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Kerr History

Since our founding in 1907, Albertina Kerr has been reaching out to, protecting, and caring for those who need us most. Over the decades, our services have evolved to meet the community’s needs. While these needs have changed, the values of our expert caregivers remain constant: compassion, partnership, advocacy, accountability, and innovation.

Today, Kerr empowers people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and mental health challenges to lead self-determined lives in their communities. We provide crisis psychiatric mental health care for youth and residential care and programs for individuals with I/DD.


Kerr History

Louise Home
Louise Home

William MacLaren founded the Portland Commons Mission for Homeless Men and Returning Prisoners, the name was later changed to the Pacific Coast Rescue and Protective Society. In 1908, the Portland Commons bought the Louise Home to serve women and children, beginning the shift toward providing care for mothers and babies.

Alexander & Albertina
Alexander & Albertina

Alexander Kerr married Albertina Sechtem in 1910. She was a strong advocate for helping the city’s many homeless children.

Albertina Dies

Albertina died suddenly of typhus in 1911. After her death, Alexander gave the Society their family home in Northwest Portland to be used as a nursery in her honor. The Albertina Kerr Nursery Home provided  adoption services and day-care for children of single mothers.

Louise Home Expands

Due to increasing need, larger quarters for the Louise Home were built on nine acres of farm and forest on what is now Kerr’s Gresham campus. Over the years, a new Louise Home was built, and additional buildings were added to support different types of services.

Kerr Nursery

The original Kerr nursery ran out of room. Following a fundraising campaign by Alexander’s third wife, Ruth Kerr, and Margaret Bondurant, a new nursery was built in 1921. The building operated as an adoption home until 1967, when services transitioned to foster homes and community-based care.

Wynne Watts School

The Wynne Watts School (named for a former medical director) opens on the campus of the Louise Home.

Albertina Kerr Homes
Albertina Kerr Homes

In 1940, the Louise Home and the Albertina Kerr Nursery Home incorporated under the name Albertina Kerr Homes.

Louise Home Campus
Louise Home Campus

With fundraising help from the community, Kerr built cottages on the campus to offer safe, residential treatment to young children.

Expanding Care for Children

Kerr began an innovative continuum of care program for children facing mental health challenges, with residential and outpatient psychiatric treatment, and family counseling services.

Kerr Center for Handicapped Children

Kerr stepped in and began programs for individuals with developmental disabilities following the closure of the state-run Fairview Training Center.

Supported Living Services

Kerr opens neighborhood group homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Kerr also begins providing supported living services and expands its’ employment services and life skills training for people with I/DD.

Albertina’s Place
Albertina’s Place

The nursery building re-opened in 1981 as Albertina’s Place run by The Old Kerr Nursery Association. The volunteer-run businesses included a restaurant and shops; the net proceeds and tips were donated to Kerr.

Crisis Psychiatric Care & Intensive Treatment
Crisis Psychiatric Care & Intensive Treatment

In 1997, with $3.2 million raised from community donations, Kerr constructs a new building and begins operating a Crisis Psychiatric Care program for children in danger of harming themselves or others, as well as a residential intensive treatment program.

Youth Group Homes
Youth Group Homes

In 2006, Kerr takes responsibility of 40 children with I/DD and mental health needs who were living in group homes formerly operated by Straight Ahead Shelter.

Kerr Bikes
Adaptive cycles for rent in Portland, including hand cycle, tricycle, recumbent bikes.

In 2009, Kerr Bikes becomes a new social enterprise of Kerr, offering an employment opportunity for people in Kerr’s I/DD programs.

Community Inclusion
Community Inclusion

Kerr adds new community inclusion programs for adults with I/DD, including Portland Art and Learning Studios (PALS).


Kerr launches Adaptive BIKETOWN in 2017 at Kerr Bikes in partnership with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Nike, and Different Spokes; the nation’s first project of its kind providing adaptive bike access in cooperation with local government, a bike share program, and private bike shop.

Community Promise

In 2018, the largest capital campaign in Kerr’s history, the Community Promise Campaign, raises $11 million to expand Kerr’s Children’s Mental Health Services. It also increases Kerr’s endowment, strengthening the organization’s long-term financial sustainability.

Project SEARCH

Kerr launches Project SEARCH internships, creating opportunities for adults with I/DD to secure employment in settings integrated with their neurotypical peers.

Coordinated Care Management

Kerr becomes the first Oregon provider to implement Epic’s Coordinated Care Management platform to support clients across Kerr’s programs. The system tracks broader goals for people with I/DD through electronic health record (EHR) technology, providing more holistic care.