ANNUAL REPORT 2O12
"Please continue sharing generosity & compassion in your lives, thus honoring the memory of our special young woman."
--- Janice Sacks, mother of Niki Powell
It is impossible to provide an overview of Operation Nightwatch during 2012 without remembering Niki Powell. Niki's loss marked a spot on our timeline which has affected us ever since.
Yet Janice's gracious words have served as an inspiration. We have sought not to have our work interrupted, but to continue in our own gracious way extending the "generosity and compassion" to which she encourages us.
It's our hope that in doing so, the memory of Niki will indeed live on.
I The Hospitality Centers
Our work downtown continued at its usual levels in 2012, serving anywhere from 65 to 110 people an evening. The interactions fostered by a strong cadre of volunteers further built the reputation of Nightwatch among folks on the streets, and we remained a refuge for those who in the late hours of the day suffered a need for blankets, coats, or other items to get them through the night. In a couple of instances, the money we had in our Blanket/Socks Fund saved us, as we had to place special orders for blankets and socks when in-kind donations ran low and needs remained high.
Our greatest concern through the year centered on the future of our host, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. As are many small churches, St. Stephen's is struggling with dwindling numbers and demanding expenses. While it is an exemplar in providing services to the community, none of its activities serve toward providing income as insurance those services might continue. Though St. Stephen's is likely not facing imminent closure, the Board of Directors thought it prudent to begin investigating other options for a downtown "home" for Nightwatch in the event a crash should come.
2012 marked the first full year our SE Hospitality Center was in operation at the Clackamas Service Center. In the early months, only a handful of guests were showing up and we begged for volunteers. By the end of the year, the SE Center was often filled to capacity, both in terms of volunteers and guests. A real community has been born. Credit for it all is due to Del Nelson who, fully as a labor of love, keeps the whole thing running.
The Mobile Hospitality Center continues going out to SE on Friday evenings, serving another community that has come to depend on its presence. A rotation of volunteers organized by Peggy Gray of Lents Baptist Church manages the Fridays, including the service of a full hot meal.
II The Nightwatch Health Care Initiative
2012 was the year we launched the Nightwatch ealth Care Initiative. Aware that available health services were inadequate to meet the needs of the people we serve, our goal was to build a dependable network of volunteer health professionals to work through our downtown Hospitality Center and Mobile Hospitality Center to fill some of the vacuum. To that end, we used a grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund to hire Wendy Malcomson as part-time (12 hours/week) Health Care Coordinator for one year to get that network established.
The year proved to be quite the learning experience for us. Given liability and credentialing issues, opening a health care facility is not as simple as bringing a willing professional on board and hanging a shingle over the door. Research needed to be done and supplies procured. Wendy spent most of the first part of the year in those efforts, and our first health professionals only began offering their services at the end of September. They were students studying to become medical assistants who came to us through a partnership we had built with Heald College.
Since they have been on site, however, the need for health services has certainly confirmed itself. Over the course of only the first few weeks, our health volunteers have dressed various wounds, dealt with seizures, conducted a pregnancy test (and offered pre-natal counseling), diagnosed a case of sepsis, sending someone to the ER, and offered guidance to a number who simply sought a professional to talk about their diabetes, their recurrent headaches, or their alcoholism. Up to ten people a night have sought assistance—ten people a night who heretofore had been neglected.
At the end of the year, the state of the Health Care Initiative remains fragile. But our Board of Directors has established a Health Care Oversight Task Force under the leadership of Board member Dr. John Hardy to strategize how to continue at least our current level of coverage into the new year.
III Grants and Other Funding
The story of Nightwatch over the last few years—as evidenced even by the previous paragraphs—has been one of expansion. The motivation has arisen from our simple perception that over the past 30 years Nightwatch has been in existence, the homeless situation in Portland has evolved. No longer are homeless folks to be found dominantly downtown; furthermore, the greatest segment of the homeless is not single adults, but families. Yet service agencies have largely not adapted to this changing situation and many of those among the "new" homeless remain severely underserved. Thus, Nightwatch began its outreach in Southeast Portland. After others learned what we were doing in SE, we began receiving inquiries about possibly extending our outreach to other areas as well.
Yet with our current staff configuration, we were aware we would be unable to take any more upon ourselves unless we also expanded our staff.
To that end, we applied for—and received—a grant from The Collins Foundation. The grant for $18,000 over two years ($10,000 the first year, $8,000 the second) was to go toward funding a part-time Outreach Coordinator. In November we hired Mikaila Smith to fill that position. Mikaila, a social-work student at Portland State, had been working with as an intern but proved to have such aptitude in her position as to be ideal for the job. Mikaila intends to stay with us at least for the next few years, so she will become even better as her experience grows.
Nightwatch also benefitted this year from being included in Willamette Week's holiday Give!Guide campaign. We hoped to raise at least $2,500 through this campaign to meet a matching grant. By campaign's conclusion, we raised just short of twice that amount. The campaign, which encourages contributions by new donors, also brought us over 40 new contributors, adding a significant boost to our support base.
Also for the holiday season, the Nightwatch Board purchased a page in the Portland Business Journal's annual Book of Giving in the hope of cultivating corporate and business support. Unfortunately, there was no evidence of any return on that investment.
With our Mobile Hospitality Center being idle six nights of the week, we spent the year investigating options for putting it more into use. When the city of Portland greenlighted a project allowing churches to use their parking lots for car-campers, we offered the MHC to the churches as a resource their campers might use for its toilet and cooking facilities. We received no takers. (In fact, few churches were able to jump the hurdles to even take advantage of the city's largesse and put their parking lots to use.)
We also identified three areas of the metro area for the MHC to serve next because of their significant homeless populations: Rockwood, Gateway, and Vancouver. In conversation with Steve Kimes of Rockwood's Anawim Christian Community, we learned that many folks were already responding to Rockwood's needs, and Steve directed us to the St. John's neighborhood instead. Contacts with those in St. John's have been encouraging, and we will begin explorations there early in 2013.
We have also had conversations with folks in Vancouver. Some interest has been shown, and we will be continuing investigations there.
V Board Expansion
Our expanded and broadened efforts was felt on the Board level, as each new activity brought at least a couple of more balls into the mix that had to be juggled (the activity itself needed oversight, while volunteer, community, and financial support for it needed to be nurtured). Discerning that it was too small to succeed in keeping all the balls in the air, the Board expanded its size from nine to twelve members.
New members who came onto the Board this year were John Hoover, Eric Dahlin, Carolyn Norton, and Amanda Tabaka-Fernandez.
VI. Web site and Social Networking
We revamped our Web site this year using a new Content Management System (Joomla). While we hope the new site will prove to be more attractive and user-friendly to users, it also provides the advantage over our previous software in that content can be easily updated, so information will also be current.
Integrated into the Web site is a "Donate Now" button which allows convenient contributions. Prior to this renovation, we had been using PayPal as our vendor, which few people used due to its cumbersomeness. The "Donate Now" has evidenced its worth in that in 2012 brought us over $23,500 through donors' use of it.
In 2012 we also expanded our social media presence through Facebook and Twitter. We haven't yet built much of a Twitter following, but now have 216 Facebook friends.
VII Life After Niki
Needless to say, the death of Niki Powell prompted serious evaluation of our internal policies. We were soon to learn that it also led a number of other homeless agencies to also examine their own policies regarding volunteers and clients. But that fact in itself illustrated that all realized that what happened at Nightwatch could have happened to any of them.
In the wake of the tragedy, we didn't have to put a Boundaries Policy into place because we already had one. It occupied an entire page of our Volunteers' Manual. But there was no guaranteeing volunteers were actually reading the manual. Therefore we adopted the new practice of having all volunteers actually sign a copy of the policy as an acknowledgement that they had read and understood it. This new practice was introduced at a series of Boundaries Trainings that were offered both downtown and in SE at the end of August.
And wherever Nightwatch works in the years to come, we resolve to be extra vigilant so that we might pride ourselves in making ours a safe and welcoming place for all.