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Nonprofit Gresham shelter breaks ground on job training facility, coffee shop, thrift store

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The My Fathers House Journey board of directors break ground on a new jobs facility Friday morning, Nov. 19. What are you supposed to do when you are fired from a job and have no clue why?

That is the struggle residents at My Father's House were facing. One woman living at the nonprofit shelter had been fired from five jobs in five months. She desperately wanted to work, and was dedicated in finding employment, but maintaining a job was her Achilles' heel.

So she, like so many others, were stuck in a loop with no clear path out.

"We can say, 'Go get a job,' and think that's enough, but it takes a lot more," said Cathe Wiese, founder of My Father's House and development director.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - My Fathers House Founder Cathe Wiese, right, is thankful for support the nonprofit shelter has received. Now My Father's House has a solution and way to allay the frustrations for people who are just trying to find a foothold in the workforce. On Friday morning, Nov. 19, the shelter and members of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, celebrated the groundbreaking for the Journey, a new building that will serve as a job training facility.

"This project isn't about funding My Father's House, it's about supporting the residents," said Gresham Chamber Chief Executive Officer Lynn Snodgrass.

Internally referred to as the "third leg of the stool" for getting vulnerable community members back on their feet, the Journey will be a 17,375-square-foot, two-story building with classrooms, a thrift store, drive-thru donation center and café. All of it adds up to real-world experience for the people living at My Father's House.

The residents who work at the businesses in the Journey will learn skills that many of us take for granted — being on time, customer service, cleaning up, avoiding long breaks, not using a cellphone while on the clock — while also earning a paycheck.

"These skills we take for granted our residents don't know," Wiese said.

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.

The program has 40 families living in apartments for a six month stint. And in about a year the Journey will add to the arsenal of tools for the nonprofit shelter.

"We are ready to hit the ground running," Wiese said with a smile.

Final piece of the puzzle

COURTESY RENDERING: AXIS DESIGN GROUP - The Journey will be a 17,375-square-foot, two-story building with classrooms, a thrift store, drive-thru donation center and café.The Journey will allow the experts at My Father's House to pinpoint what's keeping their residents out of the workforce.

One example was a woman who was fired from her role as a receptionist. "It took us a long time to learn she needed a more hands-on job," Wiese said. "She kept wandering away from her desk and couldn't sit still."

That revelation took far longer than it will with the Journey, because they will be able to observe the residents work first-hand. That will lead to a better trained workforce for Gresham and keep folks from receiving multiple pink slips.

The Journey has been brewing at My Father's House since 2015. The organization purchased the land adjacent to the main property that contained a deteriorating home, which Gresham Fire & Emergency Services burned down during a training exercise. With visions of the job center, the organization began fundraising and planning for what the new space will include.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - My Fathers House Executive Director Andrea Pickett speaks during the groundbreaking.The new programs are all about self-sufficiency by formalizing a teaching curriculum that has been taking place for decades at the shelter. 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.

"This time next year we want the community to visit, enjoy a cup of coffee, and browse the thrift store," said Sara Green, Journey chief executive officer.

All of this is the natural progression for My Father's House. Initially, families that need the nonprofit group's support also need a roof over their heads. That is where the shelter comes into play. Families stay at My Father's House for six months while committing to finding a job in their first 45 days. They take classes on Tuesday night covering parenting, budgeting, communicating and more. While living in the shelter, they also must save 30% of all revenue streams for a "Family Housing Fund" to be used for rent and utilities after leaving My Father's House.

The second service offered is Stepping Stone Apartments, which is a follow up residence for families who complete their half year at the shelter but still need help finding their footing.

Now the Journey will provide even more training and learning experiences. The shelter residents will also be able to purchase clothing once a month using a gift card for the thrift store.

"If you love people and want to see their lives changed, My Father's House is the place to go," Executive Director Andrea Pickett said.

Funding push

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - My Fathers House will soon add to the services it provides families.The folks at My Father's House are still seeking funds to complete the Journey.

One way they hope to accomplish that is through a Mailbox Program. People can donate $600 to purchase their own mailbox, where they will receive special offers and coupons to be used at the Journey. They can place a message on the mailbox, and also will be invited to mailbox-only events.

"This project is a tribute of people of faith who want to make a difference," said Kevin Howard, a business leader who has spurred nearly $1 million in donations to My Father's House.

But any donation helps My Father's House as they push for the final $1 million needed for the Journey. Right now there is a $350,000 matching grant for anyone who donates by March 1st. The best way to do so is online at familyshelter.org — click the donate button and specify if you want your donation to go directly toward the Journey. There is also a need for volunteers to help in the donation center or watch children as their parents take classes.

"I'm overcome by the support we have received for this project," Wiese said. "It takes everyone working together to support our community."

MORE ONLINE

Learn more about My Father's House and donate online at familyshelter.org


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