Courtesy Catholic Charities
Margi Dechenne, Catholic Charities’ Housing Transitions program manager, speaks during a press conference announcing grants for mental health workers who will help keep people from becoming homeless.  

Courtesy Catholic Charities

Margi Dechenne, Catholic Charities’ Housing Transitions program manager, speaks during a press conference announcing grants for mental health workers who will help keep people from becoming homeless.  

Health provider Kaiser Permanente has awarded Catholic Charities of Oregon almost $323,000 over three-and-a-half years to pay mental health workers to lead a program for homeless veterans. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust also awarded Catholic Charities a grant for $259,000, spanning three years.

The grants will support housing and health care for people with severe mental illness and substance use disorders.

Catholic Charities has experience placing people in housing and providing ongoing services to keep them housed. The agency has a long record of helping women who have been homeless to engage in their communities after long periods of alienation and isolation on the streets. 

And Catholic Charities has expanded its offerings in the areas of case management and clinical services. Starting with outreach, intake and then assessment in a welcoming environment, women will be brought into the program through Catholic Charities’ drop-in center, street outreach and a referral network that includes the Salvation Army, Rose Haven and Project UNICA from El Programa Hispano Católico.   

Margi Dechenne, Catholic Charities’ Housing Transitions program manager, says the grants will provide much-needed expertise in mental illness. The death of homeless people during a recent cold snap in Portland has brought new focus on shortcomings in mental health treatment.

Dechenne told the story of a homeless woman who is regularly robbed and who has a serious sore on her leg, but whose mental illness has prevented her from trusting social workers.