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Gresham nonprofit shelter to move forward with thrift store, cafe plans. Groundbreaking planned next year.

My Father's House has provided transitional housing for homeless families, along with life skills training, since 2001.

But the nonprofit organization has been unable to provide any real-world job experience for its residents.

That will change when the organization builds its Jobs Center next to the shelter's studio apartment complex at 5003 W. Powell Blvd., said Cathe Wiese, executive director for My Father's House. The new building will include classrooms, a thrift store, a drive-through donation center, offices and a coffee shop.

The Jobs Center is needed because the shelter's residents — especially those younger than age 30 — often have trouble keeping a job because they lack soft skills.

"Their job lasts maybe a month or two," Wiese said. "They haven't learned some basics of employment: How to show up on time, and what makes a good employee."

The Gresham Planning Commission approved a zoning variance on Monday, Feb. 25, allowing My Father's House to move forward on constructing a mixed-use commercial building in an area zoned for apartments. Plans are to proceed by razing a house already on the shelter's property, and replacing it with the 20,000-square foot Jobs Center.

My Father's House still needs to submit its building design plans to the Gresham City Council for approval. The council will vote on the issue at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, at Gresham City Hall, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway.

If all goes well, My Father's House hopes to break ground in April 2020.COURTESY GRAPHIC: MY FATHERS HOUSE - My Fathers House will construct a Jobs Center next to its studio apartment building. The graphic depicts what the building on Powell Boulevard will look like when finished.

The nonprofit shelter is run through donations, and receives no government funding. Thanks to the community's generosity, Wiese said the shelter often ends up with more donations than it can use.

"As a nonprofit we get a lot of get donations of clothing and food," Wiese said. "We don't use everything we get, so we pass it on to other organizations."

Instead of shifting the items around, the planned retail center will create a way for the shelter to generate funds from the donation overflow.

Abundant jobs not enough

Oregon's unemployment rate has been at record lows for the past two years, according to an announcement from the Oregon Employment Department. The unemployment rate has ranged between 4.0 percent and 4.4 percent since November 2016.

However, a thriving job market doesn't help someone find self-sufficiency if they're unable to remain employed.

"Jobs are abundant right now, but (our residents) aren't keeping them," Wiese said. "They've never been taught how to work."

Administrators at My Father's House can try to pinpoint the exact reason a resident is unable to keep a job, but it's a bit of a guessing game, Wiese noted. By having residents employed in an actual work space, staff at My Father's House will be able see where an employee's skills are lacking.

Is he or she looking for tasks to do when the store is slow — or are their eyes glued to their cellphone?

Once the cafe and thrift store open, the shelter will establish a program where residents will work in a paid position for six months while attending work-skills classes. Following the temporary job, staff at the transitional housing shelter will help with job placement.

By adding work experience and instruction to life-skills programs already in place at the shelter, Wiese is hopeful residents will find the boost they need to become productive employees.

"It's real basic stuff to most of us," Wiese said, "but to many of these young men and women, they don't know it. We need to create a space to help them do that, and hone those skills."

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About My Father's House

My Father's House is a nonprofit family housing shelter at 5003 W. Powell Blvd. in Gresham. The shelter offers transitional housing to homeless families, along with basic life-skills training. For more information about the shelter, visit www.familyshelter.org.


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