Portland, OR – New Narrative’s latest permanent supportive housing site opened on April 6 on a cloudy day with a crowd gathered outside of the newly-finished building. Douglas Fir Apartments is a 15-unit complex in Southeast Portland which offers a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments to residents experiencing mental health challenges. Some of these units are reserved for veterans through Coordinated Entry at JOHS – Veterans Waitlist. This multi-year project has brought together a host of community partnerships. It was made possible through vouchers from the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) administered through Home Forward and will rely on referrals from CareOregon and the Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA) as well as from New Narrative’s Intensive Case Management Program.
“We know that housing first works,” said New Narrative CEO Julie Ibrahim, addressing the crowd. “Our in-house mission-based property management team works with participants to break cycles of houselessness and chart a future of housing security, providing a stable environment where they can focus on their wellness goals. Our wraparound services at these sites mean that participants can access clinical care and peer services without leaving the property.”
Building for Success
The vision for Douglas Fir Apartments is a result of the tremendous need for long-term, stable housing for the most vulnerable in our community. “We recognize that housing is an ever-present need at the forefront of addressing mental health…Having access to this safe and supportive housing will greatly improve [residents’] chances of mental health recovery and integration back into the community,” said Ibrahim.
Scott Edwards Architecture is responsible for the beautiful design for the apartments. Jennifer Marsicek, Senior Associate, Architect, and Scott Edwards Architecture’s Project Manager for Douglas Fir Apartments reflected on the process, saying,
“Our design for the Douglas Fir Apartments considers the lived experiences of residents and sought to create a comfortable and welcoming place to call home. To do this, we incorporated elements of trauma-informed design, like acoustically separating apartments for a quieter interior environment, promoting connectedness with nature with a shared landscaped courtyard and large windows offering views of surrounding trees and developing straightforward wayfinding and visibility around the site to ensure a sense of familiarity. The team effort between Scott Edwards Architecture, New Narrative, and the entire project team is evident, and we are incredibly proud of the result.”
This property is one of a growing inventory for New Narrative, which runs Horizon Property Management, LLC—an in-house property management operation to maximize low-barrier stable housing opportunities for participants. The site also features laundry facilities and a staff office, along with a group room area for residents and staff members to utilize together. O’Neill Construction led the construction of the units, and the Housing Development Center played a key role in driving this project forward.
Trauma-Informed Practice in Action
Community members and partners gathered outside of the Apartments to listen to speakers, including Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, address the importance of solutions to Portland’s mental health and housing crisis. “Douglas Fir is addressing the whole person instead of a condition or a combination of conditions,” she said. “And it is supporting the…individual people in all of their marvelous complexity that matters.”
Will Allen, New Narrative’s Vice President of Operations, offered a thought for anyone who may wonder about the impact of this site based on its size.
“This is probably a little counterintuitive, but one thing I like about the project is its small size, fifteen units. We need those sleek, exciting 120-unit projects; they give us volume, they’re better able to absorb costs and easier to fund than smaller projects. And, at the end of the day, not everyone wants to live in a giant apartment building. For people who are experiencing mental health challenges, it can be hard to live in a crowded and busy apartment building. We have apartment projects as small as five units, and for some people that’s a better place for them to live. They’re going to have less conflict with people and more privacy, and it’s better for their mental health symptoms.”
“Having some of these smaller sites, especially for people that have really intense symptoms of anxiety or paranoia can actually be a lot better for them…may be a lot more stabilizing. So it’s nice to have a variety of offerings along the continuum for people that need it, for the most vulnerable in our community,” he shared with Fox12 News.
For people who are experiencing mental health challenges, it can be hard to live in a crowded and busy apartment building.
Thank you to everyone who supported this project from start to finish, and to those who came out to celebrate its opening this month! Units are already being filled, and our staff are ready to greet each new resident as they move into their new home. To learn more about Douglas Fir Apartments, read our Press Release Statement here.
New Narrative housed 400 people in 2022! Help us reach more future residents with a donation; any amount helps as we build a future where everyone seeking mental health care can live the life they choose. Donate today.