Even before the pandemic, many Portlanders were living on the edge, dealing with housing and job insecurity, as well as racial inequality. The coronavirus only deepened their risk and hardships. With its annual Neighborhood Builders grant, Bank of America is stepping up to support local nonprofits focused on creating opportunities for economic mobility for all, especially during these most difficult times.
Since 2004, Bank of America has distributed $5 million locally to 25 nonprofits in Portland and Southwest Washington through the Neighborhood Builders program. Fifty executive directors and emerging leaders from these nonprofits have also gone through leadership training, ensuring that they are best equipped to make a positive impact.
“This year’s recipients, Central City Concern and the Portland Community College Foundation, will each receive $200,000 in unrestricted funding. They also will be provided with networking opportunities, access to capital, and, most importantly, the flexibility needed now more than ever to navigate the evolving challenges presented by coronavirus.
Central City Concern and the Portland Community College Foundation are reaching disadvantaged communities through housing and workforce development programs, which align with Bank of America’s commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity,” said Roger Hinshaw, Bank of America’s Oregon and Southwest Washington market president. “As we consider many of the challenges that our communities are facing—from the health and humanitarian crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic to the need for progress on racial equality and economic opportunity—the Neighborhood Builders program continues to be a relevant and timely initiative to support the communities we serve.”
The need for Central City Concern’s rent assistance services is 200 percent higher than it was at the same time last year. Unsurprisingly, homelessness is drastically rising, and unemployment remains historically debilitating in the Portland Metro Area. These issues are at the heart of Central City Concern’s mission to provide those in need with a safe space to live and the opportunity to regain the dignity of self-sufficiency.
With its funding from the bank, the organization plans to enhance its vital “Flip the Script” program, which helps men and women who were previously incarcerated by providing integrated housing, peer support, and other services to help them rejoin the workforce. The grant enables CCC to move its physical location closer to the Justice Center; better accessibility means offering aid to more clients. By 2022, the organization hopes to double the number of people served.
“This investment will help us reach more individuals with the opportunity to turn their lives around,” said Dr. Rachel Solotaroff, President and CEO of Central City Concern. “Homelessness in Portland was already on the rise before the pandemic, but the dramatic increase in financial insecurity has meant even more individuals find themselves on the brink. We need a variety of programs to address the needs of different at-risk populations. ‘Flip the Script’ works with individuals exiting the justice system to provide stable housing and workforce development pathways.”
The Portland Community College Foundation also plans to use its grant to provide people with a launchpad to better circumstances. Layoffs at the beginning of the pandemic left individuals out of work and unsure of their career path in a changed world. Funds are being directed toward opening the new Opportunity Center at the College’s Willow Creek Center in Hillsboro, offering a fresh start for prospective students and job seekers alike.
With these resources, PCC will help close gaps in education and economic opportunity for underrepresented communities, too. Prior to the pandemic, 28 percent of households in surrounding Washington County were low-income. Of those, 44 percent are composed of people of color.
“The Opportunity Center at Willow Creek will be one of several centers aimed at reversing racial and economic disparities accelerated by the pandemic by providing a gateway for students and community members to find family-wage jobs,” said Mark Mitsui, President of Portland Community College. “We can help people who have been displaced by the pandemic’s toll on hospitality and retail jobs by reskilling and connecting them to healthcare, manufacturing, and trades courses: all high-demand industries in Washington County.”
With the Neighborhood Builders program, the money marks just the beginning. Bank of America will continue to foster its relationship with Central City Concern and the PCC Foundation over the next two years, knowing that as a society, we will never fully heal if those most in need are left behind. And by developing leadership capacity at these organizations, positive impacts made through workforce development, housing security, and more will be even longer-lasting.
Learn more about Central City Concern and “Flip the Script” initiative here: https://www.centralcityconcern.org/_blog/recent-news/post/building-our-neighborhoods-with-bank-of-america/.
Learn more about the Portland Community College Foundation and its Opportunity Center here: https://www.pcc.edu/locations/willow-creek/.