There's no sugarcoating it: 2017 has been a hard year. The nonstop reel of gut-punching headlines makes glancing at your phone an exercise in heartbreak.
But when the going gets tough, the tough start giving.
This year has amply demonstrated that Portland is far from immune to the woes the rest of the nation faces, from natural disasters to violent hate attacks. But this city is also home to a remarkable array of nonprofits working to rectify injustice and aid the hurting.
Willamette Week's annual Give!Guide is live and accepting donations at giveguide.org. Giving has already surpassed $800,000 and is nearing 4,000 donors.
All 150 of the nonprofits in the Give!Guide are worthy of your consideration. Here are seven that work specifically to address some of the problems WW has identified in 2017 through our enterprise reporting.
Fighting to make this city better: It's cheaper than building a bunker. More satisfying, too.
The housing crisis
The victims of Portland's shortage of affordable housing can be seen each night in doorways and streetside tents. In August, for the first time, the number of homeless families seeking shelter on a single night reached 300.
Those families turn to groups like Human Solutions.
For three decades, Human Solutions has been helping low-income and homeless families find affordable housing. It runs a family shelter in East Portland, which provides year-round emergency lodging, food and other basic necessities.
The group also operates the Gresham Women's Shelter, which exclusively serves unaccompanied women. Both shelters allow people to stay as long as necessary, and have become increasingly strained by high demand.
"In the past several months, the number of people seeking shelter at Human Solutions has more than doubled," says Human Solutions' director of development, Scott Langen. "Such unprecedented and consistently high demand indicates the severity of Portland's housing crisis on low-income families."
Hate groups and hate attacks
Oregon Justice Resource Center
Trump-emboldened right-wing extremists have taken to Portland streets in greater numbers to spout hate-fueled rhetoric. In May, tensions exploded in a brutal, racially charged slaying of two men on a MAX train.
For six years, Oregon Justice Resource Center has been pushing back against white supremacy by working to improve the legal representation for Portland's underserved—people living in poverty and people of color.
The organization provides legal aid in cases in which social justice is an issue, and for people typically underrepresented by the legal system. It also aids in training public interest lawyers, educates the community on civil rights, and helps people who have been wrongly convicted to clear their names.
"Oregon will spend $1.7 billion on prisons alone in the next two years," says OJRC spokeswoman Alice Lundell. "But it's about more than money: We firmly believe that how we treat the people we have dubbed 'criminals' tells us everything we need to know about ourselves and what we value as a society."
Beginning in 2018, the organization will launch an Immigrants Rights Project to provide free, personalized immigration legal advice to non-citizen clients and Oregon public defenders.
Wildfires in the Gorge
Friends of the Columbia Gorge
Just two months ago, ash fell on the city like snow as the nearby, 48,000-acre Eagle Creek fire burned out of control in the Columbia River Gorge.
"The burn occurred in the most popular section of the Gorge, with the highest density of trail systems," says Friends of the Columbia Gorge membership coordinator Kate Harbour. "It damaged popular trails and destroyed four buildings, but thankfully no lives were lost."
In coming months, Friends plans to restore and replant lost forests, reimagine the Gorge's trail systems, and invest in local communities as they recover economically from the fire.
For years, the group has been working on a project to expand recreation opportunities around the Gorge—which now means new trail systems to replace ones that the burn closed indefinitely.
The organization's efforts to restore the charred forestland also includes barring legislation that could further deplete the area's natural resources.
"Your donations will help advocate for the natural recovery of the Gorge and stop a new bill that would allow logging in the area burned by the Eagle Creek fire," Harbour says.
4th Dimension Recovery Center
In Oregon, drug overdoses kill more people than firearms or car crashes, and the use of opioids has been hard for authorities to curb.
Tony Vezina, executive director of 4th Dimension Recovery Center, says 64 percent of the people who come to the nonprofit for help getting clean reported heroin or other opiates as their top drugs of use.
"We now see over 600 people a month coming in voluntarily," says Vezina of the 5-year-old recovery community center.
The mentorship model the nonprofit employs allows people to come and go from the center as they wish. The group connects people with salves, from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to church, yoga and dancing.
"It's so important that places like 4th Dimension exist, which are based on attraction versus mandatory compliance," says Vezina. "We have to be careful as a society to address the addiction part of this issue, not [just] the opiate part."
Raphael House of Portland
As WW reported this month in a cover story on domestic violence, leaving an abusive partner can be an agonizing and dangerous decision.
The Raphael House of Portland, a domestic abuse shelter, offers people the support needed to leave an abuser when they have nowhere else to go.
"Raphael House provides critical, life-saving services for hundreds of adults and children each year," says Brenda Kinoshita, Raphael House's director of development. "Without services like ours, some domestic violence survivors face the impossible choice between homelessness and returning to an abusive partner."
Each year, the nonprofit serves around 3,500 local survivors of domestic abuse. Many of the people seeking help from the organization come from marginalized groups.
"Seventy-five percent of those we serve identify as people of color, and of those accessing our Advocacy Center, 1 in 10 identify as LGBTQIA+ and 1 in 5 as immigrants," Kinoshita says. "Domestic violence affects people from all walks of life."
Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center & Foundation
Since last November's election, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have become more active in Portland, making arrests at local courthouses, hospitals and homes.
One effect of those crackdowns: Undocumented families are afraid to seek medical help.
"Our patients and families are rightfully nervous about the environment that exists for them in our community," says Serena Cruz, executive director of Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center & Foundation.
It's not a new problem. The health center was founded in 1975, after a 6-year-old migrant worker named Virginia Garcia, traveling from Texas to Oregon, died after not seeking medical treatment for a cut on her foot.
Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center & Foundation now provides culturally relevant health services to migrant farm workers and others with barriers to obtaining health care. But the populations it serves now increasingly fear coming into the clinic.
"I had a provider tell me that three patients in one day told her someone in their family had been deported," Cruz says. "We try to assure patients that we care about these issues and are ready to support them. Their fears are well-founded, but we do everything we can on our end to provide safety and security."
Untreated mental illness
Trillium Family Services
Perhaps no theme repeats as often in this year's worst headlines—from a mother whose stillborn child was found at a freezing East Portland bus stop to the MAX slayings—as Oregon's failure to help people in mental distress.
Trillium Family Services has been offering mental health care to Portland children and families since 1998. The health care provider says the key to successfully aiding mental health is to start early.
The organization provides treatment to more than 200 children at any given time and is ranked one of the top five most effective children's mental health organizations in the nation.
"Without the appropriate interventions," says community engagement director Stephanie Warneke, "people can experience major developmental setbacks to their academic or employment success, personal relationships, or general ability to thrive. Mental health is a main component of our ability to function."