Archive for December, 2009

December 23, 2009 · by Travis Phillips · PCRI

PCRI has long envisioned in-house development of sustainable, energy-efficient AND affordable new homes.  This week, we were delivered a gift of good news: approval of funding for these new homes.

“This is great news for PCRI staff and more importantly, great news for PCRI residents who have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to purchase these homes,” boasted Executive Director Maxine Fitzpatrick.

“This pilot project connects PCRI’s in-house housing development to its in-house program services, permitting a holistic approach to housing stabilization, asset building and wealth creation that combats generational poverty,” she added.

The four pilot homes (sketched below) will be built on two locations in North Portland.  The completed homes will be available for purchase by families earning 70-80% of area median income.

PCRI’s assistance to first-time homebuyers–programs like down-payment assistance, matched-savings Individual Development Accounts and homebuyer education–will be supplemented by a Portland Development Commission affordable housing subsidy.

Portland’s Energy Efficient Home Pilot program has also provided grants to offset the cost of additional insulation, high-efficiency heating systems and other design elements which ensure these new homes are at least 15-30% more energy efficient than other homes built to current energy codes.  These measures will benefit the new homeowners in the form of lower energy costs.

Other sustainability measures–like natural and recycled-content flooring, secure bicycle parking, stormwater diversion systems and water-efficient fixtures–compliment the energy-efficiency measures to provide a healthy and efficient home with low maintenance costs and as little impact as possible on our environment.

With the merger of affordability, sustainability and efficiency, PCRI is excited to get started on these new homes and to meet our goals–as well as the City of Portland’s–of increasing minority homeownership in our city.  We’re looking forward to an especially successful project with our project partners: eM|Zed Design, Kismet Design and Terrafirma Building.

“We are confident in [the project’s] impending success, which will lead to the full implementation of a long envisioned minority homeownership plan and additional development,” Fitzpatrick concluded

December 17, 2009 · by Travis Phillips · Uncategorized

PCRI staff let loose with our holiday cheer yesterday afternoon and got into the spirit of the season decorating our office.  For some families, however, this time of year isn’t filled with cheer and good fortune.

PCRI Christmas Decoration

PCRI employees have adopted two of our resident families this year in hopes of making their season a bit brighter.  With your help, we can spread some holiday cheer and help provide some basic gifts like clean, dry clothes.

One of our adopted residents is Martha, a single mother who immigrated from South Africa five years ago to find a better life for herself and her 14 children.  Only six of her children survived the journey.

Fighting terminal illness, Martha is not able to hold a steady job.  Still, she works hard to provide for her kids, supplementing her meager disability stipend by collecting aluminum cans so she have food on the table for her children.  Through it all, Martha’s faith and family give her the strength and positive outlook to do all she can to give her family everything she can.

PCRI's Frosty and Reindeer

Alice is the mother of the other family PCRI has adopted this year.  Since she’s been our resident, Alice worked 3-4 jobs as a caretaker to provide for her four children, but was just laid off from her only current job a few weeks ago.  While Alice searches for a new job, she counts her blessings to be able to spend more time with her children this holiday season.

PCRI employees are chipping in to help bring a bit of Christmas cheer to these two families by purchasing gifts–some as basic as socks and shoes–and gift cards for discount and grocery stores.  Check out these families’ holiday lists on our Facebook page.  Donations can be mailed or delivered to our office at 6329 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Portland.

PCRI Lobby Holiday Tree

While you’re in the giving spirit, please consider donating in our Community Centers’ Supply Drive (our Community Center wish list is on our Facebook page too).  It’s in our Community Centers that we provide programs to help our families achieve self-sufficiency, learn to build wealth and prepare for homeownership.

We also utilize the Community Centers to help residents connect to local resources and search and prepare for better employment.  And it’s where we offer kids’ programs too, like computer, music and art classes.  Donations to our Community Centers (things as basic as printer paper, crayons, markers and stickers) can also be brought to PCRI’s office as well as the Maya Angelou Community Center (Mon – Thurs, 3-7 p.m.) or Park Terrace Community Center (Mon – Thurs, noon-6 p.m. and Friday 2-6 p.m.).

As one other piece of goodwill for the season, the holiday trees that PCRI staff took a break to decorate yesterday will find their way to the homes of two PCRI families just in time for Christmas Day.  So, regardless of how you’re celebrating this season, we wish you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday!

December 9, 2009 · by Travis Phillips · Uncategorized

Record cold?  Check.  Icy wind?  Double check.  Freezing rain and snow?  On its way.  How does one cope with this frigid weather?  Here’s a collection of tips to make the best of it:

Arctic Blast 2008

Of course, keeping yourself warm is key.  If you’re reading this, chances are you’re in a place you can stay warm.  If not–or if you know someone who needs a place to thaw out, check out 211Info’s list of Portland-area warming centers.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to keep your own home toasty to cope with Arctic Blast ’09, there’s a lot you can do to help keep the warm in and the cold out.  And in the process, you’ll save money on your heating bill!

  • If you have draperies on your windows, open them during the day to let the sun warm the room.  But in the evening, close ’em tight: they will help act as a barrier against cold air coming off the windows.
  • Whether or not you have draperies, double-check that windows are closed tight.  Latch any window locks too–they will help ensure the windows are shut as snug as possible.
  • For your doors, check for any incoming cool air.  You can purchase or make draft stoppers that lie at the base of your door, keeping cold air from flowing inside.  In a pinch, a rolled up towel does the trick too.
  • Close any foundation vents (but make a note to open them in the spring so moist air can vent and doesn’t cause rot).

But don’t stop once you’ve tackled the drafts.  There are  a handful of other tricks to make the best of the situation:

  • If you can, rearrange your furniture away from cool spots in a room.  Feel a breeze sitting in your favorite chair?  Slide it to another part of the room where you’re away from the cool window or door.
  • Space heaters can be an option to heat a small area (and can cost less if you’re heating areas you don’t use).  BUT … space heaters can start fires too!  Make sure to keep clear space around the heater and definitely switch it off when you leave the room.
  • Use common sense with fireplaces, too.  Use a fire screen to keep sparks from flying into the room, keep plenty of clear space and always put the fire out before you leave.
  • Have a ceiling fan?  It works in cold weather too!  Look for a reverse switch which will allow the fan to push warm air back down into lower areas of the room.

Your home needs protection from the cold weather too, so don’t forget about its needs:

  • Disconnect and drain all outdoor hoses (and irrigation/sprinklers, if you have them)
  • Turn off outside water lines and open the outside spigots to drain standing water from the pipes.
  • To prevent water pipes from freezing, wrap outdoor faucets and pipes in unheated areas with an insulating material.  An old t-shirt or towel works for this, or hardware stores sell insulating “hats”.
  • In extreme cold, a trickle of water running from the indoor faucet farthest away from your main water pipe (where water enters the house) may help to keep indoor pipes from freezing.  Use cold water to avoid gas or electric heating charges. Just remember: a little bit goes a long way!

Finally, don’t forget your pets.  They need extra care in the cold weather, just like you and I do.

  • If possible, bring your pets indoors when the temperature dips below 30 degrees–with or without the wind chill.  Dogs and cats can get frost bitten ears, nose, and feet if left outside.
  • If Spot does stay outside, he’ll need a dry, elevated house with clean, dry bedding and a flap over the opening to keep drafts out.  Use plastic food and water bowls Spot’s tongue can stick to cold metal.  (Remember the flag pole in 3rd grade?)  Check throughout the day to make sure water bowls are not frozen.
  • Chemicals used to melt snow on sidewalks can irritate pets’ paws.  Wipe Fido’s paws when he comes inside so he doesn’t eat the salt, antifreeze or other chemicals used on snow and ice.  Cleaning paws is also a good time to check for injuries: his paw pads can bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
  • Keep in mind, indoor pets get less exercise in the cold months, so feed them less.
  • Outdoor pets are the opposite, give them more food. Outdoor dogs and cats need more calories in the winter to produce body heat.

Winter Sunrise over Mississippi Ave

Now that you’ve got that all taken care of … heat up a hot cup of tea, maybe come hot cocoa, sit back and enjoy these clear, sunny skies while they last!

Have more tips?  Don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments!

December 1, 2009 · by Travis Phillips · Uncategorized

Today marks World AIDS Day.  Though AIDS doesn’t take any holidays, the World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988 as an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on the global AIDS epidemic.

President Barack Obama took the opportunity to bring attention to AIDS with a proclamation including these sobering statistics:

Though we have been witness to incredible progress, our struggle against HIV/AIDS is far from over. With an infection occurring every nine-and-a-half minutes in America, there are more than one million individuals estimated to be living with the disease in our country. Of those currently infected, one in five does not know they have the condition, and the majority of new infections are spread by people who are unaware of their own status. HIV/AIDS does not discriminate as it infiltrates neighborhoods and communities. Americans of any gender, age, ethnicity, income, or sexual orientation can and are contracting the disease.

World AIDS Day 2009

For African Americans, those statistics are even more startling.  According to the  Kaiser Family Foundation, 2% of Blacks in the U.S. were HIV positive , higher than any other group.

African-American teens and women represented a particularly large portion of new HIV infections:  Black teenagers–only 15% of the US teen population–represented 68% of new teen AIDS cases in 2007 and Black women were infected nearly 15 times as often as white women.

While these statistics are startling, they are not a basis for fear.  HIV and AIDS are preventable, information and testing are easily accessible and confidential and treatments are more successful than ever.

Resources and support for people directly and indirectly affected by AIDS are vast.  In fact, PCRI is proud to partner with and provide housing for Cascade AIDS Project.  For additional resources, check out:

And remember the Forest Service’s owl?  You know the one that says, “Only you can prevent Forest Fires.”?  Well, the same goes for HIV and AIDS: only you can prevent them.

  • If you are sexually active, use condoms
  • If you use intravenous drugs, use clean needles
  • Get the facts
  • Speak openly and ask your partner to do the same
  • Act with respect
  • Get tested … and re-tested

Cascade AIDS Project: Communities of Color Initiative

As with President Obama, PCRI takes this day in particular to honor “the extraordinary advancements we have made in the battle against HIV and AIDS, and remembering those we have lost.”