New City Initiative began in 2010 as a project of JOIN, a Portland-area nonprofit that supports people in their efforts to end their homelessness. The aim of the project was to build partnerships within the faith community towards the goal of ending homelessness. New City Initiative grew out of JOIN's experience with CUSINA, a grassroots cooking class program for formerly homeless people that began as a partnership between JOIN and a local church. The rich potential of such partnerships became clearly apparent; participants in the class not only learned life skills, they also retained their housing at a higher-than-average rate.
Watch 2009 "Everyday Heroes" segment on CUSINA program
In 2010, New City Initiative debuted its curriculum on homelessness, Building the New City, and invited congregations in the Portland area to experiment with new ways of building community with formerly homeless people. Congregations responded with a variety of creative community-building opportunities: glass art, music, hiking, yoga, even kickball! An analysis of these early programs strongly suggested that community engagement is one measurable indicator of housing success.
In 2011, drawing on the network of relationships within the restaurant industry developed through the CUSINA program, New City Initiative launched New City Kitchen, an innovative social enterprise program offering employment training and placement in the food service industry. In 2012, we launched our New City Kitchen catering business, which employs graduates of our training program to cater events.
In 2011, New City Initiative launched "Covenant of Hope," a project whereby congregations sponsored homeless families living in the emergency warming shelter, providing rent and utility support and community support to these families. Covenant of Hope grew out of a grassroots event sponsored and organized by New City Initiative, the annual Day of Homelessness Awareness. Congregations participating in the Day of Awareness responded to a call to action regarding severe overcrowding at the winter shelter. 22 congregations collaborated to sponsor 12 homeless families, raising over $32,000 in rent support. Covenant of Hope won the "Collaboration of the Year" award from Portland's Coordinating Committee to End Homelessness in 2012, and became the predecessor to the Village Support Network.
Healthy Sisters By Susanna Rempel, Associate Director Healthy Sisters has been a part of New City’s work since the summer of 2012. Over the last four years, 14 volunteer drive...