Bob Kerns/Community of Hope
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (center) chats with Kate Rohl (left) and Linda Jo Devlaeminck of Community of Hope at the shelter’s first-ever fund raiser.
Bob Kerns/Community of Hope
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (center) chats with Kate Rohl (left) and Linda Jo Devlaeminck of Community of Hope at the shelter’s first-ever fund raiser.
When the Speaker spoke, people listened.  

The first fundraiser for the two-year-old Community of Hope shelter was held at the North Star Ballroom this month. Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek congratulated the women’s shelter on its success and held it out as an example of what needs to be done to address Oregon’s homeless crisis.

Preceding Kotek’s talk, an estimated 100 attendees heard from Brandi Tuck, executive director of Portland Homeless Family Solutions. Tuck said the seeds of today’s problem were sown more than 30 years ago when the federal government began cutting funds that had been going to low-income housing and mental health facilities, sending many people to live on the streets. Multnomah County alone is short 23,000 units of affordable housing.  In Portland, there are more than 800 homeless families with children; but there is shelter for only about 200 of them. The average age of a homeless person is nine.

Community of Hope, in St. Johns, helps children find and keep stable homes. Supported by churches like Holy Cross Parish, businesses and individuals in North Portland, the center can currently provide shelter, classes, mentoring, and community life for only five families at a time.  A remodeling project to double capacity is expected to begin this summer.

Kotek said the Community of Hope is the kind of community-based effort that works.  “This problem is too extensive to leave to any one group. Everyone needs to help… Government, business, the faith community… everyone needs to pitch in.”  Also attending the event was City of Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Linda Jo Devlaeminck, Community of Hope program director and a Catholic from Vancouver, Wash., thanked Fritz for longtime support and spoke to the recent issue regarding the waiving of certain fees.  “We have appreciated all the city has done so far to help us,” she said, “and are hoping for even more cooperation between the city and us and other shelters like us.”

Devlaeminck noted how far Community of Hope has come. Organizers began serving one family part time in separate facilities days and nights. They had one staff person and not enough money or volunteers. Now, they have staff to remain open around the clock, are in a single facility, and serve five families at a time.  Community support has been positive and widespread, she said.