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Celeste is a single mom who lives in Central City Concern’s Hazel Heights residential building. She works in downtown Portland at the Maybelle Center, but her hours were cut when COVID-19 first caused Oregon’s economy to slow down.
Celeste had been sick and taken time off work to recover. She was behind on her bills and had missed a rent payment. So even before the pandemic she was barely hanging on — a feeling she knew all too well.
Four years ago, when Celeste arrived at CCC, she was pregnant, homeless and struggling with addiction to methamphetamines and heroin.
After her son was born, social services workers told Celeste she couldn’t take her baby with her when she left the hospital. He’d need to live with her relatives or enter foster care.
At that point, she made the choice to enter recovery. Celeste moved into CCC’s Letty Owings Center, a residential facility for pregnant or parenting women.
“For so long I felt alone, she says. “Then I walked into a home with 25 other women and their children going through the same thing I was going through.”
That decision helped her turn things around. With support from CCC, she got her baby back and moved from Letty Owings to Hazel Heights, where she took workshops to gain parenting and financial skills. She also joined a CCC job training program, learning leadership and technical skills that she used to apply for permanent work with the help of CCC’s Employment Access Center.
After multiple job offers, Celeste signed on at the Maybelle Center. She’s been there ever since, helping low-income Portlanders build community and overcome social isolation. “When I take these resources, I know how much it means for it to come back to me,” she says. “I needed the help, and it was there.”
Being involved with CCC meant that Celeste had community around her — and that held true even during the COVID-19 shutdown. When her hours were cut, she didn’t lose hope. She knew there were people who could help her figure out what to do.
Like many of her neighbors at Hazel Heights, Celeste was able to access rent assistance funds provided to CCC residents through grants and individual donations. The money helped her get caught up and keep a roof over her family’s head.
For people like Celeste, even one missed rent check can be the difference between relapsing and staying on track. “Nobody chooses to be an addict,” she says. “But you can choose to be in recovery. I make that decision every day.”