Holistic Solutions to Combat Homelessness

Central City Concern (CCC) is a nonprofit utilizing innovative, outcome-based strategies to combat homelessness and poverty in Portland, Oregon. With initiatives including access to housing, integrated health care and opportunity employment, its comprehensive solutions are creating long-lasting impact.


Since its founding in 1979, CCC has helped many find a path to a self-sufficient life. Aside from initiatives like access to housing, primary and behavioral health care and an encouraging peer environment, CCC helps its clients gain steady income via job training and opportunity employment. Supplementing the training, specialists work with trainees to help them understand the employment process, think long-term about their career goals and develop skills like résumé writing and interviewing.


This approach allows participants to take charge of their professional lives and keep moving up into positions that pay living wages or better. Initially, many trainees lack confidence in their ability to succeed at any job. The organization believes preparing clients for a variety of career paths is the initial step to overcoming that fear.


Central City Concern is constantly looking for ways to improve training programs to help clients increase their self-esteem, enhance their commitment to positive change and pursue their individual career visions.


The organization has three, job training social enterprises in its wheelhouse:

  • CCC Clean Start provides street cleaning services throughout Portland, Oregon. Trainees remove graffiti, sweep sidewalks, and keep downtown free of litter and debris. Clients participate in this social enterprise if their career objectives lie in janitorial, maintenance or the trades.


  • On-Call Staffing provides 24/7 front desk coverage to CCC Housing buildings and other affordable housing providers. Trainees are typically interested in customer service, property management, security and building maintenance.


  • Central City Coffee sources, roasts and sells craft coffee in the Portland metropolitan area. Clients unable to work “on-call” (usually due to child care) will often select this social enterprise if they have the interest, and the aptitude, in office work, sales or customer service.


Though training programs can last up to 6 months, participants are actively working with their employment specialist to find permanent work, and many do so within 3 to 4 months. One of the many stories of success is that of past trainee, Amber. Once homeless, addicted to meth and trapped in an abusive relationship, she entered the Central City Coffee clerical training program shortly after getting clean. What began as bagging coffee and working the front desk soon turned to learning all the back office operations involved with running a small business. She has now joined the team as a permanent sales representative, lives with her family in CCC housing and pays fair market rent for her apartment.


Success stories such as Amber’s are frequent as the nonprofit continues to expand the impact of its community and personal development programs. Just this July, they completed and opened a 39-room apartment unit to its community of clients. The brand new facility is energy efficient, features solar paneling and is Earth-Advantage certified. The opening follows a fall 2016 initiative combining housing and health care, titled Housing is Health, which determines to raise enough funds to build a new clinic and much-needed housing units for low-income communities in North and East Portland.


Central City Concern joined SEA in 2017, to connect with other social enterprises locally and nationally. Learning best practices that can improve the quality of their own social enterprises is what they value most about SEA membership. 

To learn more about Central City Concern, check out their member directory profile.

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