Transition Projects: Christine Kidwell
Fifty years ago, Reverend Gilbert N. Lulay leased a hotel in Northwest Portland to house homeless men. By the following year, Rev. Lulay had founded Burnside Projects, along with the help of thirteen churches. Over the next decade, Burnside Projects grew to include an adult shelter, a youth shelter, a day shelter, an employment program, and a drug and alcohol outpatient program, as well as other facilities. Through the following decades, Transition Projects has expanded and flourished, providing shelter, services, and support to vulnerable populations, ensuring that those who are struggling are treated with dignity.
As an organization, Transition Projects continues to strive forward with the idea that housing is a human right. Their mission statement puts it in no uncertain terms: “Everyone should have access to shelter, food, and safety; people are experts in their own lives and best able to determine their needs; homelessness and the systems driving homelessness create deep personal and collective trauma; and to end homelessness, the community will need to address its drivers, including economic inequality, institutional racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination.”
The purpose of Transition Projects is not simply to provide shelter, it is to help to transition people from living on the streets into housing in Portland. As an agency, they offer caseworkers, healthcare, mentorship, and a variety of resources. Every day they help meet the needs of nearly 500 people, and offer safe places to sleep for more than 800 people. Each year they help place over a thousand people in affordable housing, and help them to retain that housing as well.
Their tireless volunteers have helped to elevate their objectives since 1969. For volunteers like Christine Kidwell, Transition Projects is more than just a community project, it’s help that begins on an individual level.
“The homeless crisis is a tsunami that can only be mitigated with small steps that show a person hope and their own value,” she says. “I started working with Transition Projects after my husband died and I asked the social worker where to send his clothes. I was so impressed with the work they were doing, I decided to volunteer.”
Now Christine helps Transition Projects by working in the Clothing Room, sorting and organizing the donations. Cart by cart, hanger by hanger, she looks to see which donations will be offered for their participants, stored, or repurposed to another agency. “Often I am running back and forth to get just the right thing. Sometimes I will engage with a person who just needs to tell their story or their worries,” she says.
By helping over 10,000 people experiencing homelessness each year, Transition Projects is unparalleled in providing access to programs and shelter, thereby allowing everyone experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness to find support and resources to help them to attain housing and stability. Their Rent Well program alone provides a fifteen-hour tenant education course, teaching renters how to maintain a rental unit, tips on moving in and out, and effective communication skills for renters and their landlords. This program is taught throughout Oregon and Washington by certified instructors, and helps those who may be unfamiliar or new to renting adapt to being a tenant.
“The people of Transition Projects are dedicated, practical, and wicked smart,” Christine Kidwell adds. “They squander their high functionality so that others can find theirs. Like Seth Grant, the head of severe weather shelters, he is taking on a mammoth task.”
When she’s not volunteering, Christine is preserving flowers and leaves and adding them to paper mâché boxes. “They will be filled with homemade holiday sweets and tchotchkes for the 26 grandchildren and their parents,” she says. She’s truly ready to take on the holiday spirit!
If you’d like to get involved with Transition Projects, you are always welcome to volunteer with their organization, but Sock It to Me plans to get involved throughout the month of November by asking our community to participate in the “Month of Giving.” You can purchase a pair of donation socks (priced at $5) on the sockittome.com website and your donation will go directly to Transition Projects at the end of the campaign. For every pair of socks purchased, Sock It to Me will match the donation with a second pair, meaning your contribution will go twice as far! We invite you to join us in the campaign to reach 500 pairs of socks to be donated this holiday season. Check it out and get to giving!