Praise for housing investment at final budget hearing

May 12, 2016

Deandre Kenyanjui addressing the board during a public budget hearing on Wednesday.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners held its final public hearing this week before it votes on the 2017 budget.

More than 50 people testified Wednesday night seeking continued or increased financial support for programs in addiction recovery, safe and affordable housing, HIV prevention and youth.

Nate Armstrong was broke, homeless and high when he entered Hooper Detox, a program of Central City Concern, in 2012. It forced him to slow down and take a step back, “like an adult time out,” he told the commissioners. “Today, with almost four years clean, my life is good. I have a job. I’m able to support fellow addicts in recovery. I’m buying a house.”

Central City Concern contracts with Multnomah County to offer addiction recovery, housing, employment and peer support services.

Heather Bloom came to tell her story as well. She left in-patient treatment without any place to go; at that vulnerable moment when supportive services and safe housing might mean the difference between recovery and relapse.

“I really didn’t have anyone else,” she said. “Today I’m eight months clean. I’m looking for a job.”

Deandre Kenyanjui was, he said, “one of those people that didn’t live a productive life. I had lost all sense of self, I didn't understand there was another way to live.”

But he’s changed with the help of Central City Concern, he said. “And I’ve watched countless other men and women come from the brink of death back to life.”

Commissioners also heard from staff and clients at Transition Projects, a nonprofit that providing housing and support to people recovering from addiction, those on parole or probation

Stacy Borke,‎ director of Housing Services at Transition Projects and co-chair of the “A Home for Everyone” Coordinating Committee said she fully supports the board’s proposed budget and is excited with the coordinated efforts of public and nonprofits to combat homelessness.

DeWanna Harris works with Borke at the downtown Portland nonprofit. She found out about the program first, as a client.

“I first came to Transition Projects in 2009, at my lowest point,” she said. “I was in a very dark hole, a grave really. The staff was so warm. They believed in me, in what I could become.”

And that helped her believe in herself. She went on to secure stable housing and regain custody of her children. She returned to school and obtained a bachelor's in social work. Today she leads the nonprofit’s mentor program.

More than 50 people testified at Wednesday night's public budget hearing