Lisette and Elijah outside their new home. Photo Credit: Community Action

A safe place for my son

Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020

For most, home is a place of comfort, safety, and rest. But unfortunately for the 1 in 3 families in our region who are unable to pay for basic needs, and have to make difficult  choices between paying for rent, and other necessities, the reassurance of a safe place to call home becomes less attainable. 

In Oregon, 53% of tenants paid their monthly rent during the pandemic by cutting back on food and medications? Half dipped into savings. 34.8% of tenants now owe back rent and 56% of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) tenants owe back rent. These families are at the highest risk of becoming houseless this winter.1 

Families like Lisette and her 13-year-old son Elijah who struggled moving from place to place in temporary shelters and sometimes even having to sleep in her car. But when her car broke down, they ran out of options. Being a single parent with no place to live, she was terrified of losing Elijah because she could not provide a safe place for him.

Without a vehicle and being out on the street without a place to stay made it incredibly hard for Lisette to feel like she was able to fulfill her duties as a responsible parent and making sure Elijah had a place to do homework.


“I can’t provide a safe place for my son. That is my worst nightmare, the biggest fear I have.”

United Way of Columbia-Willamette's Resilient Families Initiative provides supportive housing services, prioritizing families of color with the highest risk of being displaced and diverts these families from becoming houseless.

Through support from United Way’s nonprofit partner, Community Action, Lisette and Elijah were connected with resources like transportation, food and shelter to help them move forward and become self-sufficient. She was able to get on a temporary housing program while she was added on a list to get permanent housing. Finally, they were able to move into their new home.

Your generosity has made it possible for United Way to provide short-term rent and utilities assistance to over 4,158 families in the last year alone. This support allows families to focus on their mental health and well-being, including mitigating potential chronic health issues related to being houseless. 

“I can’t tell you what it’s like to be back in society. I’m no longer homeless with my son and I don’t have to worry about where we’re going to stay or what we’re going to eat.”
“To have your dignity back and be treated like a normal person, it is a blessing.”

But our work isn’t done. There are more families across this region who need our support. In the wake of COVID-19 and the economic downturn, your support will help our community recover, become more resilient, while building a more inclusive and equitable region where all families have the resources and opportunities to thrive. 

This #GivingTuesday give the gift of helping a family have a safe place to call home. It starts with YOU


Donte today to help families become more resilient


1According to a survey conducted in September 2020 by Portland State University and the Community Alliance of Tenants.

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