September 2018 Newsletter
SEPTEMBER 2018 NEWSLETTER
The Interfaith Alliance newsletter is produced by Poverty Awareness Communication Team
To contact: Email Bonniejgregg@msn.com
VOTING FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
The “long hot summer” is behind us, and just as students return to school, the Interfaith Alliance resumes its efforts to resolve issues of poverty in Portland. As rent and housing costs continue to rise, lack of affordable housing impacts everyone, but especially those with low incomes. In November, voters in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties will have the opportunity to pass Measure 26-199, a regional affordable housing bond that will help thousands of people access affordable housing. Oregon voters will have a chance to vote YES for Measure 102 that will lift the current ban on the ability of local governments to work with non-profits and local businesses to build affordable housing with bonds.
Sponsored by the Oregon Housing Alliance, these measures will be discussed at the September 6th meeting of the Interfaith Alliance. Featured speaker will be Allison 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. Lynn Peterson, newly elected President of the Metro Council, will be discussing the Metro Area Bond Measure to Fund Affordable Housing.
The September 6th meeting of the Interfaith Alliance will be held at Madeleine Catholic Parish, 3123 NE 24th, in the Fireside Room, from 12:00 – 2:00 PM. Due to the start of school, enter Fireside room by side entrance path shown above.
by Bonnie Gregg
The Mary Magdalene “Madeleine” Catholic Church is one of the founding members of the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty. The church and school opened their doors in 1911. The current church was built in 1954, and expanded in 1967. The Parish Hall and Fireside room were added in 1984. Now Madeleine has embarked on a $4.6 million campaign to restore the Old Church and upgrade the school by installing an elevator, upgrading restrooms, improving fire and security, and creating spaces for a wide variety of uses, including the increasing number of service ministries, growing parish music program, smaller weddings, contemplative prayer, and daily Mass.
In addition to the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty, Madeleine supports over 50 service ministries Including: Peace & Justice, Care for Creation, Maybelle Center, Janus Greenhouse, Blanchet House, Refugee Resettlement, Habitat for Humanity, Water 1s International, St. Vincent de Paul, Haitian School Project, Prison Ministry, Community of Hope, among others. Dr. Maria Mazzo directs the musicians and several choirs which make up Madeleine’s Music Ministry.
Madeleine has established itself as a vital part of the Northeast Portland community. They have prayed for the safe return of soldiers from the wars of World War 1 through the Afghanistan. Many of those soldiers were baptized as babes and grew up as boys within the parish, attending the Madeleine School, serving as altar boys, etc. When they came back from the wars, many found brides, and established families of their own within the parish. Madeleine’s roots run several generations deep.
However, when Fr. Mike speaks to the congregation at Saturday and Sunday Masses, his message is not just for the Madeleine family. He always offers welcome to the strangers among us of whom there are always many. He says it doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or Non-Catholic, a member of another Faith, or have no faith at all; single/married/divorced; LGBT; the color of your skin, etc. -- none of it matters. Here in this sacred space, all are welcome. Fr. Mike’s humor frequently arouses the congregation to laughter, as he reminds them of our common human frailty. He then speaks of God’s healing love and our call to serve in the “furtherance of His reign.” http://www.themadeleine.edu/
“Without the Lord, nothing is possible; with Him, everything becomes so! May our prayer — each one according to his or her own tradition — adhere fully to the will of God, who wants all men and women to recognize they are brothers and sisters and live as such, forming the great human family in the harmony of diversity.” - Pope Francis
MAKING A DIFFERENCE, WITH MADDIE’S CART
by Bonnie Gregg
On a Monday morning, just as the sun’s first rays light Mt. Hood, Juan G.., a 24 immigrant from Honduras, kisses his wife Maria goodbye and heads out the door to the Gresham Transit Station. He is on his way to MLK Boulevard where he will join the line of day workers, hoping this day to be hired. He may earn $10 an hour, or if he is lucky $15. In a good month he may earn $1,400; in bad one, maybe $500. Maria works at Taco Bell where she earns $8.93 an hour. They share a 1-bedroom apartment with his cousin, Jose and his wife, sleeping on a couch that makes into a double bed. The apartment rents for $925 per month. By splitting the rent cost with their cousins, Juan and Maria are managing, but Juan doesn’t know what they will do when the baby comes in November. Still he is young and strong, having suffered none of the injuries common to many day laborers. His English is not as good as Maria’s, but it’s better than many. So, as he hoists his pack of tools onto his back, he thinks his chances today may be good. Mondays are the best day of the week because on Monday mornings, Juan knows that Maddie’s Cart will be delivering breakfast burritos, hot coffee, sandwiches to pocket for lunch, and other treats, accompanied by warm smiles.
Juan is part of a predominantly immigrant and Latino work force, most of whom, according to the National Day Laborer 2017 Survey, were born in Mexico (59%) Central America (28%), and about (7%) in the United States. Standing on street corners hoping to be hired, is not the “American dream” that draws people to travel thousands of miles, pay thousands of dollars and risk their lives crossing desserts, but they are willing to take work wherever they can find it. They don’t expect a hand-out, but hope for a chance.
Portland’s increasing need for temporary and unskilled workers is chiefly met by our growing immigrant community. Multnomah County’s Latino population has grown by 170% in the past ten years. Although immigrant workers are a crucial part of Portland’s urban and rural economies, most have little or no stability in their jobs.
They are also victims of the lack of affordable housing. Their plight may be less visible, because they tend to congregate together, sharing households, seeking to live outside the radar of public awareness. However, they are vulnerable to rising rents and unscrupulous landlords.
Just as Juan is boarding Max, across town, the 5:00 AM crew has assembled in the kitchen of the Mary Magdalene “Madeleine” parish in NE Portland, to begin making breakfast burritos, sandwiches, etc.
“Get moving,” Deacon Mike urges. “We’ve got people to feed!” By 7 AM the Maddie Cart is packed and on its way to MLK where Juan and his fellow day workers are waiting.
Several Madeleine students volunteer with Maddie’s Cart at 5:00 AM, including Luke and his older sister, Celine. Marilyn Robb describes Luke in her poem:
“People of Maddie’s Cart”
“He was the youngest one there today…
a child giving up a Monday of his summer vacation –
“Not sleeping in, but rising with the with the sun
to be one of us in the kitchen preparing food for the hungry,
“His youth and fair complexion was
a contrast to those who graciously accepted his bag for their lunch.
“His innocense brought “smiles” and “thank yous”; and
…perhaps stirred memories of better times…and new hope.”
Deacon Mike says “It’s miraculous that a young guy can change everything just by his presence. God shining through him and touching all our hearts. He’s not the only one - other students are joining us and we really notice their abounding love.”
Toward evening, another Maddie Cart crew assembles in the Madeleine kitchen. Jon DeBellis writes in the July 20, 2018 issue of the Catholic Sentinel that on Monday afternoon “The kitchen at The Madeleine becomes a whirlwind of chili-stirrin’, cornbread batter-pourin’, tortilia-fryin’, burrito foldin’, sandwich-making’, snack packin’, coffee brewin’, dish washin’ mayhem.”
They are preparing an evening meal for folks camped under the bridge on the east side of the Willamette, an older, more weathered crowd. Those bedding down near the river are survivors of all kinds of catastrophes, some of their own making, others victims of horrendous events. Many are mentally ill; others have physical impairments. Some rely on alcohol or drugs to get through the day. They are as diverse as the men and women who walk the sidewalks of Portland, but they have an identity all their own.
They are the “homeless”, a people not only without a place to lay their heads, but a people who disturb us by their very being - camping in our midst, offending us by their behaviors, the mess they leave, etc., making us face realities we do not want to see. We just want them to go away, and yet their numbers keep growing. Those who have gathered under the bridge know this, which means they are wary of strangers. When Maddie’s Cart first pulled up, they viewed it with suspicion. Who were these people? What did they want of them?
Maddies’ Cart was the vision of Deacon Mike O’Mahoney. He didn’t ponder about the magnitude of the problems of poverty. Instead, he asked himself what he could do to make a difference. A hot meal or a sandwich seemed like a good idea. Everybody feels better with a full stomach. The first Monday he delivered his meals, he found out he was right. He enlisted the help of Dave Albertine to help him prepare the meals, snacks, etc. Soon they had a bustling operation going. When word got out, more volunteers joined in. Mike discovered that in addition to food, there was a need for clean underwear, diapers, fresh socks, hygiene products, Depends, etc. He saw that these products were loaded on Maddie’s Cart as well.
Now when those gathered beneath the bridge by the Willamette River see Maddie’s Cart drive up, they understand they are not going to receive a sales pitch for their soul’s salvation, but simply a meal, maybe some needed socks, and perhaps a few moments conversation, sharing opinions, exchanging stories, laughing at a YouTube on somebody’s cell, or otherwise engaging as human beings do when they come together out of love. Maddie’s Cart provides gifts of the spirit to both those who give and receive. Mike hopes that other congregations may consider setting up their own Cart. After all, Tuesday thru Sunday are available, and there are people in need: www.themadeleine.edu/maddiescart
STREET ROOTS SOULS “BURNING BRIGHT”
In the August 10, 2018 issue of “Street Roots”, Street Roots Executive Director, Kaia Sands reports that this summer, there have been a large number of deaths in downtown Portland, which has caused the community to come together to create memorials and even produce a “parade by bike”. Kaia advises that former Street Roots vendors who have died include Andy Howard, Dallas Boyd, Dani Wyatt, and David Testawich. She says, “The causes of death are various – heart failure, stroke, drug overdose and murder. On average, they died decades before the general population would. Life is so hard for people suffering homelessness and deep poverty — more violent, more taxing on health. This is why in 2011 former Street Roots executive director Israel Bayer urged Multnomah County to begin reporting the deaths of people on the streets, a joint effort that we’ve continued every year. In 2016, the most recent year we have data, 80 people died on the streets. The average age was 49.”
Kaia said that, “On Aug. 8, we held an office memorial for Dani, guided by some of her family and friends who are current Street Roots vendors. In particular, they wanted “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks piped through the office. She loved that song, they said. People shared donuts and traded stories of her antics, her laugh, her blue wig.”
They also held an office memorial on July 31 for Andy Howard. “Swells of vendors and Andy’s family gathered, listening to “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, which Andy used to play on the guitar. Andy’s sister, Bev, delighted Andy’s Street Roots friends by describing how Andy once fixed a man’s hearing aid on the streets using a bike spoke he sterilized with a lighter. Andy’s 23-year-old daughter, Katie, said that her very favorite days were those she spent visiting her father on the streets. She loved seeing how much other people trusted her father’s kindness. “When you are on the streets like that, all you have is the sense of community of the people you’re with,” Katie said to me. “You are genuinely connecting to people.”
Kaia commented that, “When so many people on the streets are reeling from loss, we must acknowledge this: This city is literally not livable for the our deeply poor neighbors. The term “livability” is a cruel word choice when it is focused on campsite removals. Instead, what makes this city “livable” should be public health, housing and compassion. Some Street Roots vendors have wept and wept about these recent deaths, but also, countless other losses. I am grateful for all the ways they can come together to grieve, laugh, remember and hold space for each other.” She urged, “Please continue to cherish your Street Roots vendor. Cherish the people in campsites with walkers leaning against tents. Cherish the woman who wanders barefoot and hollering her deep suffering. We are together in this city, gloriously human, responsible for each other. “
Kaia observed, “As I biked to Street Roots this morning, I was dazzled by the sun, almost pink in its strange light. I love the early morning hours of Portland, the birdsong and morning routines of people trying to hold their lives together in the glare of the public eye. The sun is the lamplight for people sleeping on the streets, many of whom try to pack up before passersby and commuters are plentiful. “Let a candle be added to the sun” wrote my favorite poet, Cesar Vallejo. I thought of all the candles we lit in our office this last month, and all the candles lit these last 20 years Street Roots has insisted that lives of deeply poor residents of Portland are essential to the civic fabric of our city. “
”Many of these lives burn early and bright. See that bright sun? It might be hard to notice, but I do believe our beautiful vendors are lighting it up.”
Kaia Sand is the executive director of Street Roots. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mkaiasand.
WHY UNIONS MATTER – AND WHAT FAITH HAS TO DO WITH IT
“As people of faith, we recognize the dignity of all people and all workers. Our religious traditions affirm the right of workers to freely organize themselves to improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions and assert the right to a voice on the job. " Interfaith Worker Justice.
On Sunday, September 23rd from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Oregon Coalition of Christian Voices, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty will sponsor a forum on "Faith and Why Unions Matter,” at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1624 NE Hancock.
There will be presentations by Dr. Marty Hart-Landsberg, professor emeritus of economics from Lewis and Clark, Father Jack Mossbrucker, retired Catholic priest and long-time labor activist, Jobs for Justice, and Sunita Patel, a Legacy Employee and union activist. A Q&A session will follow.
IF I HAD A HAMMER?!
by John Elizalde
In fact, the team from First Unitarian Portland with support from Central Lutheran as well as a sample of people who live in PDX Common, senior co-housing, hammered on 3 mornings in August. Sarabelle Hitchner, organizer extraordinaire, had folk working up on the hill above the Portland Central Nazarene Church as part of the volunteer effort to build tiny homes for homeless men and women.
During the last few months, the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty Newsletter has told the story of the efforts to help homeless people living in the church’s neighborhood. Pastor Matt Huff has a good relationship with many of these folk and over the years has come to understand the very basic needs the homeless deal day-to-day. The congregation at Portland Central Nazarene agreed to devote a portion of their land to a homeless camp as a means to fulfill their spiritual calling.
The non-profit Agape Village (portlandcentralnaz.org/agapevillage) has taken on the organizing of the camp and Cascade Clusters arranged the construction of the tiny houses thru a giant volunteer effort this summer. Faith groups from around the country came to Portland to work for a week doing the site preparation, logistical organizing, materials prep and construction. The PSU School of Architecture took on the job of designing and building two units. Benson High School will use its fall term to build a home. Technical wizards from Catlin Gable and Grant High Schools (shinewithus.org) combined to design and build solar lighting and electronic charging stations for each unit as well as solar electric water heating for the shower. And, the good people from First Unitarian Portland et al were part of the mix. Hot weather and dirty air might have limited the hours we worked but there was full enthusiasm while on site.
Materials were provided by the Rebuilding Center which is a good news/not so good news story. The good news is the price is right and the reuse of so much material is just good! The other side of the coin is that this lumber comes right from the deconstruction zone: with nails and staples and other ‘unconformities’ included. Thus, the first chore for volunteers is to pull nails and staples, sort lumber by size and quality, carry lumber up to the construction site – for hours and hours. This was just the right type of work to assign given the talent and skill level of many of our team \.
The photos show the site, the work and the accomplishments, but truth be told the photos don’t express the value of the relationships constructed along with the tiny homes. Bob and Jesse, residents of Hazelnut Grove, were our construction bosses as well as our teachers about life in tents vs. life in tiny homes. We heard about struggles with city bureaucracy, transportation struggles, the camaraderie of the house-less communities and close personal relationships that develop in these intentional communities. Homelessness is complex. People not quite so much: we all want acceptance, a chance, love and respect along with a warm, dry place to lay our heads at night. portlandcentralnaz.org/agapevillage
Ron Clark, Agape Church of Christ states, “I have been impressed with the vision of Matt Huff, minister at Portland Central Nazarene. In 18 months, since we met for coffee in the snowy January days of 2017, he has moved his congregation to embrace this vision. I am also impressed with the leadership of Cascadia Clusters and the many other coalitions, PSU students, houseless skilled laborers, and organizations that have worked side by side to help this vision become a reality.
Many of the houseless initiatives are still in the “talking about it stages…” but Agape Village continues to grow because of the many people who lend a hand, a dollar, or supplies to create a new place for those in our city who are most vulnerable. “….Construction continues on Agape Village. Agape Blitz partnered with this new project by providing volunteers from Oklahoma, Portland, Washington, and other locations in Oregon. Other churches and organizations have also signed up to work over the past few weeks. We are entering the last few weeks of the build. There have been over 10 faith congregations and 8 organizations provide volunteers, food, or supplies and many others donate financially to this project.
We still need your help. Cascadia Clusters has provided the skilled labor and direction for the groups while Central Nazarene continues to offer land, food, and help. Financial donations, donations for building supplies, lumber, nails, screws, home depot cards, and insulation continue to be necessary. Our goal is to have a dozen inhabitable homes before the rain and cold hit the city.“ http://www.portlandcentralnaz.org/agapevillage.html
MOBILE HOME ZONING CHANGE PASSES CITY COUNCIL
Thanks to all of those in the community who worked so hard to make this happen!!
Amelia Templeton, OPB, reported on August 23, that “The Portland City Council unanimously passed a zoning change that will make it harder for mobile home park owners to close the parks and redevelop them as apartments or condos. Park residents and low-income housing advocates have been pushing for the zoning change for more than a year, and turned out in force at Wednesday’s hearing. About 3,000 Portland households are in mobile home parks. Residents who came to testify described them as unique, tight-knit communities.”
“We are the poor, the elderly, the mentally ill and the disabled,” said Anthony Knoke, a self-described disabled veteran and resident of the Arbor Mobile Home Park. “In my park, there are five families that own about half the park. Whole families. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, brother in laws, sisters, children,” he said. “They take care of their elderly, they take care of each other, they help take care of me.”
‘Of the 57 parks in the city, most of which are found in east Portland, 56 will be rezoned and their land will be designated explicitly for Manufactured Dwelling Park use. In effect, that means an expensive review process and a City Council vote any time a developer proposes closing a park to build something else. This really is an example of the city prioritizing equity, and prioritizing the interest of those people who would otherwise have the fewest options,” said Cameron Herrington, with the group Living Cully.”
“Have you heard about the rent strike underway at Holgate Manor?” asks the Holgate Manor Tenant Union.
“For over 40 years, Holgate Manor (an 82-unit apartment complex in SE Portland) has offered sanctuary for a diverse community of immigrants, refugees, families, elderly and working-class people. All this is threatened after our building was sold to California millionaire Fred Kleinbub at the beginning of this year. Almost immediately, Kleinbub brought in Princeton Property Management and began trying to force us to move through misleading letters, rent increases and constant noisy construction. As our rents have gone up by 9.9%, many of us live with mold and vermin infestations that Princeton is not responding to. In response, we formed the Holgate Manor Tenants Union. Together, we are saying "Enough!" We voted last week to call a rent strike, refusing to pay rent until the landlord meets our demands. We need Princeton and Kleinbub to rescind their unjust rent increase, make needed repairs, allow our displaced neighbors to return, and communicate with us in our languages.
“If the strike wins, it will be a victory for every person in Portland who is sick and tired of rising rents, gentrification, and watching wealthy investors displace our communities for profit. But to win our strike, we need your help!
Contact us at HolgateManorTU@gmail.com or text HOLGATE to 345345, and we can send you updates and action alerts.”
COMING IN OCTOBER:
Thursday, October 04, 2018
2018 Annual “Street Roots” Family Breakfast – 7:30am to 9:00am,
Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., Portland OR 97232
Join Street Roots for their “Annual Family Breakfast” to celebrate Street Roots vendors, achievements for the past year, and presentation of annual “Vendor of the Year” award. Michael Buonocore, Executive Director of Home Forward, will deliver this year's keynote address. http://streetroots.org/
October Interfaith Alliance on Poverty Monthly Meeting – 12:00-2:00 PM,
Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1624 N.E. Hancock
Following the Interfaith Alliance planning session, a poverty training workshop will be conducted by Kathryn Moran and Jessica Rojas.