janet has been wanting a high chair, and her home isn't too far out of the way of where I am going to visit someone else. We hop in the car and head out.

3:45pm I drop Janet at home; somehow the day has escaped me and I don't have enough time for both my remaining appointments. I call Allison to reschedule our visit. Allison recently had a baby and is a full-time student at Portland Community College. She's doing a fantastic job as a first-time mom, and I am excited to see how much baby Ethan has grown in the 2 weeks since I last saw him!

4:15pm I have a long phone conversation with the representative that made the decision to deny Ted's appeal. I share glowing reviews of my experiences with Ted since he moved into housing last June, but the representative remains firm by her decision. Ted needs to establish a few more months of clean record before they can feel comfortable renting to him. She encourages me to have Ted reapply the next time there is a vacancy. Who knows when that could be???

4:35pm I pick-up Roger at home to take him grocery shopping. Roger is feeling grumpy about his broken leg, the discomfort of wearing a cast, and the limitations of hobbling around on crutches. The prescription pain medicine isn't helping as much as he hoped it would, and his foot is starting to swell, turn purple, and lose circulation. I can't convince him to go back to the hospital tonight, but he agrees to let me take him first thing tomorrow morning. I drive Roger to the grocery store, help him get his groceries, take him home, and call it a day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

4/22/08 by Courtenay Shinn

8:00am Pick-up Janet at home (SE Pardee and 104th) and take her to apply for a job at the Doubletree Laundry. JOIN has been supporting Janet, her husband, and her 6 month old baby with a housing voucher that will soon timeout. Janet and her husband are both looking for work so that they can begin paying their own rent and utilities. Janet was interviewed for two other jobs last week; we are hopeful that one of the three will work out.

9:00am Weekly staff meeting at JOIN. Vy Swiftcloud from Central City Concern stops in to discuss the 45 of our folks for whom she administers housing vouchers.

10:00am Do a little office business at JOIN: Make a to-do list for the day. Call some folks to remind them about the Oaks Bottom field trip tomorrow. Call a landlord to check on the status of one of my folks' application for tenancy. Respond to an e-mail from Michael, a potential new volunteer at JOIN. Michael wants to do some friendly visiting to folks that we’ve recently housed; he and I are trying to coordinate schedules so that he can shadow me for a day. Just before heading out, chat with Margaret, president of JOIN’s board, who is stopping by to see Marc, our Executive Director.

11:15 am Stop by Motel 6 on SE Powell and 31st to visit Morgan. He is working with Quinn (an outreach worker), and they are in the final steps of moving Morgan into his own apartment. Since Morgan just had a hernia operation 10 days ago, we have put him up in a hotel while he waits for the final approval from the Housing Authority. Morgan says he slept terribly last night. He shows me his surgical incision, which is totally infected. I encourage him to return to the hospital today to have it checked out. Otherwise, he is excited about moving inside next week!

12: 05pm Stop by Walter’s house on SE Division and 117th. He isn’t home. Just as I am writing a note to leave on his door, my phone rings. It’s Walter! He has gotten some temporary, part-time work and is calling me from the job site. I remind him that JOIN is taking an outing to Oaks Bottom tomorrow, and he decides to come along. We also make plans to stop by the financial aid office at the hospital tomorrow. Walter spent 3 weeks there in December and is still fighting for assistance in paying the bills. Since he is zero income and has no insurance, I don't quite understand why it is taking so long for him to get approved for financial aid. I hope we can sort it out tomorrow. One of Walter's neighbors also works with JOIN, but I have no time to visit him today. Moving on!

12:17pm Head over to an apartment complex on SE Stark and 148th where five JOIN households reside. Visit Darren and Linda first. Linda just had elective bypass surgery on a blocked artery in her leg, but is recovering fairly well. I help her fill out a 1040 form for the IRS. Since she receives Social Security Disability, she is eligible for the $300 Economic Stimulus Reimbursement. Next, visit Andrew downstairs. His application for Social Security Disability was recently denied, so we call his lawyer to hear about the appeals process. He asks me to bring him a mop and some cleaning supplies the next time that I visit. I am happy to do that; these items can't be purchased with food stamps. A few doors down, I visit Ronald. One of his neighbors had thrown out a fish tank, and he has set it up nicely. I brought him a couple fish a few weeks ago, and they are looking very happy. Ronald is really proud of his fishtank, so we make plans to get some plants to add to it. As I am getting ready to leave, Ronald presents me with a belated b-day gift; 2 CDs of rap music that he bought at the 7-11. I promise to listen to them as soon as I get back in the car. Last visit at the apartment, Craig. Craig is in an extremely bad mood -- he has a really high utility bill that will cost him half of his SSD check, and then he worries he won't have enough left for his portion of his monthly rent, his groceries, and food for his cat. Craig was in this same situation back in February, thus the terrible mood. He is hoping I can help him get a pair of reading glasses; I will contact the Lyons Club Gift of Sight program.

3:00pm Visit Caroline and her son Vincent. JOIN is helping them pay a late fee on their rent, so I am just dropping off the check. Caroline needs diapers for Vincent, so I make her a list of agencies that might provide them. She also asks if I can get her 4 kitchen chairs and a couch. We make plans to visit the Community Warehouse next Thursday.

4:15pm Last stop of the day, Foster and 122nd. Roger was hit by a car last week and is recovering from a broken leg. His neighbor Jack, who was also helped by JOIN, is visiting him when I stop by. Roger's leg has a giant cast and he says he is in a lot of pain. He asks if I can take him to a pharmacy to fill his prescription for pain medication. I had some other plans for the rest of the afternoon, but this seems much more important. First we have to drive across town to a friend's house where he has stowed his knapsack and the prescription from the hospital. We swing by the accident site to see if his bike is still there (it couldn't be brought in the ambulance with him), but it is gone. We hit a pharmacy, I bring him home, and at around 6:30pm the day is finally done!

Monday, April 7, 2008

4/4/08 by Steve Gevurtz

I woke up early to get a jumpstart on my case-notes, and then headed out to an apartment building in inner northeast Portland to remind folks about the dinner tonight at JOIN hosted by our friends at the Sunset Presbyterian Church.

In particular I wanted to see Stephanie, who hadn’t been to one of our community events in a while, to check in about the dinner. Stephanie can be a little reserved and wary of large social gatherings. I let her know that other JOIN workers would be there and the dinner was going to be a yummy taco salad. Stephanie agreed to let me pick her up for the dinner in the early evening.

After leaving the apartment building, I headed out to Birch, one of JOIN’s community partners that helps provide emergency food-boxes for our recently housed folks. Along with boxes of canned vegetables and loaves of bread, I also picked up a box of Danner boots to bring to a few of our folks who have recently started doing landscaping work.

After a quick lunch, I stopped by the hospital to see my friend Jason. Jason had two heart attacks in the last month and soon will be transitioning into an assisted living center. It is still hard for Jason to stand and get out of bed. We sat for a while and reminisced about some of Jason’s friends on the street.

Jason asked for me to play a few riffs on his acoustic guitar. Jason seemed to light up watching me stumble my way through, “Stairway to Heaven.” He showed me an easier way to play it. Jason asked me to say hello to some of his friends at the dinner and asked me to raise a toast to his recovery at exactly 7 pm. He wants to raise a toast at the same time.

Went to pick Stephanie up and she was there waiting outside for me ready for the dinner. Twenty-five or so folks end up showing up at JOIN for the feast. Church members and JOIN folks alike helped set up chairs and tables as folks got settled and begin chattering with each other.

Children from the congregation delivered plates of delicious taco salad for dinner and topped it off with chocolate cake for dessert. At 7 pm we all raise our glasses of juice and cups of coffee for Jason, hoping he is doing the same thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welcome to "A day in the life of JOIN"

There's a lot to learn about JOIN from the statistics you find on our home page. It matters a great deal how many people we are able to help into housing, how long they remain housed, and what it costs to achieve these successes.

But very often supporters tell us they get more insight into JOIN's work from the stories of staff people and the individuals who they work with. So we're using this blog to report, in virtually real-time, the often chaotic, sometimes happy, and sometimes tragic details of the day-to-day activities of JOIN staff.

We've asked our outreach and retention team members to each spend a week posting brief updates on how they spent their days. We will, of course, protect the privacy of the individuals who we are working with by avoiding or changing details that might reveal their identities. But our goal is to provide unfiltered and very concrete reports on what we do.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions in response to the posts.

Thank you for your interest!

Marc Jolin