OHCS attends groundbreaking celebration for first Navigation Center in the Dalles
Last week OHCS had the honor of joining the Mid-Columbia Community Action Council at their navigation center groundbreaking in The Dalles! Once complete, this facility will provide shelter and supportive services for individuals struggling with homelessness. These vital services will give residents access to case management, health care, food services, job training, and more. Special shout out to our partners at the Oregon Department of Human Services, who will conduct regular site visits for service enrollment.
Congrats on the start of construction - we're looking forward to the Grand Opening!
Finding Community in Rockwood Village
Dena Compton is a current resident at Rockwood Village Apartments, a 224-unit affordable housing development OHCS helped fund. Designed to support people with low incomes, Dena says Rockwood Village is like the first step and then somebody’s got you from there.
Before living at Rockwood, Dena had experienced homelessness after getting a wrongful eviction from her previous home when a main line sewer pipe burst under her apartment. After the sewer pipe burst, Dena said her apartment was unlivable, and property owners/managers didn’t seem to have the resources or urgency to make repairs. For Dena, there seemed to be no other options for housing, and she ended up living in her car. From then, she lived in her car staying at the local supermarket parking lot most nights and then driving to church on Sundays, curling her hair in her car before going in. Soon, one of her friends from church started to notice and offered Dena a place to stay while she looked for more stable housing. Eventually, her friend helped Dena connect with Rockwood Village and after two years without a home of her own, Dena found one in Rockwood.
One of the best things about Rockwood Village, Dena says, is the community. There are people at the office who help you connect to resources and fill out forms, such as applying for rental assistance. There are food pantries that come every week so you can get what you need without having to figure out transportation. However, her favorite part is probably watching children running around and playing outside. She says you don’t see that often these days. However, Rockwood Village has been able to provide a space for kids and families to enjoy life outside and in community with their neighbors.
Throughout her life, Dena has had to undergo various challenges. On top of experiencing homelessness, she has grieved the loss of a child, is a survivor of domestic violence, and lives with a physical disability. Her children, a daughter and a son, give her the motivation to keep going and make progress. One can see the way her face lights up when talking about her children. Although her daughter is an adult now, she serves as a caretaker for her son who has several medical conditions, taking him to and from medical appointments and often encouraging him to play outside with the other kids. Dena and her son relocated to the Portland area due to her son’s medical requirements so they could be closer to the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. With a stable home now, Dena feels confident in being able to provide him a safe space to learn, play, and grow.
Dena’s story highlights the struggles faced by many individuals experiencing homelessness and the transformative impact a stable home can have. Affordable housing developments such as Rockwood Village Apartments provides a solution to the housing affordability crisis and creates a community to help residents thrive. One thing Dena’s mother always said to her is that in life, you always need to be progressing. That’s exactly what Dena is doing.
When asked what she wants people to know about people experiencing homelessness, Dena stresses the importance of empathy and understanding. Sometimes the path to finding a home is filled with obstacles such as facing discrimination due to past charges, feeling embarrassed when you need to go to the food pantry, and navigating all the different organizations that provide resources. But with a home to call their own, individuals like Dena can work toward a better future.
Community Leaders Gather to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Above photo, left to right: Senator Lew Frederick, OLCC Commissioner Marvin D Révoal and OHCS Director, Andrea Bell.
The Skanner Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast We joined hundreds of elected officials and community leaders to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Keynote speaker Eugene Hamilton put it best: "This far ain't enough. We've come this far by faith, but understand, with our brothers and our sisters with us, we will reach the promised land."
Partnerships with Tribal Nations support housing needs
Caroline Cruz, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, has been working tirelessly to address the housing needs of her community. With over a decade of experience in human services, specifically in behavioral health, Cruz understands the importance of stable and healthy housing for individuals' and families' overall well-being. In recent years, she has made it her mission to improve housing options for members of the Warm Springs Tribal community.
Like Cruz, Oregon Housing & Community Services (OHCS) has been taking steps to improve affordable housing options for the state’s nine federally recognized Tribal Nations, by fostering relationships and breaking down barriers to access financing. This includes honoring the Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) for each Tribe, which can range from 20% to 40%, higher than the usual 15% to 20% administrative set-aside for OHCS grants. In addition, OHCS has amended contract language to honor the sovereign immunity of Tribal Nations, whereas previously immunity was required to be waived.
Tribal housing needs are unique and formed by culture, past and current housing policies, and other factors unique to Tribal lands. Many houses on Tribal lands are inherited and need repairs over the years, which can be a challenge for households of low income. Additionally, cost of living is often greater on Tribal lands, which can be a barrier to meeting basic needs.
Cruz says Tribal members are not thinking about building equity when buying a house. They buy a house to live in, to call home for a lifetime and to pass onto future generations. Therefore, the need is not only for supply, but also for preservation.
To address these challenges, OHCS is working with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to create a master grant agreement that honors Tribal sovereign immunity, includes NICRA, and allows a funding set-aside for Tribal nations to be easily deployed and accessed for housing needs. In total, $9 million is set aside through the federal By and For Initiative for all federally recognized Tribes in Oregon for homeless services, operating emergency shelters, and buying affordable housing. In addition, based on feedback, OHCS is also designating a set-aside fund of $5 million in non-competitive grants just for Tribal nations that can be used to preserve and promote Tribal homeownership.
Investing in Tribal housing infrastructure means preserving culture. It means creating spaces where Tribal members can stay in touch with their roots whether it’s learning how to can salmon in the backyard or making huckleberry products in the kitchen. In other words, having access to safe, affordable, and healthy housing can help create thriving communities where members feel like they belong.
Royal Oaks Groundbreaking
Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), Housing Authority of Jackson County (HAJC) and partners broke ground on the much-awaited rebuilding of Royal Oaks in November. HAJC purchased the burned 21-acre Royal Oaks site with funding provided by the Oregon Legislature, and OHCS is supporting the development of the site with a portion of the $150 million the Oregon Legislature allocated for affordable housing for fire survivors. The housing development, which will include 118 modular homes, has easy access to public transportation, I-5, schools, and other services in the neighboring towns. The much-needed affordable housing community is expected to open in late 2023.