In 1994 as a response to the growing number of homeless families in Portland, the First United Methodist Church of Portland (FUMC) opened the Goose Hollow Family Shelter. The Goose started off as a winter-only shelter for 8 homeless families with children; it was open from 7:30pm to 7:30am every day between November and March. The members of FUMC ran the shelter purely with volunteers during those first few years. Though the shelter was at a church and was operated by church members, FUMC understood that to make the shelter welcoming to all people regardless of background, they would not proselytize; the ideal of creating a safe haven for everyone is still maintained at Goose Hollow today.
For several years, Goose Hollow operated as a winter only shelter; eventually, the Goose hired a paid director and a few shelter managers to operate the shelter. FUMC acted as a “fiscal umbrella” for Goose Hollow, which is basically nonprofit speak for being the sponsoring nonprofit for Goose Hollow. FUMC was kind enough to do all the bookkeeping and banking for Goose Hollow and to put the Goose Hollow staff on the payroll of FUMC.
Still relying heavily on volunteers, the Goose was able to create and maintain a compassionate environment where the support and warmth of volunteers supported parents to go out and find better situations for themselves and their children. As the years went by, the staff of the Goose reached out to several other faith-based communities for help in providing donations and volunteers. Today, there are dozens of churches, synagogues, and other faith-based congregations providing support to Goose Hollow.
Over the years, the Goose partnered with first the Salvation Army and then the YWCA Safe Haven so that families from the Goose could go utilize the other organizations’ day shelters for homeless families. At the YWCA, families could for the first time meet with trained case managers who could help them find permanent housing. These partnerships were a great opportunity for our families, but they were laden with several problems, most importantly that the Salvation Army and the YWCA were very far away and required about a 1-2 hour train ride from the Goose. It was very hard for families with small children to make the long trek during the cold, rainy, winter months and they often could not make it over to receive services that would help them succeed in finding permanent housing.
In 2006, Goose Hollow expanded its services to provide shelter between the months of November to April; this marked the first of many successful attempts to be able to provide more help to more families with children in Portland.
In 2008, the staff and Board of Goose Hollow realized that in order to be able to continue to expand services, more money was needed. As they searched for money in hard-to-find places, they came to a realization: in order to appeal to money from local government as well as larger foundations and corporations (which is where the money is at), they needed to attach themselves to a nonprofit that was not associated with a religious organization. While FUMC and Goose Hollow had a wonderful working relationship with each other, most foundations and corporations would not even consider giving money to FUMC even for the cause of operating Goose Hollow because it is a religious organization.
So FUMC and the staff and Board of Goose Hollow set out to redefine their partnership through a series of great discussions that lasted nearly a year. The result of these meetings was to create a new nonprofit that would operate the Goose Hollow Family Shelter. We decided to name that nonprofit Portland Homeless Family Solutions (which is a long name…but the initials of the Goose Hollow Family Shelter are GHFS and the initials of Portland Homeless Family Solutions are PHFS…Brandi thinks this is just the most clever thing in the world, but many of her staff and Board members begrudge her for creating such a long name for the organization because they get tired of writing it; but seriously, doesn’t it all make sense now???).
PHFS was approved as a nonprofit organization by the IRS on August 24, 2009 and with that status came the opportunity to find and receive more money and thus the opportunity to expand services to homeless families – and quickly! One of the first goals of the Board of PHFS was to open its own day shelter for the families at the Goose so that we could provide a continuum of care for our families where they were provided consistent services and where they wouldn’t have to travel long distances with small kids just to be able to have a warm place to go during the day.
About the same time, the First Unitarian Church of Portland was toying with the idea of opening a shelter for families in its brand new building, just about 8 blocks away from the Goose. Brandi Tuck and Kate Lore met each other with the help of Tiffany Kingery from Multnomah County, and instantly a magical partnership was created. Tiffany also brought Erika Silver from Human Solutions into the mix, and this group of individuals was able to dream up and then bring into reality a brand new day shelter for homeless families with children.
On November 2, 2009, the Thirteen Salmon Family Center opened in the basement of the First Unitarian Church. Thirteen Salmon provides day shelter from 8am-6pm to all the families staying at the Goose. The First Unitarian Church provides the space and a great deal of volunteers. PHFS provides the staffing, management, and volunteer coordination. Human Solutions staffs a Housing Liaison who works at Thirteen Salmon and helps families find permanent housing. Multnomah County provides a great deal of the funding. This partnership has changed the way that services are delivered to homeless families with children, and the members of this partnership have presented this unique model at several conferences around the state.
In 2010, PHFS decided to keep the Goose and Thirteen Salmon open for an additional month of the year; at this point, the shelters were open from November – May. But then in June 2010, Multnomah County offered an extra amount of money to keep the shelters open for the month of June as well, so we took the opportunity and stayed open for the first time in the history for 8 months of the year.
But that’s not all – in June of 2010, additional funding came through that allowed PHFS to open both shelters on September 15, 2010 (a month and a half early!)…and then to never close the doors to the shelters to homeless families again. In 2010, PHFS transitioned to provide year-round shelter for homeless families with children.
All the changes that have been going on are exciting and offer a lot more hope to homeless families who will never again be told “we’re closed until November” when they call, desperately seeking shelter for their families.
We could not do the work that we do without our volunteers and donors. We encourage you to sign up to volunteer with us or to donate money to help us continue to provide services to families.