Innovative Housing, Inc. Newsletter
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Fall 2015

From IHI's Executive Director
Sarah J. Stevenson

I have been amazed over the last several months at how the narrative around affordable housing has changed in Portland. Our rental market has been extremely hot for quite some time - over the last two years we've seen double digit rent increases, record low vacancy, and we are leading the nation in loss of housing affordability. Where Portland was once a blue collar town, it now feels like you have to earn a professional salary to live here. The impact of this unfortunate trend is a changed narrative for many Portlanders - where affordable housing used to be for "others," it is now something that more and more people need. Suddenly children, neighbors, friends, and co-workers are struggling to find a place to live - between the lack of supply and exorbitant rents, we have become an unaffordable city.

While none of this is good news, as someone who has spent the last 20 years working in this field, it is invigorating to hear people of all ilks talking about affordable housing. Neighborhood associations that used to fight our projects are inviting us to help them learn more about affordable housing, and want us to come and build it! That might sound unremarkable today, but not so long ago it was a very different story. People don't like what is happening in their communities or their constrained housing options. They are upset about a lack of affordability and the way it affects their communities. This changed narrative created a space in our communal dialogue for a realistic call to increase the TIF set aside for housing from 30% to 50%, for CAT to declare a State of Renter's Emergency, and for City Commissioner Saltzman to respond with a proposal that limits no-cause evictions and outrageous rent hikes. These are incredible developments that set the stage for a new conversation and, hopefully, real commitments to increase resources that begin to address our housing emergency.

Similarly, I never thought our country would commit to ending veteran homelessness, let alone achieve that goal. Yet the federal government made that commitment and, thanks to a coordinated local response, we are on the verge of effecting that same change in Portland. Again, it is about narrative. Once upon a time it was conventional wisdom that we couldn't help everyone, and chronically homeless vets were among the most challenging to house. But the story changed. Or, more accurately, someone changed that narrative. I'm sure there were many influential players who rewrote the story behind the scenes, but I heard it from President Obama. And it's not just political spin - it is actually narrative changing history. Earlier this month, the City and Multnomah County announced the final 100-day push to house all of Portland's homeless veterans. Amazing.

All of this brings home the importance of the story we tell. Sometimes we learn the story from others, and it gets told and retold, lived and relived. If we don't like the way the story ends, we must change that narrative. Recently, IHI took a cue from one of our site managers, who found a child's report card in the garbage can and decided that each student needed to be celebrated for their academic efforts. IHI picked up on this idea and began celebrating every graduation and acknowledging the academic achievements of every student in our housing. We started retelling the story about what is "cool," what should be recognized as valuable, and what children can accomplish. If we are successful, we will help change their narratives about educational attainment, high school graduation, college, and life.

It is a remarkable time to be doing the work we do. The narrative is changing daily and so is our potential. As Portland's broader community takes up a new storyline - one that tells us safe, affordable housing is a basic right, that we must prioritize scarce resources to meet the dire housing needs in our city, and that affordable housing matters to us all - we have a chance to change the way the story ends. That is mindblowing.
Ending Veteran Homelessness

On September 8, 2015 the Erickson Fritz Apartments hosted the 100 Day Kick-off to End Veteran Homelessness. City and County leaders celebrated our community's accomplishments and launched the final push to house 260 more homeless veterans before year end. 
This is a challenging task for many reasons, not the least of which is Portland's current rental market. As Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said, "We have the resources and capacity to end veteran homelessness. Already this year we've housed 430 vets. What we don't have is apartments. Over the last year, demand for rental housing has skyrocketed in the Portland Region. Only 2.4 percent of rental units are vacant. And this shortage is driving up costs. Rents have jumped 16 percent countywide."

Nonetheless, City of Portland and Multnomah County leaders are committed to achieving this goal and providing homes to men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. IHI supports A Home for Every Homeless Veteran and has stepped up to meet the challenge. At the Erickson Fritz Apartments alone, we are housing nine veterans. And we are just a small part of a much larger, coordinated effort among local governments, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Home Forward, area landlords, and service providers that is successfully housing 23 chronically homeless veterans each month and has permanently housed 430 individuals this year.

The national effort to end veteran homelessness began in 2010 when the White House and the VA issued a plan to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. This was an unprecedented effort to make sure veterans are able to obtain permanent housing and that veterans at risk of homelessness remain housed.In March 2014, the VA launched the25 Cities Initiativeto assist communities with high concentrations of homeless veterans in intensifying and integrating their local efforts. This initiative is a joint effort by the VA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and local community partners. Portland joined this challenge and became one of 25 cities throughout the nation to identify, by name, all of our remaining known homeless veterans and work to find permanent housing solutions for each of them.Mayor Hales also joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness when it was launched in June, 2014. Our community is showing that when we align our goals and resources, we can accomplish monumental tasks.
Grand Openings!
This summer, IHI and our partners celebrated the grand opening of two new apartment communities and
116 new homes.

The Woodwind Apartments in Albany, OR offer 54 one, two, three, and four-bedroom apartments with rents ranging from
$237 to $772 per month.

The Erickson Fritz Apartments in Old Town, Portland are a mixed-income community with 52 affordable and 10 market rate studio and one-bedroom apartments.
Job Shadow Day, Part 1

This June, IHI launched its first Job Shadow Day to help young people broaden their horizons and envision themselves completing high school, going to college, and entering a rewarding career. For Part 1, IHI staff asked volunteers to host teens at a variety of jobs the kids might not have known about. We got a great response and sent 22 teens to 10 sites across the Portland Metro Area. Thank you to all of our fantastic volunteer hosts!

Participants had an opportunity to explore a wide range of possible careers including property management, engineering, architecture, small business ownership, sheet metal fabrication, dispatch, safety and environmental health, and social change. To prepare for Job Shadow Day, teens worked with IHI staff to research the careers they would be shadowing and prepare questions to ask their hosts. Several of the teens said their plans for the future have changed because of the experience and some were even offered summer positions!

For Job Shadow Day, Part 2, we are letting the teens pick their top career interests and seeking volunteers who fit that bill. We can't wait to see how participants feel about their second job shadow day!
"Before I did the job shadow I had never thought of getting into the trades, but now I see that I can make a good living and work with my hands, which I really like doing."
Skylar, age 15
Back to School

To help ease the financial strain of back-to-school time for families, IHI works with each school that serves our housing, identifies required school supplies, and provides grade-appropriate items to every resident student so they go back to school ready to learn and equipped for success.

Special Thanks to Jeff Reingold of IPM for his annual
gift of backpacks-the kids love them!
Health and Wellness Fairs
Innovative Housing recently hosted four Health and Wellness Resource Fairs at our family sites throughout the Portland Metro Area. A variety of community partners participated, including
 Breckenridge School of Nursing, Metro, The Wellsprings School, OSU Extension Services, North by Northeast Community Health Center, Multnomah County's Office of Sustainability, and the Natural College of Medicine.

All partners provided educational materials, interactive games and demos, as well as fun and engaging take-away items for youth and adults. They also shared free massages, basic preventative health screenings, green cleaning tips and instructions, healthy and affordable cooking recipes, food demos, and information about local health clinics and services.

The fairs were set up as fun, interactive events to engage resident youth and families.  Each resident who attended received a Passport to Health Booklet, which allowed them to track the information they received throughout the event. Residents who visited each partner and completed their Passport were entered into a drawing for prizes. The Health Fairs were well received and a great way for residents to learn more about local resources that can help them improve their health and well-being!

Thank you to all of the community partners who joined us and to our Health Fair Sponsor, Capital Pacific Bank (now Pacific Continental Bank)!
Celebrating Students and Breaking Down
Barriers to College

Celebrating Accomplishments
Thien graduated from Benson High School with high honors and will attend Oregon State University this fall. He is a recipient of the Ford Scholarship and Oregon State's Diversity Scholarship.
To help bolster our goal of increasing high school graduation ratesamong IHI residents, we decided to start celebrating that accomplishment as a community. This year, IHI paired our annual start-of-summer parties with graduation parties at each of our family sites. It didn't take a lot of extra effort or money - we bought graduation cakes and took the time to acknowledge every graduating senior. We gave them a special graduation gift (a keychain engraved with their graduation year and a compass) and made sure that they knew our community was proud of their accomplishment. We also acknowledged younger children advancing to the next grade. This is a small, but significant, way to create an environment that is supportive of academic achievement and encourages students to set goals they might not otherwise envision for themselves.

Lindsey graduated from Springwater Trail High School this year with a 3.1 GPA. She participated in the Center for Advanced Learning program as well as MECHA throughout her high school years. Lindsey won the Association of Gresham School Administrators Scholarship and is attending PSU to study social work and become the first in her family to go to college.
Opening Doors
IHI's Teen Mentor program encourages teens to explore college and other post-secondary educational opportunities. An important part of our work involves taking high school students to visit local colleges so they can start to imagine themselves being there. Last spring, Innovative Housing staff took teens from several of our family sites to Portland State University for a college campus tour. While touring, teens were able to drop into classrooms and dormitories and get a real feel for college life. They visited the Lincoln Performance Hall and Smith Memorial Student Union, where they learned about the Student Activities and Leadership Program, which contains more than 200 student organizations. IHI staff took students to additional campuses, including PCC, over the summer and are planning visits to Western Oregon University and University of Oregon this fall.
Innovative Housing Inc.