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Two women help hundreds of Oregon families stay off the streets

The program is part of the Neighborhood Health Center and is within months of running out of money.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A local health organization helped hundreds of Oregonians stay off the streets during the pandemic, but now it needs more funding to keep it going.

Yesi Olvera is one of two women at the Neighborhood Health Center helping families in need of food, transportation, and healthcare. She is often a calm, constant voice for many struggling to make ends meet.

“You are there kind of to push them through it and help them and guide them,” said Olvera, a certified community health worker. She’s one of two people working with 752 families.

“We would get urgent referrals over to us from the counties like 'hey this family doesn’t have food they’re in quarantine they can’t leave, and they have no food, so you have to call them at 7, 8 p.m.'”

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Oregon Health Authority funded the work for two years, but now the money is within months of running out.

“We’re really caring for individuals - they don’t have to be a patient - they’re just individuals in the community that need care and we’re there to care for them,” Olvera said.

The county vets families in need and sends qualified candidates over to the Neighborhood Health Center. That’s when Olvera picks up the phone.

Some calls last up to three hours.

“You got to find a way so they understand it,” she said as she started speaking Spanish to a client.

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Olvera said being bilingual allows her to reach communities who otherwise might not ask for help.

“She’s so committed to the community and to her culture and she can reach and connect to families that someone like me could never do,” said Penny Moore, director of development and communications at the Neighborhood Health Center.

“It’s super rewarding honestly it’s just nice to know that you made a difference, and although nobody sees it, you know it,” Olvera said.

The program is funded through June, but officials are hoping to get more money so they can reach families outside of Washington and Clackamas counties.

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