February 2017 Newsletter

“On A Mission to Alleviate Poverty in the Portland Region”

The Interfaith Alliance newsletter is produced by the Poverty Awareness & Communication Workgroup. Deadline for submission of news articles is the 25th of the month. Newsletter staff: Jon DeBellis and Bonnie Gregg. To contact: Email Bonniejgregg@msn.com


On January 16, our nation celebrated the life of civil rights champion, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Excerpts from Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

In his Nobel Prize acceptance address in Oslo, Norway, 1964, Dr. King stated: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why, right temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

In his presentation regarding poverty, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, etc., Dr. King stated, “Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”


Since 1926, the second week of February has been set aside to celebrate Black Americans’ freedom from slavery. The date was selected to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976 the week was expanded to a month to recognize the many accomplishments of Black Americans. Unfortunately, the realization of Dr. King’s dream is not among them.


by Bonnie Gregg

During the month of January, in the nation’s capitol, state houses, and city halls, our newly elected leaders have taken oaths of office to assume roles of leadership. Typically, the “oath of office” is administered by a judge or county clerk, but this was not the case when Portland Mayor, Ted Wheeler took his oath on January 4, at Jason Lee Elementary School. He was sworn in by the students of the school, who stood in line to administer the oath.

The incoming mayor repeated after the students, “I Ted Wheeler, do solemnly swear I will support the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Oregon; Charter of the City of Portland and its laws; ….; so help me God.”

The selection of Jason Lee as the site of the swearing in, was a departure from normal practice, but it was an important symbol for our new mayor.

He wanted to demonstrate that the “east side” of Portland matters as much as the more affluent west. "The challenges, the issues of east Portland, are the challenges of all of Portland," he said. He indicated his desire for a more “pluralistic society”, and being “a city that works for everybody”. He stressed the importance of nurturing our youth. "It's cliche," Wheeler observed. "We've heard it a million times. You know why? Because the children are our future." He concluded, “Talk is cheap. Action is what matters!”

As one of his first actions, on the freezing night that followed his swearing in, he cancelled the sweeps of homeless camps and opened City Hall to provide Portlanders shelter against the cold.

Interfaith Alliance Co-Chair, Carol Turner, was among the four speakers invited by Ted Wheeler to speak at his swearing in ceremony. They included representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, and the Coalition for Justice and Police Reform.



“Good morning. The Interfaith Alliance on Poverty is honored to be invited to this important event… the official launching of our new Mayor Ted Wheeler. David Groff and I serve as Co-Chairs of the Alliance and we are pleased to have some of our members in attendance today.

“The Interfaith Alliance on Poverty is a growing network of Portland faith-based communities and congregations. We are on a common mission, working to alleviate poverty in our Portland region. “As a communal voice grounded in our sacred texts, we have three major goals: 1) To increase our understanding of generational poverty. 2) To advocate for systemic change to help eliminate poverty- and yes, we have already been to City Hall for such a purpose. 3) And work directly with families living in poverty to help them move to stability- in partnership with the New City Initiatives

“By observing how the incoming Mayor has worked as a public official in recent years- and we are blessed that he brings such expertise… it is clear that he approaches challenges through learning about and understanding complexities. We know there is nothing more complex than the poverty that is visible daily in our city and the poverty which is invisible, with too many people living in the shadows, always anxious about the next paycheck and always on edge.

“Ted Wheeler is an authentic, collaborative leader who listens to voices in the community including those that are not often heard. He is strategic about what actions to pursue and has the fortitude to make a difference.

“The current focus for the Interfaith Alliance now is to help vulnerable families gain stability through access to homes that are affordable to them over time. It is great to hold this event in a public school- since we know that the real ticket out of poverty is to graduate from high school and succeed with advanced learning opportunities. For this to happen, families need to settle into stable, safe homes where their children will be in one school over a period of time- so they can breathe a sigh of relief not worrying about where they will sleep that night- and can bring all their energy and their brains so they can focus on achieving academic success.

“We look forward to Mayor Wheeler beginning his work in our city. We know there will be many challenges that arise, and it is all too easy to get off track with the latest problem or the latest solution de jour. We ask you to clearly establish your priority goals and strategies and sustain these efforts over the long haul. We know that Portland has strong public services, dedicated and intelligent City and County Commissioners, involved business community, effective non-profits, groups such as ours – filled with people who have the will to tackle the economic disparity that we face. “And really in the end, and certainly compared to other cities… we are confident that with all these resources and the City’s leadership Portland definitely has the capacity to move the dial on alleviating poverty well into the next generation.

“So, Mayor Wheeler, we are excited to work with you on this challenge. As you accept this mantle of public service and leadership, we wish you all the best. Thank you on behalf of the Alliance for this opportunity.”




by Bonnie Gregg 

Matthew Desmond, Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Justice and Poverty Project at Harvard University, devoted more than two years to the research of his book, “Evicted.” Living in trailer parks and low income housing, among those struggling   to feed and clothe their families on the few dollars left after paying the rent and utilities, he saw firsthand, how eviction destabilize the lives of renters, forcing them into homelessness.

By telling the true stories of individuals he met during his research such as Arlene (the single mother of two boys, one with asthma), Lamar (a man with no legs trying to get out of debt), Tobin (who runs the worst trailer park in Milwaukee), and Sherrena (a former school teacher now a wealthy, low rent landlady), Desmond explains the serious issues surrounding the need for affordable housing, not with statistics, but by the lives of those affected.



by Claudia Roberts

“Everybody Reads” is becoming a big event for our Portland Interfaith Alliance on Poverty. We have distributed brochures about the event to all of our participating faith communities and have recruited volunteers to help with some of the planned community events. A number of congregations   will be holding book discussions for their communities and some are also opening the doors to their neighbors. It is not too late for any of the other congregations to set up their own discussion group or partner with another congregation that has already scheduled an event.

The list includes the following events scheduled during February and March

WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN –will host an “Evicted” book discussion open to the community on Wednesday, February 22, at 7:30 pm.

FREMONT UNITED METHODIST BOOK CLUB   is reading the “Evicted” and there will be a discussion open to the neighborhood on Monday, March 13th at 7:00 pm at the church located at NE 26th and Fremont.

FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH OF PORTLAND will have an event including a panel discussion on housing issues in Portland, a small group discussion of “Evicted” and a presentation by the Oregon Housing Alliance. The date will be either Sunday, February 26th or Sunday, March 5th. More details to follow.

ROSE CITY PARK PRESBYTERIAN. Several regular book groups will be reading “Evicted” during February. In mid-March they will hold a church wide discussion that will be open to the community. They are located at 1907 NE 45th in the Hollywood district. A specific date for the community event will be provided later.

THE MADELEINE CATHOLIC PARISH is planning to have one or more“Evicted” book discussion group meetings during the month of March.

In addition, we encourage everyone to attend one or more of the many community events that are part of Everybody Reads.  

PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY will be the site of a “Poverty Simulation” to be held at Hoffman Hall on Saturday, February 4, from 12:30pm to 4:30 pm.   Participants will gain understanding about what it is like to live on the edge of poverty

MULTNOMAH COUNTY CENTRAL LIBRARY will be holding   a Panel Discussion on “How We Can End Homelessness On Wednesday, February 22, from 6:00-7:30 pm in the U.S. Bank Room..

SISTERS OF THE ROAD will be showing a film, “On The Ground” on Saturday, March 4, from 2:30 to 3:30, at the Multnomah County Central Library in the U.S. Bank Room


All of the library branches are also hosting book discussion groups so go to www.multcolib.org for information about dates and times in your area.



by Carol Turner 

A number of Alliance congregations will be holding community book discussions on “Evicted” during February, plus there are other related events, including:

FEBRUARY 4, 12:30-4:30pm: Poverty Simulation at Portland State University. Two more volunteers from the Alliance are needed to assist in following areas:

* Registration: Help check people in and assign participants their roles in the simulation.

* Support Staff/Resource Roles (such as banker, teacher, social services worker, etc.): Play the role of a support staffer during the simulation. The experience of the simulation will be different from playing the role of a person experiencing poverty. You will still walk away with new insight and observations and participate in the group debrief after the simulation. You will receive your role description in advance, and there will be an optional support staffer orientation (date to be determined once all volunteers are known) to learn more about the simulation and the expectations for your role. If a volunteer cannot come to the earlier orientation session they can come a bit early the day of the Simulation for some orientation.

FEBRUARY 11, 2:00-3:30pm: Craft a Valentine and Donate event at Central Library. Need 1 volunteer from the Alliance to monitor food donations for Northwest Pilot Project

FEBRUARY 12, 3:30-4:30pm: Craft a Valentine and Donate event at Midland Library . Volunteer needed to monitor food donations for SnowCap (emergency food program in southeast Portland).

Interested volunteers should contact: Claudia Roberts – clarobb@juno.com - 503-407-6005 or Holly Schmidt – Schmidt.holly@gmail.com - 503-244-4080



by Rae Richen 

Effective the first week of February, the Portland Housing Bureau has announced that bond funds approved by voters in November, will be used to purchase The Ellington Apartments, along Northeast 66th Avenue between Broadway and Halsey. Built in the 1940’s, the Ellington became a low-rental housing complex in 1991. When this designation was lost in 2005, rents were raised.

Inclusionary housing programs in local cities were prevented by state law until passage of Senate Bill 1533 during the 2016 legislative session. When that prevention was removed, Commissioner Dan Saltzman and the Portland Housing Bureau began development of an inclusionary program, working with experts representing housing, development and community members.

When renovated, the Ellington apartments will offer family-sized units larger than most units currently being built. They will include 2 studio units, 10 one bedroom, 211 two bedroom units and 40 three bedroom units, as well as providing space for neighbors to congregate and children to play.

The cost (including 10 million for repairs) is $47 million dollars, or approximately $168 thousand per unit. Answering doubts about buying a complex that has been historically under-maintained, Commissioner Dan Saltzman stated that “the proposed purchase is not based on the past, but is premised on an immediate need to prevent displacement and to provide long-term affordability for Portland families well into the future.

“We’re going to acquire it as a means to prevent displacement of existing residents, but also we’re going to keep the units affordable, We’re also going to make sure we have about 80 units that are for very low-income people, those making sort of zero to thirty percent of the average median income,” he said. “It’s about 263 units on eleven acres of land. Someday it will have a great redevelopment potential, too, so it’s really good that it will be under city ownership."



by Rev. Connie Yost 

“In this four week course, Rev. Connie states, “ we will explore economic inequality and poverty in the United States and specifically here in Portland. We will engage with the complex history and realities of economic inequality which exists at every level of human community, from local to global, and is composed of overlapping and interrelated systems of education, income, housing, taxation, democracy, banking, public health, workplace policies, and many others. We will gain an awareness of how structures of oppression affect the systemic nature of economic inequality. Finally, we will explore ways in which inequality and poverty can be reduced. Come and be inspired to be part of the solution to escalating inequality.”

Facilitator: Rev. Connie Yost is an affiliated community minister with First Unitarian Church, Portland. She is the founder of Friends Stay Warm which provides utility assistance and advocacy to farm and other low-wage workers. She is on the board of Farm Ministry NW and the planning committee of the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty.

Details: First Unitarian Church, 1211 SW Main St., Portland. Four Wednesdays: Feb 22, Mar.1, 8, 15; 7–9 pm Fee: First U Pledging $25 / Non-pledging $35

Reference #: C32WS17. To register, email: http://tinyurl.com/1stCh-Registration

Class code= C32WS17; Class title= Escalating Inequality and Poverty/ Scholarships are available. Please contact Rev. Connie Yost at cyost@uuma.org




February 7 has been set aside for people of many religious traditions come together for a day of prayer, dialogue and advocacy with state legislators. Anyone interested in attending this event is asked to register on the EMO website Link: .https://www.eventbrite.com/e/interfaith-advocacy-day-2017-tickets-292-637-10546 Those needing transportation are asked to contact Sarah Carulous scarolus3@gmail.comor or by phone: 503-284-9231.

FEBRUARY 24, 12:00-3:00, Interfaith Planning Meeting, is scheduled at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1625 NE Hancock.