Category: Newsletters

Letter from the Executive Director – Spring 2023

Letter from the Executive Director - Spring 2023

The first act that Governor Kotek took upon taking office this year was to declare a homeless state of emergency for much of Oregon. Though neither Douglas nor Josephine County were included in this declaration, those of us working to address homelessness locally know that we have our own crisis here. UCAN has stepped up to play a major role in addressing this crisis, while continuing to operate countless other programs.

2022 saw UCAN start up operations of several projects of critical importance to our communities. The first new project we undertook addresses the lingering impact of the Archie Creek Fire. At about the same time we received funding for this work, we responded to a request from the City of Roseburg to become the primary operator of a local homeless navigation center. Within a few months we had entered into both a lease for the center and an operating agreement with the City to provide services. We began operations on July 1.

A few months later, in October 2022, we learned that a local homeless service provider in Josephine County was struggling to maintain its operations there. The doors of two shelters, one a general congregate shelter, the other a tiny home community, would close end of November if we didn’t act quickly. By December 1st, we had a transfer agreement in place and were operating both facilities.

As winter approached, it became clear that no other organization could operate an emergency warming shelter in Josephine County. Our Housing and Homelessness staff took initiative to keep people from freezing on the streets. Staff worked round the clock many days in early 2023, as the region experienced temperatures far below normal (including several days with snow).

I am so proud of staff’s incredible dedication and hard work to get these projects off the ground. We’ve also had wonderful support from community partners, particularly through funding received from both the City of Roseburg and City of Grants Pass. Many community agencies are coming together to further these efforts, ensuring that folks receive an array of services needed to get their lives back in order.

It was especially heartening when Governor Kotek and her staff visited us to tour our Roseburg Navigation Center and our Feeding Umpqua food warehouse and distribution center in February. We took this opportunity to offer an on-the-ground perspective of the issues our communities face. I came away from this meeting hopeful that the Governor and others in Salem will focus additional resources to help our region.

You can learn much more about our new projects and ongoing work in other articles in this newsletter. I hope that you, too, will consider supporting UCAN, as your support allows us to react quickly to emerging issues. You can make a donation today by going here.

UCAN Starts Operating Roseburg’s First Navigation Center

UCAN Starts Operating Roseburg’s First Navigation Center

The City of Roseburg (City) recently received an award of funds from the State to create and operate a navigation center to meet the needs of unsheltered homeless folks. Needing an operator for the navigation center, they reached out to UCAN, and we began operations July 1, 2022.

The City’s Gary Leif Navigation Center is named after the late Gary Leif, Roseburg’s local representative in Oregon’s legislature, who worked tirelessly to find solutions to homelessness. The State legislature passed a law in 2021 allowing for funding of low-barrier emergency Shelter (also known as “navigation centers”) that are open 24/7. Here guests receive shelter, case management and housing services, and obtain referrals to other services they need. The City was among the first to receive funds for a navigation center, and UCAN agreed to operate it.

While the City is having repairs and renovations done on a building that will provide group shelter, UCAN has been offering homeless guests the use of ten individual pallet shelters. We currently also offer guests bathrooms, showers, washers and dryers. Guests have access to a kitchen where they can prepare meals.

As a low-barrier shelter, UCAN allows guests that are often excluded from other local shelters. Guests can have criminal backgrounds; only sex offenders can be excluded. UCAN does not require guests to meet sobriety requirements. While guests are not allowed to bring alcohol or non-prescription drugs into the shelter, they are allowed to stay at the shelter even if they are not sober. Guests simply must act in a manner that does not interfere with guests’ and staffs’ enjoyment of the shelter and its resources.

Guests do have to work with a UCAN case manager, and they need to commit to taking actions to obtain permanent housing. Linda and Carl are among those who have come to us ready to find a permanent home. Unable to work, and dealing with HIV, they were tired of living in a van. As shelter guests, they worked closely with our staff, HIV Alliance and staff from the Oregon Health Authority to address their health and housing needs. Our staff was very impressed with their level of commitment, their down-to-earth demeanor, and their caring attitude toward others. They now enjoy life in their new apartment, having obtained rent assistance from a section 8 voucher.

The main shelter will open later this Spring. Once completed, the group shelter will offer 35 beds. We look forward to helping many unsheltered folks get off the streets, so they too can find a permanent home for themselves.

UCAN Offers Array of Services for Homeless Folks in Grants Pass

UCAN Offers Array of Services for Homeless Folks in Grants Pass

Beginning this Fall, UCAN began offering a variety of services to help shelter homeless folks living in the Grants Pass area. We are now the operator of a congregate shelter, a tiny home community and have opened an emergency warming center to prevent hypothermia and frostbite on very cold days.

Beginning on December 1 of 2022, UCAN took over operation of both the Grants Pass Shelter as well as the tiny home community at Foundry Village. The Grants Pass shelter is a group shelter that has around 25 beds in semi-private rooms. The shelter is a low-barrier shelter, meaning UCAN allows guests to live in the shelter with fewer barriers than are found at other shelters. Guests do not have to participate in treatment programs to reside at the shelter, but many work with staff to seek permanent housing.

Foundry Village offers eight and a half tiny homes to serve up to 17 guests, as well as a community building. The community building has a variety of amenities, including a kitchen, bathroom and showers, and laundry facilities. Moving forward, UCAN is contemplating having Foundry Village serve as more traditional transitional housing, perhaps as a place where guests from the Grants Pass shelter move to when they near finding permanent housing. We may also identify specific types of folks to serve at Foundry Village, such as homeless families, or homeless individuals with physical disabilities.

The final resource UCAN has made available to homeless folks this year is the Grants Pass emergency warming shelter. The shelter operates during particularly inclement weather, and is intended to keep local homeless residents safe and dry during such weather events. With multiple cold weather storms this winter, including several snow events, we have operated the shelter for 40 days.

We are most grateful for the tremendous effort and dedication our Grants Pass staff has shown in swiftly taking over operations of the Grants Pass Shelter and Foundry Village, as well as standing up the local emergency warming shelter. Without their dedication, the Grants Pass Shelter and Foundry Village would likely have closed in December, leaving several dozen homeless individuals on the street. Operation of the emergency warming shelter has kept well over 100 homeless folks healthy and safe.

UCAN Meets Urgent Needs

UCAN Meets Urgent Needs

What happens after you’ve left your home as it goes up in flames? After fire fighters have done their best to put out the fire, rolled up their hoses, and left?

Early on Saturday, January 28, 2023, a family of four living in a double-wide manufactured home in Roseburg awoke to smoke and flames. The father, mother and their two children (ages 8 months and 15 years old) were able to safely evacuate the house and contact 911. The fire moved through the house so quickly they were unable to save their two dogs. Despite the efforts of 13 fire fighters, the house and all their belongings were a complete loss. The family was left with nothing except the clothes they were wearing that morning.

Red Cross made arrangements to put the family up in a local motel for a few days and provided a cash card so they could purchase a few things. But the family needed far more help, and came to our UCAN offices when we opened on Monday. They waited, not knowing if there was anything we could do to prevent them from becoming homeless. Our Executive Director met them in the lobby, and after chatting with them a bit, ensured appropriate staff were made available immediately to assist them.

Jami Daves, our Housing Services Coordinator, and Erica Kimrey, our Gary Leif Navigation Center Program Manager, were soon sitting down with the family. Both Jami and Erica listened carefully to ensure they could best address the family’s needs. Housing was top priority. We provided the family with a two-week motel voucher so they had a safe, warm place to stay in the short-term. Erica and Jami made sure other basic needs were met, arranging for food, clothing, and hygiene items. They also provided items the couple needed so they could continue working. They even provided a Pack ‘n Play portable playpen for the toddler. We continue to work with this family to help them find a permanent housing solution.

Many folks, like this family, are at-risk of homelessness because of issues beyond their control: fires, costly medical treatments, loss of work. Working together, we can all ensure that nobody spends a night without shelter. Consider donating to our housing program so all can find a home.

Helping So Many In So Many Ways

Helping So Many In So Many Ways

As your local community action agency, UCAN takes on new social service programming when there’s a gap in services, and we have the resources to address that gap. That’s why we’ve stepped in to operate homeless shelters for the first time in our history. But while we help meet new community needs, we continue to operate well over a dozen other programs.

In Douglas County, UCAN offers several different child service programs to improve the health and well-being of young children and their mothers, to prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to learn, and to strengthen families. This past year, our Head Start/Early Head Start program served 473 children (ages 6 weeks through 5), providing not only early childhood education, but family home visits, developmental/health screens, and nutritious meals as well. Our Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) Program offered nutritional supports to over 3,000 women, infants and children. Healthy Families (also serving Klamath and Lake County) and Nurse Home Visiting, our two programs focused exclusively on offering family strengthening, parent education, referrals, and related supports, made close to 1,000 home visits. And our Healthy Start program worked with many families to reduce infant mortality in the County.

UCAN operates a number of programs that help people obtain housing, stay housed, pay their utilities, and stay warm in their homes. These programs are offered in both Douglas and Josephine County. This past year we provided 678 households with rent assistance so they could stay housed. We provided another 289 households with move-in payment assistance so they could move into housing, and helped another 100 households move in to either emergency, transitional or permanent housing. We made 6,476 utility payments, 2,527 of which paid off prior bills that would have otherwise led to folks losing their utilities. We also weatherized 42 homes, ensuring homes were warmer, and in many cases, healthier and safer.

Our Feeding Umpqua program played a huge role in addressing hunger in Douglas County, providing enough food for local pantries to provide over 25,000 emergency food boxes, and allowing local kitchens to provide over 100,000 meals. While Feeding Umpqua was meeting residents’ food needs, our Medicaid Transport program was helping folks get to doctor appointments they otherwise could not drive to in Douglas, Josephine and Coos County. We provided over 11,000 rides this year alone.

We helped about 300 residents of Douglas and Josephine County with all aspects of financial management, including: budgeting, credit management, credit repair, credit counseling. We helped others with their finances, providing bill pay services to 73 individuals, and tax assistance to 1,343 others. The latter service particularly helps our communities, as many individuals receiving tax assistance obtain refunds that they then use to pay for items from local merchants.

Our United Community AmeriCorps program provided a host of sites with members who supported a variety of projects serving 4,549 people. Members also built the capacity of their host sites, mobilizing 991 volunteers. AmeriCorps Seniors engaged many more members ages 55+ in Douglas and Josephine County, offering services ranging from Medicare education to scam and fraud protection. As you can see, we’ve had quite the year at UCAN, and look forward to meeting the needs of thousands more next year.

Letter from the Executive Director – Spring 2022

Letter from the Executive Director

From our veteran services to our early childhood programming, all of our services benefit your community. When we pay off a neighbor’s unpaid water bill, your community receives funds that keep everyone’s water bills lower. When a child attends Head Start classes, their parents have more time they can work, earning money that supports local businesses. Those receiving tax assistance from us often obtain refunds that they then invest in local communities.

Our work also benefits a range of local institutions, like schools, hospitals and public safety departments. Teachers work with more children that are ready to succeed in the classroom. Hospitals have fewer patients needing costly care. Police are less involved with managing issues often exacerbated by poverty, like addiction.

When your neighbors have their needs met, the quality of life improves throughout your community. Rather than spending the day focused on addressing families’ basic needs, parents have time to get involved with their children’s school, to take their kids to local parks. Seniors that were formerly isolated now volunteer and engage with other community members in need.

I invite you to join us in Caring for Our Communities. Your donations provide critical flexible funds allowing us to meet urgent needs. Your service as a volunteer brings you great satisfaction while helping a neighbor in need. Looking for meaningful work? We would love to chat with you, as we have many open positions that can further your career.

To find out more about how to join us in caring for your community, I invite you to visit our new website at

Returning Home to Care for Her Community

Returning Home to Care for Her Community

What would you do after working for 40 years in the hospitality industry, followed by helping to care for a parent with Alzheimer’s? For Zackie Fox, the answer was to volunteer to provide more help to others. Not long after moving to Grants Pass to help her mother, she joined us as a volunteer care attendant, and offered training to others supporting loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

When she felt she needed a “rest” from this work, Zackie volunteered to be a driver for our non-emergency medical transportation program. Our volunteer drivers make sure that qualifying individuals in need of transportation get to medical and dental appointments, even to pharmacies and other health-related locations. We cover mileage costs, but volunteers otherwise donate their time and energy.

In 2018, we hired Zackie to work as a dispatcher for the program. As a dispatcher, Zackie ensured drivers completed their routes, even when emergencies like severe weather potentially interfered with service. She excelled at this work, but she didn’t know that a health emergency would soon change UCAN and her work.

That emergency was COVID. During some of the worst days of the pandemic, her supervisor passed away from the virus. We turned to Zackie and asked if she was willing to try managing the program. Despite having no experience overseeing a transportation program, Zackie agreed. She knew the service provided a critical link connecting low-income residents to their desperately needed medical care, and she was going to do everything in her power to keep that service operating.

As she says, “the first six months were really tough.” Not only did she have to learn on the fly, she had to do so as COVID both reduced the number of volunteer drivers and changed how we provided the service. But she persevered to keep the program going.

Having made it through those first difficult months, Zackie is now rebuilding the number of available drivers. In doing so, she has ensured that residents from Coos, Josephine and Douglas County lacking reliable transportation can still make it to healthcare appointments. Asked how she’s feeling having taken on a huge task, she responds: “I’m just peachy.”

You too can feel peachy by joining our team of volunteer drivers! Contact us at and include Medicaid Transportation in the subject line.

Keep the Water Flowing

Keep the Water Flowing

For many decades, UCAN has offered assistance so that households can avoid having their power cut-off. Our energy assistance program has benefitted countless numbers of local residents. Last year alone we paid 3,410 utility bills for local folks. Now we can help households with water and sewer bills.

With the pandemic’s continuing toll on very low-income households, the federal government has expanded funding for utility assistance to help people cover their water and sewer bills as well. Households who are at or below 60% state median income are income eligible for the program. We pay utilities directly on behalf of eligible households to reconnect services, avert disconnection of services, and pay past-due amounts and current charges.

We launched the program a few months ago, and its importance has grown since then. While the pandemic continues to wax and wane, inflation has hit levels not seen since the 1980s. Lower-income households are most affected by inflation, as they have few options to reduce their costs. So we are seeing more folks in need of aid to keep them from losing water and sewer service.

At the same time, utilities benefit from this program, as it helps them cover charges for prior service they might not otherwise be able to recover. We’ve been delighted to have fifteen local utilities enter into agreements to offer this service to their customers. Together, we’re helping their customers address the most basic need of all!

A Long and Winding Road

A Long and Winding Road

Every little bit helps. We can keep an entire household off the streets by making a few rent payments. We can keep another household warm in winter by paying their utility bills. Even a single, emergency meal keeps a child active and engaged at home and school that day. That’s why we cherish your donations, no matter the size.

But sometimes households have complex problems, and staff need to work long and hard to make a deep and lasting difference. Our Healthy Family home visiting program takes the long view when working with families. We offer services supporting families with newborns that can last until the child is three years old. A family support specialist meets weekly with families, offering advice and support to enhance child health and development, child safety, mom’s self-care, and family well-being.

Charles and Becky Meyers recently needed significant support from our program to get their lives back on track. Their twins Hallie and Zach were born prematurely, and had to receive intensive care in Portland for several months. Hallie had serious heart defects, and eventually needed open-heart surgery. Thankfully she recovered. In those initial months, the support specialist worked with the Meyers, helping them seek SNAP, TANF and SSI supports while connecting them with mental health, early intervention and many other services.

Tragically, when the Meyers were making arrangements to come back home to Douglas County, the friend they were living with committed suicide. The Meyers were now homeless. We were able to connect the Meyers to our Housing Stabilization Services program, where they obtained a voucher to live in a motel. While the voucher helped, the Meyers had to move nine times using the voucher to stay off of the streets.

But during this time, with the help and support of many, they took giant steps forward. They reconnected with Becky’s family. Charles was able to get a full-time job. Both children were released from health restrictions. Now, they are finally moving into their own new home, a two-bedroom duplex. Throughout, our staff not only provided a wealth of support and services, they were a constant source of care and comfort. We are so happy to see the Meyers moving on with their lives.

A Fond Farewell

A Fond Farewell

Kelly has been a key member of UCAN’s leadership for most of her time with us. She has been the leader of our Josephine County office. Click here to learn more about Kelly’s contribution to UCAN and our communities.

UCAN originally brought Kelly on to oversee our RSVP program. She soon added oversight of UCAN’s AmeriCorps and VISTA programs to her responsibilities. Upon taking over as COO, Kelly also began administering UCAN’s homeless program, as well as our energy assistance and weatherization programs.

Kelly has played a pivotal role in growing UCAN’s presence in Josephine County. When UCAN began operating in the County, we superseded an agency that had been part of County governance. As Kelly says, it was important that UCAN “rebuild local relationships and restore trust for those who depended on the agency for services.” Kelly worked hard to make that happen, fostering many collaborations, and hosting such partnerships as the Josephine County Homeless Task Force.

Kelly has been a major proponent for ensuring local folks coming to us obtain everything we can offer so they can succeed. Not only has she continually promoted “wrapping services” within UCAN, she has promoted integrating services between UCAN and its many partner agencies. She’s also focused on finding ways to embed new technologies to streamline processes and provide better service delivery.

While at UCAN, Kelly’s programs have distributed record amounts of assistance to local folks. Her programs have received national awards, including one for an innovative veteran service program. But most important to Kelly are the people she has met along the way. As she says, she has learned from all of them.

As just one example, she and her staff worked with an individual who had been homeless for ten years, who had slept in the snow, who had trouble communicating when he first connected with UCAN. At first, he wasn’t allowed to pay his own rental bill, and was instead assigned a payee to do so. We were able to get benefits for him, to get him rent assistance. As his life stabilized, he took over paying his bills. Nobody who met him when he first left the streets would have thought he could live independently, but he was able to do so. As Kelly says, he was one of many people who taught her that people are amazingly resilient when given the chance to succeed.