April 2017 Newsletter


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

To contact: Email Bonniejgregg@msn.com

William Shakespeare says: “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” After the winter we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest, we surely need it! Our very bones creak. All those days staring out the window onto frozen streets. Going out meant bundling against the cold and watching our step on slippery sidewalks.

Now, seeing skies of blue, pink blossoms on the tree, and feeling the sun warm upon our shoulders, life surges anew. We throw off our parkas and get out our gardening tools. We vow to lose the blues, reform and reclaim our lives, and reach out to those in poverty, so they can reclaim their lives, too.

Springtime is all about rebirth and renewal, which is why most of the world’s religions embrace this season.

Martin Luther said, “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time”. 


Excerpts from Ted Wheeler’s March 24 remarks before City Hall)

“Some call Portland the Rose City. Some call it Stump Town. Blazers fans call Portland Rip City, while Timbers fans call it Soccer City USA. Some people just call Portland Weird. And guess what? We are all that and more.

“Many people have referred to the West Coast as the last line of defense against forces that seek to roll back the progress we’ve made on health care, on education, on the environment, on reproductive rights, on LGBT issues and issues of race. While this may be an apt description, I say this: I am not satisfied with Portland merely being the last line of defense. I want our great city to be the first line of offense.

“A safe, affordable place to live is a home base for any family. It’s a place from which parents go to work and kids go to school. It anchors that family to a community. It’s where parents and kids do the most important thing any family can do: spend time together.

The cost of housing is the major obstacle to securing housing, but it is not the only obstacle. Renters, in particular, face many hurdles, including applications, credit checks, security deposits, and

more. Additionally, tenants and landlords alike are often not aware of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

“Whatever we do, I am determined that it benefit everyone in the community, and that any housing that is created includes all levels of affordability. And however we do it, I am determined that we lead the nation in ensuring that women, people of color, and underserved communities participate in the economic benefits of the project through a strong commitment to minority and women-owned contracting principles. We have a chance to reshape the face of our city. I also believe we have a chance to reshape our spirit.

“My final thoughts are these. We are not some monolithic, homogenous city, and we don’t want to be. By coming together, embracing our shared values and acting on them, we can ensure that Portland’s character will endure for generations to come. That Portland will continue to be a place for all people. That we will continue to be an example to our neighbors, the nation, and the world. 


Although April is “American Arab Month”, the Portland Arab American community hold their “Mahrajan” celebration in late summer.

“Arab” refers to those who speak Arabic as their first language. and who are united by the culture and history of their native lands primarily in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Most Arabs are Muslims but there are also millions of Christian Arabs and thousands of Jewish world wide. During the revolutionary war, Algeria provided horses to the American cavalry, and Morocco was the first country to officially recognize the U.S. as a new nation. However, it wasn’t until 1867 that Syrians began immigrating to America. A hundred years later, in 1967, following the 6-day Arab-Israelis war, Palestinians arrived in large numbers as well.

Today Arabs make up 1.2 % of the US population. They have made important contributions to the U.S. culture and economy, frequently pursuing professional careers; therefore, poverty is seldom an issue in their communities. However, the same cannot be said for their relatives who are being driven out of their homes into refugee camps by middle east wars.

Of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees, half are children. We may think of Arabs as a nomadic people roaming the desert, but those arriving in refugee camps from Aleppo were accustomed to all the culture and conveniences of a modern city. Most of the children have survived traumatic events including gunfire in their streets, the destruction of their homes, and the death of family members and friends, followed by a hard journey to the camp. Instead of a 3-bedroom apartment, they now live in a

tent. They hang on to hope that their life in the camp is temporary.

Unfortunately, their path to resettlement is not easy. War continues to bar their way home. Other countries are no longer welcoming. Procedures for resettlement are lengthy. First a United Nations representative decides if the person fits the definition of refugee. Less than 1% of refugees meet that criteria. The entire process can take up to two or more years.

The PEW Research Center indicates that worldwide, because of wars and climate change, “nearly 1 in 100 people are being displaced from their homes.” To find food, water, and a place to live, they are willing to walk miles, risk drowning in a packed boat, take shelter on city streets or in a crowded refugee camp. To build a global community, free of war, where everybody has a home, may be the greatest challenge of the 21st century. 

> Myth: "Growing up in poverty doesn't affect children as long as you raise them right." 

Fact: Poverty affects the healthy development of every child. 

The AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION indicates that ”children who grow up in generational poverty suffer chronic stress, anxiety, depression and low self esteem. This in turn affects their behavior, social development, academic performance, employment readiness, and personal relationships”

They will become part of a vicious, intergenerational cycle that curtails children’s opportunities, deepens inequality and threatens societies everywhere. 

“Trapped in a cycle of disadvantage, children from the poorest households, are effectively pre-selected for heightened risks of disease, hunger, illiteracy and poverty based on factors entirely outside

their control. They are nearly two times as likely to die before the age of 5. They are also far less likely to complete school, meaning that those who survive this precarious start find little opportunity to break free from their parents’ poverty and to shape their own futures.

“Around the world, children make up nearly half of the almost 900 million people living on less than U.S. $1.90 a day. Their families struggle to afford the basic health care and nutrition needed to provide them a strong start.

“This challenge is compounded by the increasingly protracted nature of armed conflict. Nearly 250 million children live in countries and areas affected by armed conflict, and millions more bear the brunt of climate-related disasters and chronic crises.”

The UN projects the world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, with 20 million people facing starvation and famine.” The U.S administration is now proposing to cut foreign aid by 30%


by Rae Richen 

In our work to end houselessness and provide support toward housing stability, the Transitions Workgroup of Interfaith Alliance has recruited teams that support with families moving into homes.

At the same time, members of the Transitions workgroup have decided to take an in-depth look at models of support that work in other cities. We find that from Baltimore to Winnepeg, cities are demonstrating that having a safe place to live is the first and most important step toward solving the problems that keep people in poverty. This approach to caring for the houseless is called ‘Housing First’. 

Before Housing First became widely known and demonstrated success, most programs to address homelessness were based on what was often called ‘Housing Readiness’ model. Many cities still use that older model. The Housing Readiness approach assumes that homeless people should be treated for complex problems while living in residential treatment or transitional housing. Treatment will create healthier people, able to end their own homelessness with a little help.

Housing First turns the Housing Readiness model upside-down. Housing First is based on the idea that permanent housing is a person’s first and foremost need and a basic human right. Once a person is safely housed, then all other needs can begin to be addressed and health and social participation can improve. Housing First makes certain that supports are in place so that people can become stabilized while in their new home.

In the next months, we will report to you on the best models of housing and support that we discover in these efforts to provide stability