Author: United Community Action Network

Need an AmeriCorps Member?

United Communities AmeriCorps (UCA), a program of UCAN, is accepting applications until April 1, 2024 from organizations that will benefit from an AmeriCorps member’s service. Our members improve organizational capacity of project host sites to deliver direct services addressing education, economic opportunity, or healthy futures. To apply, please read the attached RFP first. Then complete and submit the application, assurances, and position description. Use the checklist to make sure you’re submitting everything needed.

Volunteers Needed for Roseburg and Grants Pass Warming Centers

Volunteers Needed for Roseburg and Grants Pass Warming Centers

Winters can be tough on anyone in our area. Though snow is pretty rare, temperatures at or below freezing are not. When the weather gets that cold, it doesn’t take much for people without shelter to develop hypothermia or frostbite. An average of eight homeless people in Oregon die from hypothermia each year. Many more obtain treatment from emergency rooms.

This is not just a “big city problem.” This past year, a one-day count of homeless individuals in Douglas and Josephine County found that the counties had 441 and 191 unsheltered individuals respectively. Since this count is undertaken in mid-winter, and only occurs on one day, there are likely many more people living locally without shelter.

There is a simple solution to this problem: Provide warming shelters when the weather endangers lives. That’s just what UCAN is doing this year in both Roseburg and Grants Pass. We will be operating shelters when temperatures are forecasted to lower to 30 degrees (we’ll sometimes open shelters when forecasts are a bit warmer, but inclement weather is forecast as well). Shelters will offer warmth, food and cots so the people served can get a good night’s rest.

While we have staff to support shelter operations, volunteers play a key role in supporting our guests. Volunteers are needed to welcome folks, support meals, and most importantly serve as center attendants. Without your help, we can’t open these critically needed shelters.

We hope you consider supporting those most in need-please contact us at volunteer@ucancap.org to let us know you want to help!

The Point-In-Time Count: A Day of Caring for Our Homeless

The Point-In-Time Count: A Day of Caring for Our Homeless

Each year, UCAN hosts Point-In-Time Count (PIT) events throughout Douglas and Josephine County. This year, we will have outreach teams going to homeless camps throughout our Counties, visiting locations as far ranging as Williams, Reedsport and Glide. We will also be operating at the Josephine County Fairgrounds, at a center opened by the Illinois Valley Living Solutions in Cave Junction, and at Faith Foundry Church in Roseburg.

During the event, homeless folks can get their hygiene needs met, even getting haircuts. They can get critically important supplies, like sleeping bags. They can sign up for benefits and a variety of services. We make sure everyone feels welcomed and gets some nourishing food as well.

While we organize and staff these events, we rely on community partners to pull them off. Many local health and human service agencies staff booths at centers hosting the counts. Local residents donate their services and goods. In Josephine County, volunteers check people in as they enter the Josephine County Fairgrounds. The Chomp Food Truck provides meals that are paid for by Rogue Food Unites. In Douglas County, the Relished Gourmet Dogs and Dough Food Truck offers meals.

The events play a key role in benefitting all of our local communities. As the name implies, staff at PIT events use the opportunity to tally the number of homeless individuals living locally, as well as tracking numbers by race, ethnicity, age, and family type. We get an estimate of those living in shelters and those without.

We know that PIT events undercount the actual number of homeless folks. The counts are particularly difficult to undertake in our Counties, which are both very large, and have many homeless individuals living in remote areas. But government offices use the data to determine the amount of funding to make available for homeless services in communities. Recently, PIT count data was used to determine which counties would fall under an emergency order providing $130 million in funds meant to set up shelters and housing options statewide.

So it’s important that our count is as accurate as possible. If you know of anybody lacking a stable home, even if they sleep on a couch in someone else’s house, or live in a RV, please let them know about the PIT count on January 24th.

Healing Takes Place Person-to-Person

Healing Takes Place Person-to-Person

Amber, UCAN’s Josephine County Housing Supervisor, has met many individuals who have had hard lives living on the streets. Many have suffered deep trauma having spent time without a safe place to sleep. They can have trouble with basic life skills, and have difficulty connecting with others.

The first night Carl stayed at the warming center, it seemed he had only recently lost his housing. Though he needed a cane to get around, and was pretty frail, he was kind to everyone who he talked to, and enjoyed telling a good joke or two. This wasn’t someone who wanted to shy away from others. Indeed, his good spirits were contagious.

Amber recalls the first time she met with Carl to see if other programs might be a good fit for him, beyond shelter and food. He began by deflecting talk about his own needs, telling her he was concerned about a gentleman that was sitting silently in the back, mumbling to himself. Only after Amber gently turned the conversation back to him that Carl admitted that he’d been living out of his car for 30 years. That he had several medical conditions, and couldn’t work because he was disabled.

Amber was stunned. How could someone who had lived in a car for years, who was 70 and so frail, still be in good spirits? Concerned that Carl needed more long-term shelter to survive the winter, Amber reached out to various landlords who work with UCAN to lease to those with poor rental histories. Within a few days, Amber found a unit that Carl could move into.

Amber helped Carl move in and get rent assistance so he only needed to pay a small amount of his Social Security Disability to lease the unit. She met with him regularly, helping him to meet other needs. Sadly, after living in his new unit for several months, he began having memory issues. But by this time he had reconnected with a brother, and his brother was able to get him moved into a memory care unit.

Amber doesn’t know what forced Carl to lose his home in the first place. It really doesn’t matter to her. What she knows is that he mattered, and she’s pretty sure that Carl really appreciated how much she valued her time with him.

The Importance of Fixing Windows

The Importance of Fixing Windows

Gus Preston had struggled with substance abuse for many years. He finally committed to changing his life, and completed a treatment program, but he wanted to keep “bad influences” away. His concern: The double-wide mobile home he lived in was pretty trashed, with broken windows, holes punched into walls, insulation eaten through by rodents. It was a place his old friends felt comfortable hanging out at.

He came to UCAN seeking our weatherization services to fix his house up. Our Weatherization Program Manager, Michael Carpenter, says when he first showed up to check out the home: “Gus looked pretty terrible. He clearly had a difficult life, and seemed pretty down. His home was a complete mess, dark, dirty, in complete disrepair.” Michael checked out the home’s energy usage, and found that it was costing Gus the same amount of money to heat his 960 sq. ft. as a typical owner of a 3,500 sq. ft. home would pay.

We called on our contractors to fix things up. The home got a new vinyl roof, new insulation, all new double vinyl windows. Our contractors cut out all the dry rot, sealed the home’s penetrations, installed a vapor barrier to keep moisture from coming up through the floor and repaired areas that rodents had destroyed.

When Michael went back out to inspect the work, he couldn’t believe the difference. It wasn’t just that the home was repaired. It was completely cleaned up, bright and cheery looking. More surprising to Michael, there was a man standing nearby when he first drove up whom he didn’t recognize. The man was beaming. Michael realized after a moment that this happy, clean, well-groomed individual was Gus!

Though weatherizing a home can improve someone’s physical health by removing mold and improving ventilation and heat, we don’t know if that’s happened for Gus. But Michael is pretty sure that our work did have a strong impact on Gus’ mental well-being. Gus said he’s now really proud of his home, and no longer feels worried that his old “friends” will have any interest in hanging out there.

Finding Their Own Home

Finding Their Own Home

We first met Cameron and Bonnie Hopper after DHS referred them to us. We work together with DHS to help families reunify with their children. Both dad and mom were completing substance abuse treatment programs. Our transitional housing offered them the opportunity to lease a low-cost unit for up to two years. They would have to continue in programs of recovery, but they would receive support not only from one of our case managers, but also from DHS staff.

Shortly after moving in to a 3-bedroom unit, they were reunited with their children Sidney (age 3), Tyler (age 5) and Stephen (age 11). Cameron and Bonnie started recovery programs and worked with our case manager to maintain their sobriety. While living in our transitional housing, they received weekly food from our Feeding Umpqua regional food bank as part of our Harvest Share Program.

After their two-year lease period ended, we were able to offer them an apartment at Camas Ridge, another alcohol and drug free development. As this is permanent housing, as long as tenants stay within income guidelines, they are allowed to remain in their units for any number of years. If a household goes over income guidelines, depending on how much their income is, they may be able to stay, but they will have to pay more for rent than other tenants.

The Hoppers lives further stabilized at Camas Ridge. Not only did they continue in recovery, both parents were able to obtain good employment. Cameron got hired on as a logging truck driver. Bonnie was hired by Mercy Medical Center to perform high level custodial work.

This did raise their income leaving them fearful that they would no longer be able to rent with us. Though it turned out they could stay in our housing, they realized after meeting with our property manager that they had a better opportunity to rent their own house for less money. Their new home is substantially larger than their current apartment, with four bedrooms.

Now Sidney, Tyler and Stephen each have a bedroom of their own, and the Hoppers no longer need to rely on our housing.

Letter from the Executive Director – Fall 2023

Shaun Pritchard

Non-profit newsletters, including our own, often feature stories about their successes. Though my staff do an incredible job day in and day out serving hundreds of clients, staff alone cannot guarantee that clients will succeed. It takes a team, including not only staff, but also community partners and clients themselves, to successfully move past challenging issues.

I am very proud to lead our group of hardworking, devoted staff. UCAN staff regularly help some of our community’s most vulnerable individuals. But their dedication goes above and beyond their daily tasks. In this issue of our newsletter, you’ll read how staff improvised during the recent record-breaking heat wave to provide water, food and even air conditioners to those most in need.

Partners, both for-profit and non-profit often work creatively to ensure our residents and communities’ needs are met. While arranging to have a manufactured home delivered to a wildfire survivor, staff learned that the bridge into the survivor’s community was closed. Undeterred, the home’s manufacturer made alternative arrangements the next day and drove the manufactured home’s components on a 230 mile detour through winding mountain roads. In another example, when UCAN needed over $2,000,000 to secure a $1.5 million state grant to build a new Head Start building, but couldn’t launch a capital campaign prior to securing the support, The Ford Family Foundation stepped up and agreed to match future local contributions 3:1 up to $1.5 million.

For all the creative support provided by staff and partners, we often see our clients succeed in large part through their own hard work and resilience. In this newsletter, you will read about a great-grandmother who made a major commitment to raise both her infant great-granddaughter and her one year old brother. Working closely with our Healthy Families staff, she has ensured that the two children have had a warm, nurturing home in which to thrive. And you’ll learn about a mother of four, formerly incarcerated and in recovery from substance abuse, who has persisted through years of recovery to obtain both regular employment and permanent housing.

I invite you to read more about each journey to success in this newsletter’s articles. And I urge you to join in to support your neighbors and your communities. Consider donating to UCAN. Organize a food drive. If you’re 55 or older, make friends while you volunteer with our RSVP program. Together, we can accomplish so much.

Beloved Community Member Retiring

Anne Kubisch

UCAN regularly receives support from many wonderful local foundations and advised funds. But perhaps no other single foundation has had a greater impact on the programming we are able to offer than The Ford Family Foundation (TFFF). With their President and Chief Executive Officer Anne Kubisch retiring, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank both her and the Foundation for their support of our work in Douglas County.

We have no doubt that those at TFFF were overjoyed to bring on Anne to replace the Foundation’s founding president, Norm Smith, in 2013. She arrived after spending almost two decades at the Aspen Foundation, where she established the nation’s premiere community building knowledge center. Noting TFFF’s commitment to families and children, Anne said she looked forward to “going deep in one place on the issues that I have been passionate about for my whole life.”

The timing of her arrival could not have been more fortuitous for UCAN. Though TFFF had long supported our work, UCAN would soon reach out to TFFF requesting $1.25 million, by far the most we had ever requested from any foundation. We needed a commitment of TFFF funds to secure an additional $1.5 million from the State of Oregon, funds which would together cover much of the cost of constructing a new Head Start Center adjacent to our Martha Young Service Center (MYSC). The new Center would allow us to save substantial funds spent on moving classes between leased sites, would provide children from their early days to four years old with a modern, quality learning environment, and would offer their families easy access to wrap-around services offered at MYSC.

We knew that TFFF’s Board and Anne favored awarding grants where local community support was in hand. But we couldn’t launch a capital campaign without having not only TFFF’s commitment, but also having funding committed by the State of Oregon. Anne worked with TFFF’s Board, notably the chair of the Board, Toby Luther, to craft a solution to address our Catch-22. The result: TFFF committed up to $1.25 million to the project, with the proviso that funds would be awarded as a 3:1 match for local community dollars we raised.

With TFFF’s commitment in hand, we were able to obtain $1.5 million from the State. We then launched our capital campaign, and raised the local match needed to obtain TFFF’s $1.25 million. But three years later we needed more help, as changes in project costs left us unable to finish two of our new classrooms. With Anne’s support and guidance, we were able to secure an additional 3:1 pledge from TFFF to match additional capital campaign funds raised with up to $164,544.

As Anne now leaves TFFF, and becomes as she says it, “a regular citizen of Roseburg”, she leaves behind a great legacy for our community, including our beautiful Early Childhood Center. Since it’s opening in fall of 2019, we’ve served hundreds of local infants, toddlers and children age 3-4 there. As we had dreamed when planning the facility, all of our Early Childhood programs are now located in our surrounding buildings. Families can obtain WIC services right next door to where their children attend classes. Through her support, Anne has indeed “gone deep”, having faith that our local community could come together to build a treasured asset.