A New Home for Don

For the majority of our members, living in a single room occupancy hotel (SRO) is an isolating experience. These housing options are some of the least desirable in Portland. Many SRO hotels have small, hot rooms with shared bathrooms and kitchens down the hall. These residences are paid for weekly or monthly, which creates a community of isolation and transition. What happens when someone wants to move out of these places, but their options are limited, because their income is way below what is needed to move somewhere else. Where do they go and how do they find a new place to call home?    

This situation is a very common among our members, including Don. Don is a Portland native who served in the Marine Corps for six years. Don also enjoys writing and annually participates in the Write Around Portland program hosted at Macdonald Center. Don has been a member of Macdonald Center since 2001 and has been receiving supportive services from Macdonald Center, including health care management and weekly grocery shopping. A long time Old Town resident, Don has lived in a number of SROs. After many years of living in such rooms, Don was ready for a change; but with a limited income and little knowledge of the housing system, he needed extra help.

In early 2015, Don was referred to the HUB program, a new, innovative Multnomah County program that partners with Macdonald Center to better care for our city’s most vulnerable populations. The partnership officially began in the fall of 2014 and will continue for a total of 18 months. The goals of the partnership are multi-faceted and include; stabilizing health and housing for participants; supporting participation with a primary care provider; encouraging engagement with some form of mental health and/or behavior health treatment; encouraging social/community engagement; reducing utilization of crisis/emergency and in-patient resources in the community; and improving cross-system coordination and collaboration for the benefit of participants. Overall, the program’s aim is to help our members be less isolated, increase their overall health and assist them in navigating the multitude of systems, including health care and housing.  Don met the criteria to be a part of the program and his current case workers at Macdonald Center began to work as a team with HUB to find him better housing.

Don is now settling into his new one bedroom apartment just a few blocks away from his last place. He was also given a voucher to another Macdonald Center partner, Community Warehouse, where he was able to pick out new furniture and necessities. In contrast to Don’s last place, that had little light and no space, Don now lives on the ground floor, right by a small atrium space that provides valuable daylight. A large and unusual antique boat hangs from the ceiling like a chandelier in the middle of the atrium. Don’s one bedroom apartment is spacious. There are high ceilings with ceiling fans to keep the room comfortable. The beautiful hardwood floors have been restored and there are new appliances, including a dishwasher. When asked about his new home, Don smiles from ear-to-ear. He says, “This place is so nice compared to the last few places I have been. It feels so nice to have my own private and quiet place!”

Macdonald Center is pleased to work together with our partners in the HUB project—especially when we see such wonderful outcomes for our members like Don.

Project Impact PDX: We have a lot of heart – but how do we measure it?

Macdonald Center is pleased to announce its participation in Project Impact PDX, a comprehensive program through which we are developing evaluation tools to help us more fully measure the impact our visitation and outreach program has on the lives of our members.  The project was introduced by the Nonprofit Organization of Oregon and taught by Steve Patty PhD, a nationally recognized expert in helping nonprofit organizations develop tools to measure the impact of their work. Through this effort we hope to better understand the ways Macdonald Center touches the lives of its members and the ways in which we can make our efforts even more effective. 

For the past 6 months, our staff, along with Board Member, Amber Holt, and a long-time volunteer, have created questionnaires and parameters that help us measure the interactions, connection and support that our volunteers provide to our Members during weekly visitation. Through Project Impact, our team created the following categories to measure: social engagement, relational connectedness, resilience and greater sense of self-worth. 

Along with other Macdonald Center volunteers, our staff will be asking 20 of our long-term Members to take part in these interviews. In the end, our goal is to be able to see how our services have impacted the people we serve, which in the end will help us to remain responsible to the work we are doing. Our hope is that this endeavor will not only help us measure our impact, but also give us the tools and information to move forward in the best way possible, and will allow us to tailor our services to best meet the needs of our members and community.

A Journey Home

Paul’s journey is not unique among our members – isolated from friends and family, he struggled to care for himself and didn't believe he fit in anywhere. After connecting with our volunteers and our support services staff, he now has a new home at our Macdonald Residence.

Born in Haleyville, Alabama, Paul was raised by his uncle and half-brother in the Bay Area and Southern California. He completed 11th grade but didn't go any further, deciding to try different jobs, finally settling on commercial truck driving.

For 15 years, Paul was a commercial truck driver, driving around the country with a traveling carnival. At the end of one carnival season, Paul ended up in Portland during the winter, and moved into a place in Clackamas County with his then-girlfriend and her daughter. Due to his past criminal history, he was not allowed to stay long at his new home, and was forced back onto the road.

With only a car to his name, Paul drove into Old Town, and took residence at a local shelter for men. He said that during this time, he would sleep in the shelter and then drive around all day until he had to go back to the shelter to sleep. When Paul learned that he would get the opportunity to live in an SRO (Single Room Occupancy), he thought he would finally have a place to call home.

Paul's Re-do Photo.jpg

Unfortunately, it turned out that the SRO was not the paradise he thought it would be. Paul was confronted with a small room and had little to no interaction with the outside world. Isolated from friends and family, he lost his sobriety after many years of staying clean.

It was during this dark time that Paul decided to attend a birthday party hosted by the Macdonald Center in the lobby of his SRO. He didn't stay long at the party, but he got a comforting feeling from talking with the volunteers from our Center. They encouraged Paul to sign-up for our visitation program, which he did, and he began to see volunteers regularly.

From the weekly visits with Paul, our staff learned that he was in need of additional help as his health was deteriorating and soon would require around-the-clock care. Paul came to visit our Support Services Navigator, Maegann Simpson, and they began to investigate some options.

Luckily, an opening in our assisted living building, Macdonald Residence, was available. When Maegann asked if he wanted to live at the Residence, Paul thought, “You've gotta be kidding me,” thinking he didn't belong there or wouldn't fit in. When he toured the Residence he was impressed that it was practically brand new. After applying and being accepted, Maegann gave Paul the great news that he could move and he was in shock! It took Paul a couple days for the news to sink in and for him to realize that he was going to move out of the SRO.

Now, Paul smiles as he sits in the sunshine. He feels like things are finally starting to get better and that he is starting to fit in. When asked if he would still visit our Community Room, his response was “Of course, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome.” When we explained that he could never wear out his welcome and that he would always be welcomed in the Community Room, he began to tear up.  “Feeling welcome is a new experience for me.”

 It is the flexibility and commitment of our staff that has led to Paul finding a place that he can call home. As our members are faced with a variety of challenges, from self-care to housing needs, our staff is able to meet them where they are, and help them achieve attainable and tangible goals for themselves. Our model is based on the relationship we build with each member, not certain expectations, allowing us the flexibility to address a wide variety of concerns for each person we work with. For some, it is as simple as wanting a weekly visitor, for Paul it was a new home. So, on behalf of our staff and wonderful volunteers, welcome home, Paul!

Allan, We’re Proud of You!

Macdonald Center isn't one big story.  We’re made up of hundreds of smaller stories, many of them like this wonderful encounter from yesterday.

I was on my way to a meeting and stopped in the community room to visit with some of our members.  Allan, who is a relatively new member, looked up from his cup of coffee and said to me, “Hey Jon, guess what?  I graduated today.”  I asked him from what.  And he proudly said “I finished my GED—it took me three months but I did it—cap and gown, the whole nine yards!”  I congratulated him and commented that he must be proud of himself.  “It feels great,” he said “I do feel really proud of myself.”

Allan’s story is like so many of our other members.  A tough life punctuated by bad decisions, bad breaks and hard times. 

But today at 52, almost 35 years after he would have graduated, Allan has a GED and plans for the future.  His goals are to get a job and an apartment.  In the long term, he’d like to go to college to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.

And Allan’s advice to others? “Just go for it, it’s never too late to better yourself.  And hopefully it’s on to bigger and better things now!”

Congratulations Allan, we agree!


Pat Janik to Retire, Board Names Jon Ulsh as New Executive Director of Macdonald Center!

Pat Janik, Macdonald Center’s Executive Director, has announced her plans to retire at the end of 2014.  Pat, Macdonald Center’s second Executive Director, has served since 2007.  “The board is deeply grateful to Pat for her extraordinary leadership of Macdonald Center over the past seven years.  It would be difficult to overstate the many contributions she has made to the Center during her tenure as Executive Director,” expressed Susan Moscato, Board President.

Among her many accomplishments was the successful $12.5 million campaign to build our affordable housing apartment building.  Pat also developed strong partnerships with other community partners serving the poor, developed our professional staff and management team, stabilized the Center finances, and helped to build a robust, engaged Board of Directors.

The board of directors is pleased to announce that it has selected Jon Ulsh, the Center’s Director of Development and Marketing as Pat’s successor beginning in January 2015.

An experienced and respected nonprofit leader, Jon has quickly become established as a member of the Macdonald Center community where he has already demonstrated his commitment to the people we serve and the work we do.

“We’re pleased to welcome Jon as our next Executive Director.  His professional experience, passion for the work, along with the full support of the board and staff, make him the ideal person to become the Center’s next leader,” added Moscato.