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Restaurants in Crisis Feed Hungry

Program is a win win for homeless, small businesses

5/12/2020, 2:57 p.m.
A new partnership between two east Portland nonprofits, local restaurants and the city of Portland is bringing food to people ...
Joy Sinviengxay manages the counter at the Chai Thai restaurant in east Portland, one of two eateries providing meals to homeless shelters operated by Human Solutions as part of a partnership with two nonprofits providing financial backing to businesses impacted by the coronavirus health crisis.

A new partnership between two east Portland nonprofits, local restaurants and the city of Portland is bringing food to people in homeless shelters and supporting struggling businesses during the economic crisis created by the coronavirus.

The city is providing financial assistance for the feeding program through Prosper Portland, the city’s urban and economic development agency, and the nonprofit Rosewood Initiative is channeling funds to struggling local restaurants in east Portland that are strapped for business during COVID-19.

Nelly’s Taqueria and Chai Thai are two of the participating restaurants, preparing hot, delicious meals delivered to two Human Solutions shelters, Lilac Meadows for Families and the Gresham Women’s Shelter. On a typical night, about 220 people eat dinner in these shelters.

Program organizers hope to find additional resources in the community to expand this win-win effort. Human Solutions and The Rosewood Initiative are community-based organizations working in east Multnomah County to address the root causes of poverty and build vibrant communities where everyone can thrive.

The Rosewood Initiative supports community-driven solutions for a healthier, more economically vibrant Rosewood neighborhood. Human Solutions is a 31-year-old community organization that develops affordable housing and operates shelters and a range of programming to ensure all community members have economic and housing security.

Leaders for both groups said they saw an opportunity to collaborate and meet multiple community needs in a unique moment where restaurants are struggling to survive due to the COVID shutdown and emergency shelters are stretched to meet their ongoing need for warm meals.

Human Solutions Executive Director Andy Miller said he was thrilled with the results thus far.

“This is how community responds in a crisis,” he said. “Prosper Portland stepped in quickly to do what they do best - supporting local small business to keep them working, The Rosewood Initiative did their part by recruiting local minority-owned restaurants they already partner with and Human Solutions was able to relieve some of the stress on our courageous shelter teams and make sure our shelter guests had plenty of delicious food.”

Salvador Arreola  and Oscar Ocampos of Nelly’s Taqueria in east Portland prepare weekly dinners for the residents of Human Solutions’ two emergency shelters, Lilac Meadows for Families and the Gresham Women’s Shelter.

Salvador Arreola and Oscar Ocampos of Nelly’s Taqueria in east Portland prepare weekly dinners for the residents of Human Solutions’ two emergency shelters, Lilac Meadows for Families and the Gresham Women’s Shelter.

With Gov. Kate Brown’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order for restaurants to offer only takeout, many restaurants have had to close and may not survive. Hardest hit are often family owned restaurants in less prosperous areas like east Portland.

Receiving $5.50 for 180 meals each week adds up for these small businesses. Right now, the effort costs $8,000/month for 1,450 meals; each restaurant earns $4,000 each month. Volunteer drivers transport the food from the restaurants to both shelters in time for dinner.

Nelly’s Taqueria was happy for the opportunity.

“Nelly’s Taqueria is really grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work with Rosewood on such a great program to cater to the homeless community. Thanks to this we are able to keep our doors open and continue to grow and continue to serve food for people. Gracias,” a statement from the company said.

Staff from the Human Solutions’ emergency shelters says the program is a game changer. Tamara

Holloway, who manages Lilac Meadows near Southeast 82nd and Powell Boulevard said, “Our shelter team is doing amazing frontline work right now during the COVID pandemic. When a hot, ready-to-serve dinner is delivered by a volunteer driver from a local restaurant, our staff and shelter residents feel cared for by our community. We couldn’t be more grateful for this delicious food and all the donations we have been getting from everyone in our incredible community. Thanks to each and every one of you. We are for sure stronger together.”

The teams at Human Solutions and The Rosewood Initiative are looking to grow the program by inviting the community to invest so they can feed more vulnerable people and support more local businesses. To make a contribution online, visit

charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/send-a-meal-support-a-rosewood-business.