PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Wednesday marked the grand opening celebration of the new Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland — a first-of-its-kind facility to help the homeless with chronic mental health and addiction.
The Behavioral Health Resource Center is crucial because it will serve the homeless who are often unsuccessful in regular congregate shelter settings due to their mental health and addiction issues.
At the resource center, visitors will have access to kitchens, bathrooms and showers, along with private spaces.
The unique approach at the BHRC is that people with prior lived experiences of homelessness and addiction helped develop the services. These peers will work as a staff to provide services as well, such as employment support, housing referrals and skills training.
“It’s all starting to feel real,” Janie Gullickson said at the grand opening.
Gullickson is the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon. As she was greeting those taking tours at the new resource center, you’d never know where she was once in life.
“I spent over 22 years in my active addiction, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs, as well as chronically homeless,” she said.
Gullickson’s decades of addiction were cyclical and isolating.
“I ended up going through that cycle of incarceration, hospitalization and eventually getting treatment and seeing someone who said they had been where I had been,” Gullickson said. “I had looked at them and couldn’t tell — and then they showed me their mugshot. They told their story, and hope was inspired.”
Hope, she says, inspires change.
A cornerstone of the Behavioral Health Resource Center is to rebuild trust where it’s been lost among those battling mental illness and addiction, bringing them inside a space designed to meet their greater needs.
“It was really important that we prioritize and centered those that have lived experience,” Multnomah County Community Mental Health Program Manager Christa Jones stated.
Additionally, Jones said she thinks it’s important to recognize that although the center will support over 200 individuals at any given time once fully operational, they know it’s just a drop in the bucket.
“I think it’s important that the community understand that we need to keep trying, that we need to keep investing in innovative ideas,” she said.
The BHRC managers believe they’ll be trailblazers in this line of work.
With 14 years of recovery under her belt, Gullickson is bringing her lived experience to give back and support others at the resource center.
“I just want to lift them up and do whatever it takes to see that they’re successful,” she said.
The first two floors of the day center will open to homeless clients the first week of December.
The shelters on the upper floors, which will serve dozens of people, will be operational come spring 2023. The upper floors will be where people can stay for 30-90 days as they get stabilized to move onto transitional housing.