Stories to Celebrate 30 Years of Service
30 Stories to Celebrate IHI's 30 Years of Service
To celebrate IHI's 30th birthday we gathered stories featuring a current or past resident, staff person, or community/business partner.

Mercedes is a teen resident who has participated in Innovative Futures for 8 years. See her story below.

The Community Warehouse
The Community Warehouse
The Community Warehouse
The Community Warehouse is one of IHI's great community partners. The Community Warehouse was founded in 2001 as a volunteer-run organization to help vulnerable populations improve the quality of their lives and become self-sufficient by providing them with basic household furnishings. Thirteen years later, they own and operate two Warehouse locations (Portland and Tualatin) and have paid staff, but they still rely heavily on over 100 volunteers to support their mission.

Tom Elston is the Community Warehouse's Portland Site Manager and is very familiar with the way they help many residents at Innovative Housing's properties. Most residents who utilize the Community Warehouse are in a period of transition and don't move in with many household furnishings. They are in the unique situation of having a new place to live, but almost nothing to put in it. The Community Warehouse is a great resource that people can access and receive almost everything they need to furnish their home. According to Tom, "The average household gets about $700 worth of furnishings for a $50 access fee." Nowhere in town can you get a deal like that, not to mention that the Community Warehouse is the only place where you can receive a used mattress that is guaranteed to be bedbug free. Kat Lentz, IHI's Resident Services Coordinator adds, "The Community Warehouse provides a warm and welcoming staff that make clients feel right at home. Individuals can walk in with just a backpack of belongings and a long history of struggle. In the same day they can walk out of the Warehouse with a household full of furniture and a fresh start to life. One tenant in particular was just released from prison. He had lived months on a broken, twin-sized bed and the only other thing in the room was a nightstand he found on the sidewalk. After a quick referral and trip to Community Warehouse, he was able to upgrade to a proper size bed and a room full of furniture and necessities."

Recently the Community Warehouse partnered with JOIN to study the retention rate of residents after utilizing Community Warehouses services. The study revealed the retention rates increased by 40% when residents furnished their new home with Community Warehouse items versus not furnishing their new place at all. Tom explains, "People that are homeless have a community that they function within. When they are given a place to live this helps them become stable and independent, but they are no longer within the community that they are used to and they are now living in this empty apartment alone. It makes a big difference when you are going to sleep on a bed instead of a floor. Community Warehouse helps make this possible and assists with making their new place more than just an empty box. We help people create a home. The study showed that people wanted to stay because of the dignity of having a functional, comfortable home to go to."

The Community Warehouse is a great resource for residents at IHI. Tom reports, "Our Warehouse is emptied and filled back up 5-6 times a week and we are serving 10-12 households a day. Right now, our turnaround time is a week with two Warehouses, but we are hopeful that in the future we will have more Warehouses and our turnaround time will be one day."

The Community Warehouse is always in need of donations. If you have gently-used furniture or household goods that still have life to give, please consider dropping them off at one of the Community Warehouse locations or visit their website to request a pick up at your house for a nominal fee.

Drop Off Sites

Community Warehouse, Portland
3969 NE MLK Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97212
503-235-8786 | Open Daily 10-4

Community Warehouse Tualatin
8380 SW Nyberg St, Tualatin, OR 97062
503-347-2147 | Open Daily 10-4

Visit them online at

Rene and Christian
Rene and Christian
Rene and Christian
Rene, 18, and Christian, 15, are brothers that have been involved with Innovative Futures for the past seven years. They have had the opportunity to participate in countless activities throughout the program but the one that sticks out the most is the Individual Development Accounts (IDA) and financial education program. In this program Rene and Christian were able to learn about goal setting and positive money management. Rene states, "The program taught me about bank accounts, credit cards, and loans and the importance of being financially responsible. It also showed me how to save money and that with a plan, it is actually pretty easy to save. At the end of the program IHI doubled the amount of money I saved and I was able to purchase an iPod touch." Christian used his savings to purchase two bikes, which he uses to ride to school.

One of the goals of Innovative Futures is to improve academic success of resident youth. Rene and Christian have both benefited from this over the years, but this has been especially important to them recently. This summer when Christian needed to take extra classes to stay on track for high school graduation, his family was unsure how they were going to afford the extra expense. IHI provided the funds for Christian to complete his classes the summer. Christian says he appreciates the Innovative Futures program because, "Emma would have homework time and that was helpful because I had a lot of homework." He is also very thankful to IHI because "them helping me pay for summer school has helped put me on the right track to graduating from high school." For Rene, IHI recently paid to help him pursue his GED - he is currently completing a GED preparatory class and plans to take the test early next year.

Rene and Christian both agree that the Innovative Futures program has given them opportunities that they wouldn't have had otherwise. They enjoy going on the field trips and volunteering. Rene and Christian both raved about the time they went to the zoo to volunteer. After they were done volunteering, the zookeepers took the group behind the scenes and they had the opportunity to see the elephants up close and even feed them! Rene states, "We would not have had the same experiences without the programming; our experiences would have been a lot different. I wouldn't have learned about the things they have taught. I really appreciate all the stuff they have done. The staff has helped by having a strong positive impact. They helped me get on the right track and pursue my GED. They actually care about me and aren't pretending to care. They want me to go to class and be a better person than what I was being. They have turned me around."

Dena's Story
Dena is 13 years old, going into 8th grade this year, and has been participating in IHI's Innovative Futures program for 2 years. During the school year Dena actively participates in IHI's after school program. She says, "I enjoy the after school program because they help me do my homework and encourage me to turn it in. We also go on field trips. My favorite was when we went to the library and saw a puppet show." In the summer Dena participates in IHI's summer lunch and activities program. She likes that IHI offers activities during summer because "It helps me stay more active instead of staying at home and not doing anything." Emma, IHI's Family Resident Services Coordinator, helped Dena find her first summer job, connecting her with residents who needed their dogs walked during the day. Her first dog-walking job allowed Dena to save money so she could go school clothes shopping at the end of summer. Dena is looking forward to the upcoming school year, especially her science class. Dena states, "My favorite subject is science. I enjoy building rockets and dissecting animals. When I grow up I want to be a nurse and hope to work in labor and delivery."

Betty's Story
"It has been a rough road but I've come a long way and I'm ready for the next step." That is how Betty describes that last decade of her life; it has been a winding road of homelessness, addiction, death, illness, and recovery. Here is her story.

Betty was first introduced to Innovative Housing, Inc. while living at the Clifford Apartments. She moved there with her husband in 2006, referred by Transition Projects Inc., after being homeless for 6 months. Things were better because she had housing, but she was still suffering from her addiction to alcohol. In 2010 Betty was thrown for a loop when her husband passed away. In addition to dealing with her grief, Betty was faced with a loss of income that affected her housing stability. Kat Lentz, IHI's Resident Services Coordinator, helped Betty get through this difficult time by paying part of her rent for a few months and helping her secure rental assistance from Northwest Pilot Project, a nonprofit that provides services to low-income seniors.

Betty knew she needed a change, so Kat helped her get on a waitlist and secure housing at another IHI property, Lyndon Musolf Manor, in downtown Portland. Unfortunately, just a few weeks after moving in, Betty began to not feel well. Luckily, Betty had already begun to form relationships with her new neighbors at Musolf and one of them found her and alerted a community partner, Father Dan, and Musolf's property manager at the time, Catherine. Father Dan and Catherine convinced Betty to go to the hospital, where she learned that she had suffered from a heart attack. Betty says, "I know that if it weren't for Father Dan, my new neighbor, and Catherine, I would have died in my room." That incident was a blessing in disguise. As Betty explains, "The time I was hospitalized also allowed me to become clean and sober."

For the last two years, Betty has focused on putting her life back together. She has remained clean and sober and is focusing on improving her health. Merri Gonsalves, IHI's former Benefits Specialist, helped Betty apply for and receive VA death benefits, giving her a reliable source of income. Betty's newest goal is to save money and move into an apartment with her daughter. Once again, Kat is assisting her with the planning. Betty is so thankful for her home at Musolf and IHI's assistance. She says, "Kat is my go-to person. Anytime I need anything she is the first person I talk to. She has helped me with paperwork, appointments, bus tickets, and clothes. If it weren't for Kat, there are a lot of things I wouldn't have accomplished. The support at Musolf is great - the people that come and provide meals and the activities in the community room. IHI has been my lifesaver. I recommend IHI housing for anybody that is starting out or trying to transition into something better."

Marcus Pack
This installment of Stories Celebrating 30 Years brings us the owner of Packasso Grooming & Barbershop, Marcus Pack. Marcus' barbershop is located in IHI's newest housing development, the Magnolia Apartments. Check out his story below.

St. Agatha Parish
This story features community partner St. Agatha Parish. Once a month they provide a meal at the Clifford Apartments.

This segment of Stories Celebrating 30 Years brings us Jacqueline.

Angie Harbin
This story features our very own Angie Harbin, IHI's Director of Housing Operations.

April's Story
There is a common saying; do the crime, serve the time. Criminals serve their time with the hope of one day re-entering society as a productive individual and getting their second chance. However, with a felony, the odds of finding housing and gainful employment are not in their favor. IHI understands that stable housing is critical for successful re-entry and we are working to reduce barriers to housing for ex-offenders. We also provide low-barrier housing with relaxed screening criteria and on-site services for people transitioning out of incarceration. The following is April's story.

April was referred to one of IHI's housing sites after being released from incarceration. At this particular site, IHI has a unique partnership with Luke-Dorf, Inc., a nonprofit that has two full-time staff at the building to provide case management and other treatment services to residents. April showed up ready to hit the ground running. She states, "It was so great having my Luke-Dorf case manager, Julie Lucisano, right on site. It made things a lot easier instead of having to travel to another location to receive assistance." Luke-Dorf provided April with counseling and helped her search for employment and improve her basic living skills. Luke-Dorf also connected her with community resources and, most importantly she says, "Provided me with support and guided me in the right direction." In addition to Luke-Dorf, April also received services from Moriah Krussow with Central City Concern. Moriah assisted April with finding employment, supplied her with clothing and bus tickets, and gave her support and encouragement. Soon April was working a part-time, seasonal job and saving money. With her savings and budgeting skills she was able to purchase a laptop, printer, and desk.

April says that everyone at the building was amazing, including the property manager, Luke-Dorf staff, and IHI's Resident Services team. April's disability kept her from working full-time. April was referred to Merri Gonsalves and Brittini Allen, IHI's Benefits Specialists, who assisted April in applying for SSI disability benefits and, after only 5 months (it often takes over a year), April was approved! April says the SSI income helps give her peace of mind since her other income doesn't cover all of her expenses. She reports "working with Merri and Brittini was a wonderful, pleasant experience. I am so thankful for all their knowledge, wisdom, insight, and understanding while working with me on my SSI."

After living at IHI's property for 6 months, April's support team was able help her secure an apartment in downtown Portland. She loves her new home and is still working part-time. April says she is saving to one day buy a house. She states, "[the housing and services] were a blessing and gift from God. I know I would be homeless if it weren't for them. The people are so knowledgeable and allowed me to be the best me. They respected, supported, and encouraged me but, most of all, didn't judge me."

This Fall will mark 3 years since Keith moved into Lyndon Musolf Manor, IHI's oldest and largest property. Referred to Musolf by his case manager at Transition Projects, Keith is very grateful for having a roof over his head and not being homeless anymore. Keith says that early in life he made a career of being a professional gambler, mostly playing Texas Hold'em. For many years he was able to live on his gambling income, but eventually he became homeless. He moved to the northwest in 1983 after his grandmother passed away. Keith says, "I've been homeless off and on for my entire life but this last stretch was about a year long. I try to look on the bright side of everything; being homeless allowed me to get a lot of exercise but I much rather prefer living here at Musolf."

While at Musolf Keith has worked with Kat Lentz, IHI's Resident Services Coordinator. Kat helped him sign up for an Obama Phone, a program that gives low income Americans free cell phones and 250 free minutes per month, and gives him bus fare to get to important appointments. Keith is also connected to the Macdonald Center, a community partner of IHI's. Keith says, "Macdonald Center helps me manage my money because of my gambling addiction. They are a nice place to work with."

He regularly participates in community activities offered weekly in the Musolf community room and can frequently be seen taking walks around Old Town. While he enjoys Musolf, Keith has hopes of finding a larger place to live (Musolf only has studio apartments) so Kat is assisting him with his search for an affordable one-bedroom apartment. Keith says, "I am thankful to IHI and for living at Musolf. On days when my depression is at its worst it helps me to feel better knowing there is a roof over my head and I'm not living on the street."

Gary Hartill
This segment of Stories Celebrating 30 Years brings us Gary Hartill, Principal and President of ORANGEWALLstudios.

This story features the story of James, a manager at two IHI properties.

Georgie is a mother of two sons and has lived at one of IHI's properties for 8 years. Throughout the years Georgie has been involved with IHI's Resident Services program in several ways. One year, Georgie assisted with IHI's summer lunch program in exchange for a discount on her rent and she volunteers regularly to help us distribute free fresh fruits and vegetables through Harvest Share.

A couple years ago Georgie became unemployed and was unsure how she was going to pay her rent. Emma Martinez, IHI's Family Resident Services Manager, connected her with community resources to help pay her rent. During that time Georgie's bank account was also hacked. Emma helped her contact her bank and credit reporting agencies and established a payment arrangement for her rent as she waited for the fraudulent charges to be refunded. Emma also worked one-on-one with Georgie to revise her resume - shortly thereafter she found a full-time job! Georgie states "it was a tough time but Emma connected me with so many resources on how to survive [when you lose your job]."

Georgie's sons have also been actively involved with IHI's resident services program. Her oldest son was interested in attending a local community college but needed to take his GED first. IHI paid for his testing fees and, after he passed his GED test and enrolled in college, IHI helped him purchase some of his books for class. Georgie's youngest son is actively involved in extra-curricular activities and when it came time for soccer to begin, Georgie was unsure how she was going to afford it. Fortunately, one of the goals of IHI's Healthy Generations program is to encourage participation in organized sports, so IHI provided funds to pay the soccer fees and purchase him a new uniform. Georgie says, "Emma has been really helpful. I feel like she has definitely gone out of her way to help us. Having Emma and IHI is a bonus to living here."

Georgie and her family are doing well. She is currently working full-time at Multnomah Falls Lodge as a cook and her oldest son is working part-time job to help cover his college expenses. IHI is happy that we could help Georgie through some hard times and appreciates her giving back to the community by volunteering at Harvest Share!

In this Story Celebrating 30 Years of Service we present Shannon's Story.

Raising four children is tough, but raising four children while dealing with a serious illness - almost unimaginable. Dyrenda does just that, although you would never know it. She has been living at one of IHI's properties for the last six years and has four children ranging from 8 to 24. Diagnosed in 2004 with lupus, it has been difficult but she doesn't let it slow her down. She is always on the go and never thinks twice about helping out; she is well known to IHI's Resident Services staff as someone who will always lend a helping hand when it comes to volunteering and programming. Dyrenda has even sat on hiring committees and helped IHI interview new staff members.

In 2010, Dyrenda's son was the victim of a shooting. Fortunately he survived, but after the shooting Dyrenda was struggling to make ends meet. Emma Martinez, an IHI Family Resident Services Manager, assisted the family with food and other resources, and connected Dyrenda with Innovative Changes for a loan to help pay her utility bills. Dyrenda is so thankful for everything Emma and Innovative Changes did and states "the water bill was really expensive - it is our most expensive bill. I appreciate them for helping out. Emma knows how much I love her brownies and she made some for me after the shooting. I needed that support and she gave it to me."

Dyrenda's son made a full recovery and the entire family is doing well. Her daughters are involved with Innovative Futures, IHI's youth program, and Dyrenda also remains actively involved. Dyrenda says, "I love Resident Services because they take a lot of stress off and they find things to do with your kids. I love how they work with the kids and respect the parents. It is a marvelous program they have in the apartments and one of the main reasons we live here."

The next feature in our Stories to Celebrate 30 Years of Service series is Markumn's Story.

Yasmin Castillo and her family moved to Portland in 2007 and have lived at an Innovative Housing, Inc. (IHI) property for the last two years. For 20 years Yasmin worked as a dental assistant, but three years ago she was laid off and hasn't been able to return to work. Yasmin's husband works two jobs to support the family but the drastic change in household income was difficult. Fortunately, Yasmin was able to access onsite Resident Services and assistance from Emma Martinez, IHI's Family Resident Services Manager. Emma connected Yasmin and her husband with Innovative Changes a nonprofit lender that IHI founded in 2010, where they were able to take out a short term loan to stabilize their income, catch up on past-due bills, and fix their car. Yasmin is so thankful for being connected to Innovative Changes and states that, "they are really flexible with the payment plans and work with you to pay off your loan." Emma also helped Yasmin's family access local food banks and receive assistance with an electric bill.

Yasmin has two amazing sons; one in first grade and the other a freshman in high school. Yasmin says the programs that IHI offers her sons have been "such a big help." Yasmin's youngest son recently started spending afternoons with Marisa Monteverde, IHI's Family Resident Services Coordinator. Yasmin reports that "they do all kinds of fun activities but he particularly loves the cooking projects." Her oldest son runs track and participates in IHI's onsite Youth Mentoring Program. IHI's direct services have also helped Yasmin's family - this fall IHI provided all the school supplies her sons needed and this winter IHI gave the boys warm coats. Yasmin says, "we are so thankful, this saved us hundreds of dollars because they [the supplies and jackets] are so expensive." Thanks to Yasmin and her family's participation with IHI's services, they have been able to maintain their household stability in spite of financial challenges and provide a great foundation for their children's academic success.

To kick off our "30 Stories to Celebrate 30 Years of Service" let us introduce you to Patrick Cudiamat. Patrick is an example of how quickly things can go from good to bad but also the perfect example of how one person can change your life. Patrick worked for the Iron Workers Union for over 20 years but suffered from a drinking problem - he would often drink too much and when that happened he would make some very poor decisions. Patrick also suffered from unbearable pain in his feet and had trouble walking and standing for extended amounts of time. The pain, coupled with a few bad decisions ending in multiple concussions, led to Patrick being unable to work.

In 2004, Patrick found himself without a home and unsure of his next steps. He began staying at shelters, utilizing Transitions Projects, Inc. (TPI) services when he could, sleeping on the streets, and couch jumping with friends and family when they would let him. He donated plasma so that he had some money to spend, but it wasn't nearly enough to live on. Patrick continued to turn to alcohol to self-medicate the physical pain and depression he was experiencing.

In 2008, he was selected to receive a year of free rent with a local organization and Patrick was sure things were going to work out. Patrick looks back at that year and all he can say is how quickly it went by. Before he knew it, he was on the streets again and back to the same old routine. TPI helped him sign up for some housing lists and, after a year of waiting, Patrick was contacted by Musolf Manor, an Innovative Housing, Inc. ("IHI") property, to let him know that his name was at the top of the list. Patrick jumped at the opportunity to move into subsidized housing and settled into Musolf Manor in July of 2010.

Shortly after moving in, Patrick recalls receiving a phone call from Merri, IHI's Benefits Specialist, asking if he would like to make an appointment to talk about programs for which he might qualify. He was unsure, but agreed to meet with her. Patrick says that was the best decision he could have made. Merri talked to him about applying for disability so that he could have a steady income and they started the application process. Patrick was starting to find hope and beginning to think things would change, but unfortunately he started to self-medicate again to cope with the pain and began getting into altercations with other Musolf Manor residents. After 15 months, he was asked to move out and found himself on the streets again in the winter of 2011/2012. Fortunately, Merri offered to continue working with Patrick even though he was no longer living at an IHI property. Patrick stopped by the office on a weekly basis to keep Merri updated - this weekly visit was the only consistent routine that he had during that time. Merri helped him stay focused and realize the poor decisions that he was making in his life. After almost a year of living on the street, Merri's persistence paid off: Patrick realized he needed to stop drinking and get his life in order.

In 2012, Patrick was getting ready to turn 55 and Merri talked to him about applying for his early retirement pension with the Iron Workers Union. Patrick was convinced there was nothing there because he had cashed out his retirement 6 years earlier. They contacted the union and were told amazing news. Patrick qualified to receive early retirement pension! This meant that he would have a permanent steady income. In October 2012, Patrick began to receive his pension but was still living on the streets. In January 2013, Merri helped Patrick sign up for Rent Well classes and two months later Patrick was able to lease his own apartment in downtown Portland. Merri continued to work with Patrick and in September he was awarded SSI. With his back pay, Patrick was able to pay off all his debt!

With a steady income and a place to live, things are looking much brighter for Patrick. He was recently notified that he would be receiving a section 8 voucher, which will reduce the amount of rent he has to pay (currently, he is paying over 70% of his total income toward rent). Patrick's experience working with Merri was great. He says, "She knew how to access everything. She would help with making calls and sorting things out. I didn't really have anyone else that could help." Patrick was depressed, homeless, and just couldn't do it on his own. According to Patrick, Merri "called him out when he was in the wrong and helped him stay positive through the whole process." He is thankful that Merri continued to work with him even after he left IHI housing. "Without Merri's support and knowledge things would have never changed - I will be forever grateful to her."