At a small apartment complex in the Lents neighborhood, a couple dozen volunteers Thursday afternoon rolled light blue paint onto the ceilings of each home.
It’s a pretty, albeit an unusual color, to place above one’s head – but the shade has an intentional purpose: to bring a calming effect to future residents often coming from traumatic and desperate situations.
“Homelessness is hard,” said Brandi Tuck, executive director of Portland Homeless Family Solutions. “It’s traumatic, it’s stressful and families are in complete survival mode.”
That’s why the nonprofit’s leaders are thrilled to be just days away from opening part of a new campus they are touting as a “one-stop shop” to help the homeless.
On Aug. 27, the eight homeless families staying at the organization’s Goose Hollow Family Shelter will move into the new shelter located off Southeast 92nd Avenue. The complex is comprised of eight units. Eight more families will join them, with one family each sharing a room of the two-bedroom apartments. The two families will share the bathroom, kitchen and dining areas.
“We’re doing it ourselves -- we’re doing the mudding, the texturing, the painting, all the things, replacing the hot water heaters,” said Tuck, of the work to get the homes ready.
Portland Homeless Family Solutions (PHFS) purchased the complex and an adjacent building back in May after raising $3.3 million from community donors.
“To have this entire community step up and do what’s best for the families… it’s overwhelming and amazing and we couldn’t be more thrilled with where we are,” Tuck said.
The apartments will serve as temporary shelters for homeless, and come November, the larger building will open with 10 more private shelter rooms and also serve as a 24-hour center where residents can get meals, snacks, hygiene items and other support to help get them back on their feet.
Tuck said most of the people they serve are working, and have small children.
According to the nonprofit, hundreds of people, foundations and businesses donated money and supplies for the project.
Dozens have volunteered their time to clean and fix up the units and building.
“it’s nice to see progress immediately with a big group like this,” said volunteer Ted Wall, as he helped with painting. “We’re excited to see this open and get going.”
Tuck said architects, designers and others have provided pro-bono expertise.
Working on the interior design has been especially important, as they hope to provide a welcoming space that residents will be proud of and inspired by.
“We’re really, really excited because this gives families dignity, restores their power, promotes autonomy,” Tuck said. “And the research shows this kind of design actually produces better outcomes – people stay in shelters for shorter amounts of time and a greater percentage of people move out of shelters and back into permanent housing.”
Volunteer Erik Naylor said he came out to help without knowing much about the organization, but was impressed by its mission and dedication.
“It seems like they put a lot of thought into these units and trying to make a nice transition for the families coming here,” Naylor said.
This spring, PHFS plans to add a garden, playground and barbeque area to the campus.
Eventually, organizers want to turn the apartments into permanent, affordable housing and construct another affordable housing complex in a back lot.
The nonprofit said it’s still about $200,000 short to complete the campus and new 24-hour center.
If you are interested in volunteering, donating supplies, or money to the cause, visit http://www.pdxhfs.org/ to learn more about helping.
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