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New apartments on Division cater to low-income clients

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - PHC maintenance supervisor Tony Monroe is in charge of much of the ongoing work being done on the D Street Salal and its renovated clubhouse behind him. Eric Spengler landed in good hands when he applied for a job at PHC Northwest.

The Gresham resident had trouble securing a job, which he attributed to his size at 6-feet-5 and more than 400 pounds. But PHC offered him training and stable employment and a place to live with a rent he could actually afford.

After eight years in one of PHC’s low-income housing units, Spengler and his wife were able to save up enough money to buy a home in Gresham, something that previously felt out of reach.

For more than 60 years, PHC has offered training and job opportunities to people with mental, physical and developmental disabilities.

Its CEO, Alysa Rose, said the company employs more than 500 people with disabilities. The nonprofit organization also builds low-income housing without government subsidies.

Spangler has risen from his initial employment in janitorial duties to be the floor care supervisor and is training to be a janitorial supervisor.

“I’ve had leaps and bounds of growth, not only professionally but personally,” Spengler said. “They want to see you succeed as an individual.”

PHC this week announced the opening of its newest apartment complex, called D-Street Salal at 17199 S.E. Division St., the site of a former dance hall called D-Street Corral. Residents have been able to live there for nearly a month.

The D-Street Salal has studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments starting at around $395 and going up to $775.

“There was such a need for the housing, we worked really hard to get folks in as soon as possible,” said Rose.

The property had been owned by the late Adoline and Charles Ceciliani. In its heyday, D-Street Corral was one of the largest dance floors in the country. It ran until 1979 when a fire destroyed part of the building.

The D-Street Salal was built on part of the 10-acre property and PHC was able to save one of the only standing relics of the dance hall — a red house where the Cecilianis raised their children.

The house will keep the same look, but be gutted to become a community center for the residents of D-Street Salal.

“Overtime the dance hall fell into disrepair and (the Cecilianis) didn’t really have the funds to do what needed to be done and it feel victim to vandals and fire and they sold the bulk of the property and we purchased the land,” Rose said. “When we got there we decided (the house they lived in) was a really cool house with cool bones and we decided to restore it.”

Unlike other affordable housing, PHC does not receive subsidies from the government. Instead, it keeps costs down by having things like maintenance and lawn care done in-house.

Further, PHC offers a job-training program to residents of its housing, like Spengler, to employ them within the company.

It also helps their apartments from going the way of other low-income units that can become rundown over the years because of absentee ownership.

“We are the property managers so we are on the property and we do a lot to stay in touch with the community and address issues as they come up,” Rose said.

Another important part of PHC properties is to have residents involved and feel responsible for their housing.

One of the other unique components about PHC’s housing is that each complex has a community component. Spengler said it was the thing he liked best about living on a PHC property before buying his Gresham home.

“We made friends and even though there are a lot of strangers, there are people you get to know,” Spengler said. “You feel like you’re in some kind of family. No matter what time you came home, there was someone there to greet you. People need to know that true and good things still exist.”