Throughout my life and career I have had the opportunity to serve in a variety of communities across the United States. These include medium-sized cities and college towns in the Midwest, large urban centers in the Northeast, and a post-industrialized county seat in the South.
The diversity of my experience has taught me so much, and I was able to glean best practices that will inform my future career from all of them. My yearning to experience community development and social policy provision in a new part of the country led me to spend my summer in the Pacific Northwest.
This summer I am participating in the Oregon Fellowship through Portland State University (PSU). I was drawn to this fellowship for three primary reasons. The first was my interest in engaging with the particular social policy challenges the state of Oregon has to offer.
The second is that PSU has a stated mission of training leaders that will be qualified to serve in an urban context. My policy and ministry interests are all centered around developing urban communities.The third is that the Oregon Fellowship is focused on what I refer to as the “secret sauce”. My personal and professional experience has taught me that the key to effecting sustainable social change is in the secret sauce of innovative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary leadership.
These three things attracted me to the Oregon Fellowship, but it was my placement that solidified my decision to travel almost 3,000 miles to work for 10 weeks. I was placed in the City Manager’s Office in Gresham, Oregon (the 4th largest city in the state that is located immediately east of Portland).
I am working on a portion of the Gresham Community Prosperity Initiative (GCPI). This initiative will explore the role of the City in addressing poverty and charting a course towards broad community prosperity. Over the past 15-20 years poverty in the region has been increasingly shifted to East County (this includes east Portland and the city’s eastern suburbs). This demographic shift has led to increased levels of homelessness in Gresham.
My project is specifically focused on providing policy recommendations for how the City of Gresham can address increasing levels of Chronic Homelessness. The increased demand for services was unfortunately not accompanied by additional funding. Therefore, my job is to think creatively about not only what works, but what the city can realistically implement.
To do that I am tasked with interviewing a variety of stakeholders, and determining how the city can create partnerships to fill the existing gaps in services. It is a daunting task, but I am excited to be working on an issue I care a lot about.
Wish me luck!