United Way of the Columbia-Willamette's dedication to racial equity continues to be the lens through which we do all of our work. Our focus on Housing Stability, Disaster and Crisis Resiliency, Early Education and Volunteerism allows our organization to create impact and build resiliency in our community. Read through our 2021-2022 Impact Report to learn more about how values, vision, mission and the great work our team is doing to build a more equitable region. This work is more important than ever, and we see this Impact Report as a document celebrating our work so far and aligning our team toward the work we still have to do. Thank you to our volunteers, employees, funded partners, donors and corporate partners. Our work is impossible without the support we receive from all of these aspects working in tandem.
View our full report in the link above. Below is a short snapshot of our areas of impact and the achievements our collaborations have resulted in this past year.
Disaster and Crisis Resilience:
Disaster Resilience Learning Network
After the devastating fires, there was a need to help communities foster strong resilience and support. Thus, the Disaster Resiliency Learning Collaborative was launched with the help of the Oregon Health Authority and Trauma Informed Oregon. This seven-week, multi-language pilot program convened 15 community-based organizations and 28 community leaders of color to focus on healing from the 2020 wildfires and the ongoing threat of climate related disasters in our region. After the educational program had finished, organizations who participated in the program were eligible to apply for a grant, and United Way of the Columbia-Willamette was able to provide funds to 12 community-based organizations totaling $179,000 for projects to build resilience for communities of color most prone to climate-related disasters such as wildfires, heatwaves and floods. The program proved to be so successful that the Oregon Health Authority awarded United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and Trauma Informed Oregon $415,000 to continue the work of this important program.
Multnomah and Washington Counties
Through our Early Learning Multnomah County and our Early Learning Washington County initiatives, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is helping kids — from their earliest learning through their high school graduation — show up for school prepared, confident and ready to succeed — because we know that a child’s chance of succeeding in school is largely determined before they even set foot in one. All too often, families of color get lost in an educational system built on exclusion and inequities. That’s why our programs are made to help each child succeed in school from the first day of kindergarten through the last day of senior year.
Eviction Legal Defense Program
With federal funds dwindling and eviction moratoria ending, our region is experiencing a spike in evictions and the trauma associated with the displacement. United Way of the Columbia-Willamette is dedicated to stepping in and ensuring our neighbors have their rights defended.
Last year, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette granted Oregon Law Center $200,000 to expand their capacity to provide legal help to families facing eviction. The grant allowed Oregon Law Center to recruit lawyers who reflect the communities they serve while also providing families of color access to multilingual eviction prevent support.
The support paved the way for Oregon Law Center, Portland Housing Bureau’s Rental Services Office, and Portland Community College’s CLEAR Clinic to launch the Eviction Legal Defense Program with $3 million provided by the Portland Housing Bureau. United Way of the Columbia-Willamette serves as an administrative hub and pays the costs to remedy evictions which may also include rent arrears for participants in the program. This collaboration serves those in our community receiving 30% to 60% of area median income, and many of the clients we have referred to the program are facing arrears of more than $6,000, the average eviction rate for Multnomah County. To date, we have helped prevent 165 households from becoming houseless through lawyer assistance and rent arrears. After years of pandemic disruption, the need for this support will only grow, and we look forward to expanding this important eviction prevention program alongside our partners.
Community Impact Week
For more than two decades, our Hands On Greater Portland team has hosted numerous volunteer projects during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend known as the MLK Weekend of Service. This year, we decided the best way to honor MLK was to amplify the work of other nonprofits dedicated to his work and shift our signature volunteer event to the fall. We are proud to introduce Community Impact Week which took place October 4 to 8, 2022!
Community Impact Week was a week dedicated to volunteer service with more than 30 projects and more than 600 volunteers across four counties — Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas and Clark. Volunteer opportunities highlighted our work that supports the mission and values of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette: early education opportunities, disaster and crisis resiliency, stable housing and, of course, volunteerism.
In line with our mission of advancing racial equity, we intend to focus on increasing the number of our Community Impact Week volunteer projects each year to serve communities of color and support racial justice initiatives. Volunteering throughout the week is a great way for individuals, family, friends and corporate groups to get out and support your local community.