History

Origin Story

Outside In was founded in June 1968 by Dr. Charles Spray, Arnold Goldberg, and Mary Lu Zurcher as one of the first free community health clinics in the U.S. and one of the earliest on the West Coast, along with the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics and the Los Angeles Free Clinic. The organization was founded to serve Portland’s “alienated youth,” some of whom had substance use problems and most of whom had mental health issues. Outside In initially rented its Downtown Portland space from the First Unitarian Church of Portland. Dr. Spray helped found the organization after learning that the Unitarian church’s youth coffeehouse space, Charix was in danger of being shut down because of its association with the 1960s drug culture. Some of the group’s early work involved staffing a 24-hour crisis hotline that was later spun off to form the Metro Crisis Intervention Service.

    Honoring Outside In’s “Change-Maker”

    Kathy Oliver | Former Executive Director

    “One reason I think Outside In has survived and done so well is that we have changed continually. I thrive on change. I really like it. I think it’s important. The clients and their needs are continually changing; I want the agency to keep on changing, too.” Kathy Oliver
    Read More

    Success Stories

    River

    When I came out as trans and reached out to the community for help, everyone had something good to say about Outside In.

    Anna

    If you met me today, you might never imagine I spent countless nights sleeping under the Burnside Bridge.

    Anthony

    As a patient at Outside In, the dignity, compassion, and respect that I was shown by staff truly had a lasting impact on me and directly resulted in me wanting to get involved in helping my community.

    Jason

    Through Outside In’s guidance and support, I was in my own apartment completely self-sufficient within a week.

    Rei

    Through these connections I was able to get into school and graduate as a Certified Medical Assistant

    Shay

    Outside In made me want to be around excellence. Outside In shaped me. It taught me how to be kind to people less fortunate.