April 2018 Newsletter

Spring – an experience in immortality.” -Henry D Thoreau

APRIL 5 INTERFAITH ALLIANCE MONTHLY MEETING

St. Andrews Catholic Parish, located at 806 N. E. Alberta Street. will be hosting the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty’s monthly meeting on Thursday, April 5th from 12:00 to 2:00 pm.

Guest speaker will be Scott School Principal, Gina Roletto 

She will share her insights educating students  from the multi-cultural, socio-economic diverse families of the Cully neighborhood.

On behalf of Congregation Beth Israel, Rabbi Rachel L. Joseph,  welcomed a full house of Interfaith Alliance and Community members to the March 1 meeting of the Interfaith Alliance.

Rabbi Rachel advised that Congregation Beth Israel was founded in 1858, when Oregon was still part of the Oregon Territory. It was the first Jewish congregation west of the Rockies and north of California. The then new Congregation held religious services in Burke's Hall, which was located above a livery stable located on First Avenue.

The first Synagogue, located on SW Fifth and Oak streets, was built in 1859. After two succeeding Synagogues, they have worshiped beneath their current Byzantine Dome on SW 17th & Flanders for 88 years.

Sally Rosenfeld introduced guest speaker, Brandi Tuck, Executive Director of Portland Homeless Family Solutions

Brandi grew up in Coral Springs, Florida and attended  the University of Florida, where she earned degrees in political science, philosophy, and non-profit organization.  In 2006 Brandi moved to Portland and began work at the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force conducting an anti-hunger public policy and outreach for federal nutrition programs

In 2007  Brandi founded Portland Homeless Family Solutions and has worked as the Executive Director ever since.  Brandi received the 2009 Skidmore Prize for Nonprofit Service, the 2010 Bank of America Local Hero Award for her leadership in social services and the 2013 WVDO Crystal Award for Executive Fund Raising

.Brandi declared:  “Homelessness is not normal.”  She recalled that  the 1940  New Deal provided $89 Billion for a Federal Housing Authority  to support affordable  housing for the white, but not black community. 

From the 1940-80’s, housing funds were defunded to $20 billion.  Public housing fell into disrepair and was torn down.  At the same time mental health facilities were closed and patients were released out into the streets without resources.  As the housing crisis grew, waiting time to get housing assistance grew.     

Wages have stagnated while the cost of food, health, transportation, and rents have risen.  Child care averages about $900 per month.  

After World War II, the GI Bill supported with middle class with education and housing assistance.  Wealth was accumulated and passed down to the next generation.  Now the passage of wealth  has slowed to a trickle.  Students encumbered with debt, have limited resources to purchase homes.

As rents rise, more people face evictions. As more and more people are forced out of their housing,   shelters have become the resort of the homeless. Tent cities arise.  Tiny houses spring up on  vacant lots.  The city allocates more money for multiple housing, but it is never enough because wages are never enough to cover the rising cost of rents and living.

The mission of  Portland Homeless Family Solutions is “to empower homeless families with children to get back into housing and stay there.  We take people “as they are” building relationships, understanding that they may be trauma affected by their experiences.”

A year ago, the PHFS Board and Staff set out on a long-term vision they  called  our “Moon Shot” – They wanted to own a building where families experiencing homelessness receive wrap-around services* to support them moving permanently back into housing.

On Friday, March 23, Portland Homeless Family Solutions (PHFS) announced their intention to purchase a 3.3 million-dollar property on 92nd and SE Tolman Road. This purchase will allow PHFS to increase capacity in their family shelters from 8 to 34 families a night. 

It will also allow the non-profit to expand wrap around services such as: homeless prevention, rapid rehousing, life skills training, mental health services, addiction treatment, child care, employment services, and healthcare. 

The purchase includes eight 2-bdrm apartments; PHFS hopes to build an additional 40 units of affordable housing on the property in the near future.

March to commemorate the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King is being led by the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) on APRIL 4, 2018. The NAACP-Portland Branch (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon are co-organizers.  The First Unitarian Church will co-sponsor.

When Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, he was actively working to build the Poor Peoples' Campaign which focused on the three social evils of racism, war and poverty. The march coincides with the re-igniting of the Poor Peoples' Campaign here in Oregon and nationally. It is a non-violent action to demonstrate we have not forgotten the vision articulated by King and to show that we continue to strive for the beloved community.

The Interfaith Alliance encourages everyone to join the march. We will gather at the Japanese American Historical Plaza (W Waterfront & NW Davis at 5:00 PM.  From there  at 5:30,   march across the Steel Bridge on Pedestrian Path to  join a 6:30 Rally at Martin Luther King Statue  at MLK Blvd and NE Holladay Street.


Stepping out in Faith:  Tiny Houses on their way to SE Portland

by John Elizalde

A congregation of 130 Sunday worshippers, 10 acres, a large flat, cleared tract of about an acre, 6 current homeless tent dwellers living up the hill on the property – mix, shake, add faith and 20 – 30 tiny houses and there you have it; or will have it; or almost will have it.

These faith communities just do stuff like this.

Pastor Matt Huff gave a tour of the expanse of property owned by the Portland Central Church of the Nazarene to Sally Fraser, Sarah Carolus and John Elizalde from the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty.  He told of how the church was confronted with the reality of the housing crisis as it impacted the neighborhood and members of his community.  Through his relationships with other faith leaders he learned about a variety of ways that faith communities are responding by stepping out in faith.

Relationships do that, don’t they.  We learn new ways, new ideas and gain inspiration to explore our own opportunities.  There is a longer story here but we’ll suffice to say that Portland Central Church of the Nazarene is well on its way to hosting a community of 20 – 30 tiny houses they will make available to the homeless folk in their neighborhood.

Construction is underway at a site in NW Portland where a team of skilled and resourceful people are using the frames of worn out RV trailers as the under carriage of the tiny homes.  The homes will be 8.5 feet wide and up to 16 ft long with a loft for sleeping.  The full furnishing of the units hasn’t been completed yet but it is likely there will be a way to use a propane  heater, small refrigerator and maybe a hot plate.  Plumbing and full electricity will not be available at first so there is likely to be a stand alone ‘wash house’ and cooking house..

Occupants of the homes haven’t been decided on either.  There is a school just down the street and it may be that families would be served well at Central Nazarene.  But then, there are many single men in the area who are struggling with houselessness too.  Those 6 houseless neighbors on the property are all men.

And, where does the church come up with 20 – 30 old RV frames for these homes.  It seems that “Roger”, a friend of the build team leader, has a line on such clunkers and every few days he shows up at the church with another old RV in tow.  This provides work for “David”, another team leader friend, to go to work with demolition.  On the day of our visit David was in a great mood having a sunny warm day to tear apart old RV’s.  He’s living the dream.

And, maybe it is a dream.  There are so many unanswered questions about plumbing and sewage and electricity and water and materials and timing and money and money and money.

There are so many reasons to say ‘yes, but....”

Pastor Matt shrugs and says “I wonder how it will all turn out.  I’m pretty sure everything will work out just fine.”  There is that stepping out in faith again.


TINY HOUSES IN YOUR BACKYARD?

By B. Gregg

Hazelnut Grove, Photo - Stephanie Yao Long

Oregonian reporter, Mike Zacchino, tells us that “Multnomah County’s creative problem solving department wants to roll out a pilot program this year that installs 30 taxpayer-funded tiny homes in backyards across the city. Families with children who are homeless, or on the brink of homelessness, would rent the tiny homes from the property owner for at least five years. Then, the property owner can do anything with “the granny flat” -- it’s fully theirs.”

City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly has ordered city code enforcement to deprioritize cracking down on people illegally living in tiny homes and RVs on private property.  Eudaly intends to propose an ordinance that would allow people   to live in tiny homes in yards around the city. Until then, property owners are allowed three tiny homes or one RV to be occupied.

Portland currently has four tiny, self-built-home communities: Dignity Village,   Right 2 Dream Too,  Kenton Women’s Village, and Hazelnut Grove .   

Dignity Village, now approaching 20 years in North Portland, is connected with a nonprofit homeless services provider.

Right 2 Dream Too moved from West Burnside at the Chinatown gates to city-owned property between the Willamette River and Moda Center.  Residents who work shifts to run the “rest stop,” where people can sleep for 12 hours at a time, live in new tiny homes built with donated materials and volunteer labor.

A 14-pod village for homeless women opened in June 2017 in  the Kenton neighborhood.  The village provides the women an opportunity to have their own space, rather than living in a shelter. It is supported by Catholic charities. 

Hazelnut Grove grew organically in its spot at the intersection of North Greeley and Interstate avenues, one or two homeless individuals settling in at a time until eventually there were 13 residents of a tiny house community.  The Overlook Neighborhood did not welcome the newcomers, but agreed to work out a Good Neighborhood Agreement, while going through a mediation process.  Mayor Wheeler decided to keep hands off until the process worked out.  Now that it appears no agreement is going to be worked out, the Overlook Neighborhood has been informed that Hazelnut Grove will be moving, but nobody knows when or where.

In southeast Portland, as described in John Elizalde’s article above, Portland Central Nazarene Church, is embarking on a project to construct 30 tiny “mobile homes”.  They will be 8 1/2’ x 13 1/2’ x 12’-16’, constructed of cedar and powered by solar panels.  Their advantage is that their mobility will allow them to be moved from place to place.


PORTLAND “MARCH FOR OUR LIVES”

by B. Gregg

KOIN reports that “Portland, Salem and Vancouver were among the cities across the globe holding "March for Our Lives" rallies, organized by Florida high school students after the slaughter of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine's Day. “

Event organizers estimate between 20-25,000 people attended the march and rally in Portland.


Interfaith Communities Unite Against Gun Violence

Campaign Chair, Mark Knutson, Pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church, stated:  "Oregonians of all ages are rising up to stand alongside our young leaders who have seized this moment with courage and vigor to shape a safer future for all of us. “  Pastor Knutson is also Chief Petitioner  of the effort to

 “Lift Every Voice”  Interfaith Campaign to Ban the Sale Of Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Magazines in Oregon.

A Co-Petitioner is Rev. Alcena Boozer, former principal of Jefferson High School and Pastor Emeritus of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church, and Rabbi Michael Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel. The Treasurer is Imam Muhammad Najieb, Director of the Muslim Community Center of Portland and a veteran of the Marines.  Rev. Lynn Smouse-Lopez of Ainsworth United Church of Christ is serving as an Alternate Petitioner, and a number of other faith leaders and young leaders are serving on the Campaign Steering Committee and six sub-committees.


SPARC lights the fire!

By John Elizalde and Sarabelle Hitchner, ,First Unitarian Economic Justice Action Group, First Unitarian Committee on Hunger and Homelessness; Interfaith Alliance on Poverty

Portland, Multnomah County, Gresham and a host of others have stepped into the lions’ den according to Mark Dones from the Center for Social Innovation.  Mark was clear at the SPARC Community Kickoff that SPARC is likely to light up the way that our community has social systems, rules and maybe laws that adversely impact people of color and contribute to these people being homeless.  And we’ll need to deal with that reality.

Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities launched in Multnomah County under sponsorship of A Home For Everyone, the municipal and county government partnership to end homelessness in the region.  SPARC will assess and address the ‘stark racial and ethnic disparities found nationally among people experiencing homelessness,’ according to the program brochure.  This means we’ll ‘fundamentally change the conversation we are having about the root causes of housing instability, risk for homelessness and barriers to exiting homelessness for people of color.’  The process brings together policy makers, service providers and people with lived experiences to understand how racism impacts homelessness.

SPARC is an initiative of the Center for Social Innovation (center4si.com), a 12-year old social change research and consulting group out of Needham, MA. 

To date, there are 10 communities around the country in these conversations and making changes.  Whereas homelessness is a national phenomenon, it impacts people locally and must be addressed community by community.

The program kickoff was held March 19 and began a week of intensive program activity that will continue over a 3-year process.   

There will be the requisite quantitative analysis of Multnomah County data as well as qualitative study.  Economic Mobility, Housing, Behavioral Health, Criminal Justice, Family Stabilization and Network Impoverishment will be part of the qualitative review.  A thesis could be (and in all likelihood has been) written on each of these features.

Critical for us will be a plan to reach ‘racial equity.’  This means the deliberate policies and practices that provide everyone with the support they need to improve their lives.  In broad terms this means a program that includes on-going anti-racism training, persistent professional development for people of color, full time equity positions in government and service agencies, governing board diversity, anti-racist community efforts and innovative interventions.

A couple of important points came from the panel of experts who spoke at the kickoff.  

  • It is more than poverty that is driving homelessness for people of color. 

  • Homeless people know what changes to social systems would improve their circumstances.

  • Outcomes of work are the test of equity, not simply lip service to policy. 

  • Listen to people of color and believe them.  Folk really do know what their lived experience is.

  • We who are white don’t get to call ourselves allies or accomplices of people of color – they make that call.

  • We of Caucasian heritage live with a different cultural history, memory, and confidence in government-driven change than our neighbors (and government leaders) whose families were interned in WWII, repatriated to Mexico early last century, or suffer the uncertainty around deportation today due to DACA --- for example.

  • If you are having a discussion about race and racism and there isn’t a person of color in the room, something is wrong.

As the song says, ‘we’ve only just begun’ and it seems like a big deal that our community is taking this deep dive into an important realm of our social fabric

 Kaia Sand, Executive Director, Street Roots stated in her opinion piece  “SPARC-ing conversation on homelessness and race, Street Roots-March 23-29, 2018” - 

“Oregon has a history of excluding and displacing people of color.  Federal housing policies, forced relocations of Native people, mid-century termination of some Oregon tribes, exclusionary housing laws, racist real estate practices, planning and policies, terrible terms on housing mortgages and on and on.  And then there’s less to pass on - people of color lose out on intergenerational wealth.  This all impacts housing stability.


PORTLAND HYGIENE PROJECT

By B. Gregg

So, you find yourself broke, homeless, facing life on the streets of Portland.  Besides finding food, clothes, bedding, and a place to sleep, you need to locate a toilet available through the day, and somewhere to wash your body, brush your teeth and launder your clothes.  

The HYGIENE PROJECT, done in partnership with the PSU School of Social Work and the Sisters of the Road in Old Town/Chinatown, explored the need for showers, toilets and laundry facilities for those without permanent housing. Portland State University students discovered that Portland’s homeless population is suffering due to lack of access to proper hygiene facilities

Lisa Hawash, an assistant professor in the PSU School of Social Work, led the research and survey of 550 homeless people, over a 2-year period from 2014 and 2016. The graduate students found that 40% had experienced health problems due to lack of hygiene resources, including staph infections, scabies, lice, open sores, endocarditis and urinary tract  

The HYGIENE CENTER would be open 7 days per week, 12-14 hours per day; offer accessible showers and bathrooms; provide washer and dryer facilities; and storage/locker space.

 “As a community social worker, I believe in the dignity and respect and human rights for all people and people’s self determination,” Hawash said. “At the end of the day, it’s about inherent worth.”


SUMMARY -- CULLY HOUSING ACTION TEAM (CHAT) MEETING

 • City Council Hearings on the Relo Ordinance, Feb. 28th & March 7

The Relocation Ordinance, commonly called the “Relo Ordinance,” was set to be in effect for only one year. It enabled households served a no-cause eviction or a rent increase of 10 percent or higher in a 12 month period to be paid relocation assistance by their landlord. The City Council Hearing on February 28 was 1) to vote on whether or not to make the ordinance permanent and 2) to address rentals to tenants who occupy the same dwelling unit as the landlord or a landlord who rents only a single dwelling unit in the city of Portland. Approximately 24% of rentals fall into these categories. 

The Interfaith Alliance provided a van and John Elizalde drove 15 Cully residents to the City Hall hearing on the 28th. A handful of Interfaith Alliance folks attended the hearing via other transportation.

 

Council consideration of the ordinance at the 28th meeting started later than anticipated and while the council members generally seemed supportive of making the ordinance permanent, they wanted to discuss further policy regarding rentals of single dwelling units.   At the subsequent council session on March 7th, the commissioners made permanent the February 2016 renter relocation policy. What’s new? Landlords renting single dwelling units are no longer exempt to the provisions of the Relo Ordinance except in limited circumstances.  

• Good News!! The city will fund 75 new affordable housing units in Cully! Drawing on the 250 million in bond monies for affordable housing, the City will buy property to build 75 affordable housing units in Cully. The contract is in process and the location of the housing can’t be announced yet.

• Reaching out to African Americans living in the Cully area. Living Cully received a small grant of $3,000 to host events to engage African Africans living in Cully. A series of game nights will take place at the Living Cully Plaza with the first scheduled for Friday, March 16, 6-9 pm.  

• Hacienda CDC News The full name of Hacienda CDC is Latino Community Development Corporation. Formed in 1992, its mission is four-fold: To strengthen families by providing affordable housing, homeownership support, economic advancement and educational opportunities. The corporation’s offices are located in a large, colorful building at the corner of 67th Avenue and Killingsworth Avenue, directly across from the Living Cully Plaza building. In the Cully neighborhood, the corporation has already built housing communities on four vacant lots and renovated one run-down apartment complex – (a former hotbed of drug activity and prostitution), thereby creating in total 325 units of community-centered affordable rental housing in Cully.  

Exciting, Promising Milestone - But City Funding 

Needed! Hacienda has now completed all plans for the redevelopment of the Living Cully Plaza building, formerly known as the Sugar Shack. The Shack cannot be salvaged. Hacienda CDC must now go to the City to ask for monies to finance the rebuilding of the Plaza property. Hacienda CDC met with residents to gather information about their needs for the building. A new building will provide 150 affordable housing units, a community gathering space, laundry facilities and much more tailored to Cully family needs. 

Breakout Groups: Those present broke into three study/planning groups. They were: 1) Land acquisition – supporting Hacienda’s efforts to buy properties and develop Living Cully Plaza; 2) Eliminating barriers to home ownership; and 3) Engagement strategies for youth.

The Home Ownership Group is new and just beginning its work. A number of families have rented in the Cully neighborhood for a rather long time. They wish to open bank accounts, start putting money into the bank and perhaps someday be able to use the savings toward the purchase of a home. The purpose of the Home Ownership Group is to 1) acquire information about opening a bank account and 2) what’s involved in trying to buy a home, 3) how to spread the information to other Cully residents and last, 4) to advocate with first-time homeowner programs such as Habitat. These organizations might open the possibility of homeownership to them.

 

Some of the questions/points that arose at our short breakout session were:

. Can one get a bank loan if the person doesn’t have a social security number?      

. Can one buy a home if the person doesn’t have a social security number?

. How does one get an ITIN necessary to open a bank account? (An ITIN is a nine-digit tax processing number assigned, for example, to people who do not have a legal status or social security number in the U.S.)

Bonnie Gregg