2020: A Year In Review

December 27th, 2020

As this unforgettable year comes to a close we’re taking a moment to look back at all our community has experienced over the course of these past 12 months—a moment to reflect on all this year has illuminated and to celebrate the strength that’s emerged from all corners this place we call home. 

Here’s a look back at 2020 through our eyes, a look back at how together with YOU, we made an impact at a time it was needed most. 

Just as we’ve done over the past 55 years here at Impact NW, we continued the work to keep thousands of our neighbors safe, strong and stable in their own homes. By uniting with individuals and partners from all across our community, we kicked off the year strong, working to deepen our connections and to expand our reach to more neighbors in need. 

In early January 2020, long before the realities of the year became clear, we quietly kicked off the first phase of a campaign to raise $1M for our Homelessness Prevention Fund; ensuring that our vulnerable neighbors stay housed during the housing crisis. The pandemic hit our community and our Fund became needed, more than ever.

We went virtual with our fundraising events and watched as our shared community united to meet the need! Throughout the year we saw small business owners, corporate partners, community leaders, teachers, parents, actors, and activists step up to support a mission that affects us all. 

As news began to spread of the pandemic’s emerging impact on our community, Executive Director Andy Nelson voiced a call for support, a call for unity putting to words what we all felt, that: “Our Neighbors need us now more than ever”

We Responded and Stepped Up to Meet the Need:

Over the course of this year, we saw a 4x increase in demand for our stabilizing and strengthening services. Access to basic needs, food and transportation for homebound seniors and rental and energy assistance for vulnerable families—all necessary supports for our neighbors to remain stable and strong in their own homes. 

Impact NW staff responded and shifted efforts, based on individual families’ needs. Pictured below can be seen examples of deliveries of essential household items to homebound seniors, housing-insecure households, and distance-learning students and their families.

It took little time for our neighbors to step up and we received the first delivery of hundreds of pounds of food and essential items just days into our No Place Like Home campaign!

Impact NW Staff organizing essential items and food.
Impact NW Staff Organizing Essential Items

Over The Course Of This Year, We: 

  • Stabilized 2,500 households,
  • Supported 3,000 students and their families,
  • Provided 250% more in client assistance,
  • And we prioritized BIPOC Communities.
Stacks of Food for No Place Like Home

We Stood Up For Justice:

We started off the year by signing on as supporters for HereTogetherOR’s homelessness services measure #26-210, helping it to pass on the Spring ballot and expand access to social services in our community, resulting in increased capacity of our service providers, a stronger more capable populace, and a more united community as a whole. 

Our Advocacy Committee took a more prominent role and developed a framework for publicly supporting and advocating for the communities we serve through policy change. And in the Fall we put this framework to the test by supporting:

  • YES on Measure 26-213, Portlanders for Parks,
  • YES on Measure 26-214, Preschool for All,
  • And YES on Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act.

Each of which successfully passed and will help to advance the mission to Prevent Homelessness in our community.

COVID’s arrival in our community brought along with it a spotlight on the long history and ongoing realities of racism and structural inequalities intertwined throughout our community and the world at large.

Knowing the disproportionate impact of health crises on the communities we serve, especially our BIPOC neighbors, we began to step up our learning, listening and understanding. 

Internally, we increased our efforts to examine our policies and practices in order to improve as a culturally-responsive, anti-racist organization. And externally we sought out opportunities to learn and grow. Opportunities to lift up our neighbors doing the important work to advance the cause for equality and justice. 

As news of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing rise support for Black Lives Matter began to spread, we saw as our community again united to stand up for justice. 

We put out a message of solidarity:

“Both as an organization, and as members of the community we serve, we stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and continue to work to advance the movement in the aim of an equitable community with opportunity for all. We’ve put together this list of resources to help us all Learn, Support, Advocate and Amplify Black voices.”

And then exacerbated by Breanna Taylor’s senseless killing, we again joined our neighbors in the call for justice. And we collected and shared resources: Anti-Racist Resources: To Learn, Support, Advocate and Amplify Black Voices

Like so many of our community partners, we established Juneteenth as a paid holiday for all Impact NW employees to allow space for each of us to support our Black community and to celebrate, reflect and recognize the importance the day holds. 

We Teamed-up with Community Partners 

Knowing what it takes to prevent homelessness—a coordinated and connected network of individuals and organizations alike, uniting together their individual strengths and generosity to make an impact, we teamed up with community partners like Bank of America y Rick’s Custom Fencing and Decking to organize essential supply drives throughout the year in order to connect people with essential household items. 

Essential Items for Vulnerable Families in front of Impact NW's Logo

We Adapted:

Like everyone across the community, we saw our work and the happenings of day-to-day life change as we worked to keep up with the need!

Pictured here is Kay Erickson, a Clark County Housing Program Specialist busy connecting with program participants and adapting to the new virtual space! Our housing team quickly responded to their new environment and continued to connect people with stabilizing and strengthening services. 

Kay working from home
Impact NW Staff Member Holding Free Lunch Sign

And our school-based staff, with schools closed and the dynamics of their work changing dramatically, found ways to adapt and fill the gaps for families all of a sudden having to adjust to distance learning.

Marysville Elementary SUN Site Manager, Audrey Rozell, is pictured here busy helping to distribute food to students and families in need while schools remain closed due to COVID-19!

“My new job as a sign holder at Woodmere Elementary, encouraging parents to pick up free lunches for their kids! I don’t twirl it, but I was hula hooping with it for an hour.”

Impact NW operates nine SUN schools throughout Multnomah County. We offer extended day academic support, personal enrichment, and a fun, safe space for students and their families. SUN is more than an extended school – it is a place for learning, fun, community connection and support. Throughout 2020, our SUN team has adapted and worked to connect families with necessary essential supplies for at-home learning! 

And we found new ways to connect with those we worked with . . .

A thank you letter from a student

We adapted alongside our partners in the community to meet the changing guidelines and to continue operating our Community Food Basket—ensuring our neighbors had safe regular access to healthy, nutritious food throughout the year.

We Cared For Our People:

Internally, we continued to offer Culturally Responsive Community Care and grief support to all Impact NW staff. Dubbed “More than 8 Hours,” the aim is to provide acknowledgment of the additional work folks are doing right now as well as the impact of the events in our community and to provide opportunities for culturally responsive community care. 

This included the creation of additional Affinity groups and regularly held supports, trainings and opportunities, as well as additional self-care days, COVID leave, extra supports for those with children and continued “Hero Pay” to our incredible staff members working in person with the communities we serve. 

And We Saw a ‘Flame of Hope’ 

 Looking back at this year—amidst the challenges and uncertainty—what emerged is something powerful: A Flame of Hope

Looking back we see the power of a united community, we see that our mission to prevent homelessness is indeed achievable and that we’re on the right path. We see that when united, our community can achieve so much.

We know what it takes to Prevent Homelessness. Together, alongside you, we’re making it a reality.

It’s because of our neighbors like you, and the countless artists, entrepreneurs, and community partners that our community is stronger today than it was yesterday and why we’re prepared to meet the need in 2021. 

There’s still time to make your impact this year! Follow the links below to make a difference: