August 2018 Newsletter

AUGUST 2018 NEWSLETTER

The Interfaith Alliance newsletter is produced by the Poverty Awareness  Communication Action Team.  To contact:  Email Bonniejgregg@msn.com

 

Dear Members and Friends of the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty: 

While we are not holding our monthly meetings in July and August, you and others can still make a difference right now for people living in poverty!

Below is a summary by Dave Albertine, Co-Chair of the Transition to Stability Action Team explaining efforts being made to rehabilitate the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park.   Please read the summary below and contact Dave Albertine for more information: davea51@gmail.com or 503-720-6458.

Also, work on the Agape Tiny House Village is proceeding. Your congregation or you as an individual can help in a variety of ways, including participating in the building or fixing meals for the teams who are building.  Please contact Sara Carolus about this: scarolus3@gmail.com  or  503-381-6944.  You can also check out their website: http://www.portlandcentralnaz.org/agapevillage.html

Also, Jessica Rojas has let us know about another opportunity:  Lloyd EcoDistrict, ReBuilding Center and Right 2 Dream Too are partnering to build new sleeping pods at Right 2 Dream Too's site (near MODA center). Volunteer help is needed.  Information is attached and you can contact the following person:  sarah@ecolloyd.org. 

 ~ Warm (!) regards, Carol Turner &   David Groff Co-Chairs, Interfaith Alliance on Poverty


 

ON THE GROUND -- OAK LEAF MOBILE HOME PARK

by Dave Albertine, Madeleine Parish

As you know we are continuing our efforts helping residents at the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park pack and move to temporary quarters for the next six to nine months as the Oak Leaf Park is rehabilitated.  We have formed four congregational teams and are working to schedule specific activities.  We have found that each resident and family brings needs and challenges that affect packing and timing, but efforts continue to try to move most residents near or by August 15th to motels, houses and other mobile home parks in the Cully area.   Volunteers have had to be very flexible and nimble as schedules and plans often change daily as residents realize the impacts of the changes to their lives. 

It is very apparent that change, even for a possible better future, is very difficult.  It is especially true for those who are sick, for those who want to hold on to the little they have, and for better or worse, mourn the loss of possessions and the rhythm of their daily lives.  For our volunteers it takes endless patience, sometimes humor and often a suspension of judgment when in the midst of 90+ degree heat tough decisions must be made, often in ways that seem less than sensible.  Thus far, the process at Oak Leaf has been fraught with the unexpected needs and difficulties found when trying to organize what would to many seem nearly impossible.  Nevertheless, we move forward because we should and we must and we can.

For those of you who have volunteered thus far, thank you.  You know better the situation on the ground.  I know as well, some of you who have volunteered have found the work efforts less than efficient and well-organized, often because we are responding to specific resident concerns, work space issues in crowded mobile homes and other conditions.  It makes it difficult to provide for the best use of our volunteers.  I would encourage those on congregational teams to join when they can as requested in the next few weeks.

Now congregational teams are helping residents pack and put belonging into pods that are near their mobile homes and prepare for moving to temporary motels/apartments.  Once moves are finally made, some of the residents and families may need further help and support during the months of transition.  At present, we have no social worker to assist this process, but we hope for that help in the future.  Once that is in place, we will plan for support for residents in their temporary quarters and eventually, for their return to a new Oak Leaf.

 Over the last few weeks the residents at Oak Leaf, in addition to preparing for their own move, have experienced personnel changes including the loss of social work help.  Janet Keating, Oak Leaf park manager has gone to extraordinary efforts to help residents with a level of care, compassion and skill that has been inspirational to say the least.  She has gained the trust of often wary and insecure residents and has done the most to keep things moving forward.

 At this point, we need the good thoughts and prayers from all in the Alliance to help us support the residents at Oak Leaf and work closely with St. Vincent de Paul of Eugene in continuing to make this project successful.  In all honesty, many difficulties remain, but they are not insurmountable.  Members of the Alliance have provided critical support at a time when it is most needed.  More will be asked of us in the months ahead.  As specific volunteer efforts are identified, we will contact you, especially through the present congregational teams.  Please watch and respond.  Foremost we must keep the needs of the Oak Leaf Mobile Home residents in mind.

.


 

AGAPE VILLAGE:  “BUILDING BLITZ” BEGINS 

by Sarah Carolus, Central Lutheran

The construction of tiny houses at Agape Village has begun!! These houses will provide a safe, stable home for folks as they transition off the street to their own place. The houses are being built on the property of Portland Central Nazarene Church. The construction design and implementation is being led by Andy Olshin of Congregation Beth Israel, an Alliance member.

 The building blitz started July 19th and will continue through August 21st. Interfaith Alliance member congregations - Rose City Park Presbyterian, First Unitarian, and Central Lutheran - are all participating.  During the week of July 23rd through July 27th, over 50 volunteers from Oklahoma, Washington, Agape Church of Christ, Portland Central Nazarene Church and other congregations around Oregon are contributing.   The Agape Village website is http://www.portlandcentralnaz.org/agapevillage.html if you want more information. 


 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!

 First fall meeting of the INTERFAITH ALLIANCE will be held on September 6th, from 12:00-2:00 PM, at the Madeleine Parish, 3123 NE 24th.  Featured speakers will be Alison McIntosh, deputy director of policy and communications at Neighborhood Partnerships, where she convenes the Oregon Housing Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 organizations with a vision that every Oregonian have a safe, stable and affordable place to call home  and Lynn Peterson, newly elected chair of the Metro Council.  There will be discussion of  Metro Area Bond Measure to Fund Affordable Housing, a  Constitutional Amendment allowing Oregon Municipal Bonds for Affordable Housing,    


 

CULLY NEIGHBORHOOD SECURES NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING BOND

By Bonnie Gregg

 The Portland Housing Bureau announced on July 12, 2018 that “The Cully neighborhood will be the site of a new housing bond development.”   Bond funds will make it possible for PHB to acquire a 19,000-square foot property, (shown above) to build at least 50 new units of affordable housing.  The property is the fourth bond project announced in the last 18 months, totaling more than 560 units of permanently affordable housing  

Mayor Ted Wheeler said:  “My pledge to the public is to deliver the 1,300 units promised under the Bond by 2023. With the 50 new units planned for this site, plus hundreds more under active negotiation, we are making aggressive progress to meet our commitment well ahead of schedule.”  Shannon Callahan, PHB interim director, says this location in Portland's Cully Neighborhood was selected for its vulnerability. "This is a rapidly gentrifying area where families are facing a growing risk of being priced out,” Callahan said.   “Acquiring this property with the Bond allows us to create a permanent foothold of affordability in this neighborhood and stable housing for as many as 200 people.” The land, which would cost the city $500,000, is currently occupied by one single-family home.  



“OUR VOICES MAKE A DIFFERENCE”

Commissioners Vote in Favor of Cully Residents 

by Marilyn Mauch

It is a privilege and inspiration to your Fremont representatives with the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty to get to know and work with our neighbors in the Cully area. We have come to know the seniors who live in dignity in their manufactured homes and witnessed the love and hard work of Cully parents who want the very best for their children.

As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, on June 12th many parents and seniors who live in some of the 56 manufactured dwelling parks in Portland provided more than an hour of powerful testimony to members of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission. The Commission must approve any request regarding zoning. Residents spoke about the vital importance of a special zone to help prevent the parks from being sold and developed into housing beyond their economic reach.

They also talked about the irreplaceable community these parks provide, where people take care of each other and families can thrive and that the housing parks provide the only opportunity for low-income people to own their homes. Very importantly, many mobile home residents cannot afford the City’s affordable housing units because they are often more expensive than living in a manufactured home. The Advocacy arm of the Alliance submitted a letter of support to the Commission for the zoning change as well as a letter of personal testimony, provided transportation for the more than 100 people attending the hearing and sat side by side with residents, our visual presence showing the support of the broader community for the zoning change request.

Having heard the testimony, the Commissioners then met on July 10th to vote on the zone change. It was a tension-filled meeting. Two of the Commissioners objected to the zone change because it favored keeping manufactured homes in Portland. To paraphrase, other Commissioners said “Wait a moment – aren’t we supposed to be listening to the people in our community? This community effort has been very well organized and their voices resound loud and clear that their manufactured homes are very, very important to them.” A final Commission vote was taken and a majority of the Commissioners voted in favor of the zone change! Yet one more step must take place before the zoning proposal becomes enacted – the City Council needs to vote in favor of it. Remember all the post cards Fremonters and other congregations signed for Mayor Wheeler? The Alliance received more than 450 signed postcards addressed to the Mayor who is a member of the City Council. We think and pray the Council will vote their support. We’ll keep you posted.

 


 

A VISIT TO THE EMERALD CITY  (Excerpts Below)

By Rae Richen,   June 5, 2018                         

SquareOne Villages — low-income housing communities in Eugene, Oregon

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. But the Emerald Village is not a dream. It’s a reality we can replicate. I invite you to come along and see how we can improve the lives of some of our brothers and sisters.

This past few years, we been forced by sheer numbers to wake up to the desperate need for low-income housing. At first, those who couldn’t afford to live anywhere but on our streets were blamed for their own situation, but now, rational thought and reading the research tells us the truth. Some are  injured or have a disability and cannot earn enough for an apartment at today’s high prices.  A few are indigent by choice. However, most are under-paid, hard-working people who can’t afford any home we have left them in our cities and towns. The solutions offered for houseless-ness are many and varied. Each possible solution is no panacea, but each is part of a mosaic that reduces the terrible situation our neighbors face. SquareOne Villages introduced me to three of those pieces in the housing puzzle.

During April, concerned church women from all over Oregon met in Eugene to learn about Emerald Village, Opportunity Village and Cottage Village. These three are the first projects of the non-profit SquareOne Villages.

The foundation understanding for the SquareOne Villages is that if people have a safe place to be, they are able to see opportunity for themselves. If the community is self-managed, its residents work to maintain its reputation and its standing in the neighborhood. With safety, other needs begin to fall into place. Residents can find work, solve health problems and begin to plan for the future.

The first village developed by SquareOne is Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE), a community of tiny houses with a shared kitchen, laundry, bathrooms and meeting space. The community has been self-managed through a resident council and under a community agreement. The city of Eugene provided an acre in West Eugene on which Opportunity Village was built. It was built with donated labor and supplies on land leased to a pilot project. The city councilors found the work to be exceptional and recently approved a two-year extension of the lease. Mayor of Eugene, Kitty Piercy has said, “We consider it remarkably practical and productive to utilize this property for a self-manage village of people needing a safe place to shelter, store their possessions, and find community. Police Lieutenant, Erik Klinko said, “It has gone better than I thought it would. [The Village] has not been a burden to the neighborhood in terms of crime impact.”

Staying at the village helped residents transition to permanent housing though some still face barriers to obtaining permanent housing. One help toward reducing the barriers to permanent housing is the new complex of small, yet slightly larger, houses at another Eugene location. It is called Emerald Village Eugene. The women visitors came to Emerald Village to meet builders and residents. Eight of the twenty-two homes were finished, four were already occupied. The residents were happy to show off their new homes, which they had lovingly decorated. One young man had learned how to build his home in a style of construction newly permitted in Eugene. It is a straw/clay wall system.   This innovative dwelling demonstrates a natural building process that uses minimal industrial materials and incorporates local labor, skills, knowledge, and the rich resources of the Willamette Valley. He lives there with his father.  Inside his 100 Mile Home’(using materials available within 100 miles) were stored his books, his cello and his father’s favorite belongings.  Another new resident was the local gardener, tasked with caring for donated plants until the homes were built and the garden soil in the courtyard was improved. Everyone knew that plants for the future of the village should be set outside Gib’s Digs. Porch of Gib’s Digs and view of the neighbor house. Gib cares for the donated plants. The homes were designed by thirteen local architectural firms plus a few designed by the SquareOne architects. All are designed as permanent homes, built on a slab foundation. Each includes its own sleeping, living areas, kitchenette and bathroom.  There will be a community meeting place and tool storage for gardens. One of the homes is large enough for a family.  Emerald Village residents will be members of a housing cooperative and will have a share in the village The monthly cost will be $250 to $350 a month and will cover the share payment, utility expenses, maintenance and other operating costs. The share allows residents to create a modest asset that can be cashed out when they choose to move.

Among the donors to Opportunity and Emerald Villages, the idea was put forward to test this system by designing a village to house low-income residents in a rural area.The nearby town of Cottage Grove has stepped up to host this village. That project is now raising money and materials donations for the Cottage Village.We visitors, who came from many parts of Oregon, were optimistic after seeing what might be done in small houses for low-income residents. And for many, that led us to become very interested in a similar project beginning in Portland. I’ll tell you about that Portland project as it unfolds.

We have long pretended to live in a land where all are family, and all are treated equally, but we have opened our eyes and looked around. We see now that we’ve allowed wages to stagnate to the point where working people cannot afford to rent an apartment, so they live in their cars or in tents and still go to work every day.  We’re enlightened to see how well the SquareOne Villages work at offering the housing that is needed, as well as the pride and independent decision making that creates a real community of support. Let’s look for many more chances to put this into action for our sisters and brothers. For more information about the SquareOne Villages, visit  https://www.squareonevillages.org. It is a very informative website and will inspire more efforts to build villages and communities that will make our towns and cities proud. Be sure to check out the Tool Box tab which discusses how to plan and set up a similar village in your community.

Tom Hering