The Short Story:
Members of Westminster Presbyterian explored ideas to deal with poverty
Half-Day Forum featuring national poverty expert Dr. Donna Beegle with 12 faith communities in attendance
Northeast Interfaith Alliance (NIA) launched with 3 action teams:
Transitions to Stability, Becoming a Poverty Informed Community and Advocacy.
NIA worked with Living Cully advocating for Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park
Organization changed name to Interfaith Alliance on Poverty reflecting a broader approach to mission and to include other faith communities located outside North and Northeast Portland
Beth Israel congregation joined the Interfaith Alliance.
The Longer Story:
During the Winter of 2015, members of Westminster Presbyterian Church explored ideas of dealing with poverty in the Portland region. The idea of inviting Dr. Donna Beegle, a nationally recognized expert in this field, to speak at a forum was presented and supported by Westminster co-pastors and the Mission and Service Committee.
Other local faith-based communities were contacted about the opportunity. Twelve congregations committed money to support the forum and to send people to learn more.
In mid-October 2015, Dr. Beegle’s inspiring forum was held with each congregation sending up to ten attendees to participate. The focus: understanding what it meant to live in poverty in the United States and discovering effective strategies to help people move out of poverty.
An Organization Takes Root
Following the forum a few months later, an informal Planning Committee was established. It was discovered that the sponsoring congregations all had very active mission and justice projects. They primarily focused on delivering direct service to people in poverty, such as working at food banks, participating in Habitat for Humanity builds and providing access to housing, food or tutoring.
The desire of the Interfaith Alliance was to build on these strengths and to explore what could be done collaboratively to make a difference over the long term in decreasing poverty.
Tilling for Action
Three action teams were formed: Becoming a Poverty Aware Community, Transitioning (out of poverty) to Stability, and Advocacy & Policy. This trio of teams researched current successful programs that would support the focus of the teams and define initial action steps that would be most effective. Another work group formed later to explore potential actions in North and Northeast Portland.
During the winter and spring of 2016, the Planning Committee and the Action Teams met regularly. In May, the NE Interfaith Alliance sponsored a major forum to invite other members of sponsoring congregations to hear about the teams’ recommendations and ask people to join the effort. Again, the response was positive and reaffirmed by over 120 people attending the event.
By fall of 2016, The Becoming Informed Action Team produced five issues of a monthly newsletter and Westminster congregation offered to test a new curriculum to help congregations become poverty informed.
In early 2017, the organization changed its name to Interfaith Alliance on Poverty reflecting a broader approach to our mission and to include other faith communities located outside North and Northeast Portland.
The Transitions Action Team put together teams from several participating faith communities that would work with Village Support Network to help families moving from shelters into homes and become stable in jobs and homes.
The Advocacy Action Team started working with Casa, Living Cully and Oakleaf Mobile Home Park owners to get the city to look at challenges threatening mobile home residents with homelessness. The team also began looking at other advocacy needs to help remove obstacles for people experiencing homelessness including policies to positively effect low-income housing.
We look back at all we have learned and look forward to what we will learn from our involvement. May we continue to have open hearts, faith and wisdom to do good for one another.