The Journey to stable careers
A resident at My Father's House found herself at her wit's end after once again, being fired as a receptionist.
Christina didn't know what she was doing wrong — a common refrain for those going through the six-month program at the Gresham-based nonprofit family homeless shelter. All she knew was that she couldn't keep a job, and it was preventing her from advancing to a more stable phase of life.
"It took us a long time to learn she needed a more hands-on job," said Cathe Wiese, director of My Father's House. "She kept wandering away from her desk and couldn't sit still."
Learning that Christina struggled to sit still at a desk took awhile for the experts at My Father's House, because they weren't able to see her in action. Eventually they figured out the issue, and found her a job that let her work with her hands and be active.
To better serve its residents and observe them as employees first-hand, a development is brewing at My Father's House. It will create a better trained workforce for Gresham and avoid people like Christina from receiving multiple pink slips.
For My Father's House, a $1.7 million expansion called "The Journey" is the final piece of the puzzle.
"Soon our residents will be able to learn job skills and work ethic while earning a wage," Wiese said.
The 17,375-square-foot two-story building, designed by Timothy Brunner and AXIS Design Group Architecture & Engineering, will bring a jobs program that was missing from My Father's House. The structure will house a retail thrift store, classrooms, a drive-thru donation center, offices and a coffee kiosk. Residents will work on-site, earning wages and crucial real-world experience.
The development will also include parking expansion and aesthetic improvements with landscaping and a covered outdoor public plaza.
While the project has been delayed due to complications surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic, Wiese is confident the organization will be able to move forward. The hope is to break ground in January of next year, with a grand opening celebration occurring by the end of 2021.
This is an idea that has been brewing at My Father's House since 2015.
The organization purchased land adjacent to their main property that contained a deteriorating home. Initially, the nonprofit shelter refurbished the home to allow another family to reside on site while participating in programs, but from the beginning Wiese had a brighter vision for that space.
My Father's House, 5003 W. Powell Blvd., offers transitional housing to homeless families, along with life-skills training. The ultimate goal is to place the residents in jobs across the city of Gresham after providing a financial safety net.
"We hold our residents accountable and steer them toward achieving their goals," Wiese said.
The program has 40 families living in apartments for a six month stint.
One resident was a disabled single mother with three young girls. The money she was receiving through her monthly disability check wasn't enough to make ends meet, and she was struggling to find a supplemental job to support her family.
My Father's House found an answer. They were able to hook the mother up with a job that she was able to do, and that provided a crucial financial influx.
"She thought she would never be able to pay rent," Wiese said. "But we helped her overcome those obstacles."
The job skills taught at My Father's House may seem like no-brainers, but many of the residents have zero experience or training. The common refrain heard by Wiese and her staff was that residents were being fired from their jobs, and they didn't know why.
"We have to discover what they are doing that makes them a bad employee," Wiese said. "We couldn't see what they were doing wrong."
That can be a difficult task — residents at My Father's House had little information from their former employers, and sussing out their deficiencies as employees was a difficult task in the classroom setting.
"The Journey" will allow staff to see firsthand what is going wrong. They will see if employees are taking long breaks; using their cellphones while on the clock; showing up on time; customer service and more.
The thrift store will be a way for the shelter to sell excess donations, which often build up due to the generosity of the surrounding community. Before, they would pass those items to fellow nonprofit organizations, but now My Father's House can use those funds to better support its residents.
There are also plans to partner with local businesses to come up with training seminars and programs to further enhance the residents' skills.
"We are excited about this project, and can't wait to break ground," Wiese said.
Like many nonprofit organizations across the region, My Father's House was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Any monetary donations people can make at familyshelter.org is greatly appreciated.
But there are other ways to support the family homeless shelter. My Father's House is in need of volunteers to help in the donation center or work with children as their parents complete their classes. There is also a donated play structure that the staff at My Father's House need assistance in assembling.
Those same kids are also going stir crazy due to the stay-at-home order. The shelter is seeking donations of board games, toys, puzzles, books or other activities. There is also a need for a new basketball hoop — as the original is starting to break down after two decades of use.
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