The Next Door works to strengthen families, improve communities
In 1971, a group of concerned residents in Hood River identified a need for a residential treatment facility for troubled youth. They launched The Next Door out of a rented farmhouse, offering treatment and beds to 10 youth. Nearly 50 years later, that program is still going strong — as are more than 20 other initiatives relating to health, family wellness and economic development.
The organization has grown and changed along with the needs of the region it serves. “Anytime the community identified a resounding need, The Next Door would figure out where to find money to fund that program,” says Justine Ziegler, the group’s development officer.
The Next Door currently serves more than 3,500 people a year throughout five Oregon and two Washington counties. More than 50 full-time employees are housed between offices in Hood River and a recently purchased building in The Dalles.
The organization’s deep slate of services is grouped into six categories: treatment, family, youth, economic development, health promotion and consulting. Programs range from therapeutic foster care to wellness education, from family mediation to training and support for entrepreneurs.
“It’s really nice having a broad mission of strengthening children and families and improving communities,” Ziegler says. “There are so many different types of programs that address those needs that can fit under our roof.”
Diversity of services
The organization’s economic development department offers services to Latino families seeking to establish their own businesses or simply to improve their financial situation. Offered solely through word of mouth, its portfolio of services has grown to include a five-week curriculum for entrepreneurs, a matched savings-account program, a credit building class, and help with tracking and filling out business-related paperwork.
Business law classes help new owners understand accounting and workers comp rules, and a new series of classes this summer will offer information on 401(k)s and other investment strategies. The Next Door also partners with several agencies that offer small business loans.
“We are always trying to figure out ways we can help people,” says Gabriel Muro, The Next Door’s business coordinator. “We try to look at the full variety of things businesses need and the ways that they can prosper.”
The program started out five years ago assisting eight businesses and is now working with about 55, Muro says. Twenty-five entrepreneurs are enrolled in classes with the goal of starting their own business in the next two years.
Efficiency and impact
Many of the clients of The Next Door are in multiple programs. Many referrals to the Gorge Youth Mentoring program, for example, come from coordinators working with families in other programs. A family services staff member doing a home visit for a new baby may notice that older children could benefit from time with another adult and connect them to the mentoring program.
“It’s so nice to have all of those resources that a family could potentially need, all under one roof,” Ziegler says. “All of our staff have a good understanding of what services we have and as they work, they are listening for those other needs that we could also meet.”
This article was originally published in 2019.