June 2017 Interfaith Alliance Newsletter


In June, graduating high school students across the country set out to seek their fortunes. Those   raised in families where there was always food on the table and a place they called “home”, where choices were many, and success the expectation, look forward to graduating from college, maybe backpacking through Europe, then pursuing bright futures ahead.


Those raised in families where food was scarce and shelter uncertain, where choices were limited, and failure the norm, are less sure where their tomorrows will take them.   The fact that they graduated from high school is itself an accomplishment, not all that common in their community. But they are unsure what they should do next, try for a community college, take that job at McDonald’s, or just “hang” w/friends.


Growing up in poverty, college is seldom seen as an option. All kinds of excuses are made for not going.  “If we can’t pay the rent, how can we send you to college?  It’s time you started pulling your own weight!  What would you do- become a doctor, maybe a hot-shot lawyer?  The idea is made to seem laughable. College isn’t for the likes of us.”  Nevertheless education is their key out of poverty, not only for themselves but their children, and their children’s children.

Minimum wage jobs do not pay enough to support the needs of most families. Income sufficient to cover the increasing cost of rent, food, utilities, transportation, clothing, health needs, etc.  is necessary to escape becoming homeless. Government assistance is uncertain and varies with political winds.  Good paying jobs are the answer.  To obtain the skills necessary for 21st century jobs, education is necessary.   Those who grow up in poverty who attend college, are able to earn 91 percent more over their careers than their peers who have earned only a high school diploma or GED.   Education widens the horizon, making  possible  destinies unlimited by poverty.

John F Kennedy said “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”  And not just strength for our nation, but a way out of poverty for kids in Portland, and those around the globe.

Nelson Mandela stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world.” -- Not mighty armies or commercial empires, but EDUCATION can transform this tiny planet we call home.    Knowledge makes it possible to solve the most thorny problems,  Hunger and disease can be eradicated.  Eco-systems can be restored.  Achieving his/her full potential can become the expectation for every child.    Whatever the cost, education is our best investment.  Bonnie Gregg


On May 1,  Mayor Ted Wheeler  submitted his budget proposal, saying,  ”My first budget makes significant investments to address the real concerns of everyday Portlanders.  Topping the list of priorities are livability, road maintenance, community policing, housing, homelessness, and resilience.  These are the issues I hear about the most, things that city government is uniquely positioned to address.”

More than $25 million in General Fund resources  is being allocated to the Joint Office of Homeless Services, matching Multnomah County’s commitment to invest in supportive housing, diversion programs, rapid rehousing shelter, and system coordination.


 At the April 27th meeting of the Alliance Planning Meeting, Marc Jolin, head of the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services, reported that a “Home for Everyone” is a community-wide plan organized in response to the crisis of homelessness in Multnomah County.     During 2015-2016, they served over 25,000 people with some level of housing and support services  This year, they plan to prevent homelessness by 5,000 people; increase permanent housing placements for 4,350; and  expand emergency shelters by 650 beds to double the current capacity for those who remain  homeless.

  • Lack of available housing is the biggest challenge. Therefore, they  are offering private landlords financial incentives to encourage them to rent to homeless people.  Last year, they were successful securing 300 more housing units.
  • Stable income leads to stable housing. Therefore they have introduced programs which connect rental assistance  with employment training.
  • By aligning mental health, corrections, and homeless service systems, they are better able to serve the community. A community-wide data platform has been created to facilitate application processes and make sure people get the services they need.
  • Shelter options remain critical to provide basic safety, hygiene facilities, and opportunities to connect with housing, employment, and health services.

Marc indicated everyone’s help is needed.  To find out more visit www.ahomeforeverone.net or ahfe@multco.us  or call 503-988-2525.



About 60 people gathered under the banner of the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty to learn about how trauma, especially childhood trauma, impacts our lives and the lives of those living in poverty. Dr Mandy Davis, director of Trauma Informed Oregon (tio.org) led the afternoon workshop. It was terrific!

Medical and social sciences have progressed enough to recognize the long lasting effects that trauma has on our lives. None of us escape without some form of trauma as we grow up, face life on life’s terms, raise families, have jobs, struggle with relationships, money and so many more of day-to-day reality. As Dr Davis pointed out, faith communities are often providers of safety net services. Our members serve meal sites, shelters, offer encouragement and support to families in transition and many other direct service activities. The communities where we live, work, worship and serve are populated with those who have experienced adversity, trauma, and toxic stress. So, with every interaction we have an opportunity to restore, reconnect and repair the people we serve and serve with.

We got a good, working definition of what trauma informed care is: “A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization”

The workshop then took us through the learning we needed in order to realize, recognize, respond and resist re-traumatizing. Just understanding trauma was a chore. It can be a single event, a series of events that may recur over time, there could be interpersonal violence or violation at the hands of a trusted figure, or even events that impact a group or have occurred to family in the past. Many of us found ourselves thinking about our own past and the events that may have impacted us.

It seemed the key was why trauma is important for those of us concerned about poverty, economic justice and making a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors. It is important because:

—Trauma is pervasive.

—Trauma’s impact is broad, deep and life-shaping.

—Trauma differentially affects the more vulnerable.

—Trauma affects how people approach services.

—The service system has often been activating or re-traumatizing.

Thus, if our work is to break the chain of generational poverty we need the awareness of how trauma sets the stage for this generational inheritance. We talk about starting with the children because we learn that science has taught us about

how vulnerable children are (sure we knew this but current research has put a sharper focus on children and trauma). Trauma (toxic stress, adversity) impacts the way our brain develops and functions (neurobiology). We learned that trauma can have impacts that persist across generations (epigenetics). And, we find that adverse childhood experiences are particularly important due to the neurobiology at play with young minds. Dr Davis puts it succinctly: “The take home message about ACEs is that adversity in childhood leads to challenges in health for adults and helped us understand why. It linked adversity to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, copd, etc.” These experiences show up in education results, earning power and can indicate the likelihood for lesser education and economic outcome.

This summary cannot begin to discuss the details of the ACEs study and its findings. Suffice to realize that children are at the foundation of generational poverty and need our support, lots of our support. And, that we can make a positive difference if we look for and develop ways to create safe, stable and nurturing relationships so children can learn skills such that they can reach their full potential.

We learned that our resilience actually allows us to experience positive surroundings that reverse, prevent or heal the disruption caused by trauma. Our service activities and the facilities we work in offer opportunities for us to connect personally with those we serve and serve with. Resilience affords the chance to become self-aware and to learn and understand self-reflection and self-care. This leads to becoming more flexible, curious and persistent and being able to be of service to others. Like so much of life we learn that resilience is a capability we need to develop and nurture if we are to thrive living life on life’s terms.

And so there were concrete steps we could take to enhance our relationships. Creating physical and emotionally safe places for our service is a step in the right direction. Dr Davis provided examples of how we might do that and help restore power and value to the people we interact with. So much of trauma informed care is about the way we work rather than the work we do. The workshop didn’t get deep into skill development but it is clear that being ‘trauma informed’ is an area of development for most of us.

Often we hear it said, “it’s not about the food/shelter/clothes or other direct service. It is about how we provide the food/shelter/clothes or other service.” Dr Davis is likely to endorse that perspective. Those who attended “Breaking the Chain of Generational Poverty: Starting with the Children” have plenty to reflect on. That’s a good thing.

Learn more at Trauma Informed Oregon (tio.org) and get a copy of the handouts from the training by emailing: registerinterfaithalliance@gmail.com.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY By Rev. Connie Yost,  (Article has been edited for newsletter.  To read full text, see Allianceopoverty.org website.)

“It began in Denver, in July of 2016, when Southwest Airline computers crashed and my flight home to Portland was cancelled. An hour and a half wait in line had me rebooked on a flight out the next evening, and an apologetic $200 voucher was issued, good only on a future, Southwest Airline flight.

“Never one to turn down a good coupon, discount or voucher, that $200 weighed heavily on me. Where to go? Finally, I decided to tour parts of the Midwest I had skipped over (or flown over) in previous trips. My trip began in Detroit, wound through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, ending in Chicago.

“Between booking the trip and taking the trip, I had gotten more involved with the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty in Portland, specifically researching programs that have effectively moved people and communities out of poverty. I remembered studying the Chicago-based work of Bethel New Life when I was in seminary some years back. I was in luck – Mary Nelson, one of Bethel’s founders and executive director for many years was still living in the community, and she would be happy to talk with me and show me around.

When I arrived at Bethel ,I was  flabbergasted at the size of it! I had no idea that their offices were in a former 465-bed hospital and nursing school, now a senior independent and assisted living facility they purchased and rehabbed.

Mary, having retired as Bethel’s executive director in 2006, lived in an apartment there, and still had an office in the old nursing school section. She was nimble and jaunty in her clogs and patterned loose pants, not nearly as old looking as I thought she would be.   Mary told me the story of Bethel New Life, which was born out of Bethel Lutheran Church where her brother became Pastor in 1965. Three days later, riots broke out.

In 1965, Bethel Lutheran Church had 35 elderly white members. By then, the surrounding community was overwhelmingly black. White flight had accelerated over the years, but with the riots, the community shut down completely. Businesses left, banks left, landlords stopped maintaining buildings. Residents found there were few jobs nearby, and even those with a good income couldn’t get a home loan in this “risky” neighborhood. By 1979, the area was losing 200 housing units to demolition each year. There was no major grocery store, few good doctors, no local bank and too few jobs. West Garfield was in a tailspin, and almost no one from the outside seemed interested in saving it.

Yet a new community organization found that there were plenty of resources available within this worn-out neighborhood. There were local people willing to put abandoned buildings back together again, families who pitched in to start a food co-op, older men who would comb parks and alleys for aluminum cans worth a penny or two each. There were church members and neighbors who couldn’t spare much, but who were willing to give a little to see their community grow again. There was hope, the will to rebuild. And that was enough to start.

I am sure that those 35 members of Bethel New Life never imagined what their faith and hope would start in motion. With a commitment to be of service in their community, they opened their doors to the neighborhood. Pastor Nelson went door to door and invited people to come in. They opened the church to black groups, started an afterschool program, and provided a convocation for their local teachers, most of whom did not live in the neighborhood, teaching them the realities of the people’s lives.

By 1979, it was clear that there was a housing crisis. By then, Bethel Lutheran had 70 members who voted to do a housing ministry, though no one knew how to do it. They just knew it needed to be done. “All we knew about housing,” said one church member, “was that it was long and hard and complicated.”   They went to the bank and applied for their first loan, and when the bank asked for collateral, they voted to mortgage the church building. And when they ran out of money, they used their personal credit cards to buy the things they needed to rehab the buildings.

Fast forward 10 years, and they had grown into a $4.5 million per year organization with 350 employees. In their first three decades, Bethel built 1,200 affordable homes, advocated for social reforms, provided in-home care to the elderly, welcomed people home from prison to find legal employment, provided programs for neighborhood youth, were instrumental in the development of community investment vehicles such as the New Market Tax Credit program and led efforts at the local and national level in community development and transformation.

Rev. Connie’s report  demonstrates how people of faith can overcome the most formidable of obstacles to achieve astounding results.  In these challenging, sometimes discouraging times, it is a message we all need to hear.

Escalating Inequality and Poverty”  Course for Churches

The Rev. Connie Yost, affiliated community minister of First Unitarian Church, is available to teach “Escalating Inequality and Poverty” at your church.  The course is designed as four, weekly sessions of two hours each, but Rev. Connie is willing to work with you to tailor to your needs.


Rev. Connie advises “In this four week course, 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.    Contact Rev Connie at cyost @ uuma.org or 503-885-0155.




Thursday, June 1, 7:00 PM, Evicted” Book Discussion at Madeleine Catholic Parish, 3123 NE 24th Ave, Fireside Room, led by Dave and Peggy Albertine.


Monday, June 5, 12:00 noon-2:00 pm,  Transitioning to Stability Work Group of the Alliance, Agenda: Review effective national models,  Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, 1907 NE 45th Street, Library (enter ramp by awning)

Friday, June 16, 9:30-11:30 AM, Advocacy Work Group, Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, 1535 NE 17th  

 Thursday, June 29, 12:00 Noon-2:00 PMMonthly Meeting of the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty, Westminster Presbyterian Church,  1624 NE Hancock, Fireside Room; Share pot-luck lunch!!



 World Environment Day  Global Goals Fair, Saturday, June 3, 2017, 12:00 4:00 PM:   Portland Hawthorne Hostel, 3031 SE Hawthorne Blvd. --  Live music, local food & drink vendorsl

On May 8, 2017, United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed, said,

Eradicating poverty remains the greatest global challenge.   Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.”

June 6 Salem Rally To Protest 1.6 Billion Budget Cuts –by Tom Hering

Last Friday, the Advocacy workgroup of The Alliance unanimously voted to support a Salem rally sponsored by A Better Oregon coalition. As you know, Oregonians are bracing for $1.6 billion in budget cuts as a result of Oregon’s lowest-in-the-nation corporate taxes.

If lawmakers do not show leadership and ask corporations to pay their fair share the results will be devastating:  350,000 Oregonians would be kicked off their health insurance and severe cuts to public education could occur with greatly increased class size. We need to tell our elected leaders it is outrageous to ask Oregonians to accept deeper cuts that directly impact people living in poverty while Oregon has one of the lowest corporate taxes in the nation.


  • What:Legislature Rally to voice our opinion about budget cuts
  • When:June 6th, Leaving Portland at 10 a.m.
  • Where:Salem on the Capitol Steps at Noon
  • Why:To Ensure $1.6 Billion in Cuts Don’t Impact Programs with Poverty Implications
  • How:Traveling by bus, van or carpool;  Register here for free lunch: https://fastfor.ms/E58F2.