November 2018 Newsletter

NOVEMBER 2018 NEWSLETTER 


"As we express our gratitude to our veterans we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." - John F. Kennedy


SO REMEMBER TO VOTE NOVEMBER 6TH, YES ON 26-199 & 102 FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING!


INTERFAITH ALLIANCE ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE AND STRATEGIC GOALS FOR 2018-2019

At the “First Thursday  October 4th Meeting held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, members reviewed the current structure of the organization and discussed key strategies to:

  • Advocate for changes to  governmental policies which impact the lives of those bound by poverty including laws to achieve affordable housing and to establish social justice

  • Help men, women, and families transition from homelessness to find shelter and establish stable, productive lives with particular emphasis on helping children break the bonds of generational poverty through education and healthy lives.

  • Grow in our understanding of the root causes of poverty, racial intolerance; economic disparities, gentrification, etc.; explore ways to achieve positive change; and share our knowledge within our congregations and community.

A discussion of ways to move forward in 2018-2019 followed.  Members were encouraged to email their suggestions to   Chairs Carol Turner ( carol@carolfturner.com) and David Groth,(dgroff45@yahoo.com)

The second half of the meeting was devoted to a poverty exercise entitled “Sacred Cows”, led by Poverty Trainers, Karen Moran and Jessica Rojas.  

Participants were asked to consider both the positive and negative outcomes of various policies.  For example, a policy to assure “Safe Neighborhoods” may have different meanings to the people affected.  When property owners complain that homeless squatters are violating their space, urinating in their yards and leaving garbage and drug paraphernalia lying about, the City responds with a “sweep” of the homeless camps.  Property owners may then  be satisfied that their ”safe neighborhood” has been restored,  but the homeless see that the neighborhood they thought was “safe” has been taken away.   Their lives are totally disrupted.  Forced to move, they leave possessions behind, and once again struggle to find a safe place to sleep at  night.  In other words, a safe neighborhood may something entirely different to you than it does to me.


The Interfaith Alliance Needs “YOU”

The Interfaith Alliance on Poverty would like to have people from every faith-based congregation and community partner join us in working to alleviate poverty in Portland.  In addition to attending the “First Thursday” meeting of the Interfaith Alliance,  consider if you could spare a few hours each month to work with action teams.   See if any of the activities listed below interests you below and contact us.

Advocacy – Contact Tom Hering, Rose City Presbyterian, (tehering@gmail.com) or Sarah Carolus, Central Lutheran, (scarolus3@gmail.com)  

Help investigate issues affecting those living in poverty. Advocate for change at City Hall and the Salem Capitol.  Support affordable housing and social justice issues.  “Walk the Walk” becoming involved with communities experiencing gentrification This is your chance to make a difference! Meetings: 3rd Friday at Central Lutheran Church, 1820 NE 21st, Portland, 97212, from 9:30 to 11:30 AM.

Transition to Stability – Contact Dave Albertine, Madeleine Catholic, (davea51@gmail.com) or Rae Richen Rose City Presbyterian, (rrichen@hevanet.com). 

Help individuals and families find their way out of homelessness into stable productive lives Learn about resources available to assist them.  Help them move and get settled.  Become a vessel of compassionate change.   Help build “tiny houses” or repair mobile homes  .Next meeting: November 20,  Rose City Park Presbyterian, 12:00-2:00

Poverty Awareness and Communication – Contact Heidi Schmidt, Westminster Presbyterian, (Schmidt.holly@gmail.com) or Claudia Roberts, Fremont United Methodist  (clarobb@juno.com)

Learn about the root causes of poverty and programs to revitalize lives and communities.   Plan programs for monthly meetings and special events.  Bring the “voice of the poor” to your congregation.  Next Meeting November 29, 10:00-12:00, Fremont United Methodist.

Interfaith Alliance on Poverty Monthly Newsletter – Contact Bonnie Gregg, Madeleine Catholic, (Bonniejgregg@msn.com) Research and report on issues affecting poverty in Portland.  Bring your camera, too!

Interfaith Alliance on Poverty Website (allianceonpoverty.org) – Contact Tom Hering Rose City Presbyterian (tehering@gmail.com)


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AGAPE VILLAGE UPDATE

 by Sarah Carolus

Work has been steady on the tiny houses of Agape Village, which is located on the property of Portland Central Nazarene Church. There is one completed house and six others are being worked on. The target date for a move-in is around November 16th to Thanksgiving on November 22nd. All the structures currently are covered with roofs. Windows are being installed, beds and shelves are being built, insulation is being added to the walls and the floors are already insulated. To help with the build, become more involved or for more information about Agape Village, please check this link ww.portlandcentralnaz.org/agapevillage.html

CASCADIA CLUSTERS is the lead developer for the tiny homes now under construction at Portland Central Nazarene Agape Village.   They build   green homes to house individuals and families transitioning out of homelessness. The tiny homes are cost-effective, lockable, insulated, solar powered transitional housing. Groupings of these homes become villages complete with showers and social services where residents can feel a sense of belonging while supporting and learning from each otherHaving a dependable place of their own to come home to enables people to seek services, training and employment.  Reclaimed windows, plywood, framing materials, flooring, and sheeting are paired with a solar powered electrical system to create a green living environment. https://www.cascadiaclusters.org 

Please join us on November 17 at Portland Central Church of the Nazarene, 9715 SE Powell Blvd, 4:00-6:30 PM, to see our Mobile Maker Village, built by and for our houseless construction trainees. Then, tour Agape Village: our first transitional housing community of tiny homes. Meet some of our houseless construction trainees to see how they have worked to help themselves and less fortunate members of our community. Stay for our reception and learn more about us and how we plan to help construct the transition out of homelessness.  


HOW “YES” VOTE ON MEASURES 26-199  & 102 HELPS NOT ONLY THE HOMELESS

 On  September 19 thru 21, 2018, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, hosted the 70th National Session of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. Below are excerpts from his remarks.

 “Our region provides an amazing quality of life for so many who live here. But the growing pains in our communities are very real. People are struggling with housing costs.   When you look at the facts, it's not surprising. The average fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the metro area today is $1,330. A working family of four would need to earn more than $53,000 — or $25.48 an hour — to afford that apartment, and have enough left over for basics like food, utilities and medicine. That's more than twice the minimum wage.  “With housing prices continuing to rise, we are at risk of losing what makes our cities strong. Nurses, first responders, teachers, office workers, trades people and others are pushed to the margins, no longer able to afford to live in their neighborhood.    That's why we're united in support of Measure 26-199, the regional affordable housing bond.  “This regional bond can provide affordable housing for about 12,000 people by creating 3,900 affordable homes if Measure 102 — a statewide measure that has no formal opposition — also is approved.  “The affordable housing crisis is one of the biggest problems in our communities. It's not often that we have the opportunity to help solve one of our biggest problems for just $5 a month, the bond's cost to the average homeowner. Voters have the power to give local governments a powerful tool to help address our housing crisis, and get more of our community members into a stable, affordable home. Please vote yes on Measure 26-199.” 


HOMELESS SCHOOL CHILDREN CRISIS IN U.S.A. AND PORTLAND, OR

 by Bonnie Gregg

RISING TIDE  DOES NOT LIFT ALL BOATS….

In 2018, when the stock market is skyrocketing and the rich are getting richer, the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness tells us there are  more than 1.3 million homeless students attending America’s public schools who have families living in their cars, on the street, or in tent cities, and that it is happening all across the land, both in rural communities and big cities, in numbers approaching those of the great depression. http://www.nccp.org/media/releases/release_200.html

The National Center for Children in Poverty advise in their 2018 edition of Basic Facts about Low-Income Children that  in the U.S., the younger a child is, the more likely he or she is to experience poverty. The report showed that percentages of low-income and poor children under 18 hovered around 41 percent and 19 percent, respectively. 

 America’s youngest children stand the greatest chance of living below the poverty line: 44 percent (5 million) of children under age 3 are considered low income and 21 percent (2.4 million) live in poor households. 

  Children of color are nearly three times as likely to live in a poor family compared to white children. Around one in three black, Hispanic, and Native-American children lives below the poverty line, compared to just over one in ten white children.   

More than half (53.5 percent) of low-income children and 32 percent of poor children live with at least one parent employed full time, throughout the year. Among children with at least one parent with some college or additional education, 28 percent live in low-income households and 11 percent were considered poor. 

They concluded, “If anything is clear from these statistics, it’s that a rising tide does not lift all boats when it comes to our young people. That’s why we simply cannot afford to be anything less than intentional with the policies that shape the resources available to these families and, by extension, their chances for success in the long run.” 

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PORTLAND STRUGGLES TO FIND “A BED FOR EVERY CHILD” 

In 2016, the City Council and Multnomah County sought to put an end to families sleeping on the streets of Portland. Working through the Joint Office of Homeless Services, they developed a policy to provide a bed for every child that needed one, with “no wait list”, and no one turned away. Families were not screened for issues like drug addiction or criminal history and they were permitted to “stay together” – children, parents, and grandparents.   

When the Human Solutions Family Center first opened in February 2016, it served about 150 people a night using the shelter and overflow space in a  church  across the street.  By the fall of that year the number of homeless families increased to around 200 a night.  The Joint Office of Homeless Services became concerned that the “shelter was dangerously overcrowded”, and authorized motel vouchers to homeless families who could not be accommodated by the shelter.   The “no turn away” policy finally proved fiscally unmanageable, and the Joint Offices of Homeless Services are now placing homeless families on a “wait list”.  In 2017, the Multnomah County “Point in Time Count” showed 1,668 people were sleeping entirely unsheltered and of those, 257 were living in their vehicles.  

YOUR “CAR” BECOMES “YOUR HOME”

 For children growing up in families without houses, their car becomes a desirable alternative to bedding down on the sidewalks or tent communities.  The car provides shelter from the wind and cold; because the doors can be locked, it is safer, protecting both families and their possessions;   and it enables mobility.  

Precious Lott, currently JOIN Retention Case Manager reports in the “Hey Neighbor Newsletter” that “Me and my daughter slept in our car from when she was two months until she was almost five, jumping from place to place. But I had a daily routine: I would see my daughter off and then make sure I was on the grind looking for work or permanent housing. I have families now that do the exact same thing. They’re really trying. No one wants to lose their housing, no one wants to be on the street, especially if they’ve been there before.    www.joinpdx.org

“A PLACE TO REST”

Of course, you can’t park just anywhere.  Neighbors seeing a family parked in front of their house night after night complain.  Therefore, a city code was revised to allow faith-based organizations  to host up to three vehicles and/or six transitional housing units at a time on their property.  

In the summer of 2018, The Joint Office of Homeless Services launched the “SAFE PLACE TO REST” program, 12-month pilot project to help faith-based organizations assist in providing space to accommodate the houseless. 

The goal is to “provide shelter that keeps people safe and connects them to the services they need to be able to move  into permanent housing.”  It also allows them to keep their most valuable asset – “their car”.  At night they have a safe place to come.  Neighbors and congregants see “the day-to-day reality of life for people experiencing homelessness – beyond   the myths -through engagement and relationships”.

The Joint Office contracted with Catholic Charities, to assist faith-based organizations providing space for the houseless.  Catholic Charities have a proven track record providing similar services to the “Kenton Women’s Village Program”.  They assist congregations with logistics, helping them extend insurance protection, prepare the site, manage guest outreach, do screening, facilitate trash pick-up and portable toilets (if needed),   and provide general oversight.  For more information contact  ahomeforeveryone.net or Caitlin Burke, Catholic Charities,  at Caitlin.burke@multco.us or 503-823-8782.

COMMUNITY TRANSITION SCHOOL PROVIDES HAVEN OF LEARNING –

Oregon’s Community Transitional School (CTS) founded by Cheryl Bickle in 1990  offers a solution to school children living in “houseless” situations in Portland.  Wherever they live, --homeless shelter, back seat of a car, tent village) - every child enrolled in CTS can count on the CTS bus coming to pick them up in the morning and bring them back at night.   They do not have to face changing schools, teachers, classmates, etc.  with every move their parents make, or being out of school between moves.  

 They may not know where they’re sleeping from night to night, but they know where they are going to school and they are going to school with children who share their circumstances, so “they fit in”. In an otherwise chaotic world, CTS provides a haven of learning and stability.  

More than that perhaps, it gives them hope that if they can make it at CTS, they may be able to do well elsewhere – like high school, even college.  Success becomes a possibility.  The chains of poverty loosen.  The future becomes brighter.    

https://www.transitionalschool.org/


NORTHEAST COALITION OF NEIGHBORS

By Bonnie Gregg

 BECOMING AN INTERFAITH ALLIANCE COMMUNITY PARTNER.  In 2016,  Deacon Mike O’Mahoney, connected me with a young woman he had met from the Northeast Coalition of Neighbors, who had expressed interest in knowing more about the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty.  We met for coffee at Peets before attending an Interfaith Alliance meeting.  Her name was Jessica Rojas.   

I saw at once she was “super smart” and informed about what was going in Portland related to poverty, the environment, and our neighborhoods.  I also saw a beautiful soul. There is no pretense about Jessica.  She cares to the core.  People and the planet matter to her and she has made it her business to look after them.

After coffee, we attended the Interfaith Alliance meeting.  Jessica has attended almost every Interfaith Alliance meeting thereafter. The Northeast Coalition of Neighbors has become an important “community partner” supporting many Interfaith Alliance advocacy efforts, including petitioning  legislators on the steps of the Capitol  in Salem. Together with Karen Moran, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Jessica participated in a Donna Beegle Poverty Training Program to enable her to conduct poverty workshops within the Alliance. Jessica speaks with a voice for the poor, and for those dedicated to improving both our neighborhoods and the environment. As Community & Environmental Engagement Manager, she provides technical assistance, advocacy support, and training for community and environmental groups and neighborhood associations.

At Jessica’s invitation, I attended an NECN meeting at the King Neighborhood Facility where their offices are located.  We sat at a long table -- about 20 of us --community activists, environmental advocates, business and labor representatives, church leaders, and members of the neighborhood coalition.  Special guest was City Commissioner, Chloe Eudaly. I was impressed by the enthusiasm each one expressed for their causes. At a time when the issues before us are so formidable, their strong voices gave me hope. Change can happen. It’s just a matter of linking our hearts & minds, and standing together for what we know to be right.

NECN MISSION & HISTORY

The Mission of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) is  “to foster healthy communities by engaging citizens to become directly involved in determining how their neighborhood evolves, and giving them the tools to have their voices heard by policy makers and the public at largeWe believe in the power of every citizen, in every community, to create the world they want to live in, one neighborhood at a time.”  Founded in 1974 by Edna Robertson and Sharon McCormack as part of the Model Cities Program, NECN has earned a reputation as a pillar of the Northeast Portland community and operates as an independent nonprofit organization. Comprised of 12 neighborhoods in the inner North and Northeast sectors of Portland, it was the first of seven neighborhood coalitions, all of which are affiliated with Portland's Office of Community and Civic Life.   Over the years  they have evolved “into being an incubator of civic action by connecting residents with grassroots organizations, like-minded individuals and local policy makers to effect change in their communities. “

“HEY, NEIGHBOR , NECN NEWSPAPER

“HEY, NEIGHBOR!” is NECN's quarterly newspaper which is distributed to over 22,000 households, businesses, and libraries around North and Northeast Portland. Here are a few articles   which are printed below with their permission:

Portland Unhoused, People on the Front Lines, Mischa S. Webley NECN Staff Writer 

“Ask any Portlander about their top concerns for the city, and you’re likely to find homelessness high on that list. The explosion of people living outside is a frequent flash point in local politics and a regular feature of life in the Rose City. And while it’s one of those issues that everybody seems to have a strong opinion about, few are willing to grapple with its complexity. The reality is that homelessness, or houselessness, is a catch-all phrase for a phenomenon that is only the most visible aspect of a host of other complex social issues. That tent on your street corner, then, is only the tip of a much larger societal iceberg. Beneath it lies countless unseen personal stories and struggles, to say nothing of the decades of policy decisions that have led to this being the status quo. 

Matt Olguin, Director of Shelter Services Transition Projects Inc. 

“You have this perception that all homeless people are drug addicts or criminals. The difference is that the people we see who are experiencing homelessness that are bad actors and using drugs or committing various crimes - we see that specifically because they are homeless and don’t have another place to do those things. But criminals walk all facets of life whether they’re experiencing homelessness or they’re in housing. So it’s trying to separate out those two things where it’s bad actors and criminality, versus people who are experiencing homelessness and more often than not are the victims. 

“We who are housed come from a level of privilege and we have to acknowledge that sometimes and show a little more empathy. You see someone experiencing homelessness and you think they had the same experience you had growing up, and therefore this is their choice that led them to where they’re at but it’s not taking into account whatever their experiences were. People are homeless because they have no other options. Some people have no options to begin with, some have burned those bridges and they have to try to repair them later in life. But every experience of homelessness is different and the drivers that led them to be homeless are different. The vast majority of people became homeless here in Portland. It’s a Portland problem. That myth that the homeless are moving to Portland because of good services isn’t true.”  www.tprojects.org

Leo Rhodes ,Homeless Advocate 

“One of the biggest misconceptions of homelessness is that everyone’s on drugs, alcohol, mentally ill, because the decision makers are catering to that. They’re saying we need to [treat] the most vulnerable, people that have problems, so people like me who are clean and sober are stuck, put way back on the back burner. It’s hard for us to see other people that have vices go and get rewarded with housing, when we’re trying to really be outstanding citizens. But it only takes one homeless person to screw up and all of a sudden we all  get labelled as that. 

Denis Theriault, Communications Coordinator, Joint Office of Homeless Services, www.multco.us/joint-officehomeless-services 

The floor is falling out. People don’t have a place to land anymore when they used to have a place to land. The rent is going up faster than your wages are, and your wages aren’t starting from very much in some cases. And when you’re in that situation, if your car breaks down, your kid breaks his leg, you gotta miss work, maybe you go through sick time, start losing money, the car, hospital bill...all that stuff adds up. “You could end up in a shelter, you could end up in a tent, you could have a partner who spends the money they’re not supposed to spend and then you’re a mom with her kids and you’re outside. We’re all a tragedy, a paycheck away from not having somewhere to go or a support network. It’s easier to think less of those that are in that situation as a way to protect ourselves from the reality that it could be us. 

“We see about 6,000 people a year who come in for first time rent assistance or eviction prevention. The number of people continuing to use that service after they first receive it - that number is going up. It tells you something about the housing market. And once we place people into housing, we know how many people we’re still giving retention services. And that number is going up also. “People think there isn’t work happening, that the money we’re spending isn’t doing anything. The reality is that the money is helping more people than ever; the things we’re doing are making a difference. There’s just so many people that still need help, it doesn’t feel like it. The reality is we know what works, and we need more money to fund what works.”

$100,000 IN GRANTS are now available to give out in grants to neighborhood and community organizations for community engagement projects in 2019. The City of Portland Office of Community & Civic Life is partnering with Portland’s seven neighborhood district coalitions to give out the funds. They are Central Northeast Neighbors (CNN) -- $10,000; East Portland Community Office (EPCO) -- (EPCO is not participating in the grant program this year.);  Neighbors West-Northwest (NWNW) -- $13,423; North Portland Neighborhood Services (NPNS) -- (NPNS is not participating in this grant program this year); Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) -- $14,000. 

Grants are given in amounts $2,000 per applicant. Funding rounds take place annually, and are awarded based on a project's potential to: Involve and benefit a diverse group of people; Build leadership skills, relationships and partnerships, especially with and among underrepresented groups; Increase community capacity to influence public decisions and shape the future of Inner North/Northeast Portland; Create unique projects with the potential to make an impact in communities large and small.

Central Northeast Neighbors (CNN)Grant application due Tuesday, November 13, 2018, 4:00 PM; Website CNN Small Grants/ Contact:  Sandra Lefrancois (sandral@cnncoalition.org; 503-823-2780.  

Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) Grant application available: Thursday, October 11, 2018; Grant application due: Tuesday, January 15, 2019;  Website NECN Small Grants; Contact:  Mischa Webley (mischa@necoalition.org; 503-388-9030)

Tom Hering