Mental health services, programs for at-risk teens and resources for domestic violence survivors round out budget hearing

May 28, 2015

The Board of Commissioners listen intently as Dontae and Sylvia Wiley talk about their nonprofit Stars Mentoring Program

The Multnomah Board of County Commission heard from more than 40 East County residents during a May 27 budget hearing in Gresham. They spoke on behalf of a dozen programs including El Programa Hispano, Impact Northwest, Unity Behavioral Health Center, Pathfinders of Oregon and Rockwood Pathways Project.

The hearing was the second of three leading up to the June 18 adoption of the budget. The third and final hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m., June 10 at the Multnomah Building.  Interpretation services are available in Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian.


Dontae Riley and his wife Sylvia spend the money they earn from their day jobs on granola bars, bananas, group lunches and dinners, and gas to haul around busloads of teenagers.

Riley and Johnson launched their volunteer-based nonprofit Stars Mentoring Program to provide guidance to teens struggling in the mainstream. They use basketball and free food to deliver messages about safety, education and even hygiene to alternative high school students.

“The first year we had 90 students and me and my wife, we handled it,” Riley told the commissioners. “Then we made a jump to 210 students. So we called up volunteers.” Their program is continuing to grow but their budget has not kept pace. They asked the county to pitch in.

It’s a demographic the county wants to reach, Riley said, listing off the risk factors.

“Ninety-five percent are on free lunch; 90 percent are students of color; 75 percent are involved in juvenile justice, 75 percent are gang affiliated. They’re at risk of dropping out of school, committing crimes, becoming teen parents,” he said. “We’re calling on all of you to support our efforts.”

Support for Survivors of Domestic Violence

A home-based program that provides wrap-around services to survivors of domestic violence and their children is at risk of being cut, Meg Wills told the commissioners. Wills, with Impact NW, said their Safe Start program has served more than 60 women and more than 100 children in the past two years. The intense case management includes attending court hearings and family decision meetings, and teaching parents how to support their children, who often also fall victim to abuse or witness violence

Taxes, rent and understanding

More than 100 clients from El Programa Hispano came out to support the Gresham-based program that helps families secure rent and utility assistance, trains immigrant residents on their legal rights, helps victims of domestic violence escape from abusers and provides teens school-based alternatives to gangs.

“Without El Programa Hispano I don’t know where we would be right now,” said 16-year-old German Ruvalcaba. “Thank you for having that. Thank you for having el Programa Hispano.”