Two downtown social service agencies merging to help clients

From the Catholic Sentinel, October 2 2008

Two Catholic-based social service agencies in downtown Portland are merging.

The boards of directors of the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Center and Outreach In Burnside will meld operations within months. The aim, leaders of the ministries say, is to give more “effective” service to those who live in the low-rent hotel and apartments of Old Town.

Many of the clients to be served under the new plan are elderly or mentally ill.

Outreach In Burnside will come under the operational and financial umbrella of the Macdonald Center.

The larger Macdonald Center operation will provide care for 350 poor residents, many of whom are isolated in rooms. The alliance will prevent the need for residents to shift among service providers.

Overhead will also be reduced.

“At the Macdonald Center, we serve the invisible poor, people who live alone in low-income housing,” says Pat Janik, executive director. “They are isolated because of mental health problems, physical disabilities and addiction. Breaking down that isolation and helping them to live their lives with dignity is our mission. Adding the Outreach program will enable us to add another layer of services under a single roof, strengthening our ability to help them maintain their quality of life and independence.”

The Macdonald Center’s outreach program, focusing on the 21 single room occupancy hotels in the neighborhood, has volunteers visit more than 200 people a week.

The center, with its bolstered services, will make a priority of helping physically and mentally disabled residents keep their apartments, but also socialize. Services will include money management, housekeeping and personal hygiene support, help with navigating relevant social services and support with making and keeping doctor appointments and other commitments.

The center already operates a 54-unit assisted living residence for Medicaid recipients.

Richard Berg, founder of the Macdonald Center

Richard Berg, founder of the Macdonald Center

The Macdonald Center runs a service education program. Students from the University of Portland, Linfield College, Clackamas Community College, Portland State University, Mount Angel Seminary, Marylhurst University and Oregon Health and Science University work with the Macdonald Center visiting program to learn about poverty, social justice, mental illness and community building.

The non-profit is funded by foundations, grants and individual donations.

The Macdonald Center was long directed by Holy Cross Father Richard Berg, a former University of Portland dean and professor. Outreach In Burnside was founded in 1983 by the late Sister Maria Francis Waugh. It was known as the place that could help chronically mentally ill people when no one else could.