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From IHI's Executive Director
Sarah J. Stevenson
My mother in law received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last month and my family was fortunate enough to be able to attend the festivities. We all met the President and First Lady and enjoyed a reception for an impressive group of medal winners. As we were leaving the White House, my oldest son, Frankie (age 6), announced loudly that when he grows up he's going to win a Presidential Medal, too. Mildred Dresselhaus, one of this year's recipients and a distinguished physicist, electrical engineer, and nanotube pioneer, smiled and graciously told him that was a great goal. Frankie went on about his business, mentally adding one more possibility to his future achievements.
That exchange reminded me how unblemished a vision children can and should have for themselves - they lack the experience and worldly wisdom to contextualize their aspirations. When Frankie told me the next day that he planned to be a professional skateboarder, that goal was on par with receiving the highest civilian honor in the land. And he felt equally capable of achieving both. Unfortunately, too many children learn too early in life what they cannot do and are never exposed to the full range of their own possibilities. Our horizons are limited by our own vision - if you can't see it, you can't do it. That is why IHI takes high school-aged residents on field trips to colleges and tells them they absolutely can go there. It is why mentoring and job shadowing are so important - meeting an architect, an engineer, a mechanic, or a contractor in person and realizing these are career possibilities opens mental doors that might not otherwise exist for very low-income children.
We all love to read about the standouts, the exceptions, that one kid who, against all odds, achieves something remarkable. Protégé's aside, somewhere along the line those achievers got a glimpse of a possibility - from a parent, a teacher, or even a book or movie - and believed it for themselves. If we're being honest, we will acknowledge that the deck is stacked against children who grow up in poverty, attend substandard schools, and lack adequate nutrition, social capital, and a diverse set of role models. The landscape is even worse for children of color living in poverty. Systemically, we must do better by these kids. On the ground, we must also do whatever it takes to help children see a full range of possibilities for themselves, even when the odds are against them.
IHI has worked for years to help resident children graduate from high school and go on to college or vocational training. A college education isn't for everyone, but it is a proven tool for breaking the cycle of generational poverty. This year, we are reaffirming our commitment to these goals and making them a primary focus of our youth program. As you enjoy this season of sharing, please join us as we pledge to help every child living in our housing realize their own gifts, see their full potential, and envision themselves achieving greatness.
Happy holidays from all of us at IHI and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!
A Fresh Start
Conviction histories limit people's housing opportunities, create barriers to successful reintegration, perpetuate the cycle of poverty, and often force parents to raise children in substandard housing. As a mission-driven houser that believes people deserve a second chance, Innovative Housing has struggled to balance the safety of our resident communities with screening criteria that allows people with criminal histories to access safe, stable housing.
In 2014, IHI began working with MercyCorps NW's Reentry Transition Center and the Fair Housing Council of Oregon to tackle this issue. The group identified a Certificate of Good Standing as a tool that could help landlords and potential renters. Seven states offer this type of program to people exiting incarceration, but in each of those states the program is run by the court system or the state itself. We began investigating whether such a program could be administered by a small coalition of nonprofits and, in September, 2014, Meyer Memorial Trust funded a pilot project to let us try!
With MMT's support in place, MercyCorps NW hired staff to facilitate the program and we began developing the process and criteria for obtaining a Certificate of Good Standing. The goal of the Certificate is to help landlords and property managers identify ex-offenders with documented indicators of successful rehabilitation. We will be assembling a panel of 5-7 individuals that represent the range of expertise needed to assess an individual's long-lasting, positive reintegration into society (ie: a representative from the Department of Community Justice, a family counseling services professional, an alcohol and drug services provider). This panel will consider all the materials presented by an individual seeking a Certificate and make an assessment as to whether they are a good risk for housing. The Reentry Center will work with applicants to assemble materials that demonstrate they have successfully turned their lives around and provide ongoing support to ex-offenders as they seek out and secure housing.
Our pilot program will focus not only on helping individuals exiting incarceration access housing, but also helping them become eligible to use Section 8 rental vouchers. Criminal histories, in some cases, preclude this and, as a result, prevent families from living under the same roof. For example, if a mother and children are lucky enough to have secured a Section 8 rental voucher, when a father gets out of prison the family might be faced with the difficult choice of giving up their housing or continuing to live apart. In that case the father would likely struggle to maintain stable housing, further challenging his ability to reintegrate into society.
Our hope is that a Certificate of Good Standing will help individuals who have served their time and are reentering society more successfully navigate access to housing. This will give them, and their families, a chance at a fresh start- a start that begins with a safe, stable home.
Becoming an Innovator-
IHI's Individual Giving Campaign
IHI's 30th Anniversary was a wonderful success and a great way to launch IHI's first individual donor campaign. Donors at the event became inaugural members of The Innovators - an elite group of individuals committed to helping low-income people use affordable housing as their foundation for success. IHI set a goal to raise $10,000 by June 30, 2015. To date we have raised $6,345.
Each year IHI dedicates more than half of our operating budget and staff time to supporting our residents. We provide essential services that help them maintain their housing, meet basic needs, access opportunities, and work towards financial stability. Innovators become our partners in this work and have the satisfaction of knowing that 100% of their donations are supporting low-income individuals, families, and children.
To become an Innovator today, click here. When you donate to IHI, you will be recognized on our website and receive a card letting you know specifically how your money is being used to support our residents. As a bonus, throughout the year you will receive special VIP invites to Innovator-only events hosted by IHI (including a sneak peak at the Erickson Fritz and special housing happy hours)!
IHI is committed to helping our residents maintain their housing and increase their financial stability. We thank all of our supporters for joining us in this effort.
Construction in Progress: Albany
At the old Woodland Square
mobile home park, construction on new 1, 2, 3, and 4-bedroom apartments is progressing!
Buildings 1 and 2 are nearing completion - we will begin leasing the first units in February, 2015.
Healthcare and Housing
In our Summer newsletter we announced that, as part of our Healthcare and Housing initiative, IHI would be offering a Chronic Disease Self-Management program for residents and community members living with a chronic condition. This month we are wrapping up our first 6-week workshop, which we offered at one of IHI's family sites in Northeast Portland. Participants in our class suffer from different conditions at varying levels but, because the curriculum we use can be applied to any and all chronic conditions, everyone walks away with a "tool box" of self-management techniques to help their specific condition.
The workshop covers a wide range of subjects, including: 1) techniques to deal with frustration, fatigue, pain, and isolation, 2) appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance, 3) appropriate use of medications, 4) communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals, 5) nutrition, 6) decision making, and, 7) how to evaluate new treatments.
The class is highly interactive and encourages participants to take an active role in managing their chronic condition. Each week, participants design an individual action plan that they work on for the next 6 days and then report back to the group at the following workshop. These plans, and the fact that they are shared with the larger group, provide great incentive for participants to tackle tough challenges. According to Eric, "The action planning has helped me with short term goals. I have become more physically active and look forward to telling the group that I have completed my action plan for the week." Similarly, Dottie reports, "The action plan was great because it helped us start making small changes in our life right away and if we didn't complete our action plan we weren't ridiculed but encouraged to start again the upcoming week."
IHI appreciates this curriculum because the tools that participants take from the class are helpful in all aspects of their lives. For example, Dottie says that communication between herself and her husband has improved over the last six weeks. She says, "We communicate with each other better than ever. After we talked about positive thinking I saw a difference in my husband. I love Christmas but he does not enjoy it at all. That night we were out driving and he did something out of the ordinary - drove through some neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights because he knew I would like it. I know it was the result of the positive thinking class."
Applying important life skills to the challenge of managing a chronic health condition can greatly improve participants' quality of life. One of the tools that the group works on throughout the 6-week series is problem solving. For Eric, "learning how to problem solve has helped me the most. I was having some side effects to a new medication that were hard to deal with. Normally I would have just waited to talk to my doctor at the next appointment, but problem solving helped me come up with a list of solutions that could help in the meantime."
IHI is very pleased with the positive outcomes reported by participants of the workshop series and will be offering the series two more times at our housing sites over the next six months. If you or someone you know is interested in attending the sessions, please contact Brittini Allen at [email protected] or 503-226-4368, ext 1.
IHI is Honored
IHI is proud to have received multiple awards and acknowledgments in 2014:
- IHI was named one of the 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon by the Oregon Business Journal
- The Portland Business Journal named IHI as a Top Commercial Developer (8th overall in the Portland Metro area)
- The Oregon Opportunity Network awarded IHI and The Magnolia Apartments its Golden Hammer award for best new affordable housing development
- IHI was showcased in a national report by Enterprise Community Partners,Successful Organizational Practices:Â Strong Partners
- The National Trust for Historic Preservation highlighted IHI in its Fall 2014 Forum Journal for embracing historic rehabilitation as a way to achieve its charitable mission
- IHI was recognized at the Architectural Heritage Center's annual event for its contributions to historic preservation in Old Town/Chinatown.
Thank You Coats for Kids Donors!
Nine years have passed since IHI's first Coat for Kids campaign and each year we are thankful for the continuing support of our donors. Through their generosity, we are able to ensure that every resident child in need of a warm winter coat receives one. This year, more than 100 parents asked us for help. Because of our donors' compassion, their children will be warm, stay healthy, and feel good about themselves as they play, learn, and enjoy the winter season.
Thank you to the following donors for helping us ensure that all of our resident children have warm winter coats:
Travis and Sarah Carter Adams
Network for Oregon Affordable Housing
Chris and Debra Jo Page
Kerry and Bill Stevenson
Stewart, Sokol, & Larkin LLC