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Portland nonprofit pays 3 months' rent for single mom in recovery

Hacienda CDC has been providing rental assistance to those in need with the help of a $27,000 donation from OnPoint Community Credit Union.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Ashley Cook is a single mom of two boys. Not long after her oldest son, 5-year-old Carter was born, she fell into addiction.

“I was kind of helpless. I didn't know what to do,” she said.

Cook got into drug and alcohol treatment but lost custody of Carter. They were separated for three months before her treatment center helped her reunite with her son. 

“Ashley’s story, sadly, is not unique,” said Jaclyn Sarna, Hacienda CDC director of youth and family services. “We see folks every day who need support in keeping their stable housing.”

Hacienda CDC, or Community Development Corporation, is an affordable housing provider and developer. The Portland nonprofit has been around since 1986. 

“We're really thankful to be in a position to support folks not only with their housing, but also programs like the emergency rent assistance program,” said Sarna.

Credit: Ashley Cook
Ashley Cook with son Armani

Ashley now has a 5-month-old named Armani. Before he was born, the emotions were mixed.

“I was happy but kind of scared at the same time because I knew that the work I was doing, I wasn't going to get paid for when I was taking a leave of absence. So that kind of put a strain on things,” said Cook.

With no income and two kids to support, Cook called Oregon's 211 helpline and was connected to Hacienda CDC.

“I called, I had an interview to talk about my rental assistance, how long I hadn't been working, just basic questions,” Cook said. “After I had answered all the questions… the guy actually told me that he wasn't going to pay just one month or two months, but he was going to pay three months of my rent.”

Credit: Ashley Cook

Erin Olinghouse, a community relations specialist with OnPoint Community Credit Union, said it’s motivating to hear stories like Ashley’s.

“Knowing that there's a family member in our community that we can help in a time of need is incredibly rewarding,” she said.

Six years ago, OnPoint began a partnership with Hacienda CDC. As part of OnPoint’s employee giving program, the credit union gave $27,000 to Hacienda to help people like Ashley.

“They did a lot for me and I felt like they didn't really know much about me,” said Cook.

With her two children keeping her focused, Ashley is now back to work and looking ahead to the future. She’s been clean and sober almost four years and is thankful for the help at each step.

“It makes me happy to see that,” she said. “People like OnPoint are working close with [Hacienda CDC] and trying to help other people that are kind of in my situation or maybe even a different situation.”

More information about Multnomah County's rent assistance program and eligibility criteria can be found here on the city of Portland's website

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