The Vision of the Generations Project
Generations was envisioned to be an intergenerational community of stable housing for foster children, parents wishing to adopt, and community Elders. NAYA is proud to partner in this effort with Portland Public Schools and the City of Portland. This partnership led Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to designate Generations as an “Oregon Solutions” project, bringing multi-sector organizations together to collaborate on this project. An innovative and inclusive planning process resulted in a Declaration of Cooperation, signed in July 2014, by the partners, with Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Child Development Coalition, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Multnomah County, Lents Neighborhood Association, Capital Pacific Bank, Guardian Real Estate Services, Carleton Hart Architecture, LMC Construction, Legacy Health, and Social Venture Partners.
Phase One of the project opened in February 2017. With 40 units of affordable housing, Generations is a vibrant and thriving community.
November 13, 2017
In response to the Willamette Week article on November 8, 2017:
For more than 40 years, the NAYA Family Center has been led by resolute, passionate, and courageous community members who step up to meet the needs and challenges of our rapidly growing multi-tribal, multi-racial, and intergenerational community. We continue to steward our culture, celebrate our heritage, and strive for innovation despite the multiple social and economic barriers our people face due to past government policies and institutionalized racism.
One of the many accomplishments we’re especially proud of this year is our Generations project: a beautiful 40-unit, affordable housing project in Portland’s Lents neighborhood that NAYA co-developed with Guardian Real Estate Services, with the support of multiple partners including Portland Public Schools (PPS), Meyer Memorial Trust, Portland Housing Bureau, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Enterprise Community Investment, LMC Construction and Carleton Hart Architecture.
The vision for Generations is to create a multi-generational community where families will come together to create permanent bonds for some of our most vulnerable children. With the Generations project, we willingly took on the ambitious, albeit complicated challenge of creating permanent families for foster children by placing them with adoptive parents and resident Elders, who would share their wisdom and support, thus becoming positive figures in their lives.
We sought community input throughout the development of the project, and stretched our organization’s capacity, learning valuable lessons that will be applied to our future efforts. One of the biggest lessons we learned is the importance of having our target population ready to jump through the multiple, affordable housing hoops well before it’s time to lease the property. This is a critical process for a tax-credit driven, affordable housing project, and we had understood that the marketing for the project would target the intended populations to allow for the mix of Elders and foster families. Unfortunately, this was not so. Instead, the leasing application process focused on filling Generations with qualifying tenants as soon as possible rather than working towards the targeted model of elders and foster families that NAYA, its partners, and community envisioned. NAYA staff’s efforts to create the desired tenant mix, was met with limited success.
Generations is not a failure. We are proud that most of the Generations’ residents are people of color and that nearly half of its residents are Native American. We are proud to have completed this project on time and on budget, as we are Portland’s only Native American organization actively involved in affordable housing as owners, co-owners, and service providers. We have provided critical affordable housing relief during Portland’s on-going housing crisis, and developed a beautiful community where an unused school building and empty lot used to be. We have completed the first phase of this ambitious project, and with PPS’ partnership, we are still committed to completing its second phase – the Early Learning Academy and Long House. It’s an exciting venture and an important strategic initiative for NAYA and our new leadership team.
We grow by taking risks and we learn from our mistakes. In the immediate future, we will strive to achieve our vision for Generations by working closer with our property management company; increasing our staff presence and services at Generations; and by strengthening our partnership with the leadership at the Department of Human Services to facilitate greater collaboration between decision makers and the staff on the ground.
We are grateful to our many partners, supporters, donors, and advocates who have supported Generations. Thank you for believing and investing in our organization and Portland’s Native community. Now more than ever we need your support to help us move forward and continue to provide these critical community services.
Eddie Sherman – Diné/Umóⁿ’hoⁿ
NAYA Family Center Board Chair