Breaking the Cycle of Poverty (by Sarah Rudarmel, 11946)


sarah.rudarmel-Photo%20on%203-11-15%20at%207.03%20PMIn my writing 122 class this term I got to do something that I have always wanted to but never felt like I had the time, volunteer. I was a nervous wreck when I had to figure out not only what I wanted to do but also what I could do that I would have enough passion to write about. I also am a single mother, full-time student, and have a full-time job so trying to figure out a volunteering opportunity that allowed me to fit it into my schedule was hard. After a lot of research I found Portland Homeless Family Services. This organization deals with families that have found themselves upon some hard times. I definitely felt like this was a cause I could get behind! Being a single mom has dealt me some hard times, and I loved the idea of getting to help others that didn’t have a lot of options.

I was a little scared when going to orientation because I had no idea what to expect. Then I sat down and Matt introduced himself. Matt is the coordinator of Portland Homeless Families Solutions. He had soft eyes and a comforting personality. He explained a lot about the organization, and all of the different ways that they help the families that come under their roof. I also got to meet a few other workers and volunteers during my time there and they all really seemed to love their jobs, and care about those that they helped. I am really happy I choose Portland Homeless Family Solutions because they seem to really be working towards bettering peoples’ lives.

Research Topic

When I volunteered I realized that there were a lot of things that aided in the cycle of homelessness; previous evictions, trouble finding jobs because of gaps in job history, trouble with finding daycare, not having an address to put on an application, and often hopelessness. The Portland Homeless Family Shelter does many things to combat these issues. One major thing they do is have a kid time volunteers that watches the kids and plays with them while the parent takes one of their classes such as: Rent Well, resume building & interview skills, parenting, eating healthy on a budget, and interpersonal communication. These classes offer many different skills that will help acclimating these families back into a stable lifestyle.

The Rent Well class is especially helpful to getting families back into a stable/long term home. This class is for people with poor or no rental history, or other rental barriers such as; criminal back grounds, evictions, bad references from previous landlords, and bad credit. To pass this class people must complete 15 accumulative hours of class. These classes help people show their hopefully new landlord that even though they may have a past they are trying to make stable decisions for their future and to be a good future tenant. After doing my research I have realized that one of the most important ways to breaking the cycle of homelessness is education about it, and how to overcome it.

 The Research

Source 1

This article talks about the impact of having a criminal record, and how it can make it hard for the individual to find work or a home. When convicts are released from jail they are released jobless and homeless, unless they have family/friend support. When you couple the homelessness with having to fill out job applications with the “have you ever been convicted with a crime” box it is easy to see how the cycle can be perpetuated. Also, for people that may not be freshly released from prison but just have a blemish on their record it is easy to see how, when applying for a job/apartment, they may not be the employer/landlords first choice.

Source 2

This article beautifully portrays the cycle of poverty. In this article a young poor mother is working a part time fast food job that doesn’t provide a lot of hours because of the constant changes in her schedule. She then decides to go to school to provide a better future for her and her child. She applies for childcare help through the state because she needs daycare for her daughter to continue going to school. She is denied because she isn’t working the mandatory hours, 25 hours, in order to receive aid. She then quits her job and school because she is unable to provide daycare for her child. Then the article talks about how this is becoming a common issue in poor single parent families. Also, how resources like free pre-school/kindergarten centers are making options like going to school an option for a single parent. This article shows the importance of resource-based organizations.

Source 3

This article talks about how our preconceived notions of the homeless being drug/alcohol addicts is wrong. The typical homeless person nowadays is someone who has a job and can either not afford or not find housing, and has trouble finding a job because of not having a home. Besides the issues with not having an address to put on an application, not having somewhere to go to after your work day is done causes more complications: clean clothes, showers, and somewhere to sleep. This article focuses on the impact of not having a home and how important it is to get people into stable living environments in order to create a decrease in the homeless population. There is a large importance on the effectiveness of temporary housing shelters because of the large expense that is moving into somewhere new; 1st moths rent, security deposit, and moving costs. These costs can be a major deterrent for people that are trying to get back into homes. Through outside help these things won’t seem as hard to achieve.


PHFS really relies a lot on volunteers. Last year they logged around 17,000, which is the equivalent to 8 full time employees. Since the shelter wants to focus the main portion of its resources to the families it serves volunteers are very important to them. They especially need overnight volunteers for their night shelter, Goose Hollow Shelter. If people find it difficult to donate their time they also really appreciate people donating anything they can, such as:

Toiletries and basic hygiene supplies

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Toilet paper
  • Feminine hygiene products

Clothing and Bedding

  • Especially children’s outfits
  • Interview appropriate outfits
  • Pillows and Pillow cases
  • Comforters
  • Blankets
  • Diapers


  • Baby formula
  • Baby food
  • Cereal
  • Coffee
  • Children’s snacks
  • Dried or canned foods


  1. Maria Rodriguez

    Hello Sarah!

    i would first like to say thank you for the work you have done! While i was reading this i became most fond of the second source, about the mother who is trying to take care of herself and her child. That article reminded me a lot of my grandmother because she came from a large family and she had to drop out of school in the 6th grade just so she could work to help her family. She then had 2 children , much later of course, and she was faced with not providing enough. So she worked full time and went to classes at night to hopefully become a nurse. she was determined and she applied for a job at a hospital, but it was a janitorial job. But she told the employer right of the bat that she wanted to be a nurse, the employer had told her that there weren’t any such openings. But my grandmother was relentless and she kept asking everyday until one day, there was an opening and she got it.
    That was just how i understood your whole experience on a personal level. But i did enjoy reading this and its refreshing to see someone care about an issue that is hurting the lives of so many and i hope this opens the eyes of many and makes them want to help. Its also really nice to know that shelters offer such classes for the homeless because it shows that they truly want them to thrive and leave the shelter and make a better lives for themselves and their families.
    I enjoyed reading this and it seems like you really enjoyed doing this! it feels great to give back to others

  2. Mike Murray

    What an great topic! I was raised by a single mother after a particularly nasty divorce which landed us homeless for a week followed by nine months in a shelter so I can tell you from my own experience that the cycle is hard to break. I love that you emphasized education as the largest path to a solution as it was the only reason that my own mother was able to get back on her feet and never loose her footing again.
    If you’re a convicted felon the struggle is only amplified. As a community we do next to nothing to assimilate individuals back into society after being released from prison and that has a huge impact. We stereotype and assume the worst when the person should be treated fairly, if not welcomed back. But that’s another issue. My only critique would be that there was no stated question, but lots of answers leaving me as the reader to read between the lines in order to fully understand what it is that you are answering.
    Again, great topic and well written to boot!

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