Founded in 1983, Cascade AIDS Project is the oldest and largest community-based provider of HIV services, housing, education and advocacy in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Before 1983, two main organizations provided HIV-related services to the Portland area community: CHESS (Community Health and Essential Support Services), who provided one-on-one emotional support, and Cascade AIDS Project (CAP), who provided education to gay/bisexual men. Their merger in 1983 consolidated HIV-related services and prevented competition for very limited resources. The new CAP was a barebones organization, consisting of an executive director and a PAL program coordinator. These two staff members were assisted by volunteers and a 21-member volunteer board of directors. Under the first executive director of the new CAP, services expanded to include a volunteer-operated Speakers Bureau, a Client Services Program, and the Oregon AIDS Hotline (a joint venture between CAP and the Oregon State Health Division). The total agency budget was less than $100,000.
In 1985, CAP was legally incorporated, and in 1986 we received our 501(c)3 designation. CAP became a strong voice in the community for HIV education, prevention and service issues.
In 1986, “From All Walks of Life” became the first pledge walk to benefit AIDS care and education in Portland. The “AIDS Walk” fundraiser has become an annual event that draws thousands of participants, community recognition and support.
In 1989, CAP created the “Art Auction,” an auction of artwork by local and well-known artists, with all proceeds raised helping to support the work of Cascade AIDS Project and assist people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
In 1991, after the inception of the Ryan White CARE Act (RWCA), CAP received its first funds to provide HIV non-medical services to clients. After establishing a contract with Multnomah County to provide prevention and wellness services in 1992, CAP launched a new prevention campaign.
CAP has grown considerably since its beginning, from a 2 person staff to over 50, from a budget of $100,000 to over $5 million. CAP operates multiple programs from its main service site and receives support from over 600 volunteers. It has always been an organization that depends heavily on volunteers. This is true now more than ever, as CAP expands services to meet growing needs in the community.
Cascade AIDS Project helps people put their lives back together; to secure housing, find essential medical care and deal with the countless issues that make the difference between giving up or getting up and going on. With HIV and AIDS, the huge emotional and financial burden to all affected by it can be staggering. Some people lose their jobs, their housing, their friends and family and any means of support. Imagine what it must be like for someone who suddenly finds they are without the essentials we so often take for granted. Shelter, life skills training, and emotional support; these are what CAP provides.