Combatting Youth Homelessness in Portland, OR
Regence believes that every partnership we cultivate, every dollar we pledge and every hour we volunteer makes the communities in which we live, work and play healthier. This post is part of a blog series that highlights how Regence is collaborating with community partners to positively impact the quality of life of people and families in our communities.
Being a teenager today is extremely challenging but add to that the isolation, fear and desperation that surrounds being a homeless youth and the future can seem bleak.
It’s estimated there are 500 homeless youth in downtown Portland alone. There are hundreds more across the metro area and even more aging out of foster care and other youth agencies. While the reasons behind these kinds of family dynamic breakdowns are complex—from drug addiction, generational poverty and mental health issues—the future challenges and risks associated with this vulnerable population are great. In fact, national trends predict that this population is at a much higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, and even death. And many ‘unaccompanied’ youth die each year because of assault, illness or suicide.
A Game-Changing Partnership
Working aggressively to address the homeless youth crisis in Portland is Regence community partner New Avenues for Youth. This innovative organization helps prevent youth homelessness and provides young people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness the resources and skills needed to lead healthy, productive lives. Specifically, New Avenues for Youth provides opportunities for one-on-one social engagement along with a full roster of services: drop-in day services like meals, showers, laundry and legal counsel; individualized support like setting and achieving goals; education assistance and planning; job training and work readiness; counseling; and help transitioning to adult housing.
Todd Guren, director of product management at Regence, celebrates receiving the New Avenues for Youth Gold Spatula Award for serving ten or more meals in 2018. Way to go, Todd!
Invested for more than five years in the transformative work being done at New Avenues for Youth, the Regence family’s comprehensive commitment includes corporate investment, executive leadership and employee volunteerism. In 2017, Regence provided over $73K in monetary funding; a combination of investment dollars and employee donations. More impressively, employees gave over 182 hours of their own personal time to the organization through executive and staff board membership, in-kind collections, fundraising events and serving meals at the youth drop-in-centers.
Every year, Regence employees volunteer as a team with the New Avenues for Youth Scoop-A-Thon, raising money while serving ice cream from one of the nonprofit's two Ben & Jerry's shops that provide job training for youth.
Expanding Our Commitment
Recently, New Avenues for Youth approached Regence about supporting its efforts to expand the Recovery Oriented Support and Engagement (ROSE) program to Portland’s eastside. Over the past few years, New Avenues for Youth had seen an increased number of youth homelessness in this portion of the city and a disproportionate number from underserved populations such as LGTBQ+ youth and communities of color.
The program, which is part of the city’s homeless youth system, engages youth experiencing homelessness in recovery-oriented support and mental-health and addiction treatment services. Regence committed its support and recognized this investment as an opportunity to engage and impact the lives of at-risk teens struggling not only with homelessness but with social inequity and discrimination challenges. The result: over 330 youth received services through the New Avenues for Youth ROSE program last year, forever impacting their futures for the better.
“Regence and Regence employees set the example for corporate-nonprofit partnership in this community by going beyond investing their dollars—they show up at so many different points of our organization through service on our Board of Directors, our Ambassador Board, teaching in our job training program and by serving meals in our kitchen—they invest their time by committing to serve the youth of our community and this impact is felt in our mission daily."
- Jessica Elkan, Director of Development & Communications