Life in all its fullness has got me way behind on my blogging. It's been a week since The O ran an uplifting story on some of the recent successes of Central City Concern (CCC). I'm a fan of theirs and I've been meaning to comment on the story here ever since. Here's my $0.02, seven days late.
CCC runs a number of addiction recovery programs for low-income people in Portland. The organization is perhaps best known for its "Chiers van," which scoops inebriated folks off the sidewalks and takes them to the group's Hooper Detox Center over by the east end of the Burnside Bridge. But it also operates the Portland Alternative Health Center and the Danmoore Building downtown, where addicts get treatment and housing as they struggle to get free of the drugs that rule them. (CCC's also involved in a number of other programs, including some that house just plain poor folks and people with HIV or AIDS.)
The health center and the Danmoore will close next year, but the good news is that they will be replaced in a new 12-story building near the North Park Blocks that CCC is currently building. And the group has also recently added Alder House Apartments on SW 13th Avenue, providing more housing for recovering addicts in its programs.
What I like most about CCC's approach is its heavy reliance on nontoxic treatment options such as acupuncture and intensive group therapy. Historically, too many people with heroin problems have been quickly shunted off to methadone clinics, where a synthetic opiate is substituted for heroin and the patient is still in need of a daily fix of one kind or another. For some hard-core addicts, that may be the only workable solution, but under Oregon law and by morality, it should be the last option, not the first. CCC's programs get people off heroin without hooking them on methadone. The programs are not cheap compared to methadone, but they're much cleaner, and they have a surprisingly high success rate. And, unlike many methadone merchants, CCC's a nonprofit.
Usually, CCC's capabilities are hindered only by a lack of funds. Thus, it was particularly gratifying to see that its new building is being subsidized by tax increment financing from the City of Portland. Commissioner Erik Sten, who's in charge of enhancing low-income housing in town, had some wise things to say about the subsidy:
"We wanted to do something for years and Central City Concern has a stellar reputation," said Sten, who oversees the city's Bureau of Housing and Community Development. "Frankly, with their rate of success, I was more than willing to help make something happen. I'm proud to be associated with them. Everyone wins here because we're not replacing the housing, we're adding to it."It's nice to see tax dollars go for a public purpose (and a humanitarian one at that), rather than to the usual developer moneybags. Nice going, CCC and Sten.
Sten said he encouraged the Portland Development Commission to use about $10 million in urban renewal tax increment financing to aid the project. [Richard] Harris [CCC's executive director and a friend of mine], Sten and PDC officials said the building marks the largest amount of tax increment financing used in a single low-income housing project by the agency to date.