By Ellen Spitaleri
When Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish died in January 2020, the metro area lost a beloved and resolute city activist who prioritized affordable housing and accessible green spaces for those too long denied.
Fish died as Human Solutions was developing a six-story, affordable housing community and service center in the Gateway neighborhood adjacent to a new city park. It felt very appropriate to name the housing after him, said Lisa Frack, Human Solutions Communications & Development Director.
“Nick was well-respected and a dedicated advocate for affordable housing and parks access. He knew SE Portland well. All the pieces fit,” she added.
Frack said The Nick Fish housing community, near Gateway Discovery Park at NE 106th Ave. and Halsey St., began leasing apartments in March, but pandemic restrictions have delayed a grand opening celebration.
“We look forward to having a celebration as soon as it is safe to do so,” she noted.
Human Solutions co-developed The Nick Fish with Edlen & Co.; a project designed by Holst Architects. It offers 75 affordable and market-rate apartments, many with views of the new park, which includes a plaza, a playground, outdoor seating and more.
Along with the apartments, Prosper Portland will own and operate 11,000 square feet of retail space in the building dedicated to small local businesses. The offices of Human Solutions are located on the second floor, though most staff are still working remotely due to pandemic restrictions.
The organization is a nonprofit dedicated to countering the forces that keep people and communities in poverty. They partner with people and communities impacted by poverty to achieve housing and economic security. In addition to The Nick Fish, they currently operates 16 other affordable housing communities across East Portland and East Multnomah County.
“Our programs are funded predominantly through government contracts, with the rest coming from generous individuals, foundations and corporations,” Frack said.
During the pandemic, she noted “our services were needed more than ever, as we work with the community most impacted by COVID-19.”
Due to its critical mission, Human Solutions’ funding did not dry up during the pandemic, allowing the organization to meet the increased needs of East Multnomah County residents, Frack said.
“Our services evolved to meet the growing and changing needs in our community. For example, we didn’t distribute food boxes or cash cards before COVID-19 but needs changed and we adapted.”
In addition to developing affordable housing communities, the organization operates three emergency shelters:
• The Lilac Meadows Family Shelter – accessible to families, defined as one or more adults with at least one minor child, or individuals in their third trimester of pregnancy.
• The Gresham Women’s Shelter – for adults who identify as woman, non-binary or genderqueer.
• The Chestnut Tree Inn – a newer shelter in a motel near Mall 205, for adults who identify as women, non-binary and genderqueer who are vulnerable to COVID-19.
Human Solutions partners with 211, The Gateway Center and A Call to Safety to screen for eligibility and coordinated intake.
They also offer an array of other programs to help people have housing and economic security, including after-school mentoring, employment programs and utility assistance.
For employment programs, Human Solutions “works with folks facing high barriers, including those experiencing homelessness or coming out of or impacted by the justice system,” Frack said.
The best way to contact the employment coaches and access utility assistance is by calling 211 or Human Solutions directly at 503.548.0200.
People who want to help can do so in two ways: by volunteering or donating money. Frack notes the organization can’t solve homelessness overnight or by itself – it needs the community’s assistance.
“We need to focus on the main issue; people need a place to live — this is a humanitarian crisis,” she said.
She also recommends that people educate themselves and get involved with an organization that engages with those in crisis.
“We invite folks to see this situation as the humanitarian crisis it is. Please, don’t focus on the trash, but on the humans in need who are also deserving residents of our community. That’s the real issue facing us right now,” Frack said.
“We need to support each other. We all live in the same place and every one of us deserves a safe place to call home.”
Image by Holst Architects