Our Story

Housing Matters Union County promotes safe, secure, affordable housing and tailored services for residents of Union County, including: emergency, temporary, and stable housing.

Our History

Housing Matters Union County was started by Zion Lutheran Church in collaboration with community partners. Members of Zion started to speak with social services, political, education, and various other leaders in Union County to learn about the housing issues faced by our residents. The issue that caught the most attention was the concern for housing insecurity. Many individuals in our community are having troubles overcoming barriers to access safe, affordable, stable housing.

As a response, over 25 agency representatives and community members who had a stake in housing access issues began to meet, thus becoming the Housing Issues Collaborative. The first thing they wanted to do was to learn about housing issues that the members of the Collaborative dealt with. A year was spent listening to one another to understand the extent of housing barriers and to learn about the agencies that were already doing work to combat those barriers. The question before us was always: What can we do together to have an impact on access to housing in Union County? 

At the end of the first year, Lisa Ladendorff, Development and Training Director at Northeast Oregon Network (NEON), was able to develop a clear picture of what the situation in Union County was, what goals we had, and what direction we wanted to go in. The name of the collaborative was changed to Housing Matters Union County (HMUC) and a formal membership criteria was created, as well as a governance structure with elected officers. Zion has continued to host meetings.

Where we are now

HMUC currently has funding for two years through a Meyer Memorial Grant and Oregon Community Foundation Grant that is funding a full-time coordinator position and the ability to help support our community members in accessing safe, secure, and affordable housing.

Having safe, secure, and affordable housing is the first step toward stability for all individuals and families in Union County. HMUC welcomes partnership with organizations and individuals who share this commitment. 

Meet Our Executive Team!

Facilitator 

Lisa Ladendorff

Lisa is the Founder and current Development and Training Director of the Northeast Oregon Network, a health collaborative serving Northeast Oregon.  She was instrumental in designing and implementing the NEON Pathways Community Hub, one of the only rural hubs in the nation.  She provides training throughout the region on mental health, addictions and health topics in rural Eastern Oregon.  Prior working at NEON,  she served as the local public health administrator in Union County, and has a 25 year history of clinical practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  Lisa has completed the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice Leadership Institute and the UCLA Health Care Executive Training Program.  She is the 2016 National Health Network Leader, recognized by the National Cooperative of Health Networks.  She has a BA in Political Science from the University of Arizona, and a Masters in Social Work from Walla Walla University.  In her spare time she is an avid knitter, reader and gardener, as well as lover of big dogs.

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Chair

Candi Nielsen

Candi Nielsen was born in Los Angeles, then moved around most of her childhood from Chatanooga Tennessee to Nampa Idaho, before her family finally settled down in Union, Oregon. She grew up on a small farm with lots of animals, fruit trees, a huge garden, honeybee hives, and time spent on her horse or outdoors. After graduating from high school and getting married, Candi moved to La Grande with her husband and two daughters and has lived here ever since. She is a 2016 graduate of Eastern Oregon University with a bachelor's degree in Integrated Studies, with minors in Business, Communication, and Theater. She is currently employed as the Housing Advocate for Shelter from the Storm and is the Manager of the La Grande Farmers Market. Her interest in HMUC started when she was hired in March of 2021, after attending a HMUC meeting, at the invitation of her Executive Director. She was approached about being a Chair on the board and felt that it was something that she could do to give back to the amazing community that has given her so much! Having been houseless herself at one time in her life, with a small child, she has an inside view of what housing insecurity looks like/feels like and wants to do her best to help others in a similar situation know that there are resources out there to help them. Candi enjoys gardening, cooking, baking, crafting, and spending time with her grandchildren and traveling in her spare time. Shepherd.

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Vice Chair

Lenore Case

Lenore was born over on the East Coast but lived back and forth between there and Oregon. She moved to Oregon when she was 21 and has been here since. She has a degree in Sociology with an emphasis on Social Welfare. Lenore is currently a Union County C.A.R.E. Coordinator, working with children in the La Grande School District. She loves working with children and is known to have totes full of toys for the kids to play with. She heard about HMUC in 2019 and wanted to be a part of the cause. As someone who has some lived experience of housing insecurity, she is very passionate about helping people, believing that everyone should have a roof over their head. In her spare time, Lenore keeps busy with her 6 dogs; she has 5 German Shepherds and 1 Anatolian Shepherd.

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Convener

Colleen Nelson

Pastor Colleen Nelson is retired from Zion Lutheran Church where she served for 5 years.  While she was at Zion, the congregation sponsored the housing issues collaborative that eventually became HMUC.  She currently represents Zion on the board.  Pastor Colleen moved to Oregon from the midwest where she served congregations in Chicago and Battle Creek, Michigan.  She holds a BS in English from Iowa State University and an M.Div from The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  Her family includes 3 married children and 6 grandchildren.  For fun, she enjoys hiking, camping, sewing, reading and playing the flute.  

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Housing/Houseless Service Coordinator

Cassidy Porter

Cassidy was born and raised in Idaho. She recently moved to Oregon to better the lives of her family. Since the move, she has experienced a lot, from having to be a guest at the Union County Warming Station (UCWS), to being a volunteer, to being on the board of directors. One thing that stuck out was the amount of folks who are willing to put their problems aside to help someone else. This really inspired Cassidy to be the person she is today. Cassidy was recently hired as the Housing and Houseless Services Coordinator. Her goals are focused on helping everyone in Union County. She is looking forward to putting her life experience, desire to help, and Community Health Worker skills to work serving those with housing needs. In her spare time Cassidy likes to be outdoors; camping, hiking, swimming, and sledding.

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Housing Matters Coordinator

Madelaine Koller

Madelaine is NEON’s Housing Matters Coordinator, a position that is focused on improving access to safe, secure, and affordable housing by collaborating with the organizations and individuals in our community.​

She attended Eastern Oregon University, graduating in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies with minors in Health Studies and Business. During her time at EOU, Madelaine was a student worker with TRiO Student Support Services, a federally funded program designed to provide support, guidance, and other growth opportunities to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in life and college. There, she saw exactly how beneficial grant-funded programs are and how they helped people succeed. Madelaine is very excited to be able to help her community through NEON and Housing Matters Union County.

In her free time, Madelaine likes to hang out with her partner and their cat, hang out with friends, cook, watch movies, listen to music, and explore the outdoors.

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