Tag: Newsletter Winter 2023

Letter from the Executive Director – Winter 2023

Shaun Pritchard

Our communities have many terrific healthcare professionals, hospitals offering comprehensive services and health clinics offering varied services to low-income folks. While we are fortunate to have such resources available locally, recent studies show that clinical care alone contributes about 20% to health outcomes. Social and economic factors (including education), healthy behaviors (like healthy eating) and physical environment (including housing) contribute the remaining 80% to such outcomes.

Most of the services offered at UCAN address these factors. We offer many programs that improve residents’ economic well-being. Our Early Childhood programs lay the foundation so young children succeed in school, and families receive support to flourish. We offer programs influencing healthy behaviors, such as nutrition education. And we have many ways we help folks with housing.

Why would non-clinical factors contribute so much to health outcomes? Take the example of physical environment, which includes the availability of housing. Those lacking housing typically live to about their mid-fifties. That’s over 20 years less than the rest of us in the US. Cold is often a contributing factor in these deaths. Those living in poorly ventilated or leaky homes are also at-risk for serious health issues. Children living in homes with mold often develop conditions like asthma that have lifelong impacts on their health.

This issue of our newsletter focuses on the many ways we help with housing. From affordable housing to weatherizing homes to providing regular and extreme weather emergency shelter, we offer a range of solutions that improve health. In the case of our extreme weather shelters, we may even be saving lives.

You can support these efforts by volunteering, by donating or both! As we enter the holiday season, my wish is that you and all our neighbors are healthy.

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.