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Portland woman giving back to shelter that helped her transition out of homelessness

Each year, Transition Projects assists more than 10,000 people experiencing homelessness.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Christell Smith once battled drug addiction. She eventually lost everything and ended up homeless. One day, she got tired of struggling and decided to change her life. Taking back control started with a connection to Transition Projects, an organization helping people go from homelessness to housing with programs and resources.

“I kept all my appointments and I said to myself, I’m going to be out by my birthday, at the end of July," said Smith.

Smith first checked into Transition Projects in June of 2019, the next month she left the shelter to live in her own apartment. She credits her case manager, Terese O'Neil Kunkel for her success. “Honestly, it’s the quickest I’ve ever housed anybody,” said O'Neil Kunkel, "she went out and did the legwork and boom, there we go and she’s in a wonderful apartment now shelter life is a memory."

Smith has lived in her own apartment for a year and will be 7 years clean in December. She is now back at Transition Projects on a mission to give back to the shelter. Smith is now a meal provider- purchasing, preparing, and serving guests at the shelter. Emily Coleman with Transition Projects says Smith has so far helped dozens experiencing homelessness.

Smith says it makes her feel good to help others, "I feel like this is a calling for me to do and I try to help people as much as I can.” 

Providing meals at the shelters is the greatest volunteer need at Transition Projects. Meals are being delivered during the pandemic. Learn more about volunteer opportunities with Transition Projects.