Ever since she was a child, Helen knew her purpose in life was to help others. Now she’s living in a two-bedroom apartment in Fuller Station – a new Metro bond-funded affordable apartment community in the Happy Valley area – where she’s looking forward to beginning her journey as a foster parent.
Born in Greenwood, Miss., Helen and her family moved to Long Beach, Calif. when she was a child, and later to Portland, where she attended Jefferson High School. Her father was an evangelical preacher, and her parents raised Helen and her siblings with “values and integrity,” she said, “to love one another, to just be kind to one another.”
Helen’s aunt ran a program caring for children with developmental disabilities and Helen would often visit and play with the children. Her aunt noticed how Helen interacted with the kids, and Helen remembers the aunt telling her, “‘Wow Helen, you have a knack for it, you could be a pro at it.’” Hearing this she thought, “You know what I want to do? I want to take care of people that cannot take care of themselves. I want to help. I want to give back. And I've been doing it ever since I got out of high school,” she said.
After graduating high school Helen moved to Indiana and then Chicago, but she always knew she wanted to return to Portland. Two years ago she finally moved back to the area, joining her brother who already lived in Clackamas County. She soon found a job supporting teens with developmental disabilities at the nonprofit Exceed Enterprises.
When Helen first arrived, she was surprised at the high rents and struggled to find a home. Then she found out about an affordable housing complex in Happy Valley called Town Center Station. She went by to take a look with her brother and he encouraged her to put her name on the waitlist. She moved in six months later.
Though she enjoyed living at Town Center Station, when she decided to become a foster parent, she realized she would need more space than she had in her one-bedroom apartment. A manager at the complex told her about nearby Fuller Station, which had just been completed and was under the same management. With the management company’s help, Helen was able to move into a two-bedroom on the ground floor of Fuller Station in time for the state’s home inspection to approve her foster parent application. She will be caring for a teen with developmental disabilities.
Helen likes the layout of the apartment, and that it’s quiet and the building feels safe. She enjoys the community spaces in front of the building, seeing the children playing in the playground and greeting mothers and their babies as they walk by. Everyone she’s met in the building has been nice, even the management, which is different from other apartment buildings where she’s lived. She also described how quickly the maintenance crew responds to issues, in contrast with past experiences in Indiana.
Fuller Station’s location is “like living in your own little city.” Helen appreciates being close to Walmart, Applebee’s, Best Buy, an outlet mall and other eateries. The MAX is also right by the building, which is very convenient. She also enjoys the scenery, which includes a walking trail where she can exercise.
Best of all, her new home is affordable. Since moving back to Oregon she’s been able to live alone for the first time in her life. “Since I've been back,” she said, “God has really opened the doors to what I really want to do, which is to take care of people that cannot take care of themselves and give back. And that's what I'm doing.”
Fuller Station was the second Metro bond-funded apartment community to open in Clackamas County. The building’s one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are designated for a mix of household income levels, ranging from 30% AMI to 80% AMI. All apartments can be converted for ADA accessibility. Metro bond funds contributed $8.5 million to the development’s $47.3 budget.
Metro voters passed the affordable housing bond in 2018. Since then, 981 homes have been completed with 2,766 more in development or construction, using about 66% of the funding. With 41 projects either complete or in production for a total of 3,747 new affordable homes and a good deal of funds remaining, the bond is projected to exceed its goal of 3,900 affordable homes by about 700.