Last November, 18-year-old Pedro Delgado participated in the electoral process for the first time. His mother, María Del Pilar Delgado, immigrated to the United States in 1991.
Maria is a green card holder and Pedro is a U.S.-born citizen.
Maria works at Unite Oregon, an organization dedicated to addressing racial and economic disparities and improving the quality of life of immigrants, refugees and people of color in Oregon. Having worked with and volunteered with nonprofits, Maria learned about the services the Multnomah County Elections Office provides, including language services. Elections staff provided her with voter information that led to her son successfully casting his first ballot at the Elections Office.
For Pedro, voting represents more than his singular vote, but also the well-being of his family. His mother endured domestic violence and struggled to make ends meet in search of a better life in Oregon. Voting is a way to honor the sacrifices his mother made to provide a better future for her family.
In 2014, Carole Hinojosa was arrested for assault in Southeast Portland. With previous drug convictions she was looking at nearly six years in prison.
Carole learned she was a candidate for the Multnomah County Justice Reinvestment Program through her attorney. Justice Reinvestment is a program that provides community-based sanctions, services and programs that are designed to reduce recidivism, decrease the county’s use of imprisonment while protecting public safety, and hold offenders accountable.
She was required to undergo a rigorous assessment and evaluation which included information on impact to the victim. She was sentenced to five years probation and four months of intensive probation.
As part of the Justice Reinvestment program, she had a customized plan which included: mentoring, therapy, transitional housing and drug and alcohol treatment. Her parole and probation officer Jaime Tynan, often gave her rides to treatment. Once she completed her four months of intensive probation, she moved into a recovery home.
In 2015, Carole relapsed.
“If you relapse, they’re willing to help you as long as you’re willing to help yourself. I relapsed for one day. I called my (probation officer) and I told her they’re going to let me move into my second chance housing and my treatment was going to let me re-engage. So because I fixed my own problems that’s what the Justice Reinvestment model is suppose to help you do - is help you fix your own problems without making it worse.”
Today, Carole lives in her own apartment. She is a certified mentor and is studying at Portland Community College to become a drug counselor. She just met her grandchildren for the first time in March 2017.
Jaques Montgomery was a 19-year-old college student when he joined Multnomah County’s Division of Assessment, Recording and Taxation as an intern. Today – at the age of 25 – he is a state-licensed residential appraiser with the county and is the first person among his family and friends to own a home.
Jaques attributes much of his success to his personal drive and the opportunities Multnomah County’s College-to-County Mentorship Program granted. The College-to-County Program focuses on students from underrepresented communities and low-income families in the hopes of recruiting them for careers at the county.
After graduating from Warner Pacific College, he completed his second county internship and earned his appraiser’s license from the state of Oregon. Within weeks, he was hired by the county’s Division of Assessment, Recording and Taxation as a temporary employee. Four months later, he was hired on as a full-time, permanent appraiser.
Rob L was a teenager when he lost his one-year-old Siamese cat Matzah. Now, he is a newlywed and a recent homeowner who was reunited with his long-lost senior cat in January after 13 years apart thanks to a Multnomah County Animal Services microchip.
“It’s crazy to see now, married, in a house. I’m in the position that my parents were in, and now the cat is back, and sleeping on the bed ... It’s surreal to wake up and he’s there, happy, and sleeping. He doesn’t do much because he’s older now, but we want to give him a good end to his life.”
Rob’s family adopted Matzah as a kitten to be a companion for another Siamese cat. Matzah was micro-chipped in 2003, when embedding microchips in pets was still a very new practice for the Humane Society and animal shelters. He went missing after living with Rob and his family for only a year. In December 2016, Matzah was found as a stray by Multnomah County Animal Services. His microchip was scanned, and staff contacted his original owners.
Matzah’s story is about hope for pet owners. Licensing, vaccinating and keeping microchip contact information current can help reunite lost pets with owners, no matter how long the animals may be lost.
At 38, the U.S. Navy veteran was doing great. He’d just been promoted to supervisor at Pacific Power. He’d gotten a raise. Then, he started having trouble walking. One day, he fell and got a concussion. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Soon, Daniel couldn't work, fell behind on bills and lost his housing. He slept on family and friends' floors, in his car, and in a residential program. He finally called Transition Projects’ Veterans Hotline and got enrolled in Supportive Services for Veteran Families. SSVF helped him get federal support and connected him to resources at the Veterans Administration to improve his health care. Through the county’s local match efforts, he received a federal housing voucher. A landlord stepped forward with an apartment near his young daughter. Today, Daniel is training to become a mentor in the Transition Projects program and planning a nonprofit to help people with disabilities be able to have healthy, easy meals they can prepare themselves.
“I would not have been able to do this without housing, I would not be able to be there for my daughter.”
Wendy Shumway, 45, knows the difference health care makes. After a domestic violence assault left her with seizures and permanent organ damage, she became homeless. She often slept on park benches near the Justice Center because it felt safe.
She also suffered. She had three to four seizures a day, terrible skin infections, and painful boils from a drug- resistant staph infection. She often wound up in the emergency room, where she was known as a “frequent flier.’’
She recalls feeling retraumatized by health care officials, “who labeled me many times as a drug-seeking hypochondriac,’’ she said.
Then, through the Affordable Care Act, she got health insurance. Today, she sees her provider regularly at the county’s Northeast Health Clinic and a dentist at the county’s Billi Odegaard Clinic. She gets medication through the county pharmacy and sees a neurologist. She has restored relationships, moving in with her mother, is close to her children, and is active in her church. She also advocates on several health care boards including the Neighborhood Involvement Committee for the Health Department Headquarters.
“Getting health insurance changed my life,’’ Wendy said.
Jazmica Weathers remembers feeling nervous the first time she picked up a knife in the hotel kitchen where she is an intern.
“I had never held a knife before in my life. It was scary!” she said. “But they helped, and I’m not so scared of knives anymore.”
Midway through her nine-month program, the 26-year-old has cut, cooked, and prepared food in the kitchen and worked at the hotel’s front desk. By her standards, Jazmica is flourishing.
Jazmica participates in Project SEARCH hosted by Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Airport. The program is a partnership between the hotel, Multnomah County Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services Division, Albertina Kerr and Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation to provide workforce development that benefits people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the community and the workplace. Jazmica will do three rotations during the program. She spends 30 hours per week at the hotel, both working and receiving class training on everything from resume writing to communicating with coworkers.
“I’m proud of myself because I am doing things I’ve never done before and I’m getting really good at them,” Jazmica says. “I know what a real job feels like. I never thought I’d be able to be as good at things as I am.”
Once Jazmica graduates from the program, she wants to pursue a job coordinating activities at a nursing home. She says her internship has prepared her to take on more job responsibilities and overcome personal challenges. Her goal is to one day live on her own with her fiance and to be self sufficient.
Each day when she leaves her job, supervisors ask two questions. “What was the best part of your day?” and “What was the challenging part of your day?”
Jazmica often struggles to answer the latter. “Can I share two best parts?” she asks.
In 2015, Randi was counting her blessings. She had her sobriety. And she had a husband who earned enough that she could stay home and raise their daughter and son (and their hamster, cat and two dogs).
But then her husband went back to using – and took off. He hadn’t been paying the bills. Their car was repossessed. An eviction notice arrived.
Randi borrowed her father’s red Fiat. The whole family, kids and pets, crammed in with her. They stayed at her mom’s a few nights. But some nights they all slept in the car. Eventually, Randi put up a tent on the Springwater Corridor trail. That’s where another camper told her about JOIN.
JOIN helped with food stamps. The nonprofit, which helps support the efforts of individuals and families as they transition off the streets, enrolled her children in state health coverage. The organization paid the back rent on her old house, so she could move back in. JOIN even helped with Christmas presents.
In April 2017, Randi unwrapped her family’s first real portraits since her husband left. Her kids, thriving in school now, were beaming. She’d wanted to give up, she said. She knew she couldn’t. They needed her.
“I was scared, but they weren’t,” she says. “Because I was there.”