Thrive Central Oregon Community,
The wind is blustering as I write this. I actually love wind and often find myself as the only one with that sentiment. For me, wind feels like excitement, it feels like change is coming. Wind makes me catch my breath, pause and absorb my surroundings. It reminds me I am small and so much more is going on around me. I find this the perfect state of mind to think about the last year that I have had personally, in our community and here at Thrive Central Oregon.
This year challenged us to grow both literally and figuratively. Here at Thrive our team doubled, we now have 14 (incredible!) staff members. We also expanded our services to allow for a hybrid model; we now offer in-person walk-ins, scheduled appointments, and phone appointments.
This year we have maintained and grown community partnerships that contract with Thrive for specific services - through Housing Works, COCC and the Oregon Health Authority.
Our contract with our local housing authority, Housing Works, linked our case management support with voucher holders. We were able to provide wrap around support for 172 Emergency Voucher holders, of which 110 have already successfully entered a lease. By helping folks to search and apply for rentals and provide education about the components of a successful application, Thrive is able to mitigate some of the barriers of our difficult housing market.
Central Oregon Community College (COCC) extended our contract for another year, placing a Thrive advocate on the Bend campus to support students across all of COCC’s campuses. A recent study shows that many Oregon community college students face basic needs insecurity, a population whose needs have historically been ignored. Having an advocate on campus, with open office hours, available to work with students is essential to connecting them to the resources that they desperately need. Throughout the year, Thrive Central Oregon has been able to ease the gap that community college students face and connect COCC’s students to housing, food, medical resources and more.
Thanks to continued grant funding, our work with the Oregon Health Authority is moving forward and has allowed us to expand outreach services to health departments and affordable housing complexes across the tri-county area. In many cases these connections link us to families that may be at risk of eviction, and we are able to provide support to help keep families stably housed.
The Central Oregon Health Council helped us grow in another big way this year, funding our first car! Thrive now owns an outreach vehicle, supporting staff as they travel around Bend, to La Pine, Prineville, Redmond, Madras and Warm Springs.
Last but certainly not least, in August PacificSource granted Thrive over $500,000 to provide direct support to Central Oregon households. We used these funds to help over 350 households make needed rent payments, support move-in costs, and assist with car repairs, copays, and other basic needs. In the four months since we received those funds, we have exhausted them.
After seeing what a critical impact PacificSource’s funding has had on our community’s health and wellbeing, we want to be able to continue to support our neighbors through direct financial support. We have developed a new partnership program - Housing to Thrive - to ensure that supportive funding is sustainable and ongoing for our community.
By partnering with housing professionals in Central Oregon - real estate agents and brokers, contractors, developers and builders - we can come together around our common goal: to help Central Oregonians find their forever homes, and build a robust and thriving community.
Support for our program and the subsequent growth it has allowed has been vast. It's given us the opportunity to provide over 4,500 in-person and phone appointments over the last year. Through those appointments we are let into people’s lives. We are invited to walk with them as they navigate some of life’s greatest challenges: securing housing, obtaining increased financial stability through benefits and employment, connecting to doctors and therapists, and so much more.
While we are grateful for the ability to expand our services, we also can't ignore how our community is struggling. Housing continues to be out of reach not only for those with low or fixed-incomes, but for working class individuals and families as well. More and more we are seeing households with higher incomes living paycheck to paycheck, one illness or injury away from losing their homes. Inflation has not stopped, and the rental and real estate market continue to rise. Increased costs for transportation, health insurance, food and other basic needs all mean that the backbone of our community is at risk.
We are honored to do this work, and we thank everyone that has supported us in our journey to where we are today. Despite growing exponentially this year, we stay true to our vision: providing client-driven services centered around respect, dignity and equity.
As we go forward into 2023, we hope that our community rises to our challenge and supports us through Housing to Thrive, so that we can continue to provide those that seek our services with the resources they need most.