April 4, 2016

The posted rules of Breakfast Club: Respect each other, listen, be kind.
The posted rules of Breakfast Club: Respect each other, listen, be kind.
DCJ’s Mead Building hosts breakfast for offenders that are homeless every week day morning. Breakfast Club began over 10 years ago and has continued to be a safe, warm place for DCJ clients to go. It serves between 10 and 30 people on any given day. People come in as the doors open and make their way to the basement. They are greeted by a sign-in sheet (they must be referred by their Probation/Parole Officer (PPO) to be let in), fresh brewed coffee, and volunteers setting up for the meal. Three days per week breakfast is hot: eggs and meat, pancakes, or biscuits and gravy. The other two days provide cereal, bagels, muffins, and fruit.

Dave Riley, a corrections counselor with DCJ’s Assessment and Referral Center (ARC), welcomes everyone with a booming voice and a gentle smile, listing off the services ARC can assist folks with and welcoming them to come upstairs for help once they’re finished. As people line up to eat, Riley’s prepared with gloves on and juice to pour, asking people how they’re doing and following up on issues people have discussed with him before. Most of the people are regulars as Breakfast Club policy requires that they must come at least three times per week, but a few new people trickle in and sit down. The policy, says Riley, ensures there is enough food for everyone, but has also been helpful in keeping track of people and making sure they’re doing alright, “It’s a way for us to put eyes on them, connect and see if there’s anything else they need,” he says, noting that PPOs will come down and join their clients for a more relaxed interaction.

Clients laugh and joke with each other about their plans for the day and where they are headed. Friends cluster together in corners to check up on each other and encourage one another in their efforts to remain sober and successfully complete supervision. When the meal is over, people work together to get the chairs put away and the tables cleaned.

Collaboration is something that DCJ staff know well, and it is the crux of the success of the Breakfast Club. Volunteers of America supplies the food, Riley and his manager, Liv Jenssen, oversee the club, and two volunteers help set-up, serve, and clean up the room every day. The volunteers are former Breakfast Club attendees that want to give back, and have been assisting for about two years. “It’s really all because of the volunteers,” Riley tells me as he rolls up his sleeves, “I’m just here because I’m in the job, they show up on their own every morning.”

Commissioner Shiprack eating breakfast at a table with three DCJ clients.
Commissioner Shiprack talks with DCJ clients about their experiences on supervision.
  Recently, Commissioner Shiprack visited the Breakfast Club to thank the volunteers and show support for the program. She talked about the need for housing and safe spaces for people to go, and presented the volunteers with Sellwood Bridge commemorative pins.