From Shawna: Feeding Others Feeds The Soul

For many of us, the holidays are about food. Reminiscing about family meals and recipes (creamed onions, anyone?), baking pies and decorating gingerbread houses, flipping through recipes, and sharing your results with loved ones.

As you know, all that is going to look a bit different this year, thanks to COVID. The need in our community is greater than ever, so we are inviting you to build community with us and share food with those who need it this holiday season. Feeding others is a surefire way to feed our own souls. We’ve got a handful of COVID-safe opportunities for you to build community with us through sharing food. Hopefully one of these will work for you:

  1. Cook and deliver a dish for one of our many “drop-off potlucks” this season: Thanksgiving Day, mid-December dessert party, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Sunday brunches, and more… See all the options and sign up here! [Pictured right is a volunteer at our most recent Sunday brunch!]
  2. Coordinate your own “drop off potluck” with your personal or workplace networks – we’ll set you up with an easy and sharable online sign-up on a date that suits you.
  3. Sponsor a meal for one of our three emergency shelters by catering a dinner from your favorite local restaurant – they all need a boost right now. We’ll help you order!
  4. Make sack lunches at home for one of our shelters – this is a great family activity and works as a service project for students. You’ll need to buy supplies and deliver. Click here for tips!
  5. Donate canned food or host a canned food drive for our shelter cooks – they work magic with donated food, so these specific shelf-stable items really stretch their recipes.
  6. Some folks are able to cook for large groups – we do that, too, if you want to prepare a meal for everyone in a shelter some night. It’s a big, but rewarding job!

Ready to get started? Great! Please reach out to me or Brielle on our team to find out more:

Sharing is what the holidays are all about!  Since we’re not able to feed our extended families a big, loving holiday meal, let’s join together and feed our neighbors ☺

Thank you for all you do for our community, we sure appreciate you!

Introducing “The Nick Fish:” A New Housing Community Honors Beloved Civic Leader

“The reality is, to be successful on the housing front, locally and at the state level, we need a big coalition. Part of this is about the confidence and maturity of a movement, and its willingness to build a big tent.”

— Nick Fish, Portland City Commissioner, on resource development for housing and homeless services, March 4, 2011

September 22, 2020 (Portland, OR) – Nine months after the untimely death of Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, a cutting-edge new development in the Gateway neighborhood, will be named in his honor.

The Nick Fish, now under construction at NE 106th and Halsey Street in East Portland’s Gateway neighborhood, is shaping up to be a landmark project adjacent to a gorgeous new city park, with housing priced to help families remain in the neighborhood and retail spaces for small, local and minority-owned businesses. Human Solutions is co-developing the project with Edlen & Co and Holst Architects.

Holst Architects designed the complex, which will bring a striking new skyline and modern vitality to the Gateway Regional Town Center, which has long awaited major investment.  By ensuring housing affordable to a a range of incomes, The Nick Fish will help prevent the kind of residential displacement that too often accompanies neighborhood investment.

About the Project

The Nick Fish will offer 75 affordable and market-rate apartments, many with exceptional views of Gateway Discovery Park, considered only the second “barrier free” greenspace in Portland with a plaza, accessible playground, “skate dot” for skateboarders, outdoor seating and more. Residents will also enjoy a resident lounge that opens onto the park’s plaza, convenient access to neighborhood and parkside amenities, and accessible public transit.

The beloved commissioner’s name graces the housing portion of the development – but there’s more. Prosper Portland will own and operate 11,000 square feet of retail space tucked into a two-story wing of the building dedicated to small, minority-owned local businesses, including storefronts along NE Halsey Street and the park and Human Solutions will occupy the second floor of the development with an office and service center. Prosper Portland owns the land and played a significant role in financing and supporting the project.

Primary funding is through Prosper Portland, the Portland Housing Bureau, the City of Portland, Chase Bank, PNC, Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF), Dudley Ventures, Valley National Bank, METRO, private grants from Meyer Memorial Trust and The Collins Foundation, and Oregon Housing and Community Services.

The project is slated to open to the community in Spring 2021 and will be the first Portland building to commemorate Fish, an affordable housing visionary who served as a City Commissioner for 11 years before his untimely death in January 2020.

The Nick Fish is only one of several upcoming affordable housing communities in the works at Human Solutions: one 75 -unit rehab, one purchase with 68 units, and another new development with 93 deeply affordable apartments — all in East County, where Human Solutions has focused our work for 32 years. The organization recently received nearly $8 million federal and state grants from Oregon Housing and Community Services to move these community investments forward. Human Solutions’ Executive Director Andy Miller had the idea to honor his friend Nick Fish in this way because the project represents so well what the former Commissioner steadfastly stood for. As Miller describes it:

“Nick dedicated his career to community service, with a vision of healthy, green neighborhoods where every Portlander was welcome and could thrive. Nick was thrilled to support this new housing that will provide high-quality rental homes to Portlanders across a range of incomes with a gorgeous new park in their backyard. The Nick Fish helps make real our vision – and Nick’s – to co-create vibrant, healthy neighborhoods where all people can share in the security, hopes and advantages of a thriving, supportive community in East Portland. I’ve long been inspired by Nick’s work and couldn’t think of a better way to honor his impact on our city. We toured the site recently with Nick’s family and were thrilled to receive their blessing to commemorate Nick’s legacy in this way.”

When finished, The Nick Fish will add to Human Solutions’ portfolio of 16 affordable housing communities, bringing the number of affordable rental units the organization manages in East Portland/East Multnomah County to 736.

About Nick Fish

An attorney by trade, Fish was a native New Yorker who pulled up his roots in the mid-1990s to head for Oregon, where his wife, Patricia Schechter, had accepted a post teaching history at Portland State University. Fish, of course, immediately engaged in the local community.

Politics had long been in his family, so it was no surprise when he ran for office – winning in 2008 after several attempts He was a popular commissioner and Portlanders understood him to be both effective and deeply devoted to his work and our City.

Fish was best known for his work merging the city’s various housing services and programs into one bureau, combining the City’s smaller Bureau of Housing and Community Development and the housing side of the (then) Portland Development Commission to create the Portland Housing Bureau, which he oversaw from 2010-2013. He also made lasting contributions as the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation (2010-2013 and 2018-2019), where he created and expanded programs serving children and families, with an eye toward East Portland which was historically underserved.

Fish’s deep focus on ending homelessness and increasing Portlanders’ access to affordable housing and greenspaces is what makes the new building uniquely suited to commemorate this beloved city leader.

Fish’s family toured the site this summer and is taking the opportunity to work more closely with Human Solutions. Patricia Schechter, Fish’s widow, and their children Chapin and Maria, are all in:

The work of building trust and true collaboration is painstaking. Any society can put up a building…But in a democracy, we face each other as equal citizens and deliberate in order to create a common ground that can blunt and even shift imbalances of power,” Schechter says.

Vertical Garden Bears More than Fruit

Jessica Holmes and Tenisha Bolds

Bolds and Holmes created a vertical garden for LearnLinks students and their families

Tenisha Bolds works with kids in the LearnLinks after school tutoring program, at an apartment community owned and operated by Human Solutions in East Portland. One of the things she’s been thinking about is: How to indulge her young students’ love for fresh fruits and vegetables?

It’s a problem many parents would love to have, but for Bolds – a Health and Wellness Specialist – the challenge took a creative turn: Now she and her colleague, Resource Specialist Jessica Holmes, are growing a vertical garden packed with vegetables and herbs, and bringing the produce to the families they work with.

And they’re thinking about how to launch a cooking show on YouTube to help their participants’ families create their own delicious, fresh meals from scratch.

About 138 kids show up – now virtually – at LearnLinks every week to get help with their schoolwork. The idea behind the program is to provide family support for public school students in Human Solutions’ affordable housing communities to thrive in the classroom.

Good nutrition is covered within a unit in the science curriculum. Bolds says when she asked the kids in her k-8th grade program at Lincoln Woods apartments what vegetables they liked, the answer was: kale. And that answer became an inspiration for more science lessons.

“Then we started talking about growing some vegetables and bringing them in,” Holmes says. At first they tried regular gardening at the apartment complex, but space was limited. “So we decided to start vertical growing.”

The technique is ancient — think Hanging Gardens of Babylon. But in modern times, new growing structures are easy to find online and fun to build; Holmes and Jones started their seeds in hanging structures and then planted the emerging sprouts in an array of planter boxes in Bolds’ backyard.

The “babies,” as Bolds calls the plants, have included a farm’s-worth of crops.

“We’ve got carrots, onions, eggplant, corn and cucumbers. Then we have peppermint, chamomile, chives, oregano, let me see what else? We also have parsley, we have lavender and we have basil. Then there’s also cabbage, kale, rosemary, hot peppers, brussels sprouts, cilantro, bok choy, thyme, and sweet peppers so far. Oh and honeydew, because the kids love honeydew.”

Bolds’ parents also have green thumbs: her father tends a vegetable garden on his patio and her mother raises houseplants. Years ago, her mother shared a secret tip on how to keep the greenery growing:

“My mom says you have to talk to the plants or they won’t come up, so I’m out here all the time, just talking,” Bolds says. “And I play music for them – they like all kinds of music. And I swear it works – because the corn was the smallest and now they are an inch tall!”

Holmes says the idea was inspired by a cooking and nutrition training she and Bolds attended together.

“This program is important to me because when I participated in a health and nutrition class and learned about all of the additives they put in the food, it scared me,” Holmes said. “Also, I love the fact that we can eat food that we’ve grown ourselves.”

“We are all organic,” Bolds says. “We used no chemicals, because the class we got certified in taught us all about what the chemicals do, and it’s also changed our eating habits.”

Bolds says the most important part about the project is bringing healthy produce into families’ homes. While the LearnLinks program is for kids, in practice the teachers connect with their families, too, since families are an essential part of children’s learning.

“It’s natural, it’s coming from the garden, and it’s a shame that more people don’t know how to grow their own food,” Holmes says.

Next, Bolds and Holmes are working to create recipes for their program using food box ingredients mixed with the bounty from their garden. The food boxes are part of the USDA program distributed through the Sunshine Division and through a grant from Windermere.

“We can make the same things that our program participants can make, because they’re going to have the same ingredients,” Bolds says.

“But they don’t have access to a lot of fresh vegetables, so we made sure to grow enough vegetables so they have some, too.”

Bolds credits her Human Solutions Program Manager Tonya Parson for offering support – even successfully pursuing a grant from the Portland Children’s Levy – to help make it possible.

“Since I love gardening and the kids are always asking for fruits and vegetables, me and Tonya came up with the idea,” Bolds says. “Now she told me about vertical growing, and then I took it from there and I started growing in the vertical growers.”

And as the lush little plants are bursting with life in the fence in Bolds’ own yard, she and Holmes are moving ahead with big plans-inspired in part by the any nationalities of their students, whose families hail from Somalia, Kenya, Haiti, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico, Guatemala, Ukraine, and Russia.

To grow their nutrition curriculum further, Bolds says she and Holmes are working on expanding their video skills to launch their own cooking show on YouTube. As part of the LearnLinks Virtual Summer School over the past few months, they and their team members took a crash course in Google Classroom, weaving in YouTube videos where they could but also learning basic video for themselves.

The duo has moved from vegetables to science and video technology – and back to vegetables – in the space of one summer.

“So since me and Tonya originally started talking about it, my thing is that every month we would do foods of a different nationality – so like one month it would be Asian, maybe Turkish, Somalian,” Bolds says.

“So I’ve been looking at different recipes like cabbage wraps – that’s Italian. I’m going to try to make that so that I can teach people how to make them. But I found a whole lot of different recipes from different cultures that we can make, plus I love to cook.”

Holmes agrees.

“I just love cooking with fresh ingredients, and it’s actually pretty fun and exciting to see your progress,” Holmes says. “Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy job – but it’s very rewarding.”

Aside from Holmes and Parson, Bolds’ biggest supporter is her daughter Tai’ Ana Williams, who has helped plant, weed and water the vertical garden.

Williams has her own take on the project:

“It’s about bonding,” she says. “Growing things, you have to bond with your plants, you have to talk to them and stuff. And then when you’re planting them and you’re bonding with them, it makes you feel special because you’re doing it. I feel like it would be better for everyone to plant their own things so that they could feel special and know that they’re doing it not only for themselves, but for others as well.”

At Human Solutions, we’re building a community where all people can share in the security, hopes and advantages of a thriving, supportive community. Projects like this garden are a wonderful example of how we all benefit when we do things that are part of something larger than ourselves.