Community development in action: Building a future for homeless families and children

How a Portland community school found a permanent home to serve its students.

Tags: Community
Published: June 19, 2019

The Community Transitional School (CTS), located in Portland, Oregon, first opened its doors in 1990 as a school for children whose families were homeless. However, for nearly two decades, the school itself was forced to move five times before it found a home of its own.


“Having our own permanent space really helps these children,” says Cheryl Bickle, principal and teacher at CTS.


CTS students may live in cars, domestic violence shelters, motels, or on the floor of a friend’s home. Every morning, school personnel must locate all of the children so the school busses can bring them to school.


With a partnership and investment from the U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), CTS purchased land and built their new school in time to complete the 2007-08 school year. Moreover, Bickle explains that what really made this project possible was the fact that USBCDC and its partners, such as accountants and lawyers, worked hard to keep costs to a minimum.


“It was really wonderful to see the coordination and the effort it took to get this school built, and debt free,” says Bickle.


Nearly 200 students from preschool to eighth grade now have access to a full school year and a five-week summer program. Besides classrooms, the building has a lunchroom, computer lab, playground and a garden.


“Knowing that the school has a home and that the children have access to a stable environment where they can learn and grow is truly amazing,” says Laura Vowell, vice president of new markets and historic tax credits at USBCDC.


“This school is the students’ safety net, it allows them time to focus on themselves and develop their skills,” says Bickle. “Our goal is to prepare them to break the cycle of poverty and this school is a place where they can make that possible.”


Click here to learn more about the mission of USBCDC and read other stories about community development financing.