March 2017 Newsletter


The Interfaith Alliance newsletter is produced by the Poverty Awareness & Communication Workgroup.

To contact:  Email



 “When Irish eyes are smiling, all the world is bright and gay, but when Irish eyes are crying, sure they’ll steal your heart away!.”

 Most of us know the tune that goes with these words.  March is Irish Heritage month and on St. Paddy’s Day we wear a bit of green, march in parades, and tell Irish jokes.   It doesn’t matter if we’re Irish, we’re proud to claim Irish heritage.  It makes us feel a little lighter somehow, better able to see the “sublime”, especially after a couple of Guinness. But that wasn’t always the case.


In 1850, at the peak of the Potato Famine,  more than 200,000 Irish immigrated to the United States and Canada.  A celebrated orator, Orestes Browson, declared, “ Out of these narrow lanes, dirty streets, damp cellars and suffocating garrets  will come forth some of the “noblest sons of country” whom she will delight to own and honor.” Americans didn’t see them that way.  The Chicago Post wrote, “The Irish fill our prisons and our poor houses.  Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are  you will tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic.  Putting them on a boat and sending them home would end crime in this country.”  Ads also  specified that job applicant must be Protestant or American, effectively banning Catholics.  

In 1862, Miss Kathleen O’Neil wrote and sang the following song (excerpts below):

“I’m a simple Irish girl, and I’m looking for a place, I’ve felt the grip of poverty, but sure that’s no disgrace. ”Twill be long before I get one, tho indeed it’s hard I try,         for I read in each advertisement,    “NO IRISH NEED APPLY”

“Now I wonder what’s the reason that the fortune-favored few, should throw on us that dirty slur, and treat us as they do.  Sure they all know Paddy’s heart is warm, and willing is his hand,   They rule us, yet we may not earn a living in their land.   Now what have they against us, sure the world knows Paddy’s brave, for he helped to fight their battles, both on land and on the wave.“Ah, but now I’m in the land of the Glorious and Free” And proud I am to own it, a country dear to me.  I can   see by your kind faces, that you will not deny, a place in your hearts for Kathleen, where    “ALL IRISH MAY APPLY”

Kathleen’s  Irish wit smiles  throughout her song.  Within the next 100 years, the Irish were assimilated into every venue in the country, achieving success in politics, business, entertainment, sports, and the arts.  An Irish Catholic, John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the 35th U.S. president.

From 1845 to 1851, hundreds of thousands of immigrants entered the United States, not only from Ireland but   other countries in Europe and around the world.  Their arrival upset the previous wave of immigrants who were now established and saw themselves as the true  “Americans.”   In 1866, the Ku Klux Klan became a national movement.  advocating for “white supremacy”, white nationalism, anti-immigration, anti-Catholicism, and anti-semiticism.  We see some of the same attitudes expressed toward today’s immigrants, refugees, and members of the Muslim faith.


 Rob Justus shared his view on creating affordable housing with members of the Interfaith Alliance at their February planning committee meeting.

In 1992, Rob Justus, a social justice activist, with a Masters in Divinity, founded JOIN, launching the “home first” program, working one-to-one with homeless individuals and families to move them from sleeping on the streets into permanent housing. Concerned about the lack of affordable housing, in 2001, he left JOIN to establish Home First Development, a company governed by what he describes as a “moral compass.”   “Home First Development is driven by the belief that decent affordable housing is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of a community.”

Justus’s goal is to provide quality units that rent for $600 which are at the same time reasonable for owners to operate and maintain.  Working with independent contractors, Justus has been successful in building multiple housing complexes for a cost of $68,000 per unit, compared to the industry average of $250,000.

He has had used no public money, but has worked with non profits and private donors. He has also collaborated with CASH Oregon in creating innovative approaches to increase income for low income Oregonians.  A number of faith-based communities have cooperated in selling their property for affordable housing projects.      Home First has built 257 units locally and has other projects underway in east Portland, Bend, LaPine, and Sisters.  He encouraged the Alliance to support zone changes affecting church properties to allow construction of low-cost housing



Chloe Eudaly - Photo Credit -April Baer – OPB

Newly elected City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Mayor Ted Wheeler campaigned on a promise to help renters and led the effort to amend the Affordable Housing Preservation and Portland Renter Protections to add relocation assistance.  Interfaith Alliance members joined a rally led by Portland Tenants United outside City Hall on February 2, 2017 in support of this amendment.  The City Council voted unanimously to approve an emergency ordinance to require landlords to pay moving costs for tenants evicted “without cause.”

The new ordinance will require tenants to receive a 90-day notice for a no-cause eviction and landlords to pay relocation assistance.  Mayor Wheeler said, “It is a huge step forward in terms of renter protections as they exist in the community today.” The ordinance states that: “The average Portland tenant is paying between 45% to 49% of their income on rent, which puts them at significant risk of becoming “severely cost burdened” paying over 50% of their gross monthly income on rent.”

“Rent increases of 10% and higher have the effect of constructively evicting tenants (“Economic Evictions”) resulting in  involuntary displacement.  Involuntary displacement occurs not only as a result of economic evictions, but also when a tenant is forced to leave their home through no fault of their own through  “no-cause eviction.”  This has resulted in a 28% increase in newly homeless individuals, including 48% increase in persons of color and a 24% increase in families with children.

Relocation expenses associated with involuntary displacement such as application fees, security deposits, double rent, moving supplies, storage, and lost wages present a significant challenge to Portland renters.


A mass “no-cause eviction” notice was issued to 72 renters of the Titan Manor Apartments in north Portland, following the sale of the property in October 2016.  The Community Alliance of Tenants (C.A.T.) directed a letter to the new owners asking that the notice be withdrawn.  The C.A.T. initiative was supported by the NE Coalition of Neighbors and the Interfaith Alliance among other organizations.  On February 24, the notice was withdrawn, allowing the residents to remain in their current housing and their 59 children attending Portland Public Schools to remain in their current placement..

When the Normandy Apartments on NE Killingsworth  were recently sold, renters learned their rent would be “doubled.”  The Alliance joined with the Cully Association of Neighbors in a Feb 26 “Renter Solidarity March  & Rally” to support the renters . 


On Tuesday February 7, 2017   members of the Interfaith Alliance joined with representatives of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and other faith communities to advocate with legislators  for compassionate legislation regarding housing, hunger, health care, gun safety and climate justice. In above photo, Interfaith Alliance members are preparing to meet with Rep. Michael Dembrow.


Who does not love a library?  All those volumes of books and now E-books, audio tapes, CD’s, films, classes, and technology -- whatever you want to know-- is yours, “free for the taking.”  If education is key to escaping poverty,  the library provides the gateway through which many pass on their path to knowledge.

The Library has expanded its mission beyond loaning out books.  The “ Everybody Reads,Program” is an annual  Multnomah County Library reading project supported by the Library Arts Foundation.    The 2017  selection is Matthew Desmond’s book, “Evicted”.  The Library Arts Foundation encourages Portlanders  to:

 “Join the library in discussing and envisioning real solutions to our housing crisis.  Let's learn from each other, promote greater understanding and celebrate the power of books in creating a stronger community.”  Library Director, Vailey Oehlke, says, “We consider ourselves part of a reading ecosystem.  Democracy is under a lot of pressure. There are fewer places for people of different classes and viewpoints to come together.” 

What is now the Multnomah County Library dates back to 1864, when Portland was a frontier town with frame buildings and muddy streets.

An early 1900s bookmobile delivered books to rural Multnomah County residents.  Just 13 years after the city’s incorporation, a small group of businessmen organized a Library Association of  Portland.   In 1900, John Wilson donated his collection of 8,000 books and $2,500 in gold coin to establish the library. A block, then on the outskirts of downtown Portland was purchased and Albert Doyle was hired as architect to construct a new library.

Mary Frances Isom was employed as head librarian. Mary pushed Doyle to design one of the nation’s first “open-stack” libraries.  He designed a building clad in brick, with stone benches outside and marble stairways and Georgian revival rooms inside, at a cost of about $1 million in today’s dollars. It opened in September 1913.  Today the Multnomah County Library system is second only to the New York Public Library in circulation volume.

AN EVENING WITH MATTHEW DESMOND, sponsored by the Library Arts Foundation, will be held Thursday, March 9, at 7:30 pm, in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.   Author of “Evicted”, Desmond is a Harvard Associate Professor of Social Justices, whose work has focused on the causes, dynamics, and consequences of eviction among the urban poor.

 EVERYBODY READS “Evicted”   Programs are planned at many locations including the following: 

  • 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
  • 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 March 12, from 1:30-4:30 pm, in the Buchan Room.
  • 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.
  • ROSE CITY PARK PRESBYTERIAN. Several regular book groups will be reading “Evicted” during February and March. In April   a church wide discussion will be held that will be open to the community.  Rose City Park is located at 1907 NE 45th in the Hollywood district.



 ESCALATING INEQUALITY AND POVERTY by Rev. Connie Yost -   Mar. 1, 8, 15; 7–9 pm

     -- “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.

Presentation will be at  First Unitarian Church, 1211 SW Main St.  For more information,     Please contact Rev. Connie Yost at


Stable Homes for Oregon Families Day, March 2: This is a day focused solely on tenant protections. There will be an opportunity to visit with legislators  as well as a public hearing on House Bill 2004. That bill will eliminate the ability of landlords to evict people without a reason, and allows local jurisdictions to try rent stabilization to help slow the rate and speed of rent increases.

Housing Opportunity Day, March 22 (the Housing Alliance's advocacy day).   It will start around 8:30 AM and go until about 4:00.   Focus will be on the full Housing Opportunity Agenda including both tenant protections and new resources.

SAVE THE DATE = SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MAY 7, LOCATION TBD “BREAKING THE CHAIN OF GENERATIONAL POVERTY” The Interfaith Alliance on Poverty will host a presentation by Dr. Mandy Davis, LCSW,   Co-Director and Trainer of Trauma Informed Oregon, Portland State University School of Social Work

There are no “poor children.”   But, there are children living without the critical resources needed to achieve normal development. Come for an afternoon exploring the role poverty plays in the lives of children and limits them to lower educational and economic outcomes. Learn ways we, as individuals, people of faith and faith communities can make a difference in their lives.  Learn techniques and skills to be of more caring direct service.  And, how we can help break the chain of generational poverty.

MARCH 30 -  INTERFAITH ALLIANCE PLANNING COMMITTEE will be held at 12:00 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1624 NE Hancock.  Representative from the Trauma Informed Oregon will be guest speaker.