JUNE 2O19 NEWSLETTER

MAYOR WHEELER FORUM

By Marie Langanes &  Bonnie Gregg

Carol Turner welcomed the nearly 200 guests assembled in the Madeleine Parish Hall, on May 13,2019, to hear Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler address:  POVERTY IN PORTLAND: STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS PORTLAND’S HOUSING NEED.  

After opening prayer led by Pastor Linda Quanstrom, Fremont United Methodist Church, Mayor Wheeler, declared we are participating in “history in the making” as we endeavor to solve the problems of poverty in Portland.

Root causes are many, including low income, reduced safety net programs, few public health options, limited educational opportunities, racial discrimination, unfair criminal justice practices, inadequate shelters, and unaffordable housing.  He said, “These are complicated issues which require complicated answers.”  

For instance, when foster children exit the foster care system because of age, they frequently end up on the streets of Portland.  When a lost job or medical bills drive individuals or families into bankruptcy, many who never thought they would become homeless suddenly find they are.  Many of the homeless work one or more jobs, but at wages so low they can’t afford to pay rent.  Retiring baby boomers find themselves without incomes sufficient to pay the bills.  Single mothers with one or more children face hard challenges, particularly if they happen to be Latino or African American.  The physically disabled, mentally challenged, elderly or chronically infirm do not have the   means to afford a place to live and pay their other expenses, as well.  

The City’s first goal is to keep low-income families from losing their housing, because once they are homeless it is much harder and costly to get them into living places.

The Mayor declared Portland  has a prosperous economy.  High skilled jobs are in demand.  The tourist industry is booming. The City is contacted continuously from other cities, because Portland is considered a model of intra-agency collaboration.  Since 2011, 44,000 people have moved to Portland.  However, that is not the reason for the rise in our homeless population.  They are not coming from out of state to obtain services.  Most of our homeless, approximately 85%,  grew up in Portland or other parts of Oregon

The Mayor said that one of the primary reasons for the rise of homelessness is that the housing industry has not kept up with demand for housing. In addition, Federal programs supporting those in poverty have been cut. Those without or with limited resources, often fall into poverty, which is why the City of Portland has devoted so many of its resources trying to help with shelters, programs, etc. This year, the City has committed $1 million to providing “hygiene centers” to assist the homeless.

Following Mayor Wheeler’s prepared remarks, there was a round of questions presented on cards from members of the audience read by Carol Turner or John Elizalde to Mayor Wheeler.   

Responding to a question asking how the recent sweeps of 91 homeless camps help the homeless, 

The Mayor advised that he does not believe urban camping is an acceptable solution for the problems of poverty.  It does not produce a quality life style for the homeless and leads to health, safety, and environmental problems for the community. It’s never allowed to put tents on the city streets or block sidewalks.   He said that the “Springwater Trail” which allowed the homeless to camp freely for a number of years, turned out “to be a disaster”, causing neighborhoods to rise up in protest.  

Nevertheless, ”urban camping” is increasing not only in downtown Portland, but in our neighborhoods  He said that on an average the City receives from 500-700 calls weekly from citizens concerned about the litter, the needles in the park, the profanity, the  blocking of  public ways and/or the behavior of the urban campers which they fear threatens their children and their way of life. 

Mayor Wheeler acknowledged that the sweeps do disrupt the lives of the campers. That is the reason they give campers notice of when a sweep is scheduled.  On the day of the sweep the police are always accompanied with social services workers to help get campers relocated. Their personal belongings are bagged and tagged and are put in storage, in a downtown facility, run by other homeless people. Of 3000 camps moved only two people have been arrested.  

The City has looked at many models on how to solve the problems of the homeless throughout the U.S. and is now considering the “Navigation Center” model, which has been successful in San Francisco.  

The Mayor is hopeful that by utilizing the Navigation Center Model, Portland will be able to get more people off the streets and be able to assist them in developing customized plans for their situation because as the Mayor says,  “one size fits all” doesn’t work.  

He concluded by saying “There is a sea of goodwill in this room.  What we need is a holistic approach to mobilize that goodwill,  to find  solutions that will  create an economy that is shared by everyone in our community, not just a few.”  

Fr. Amalraj of the Madeleine Parish closed the meeting, thanking everyone for their participation and praying for the success of our combined efforts to overcome poverty.

JUNE 11 – MAYOR WHEELER FORUM FOLLOW-UP DISCUSSION

If you would like to learn more from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s staff about the issues raised during the Mayor's presentation,   and their response to questions asked by members of the audience at the May 13th Program, you are invited to the follow-up meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, 7:00-8:30pm, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1624 NE Hancock. 

Please register by June 7, with Bonnie Gregg (bonniejgregg@msn.com).  

SPECIAL THANKS TO VOLUNTEERS!
The Poverty Awareness Team of the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty wishes to thank the many, many people who helped to make the Mayor Ted Wheeler Program on May 13th a very successful event!

Interfaith Alliance Congregation Members:  Barbara Dow,  Marie & Bill Langeness, Becky Elmore, Connie Yost, David Groff, Debby Willett, Eve Rosenfeld, Father Amalraj Rayappan, Fraser Rasmussen,  Gary & Sherry Martel, Beth & Gregg Neel,   Jim Moiso, Joan Meyers,     Lee Lawrence-Moiso, Les Wardenaar, Linda Quanstrom,  Lynne Rasmussen, Rae Richen, Ruth Whitham, Sarah Carolus, Scott Overton and Tom Hering.

Madeleine Parish Staff:  Father Mike Biewend, Jackie Dooris, Ann Hart, and Rich Hammons

Interfaith Alliance Planning Team:  Carol Turner, John Elizalde, Dave Albertine, Marilyn Mauch, Karen Nettler, Sally Rosenfeld, Claudia Roberts, Bonnie Gregg, and Holly Schmidt.

If we missed your name, please forgive us.  Know that everyone’s help was greatly appreciated!  We couldn’t have done it without you. 

JUNE 6 -  1ST THURSDAY INTERFAITH ALLIANCE YEAR-END POTLUCK MEETING

GENESIS COMMUNITY FELLOWSHIP,  located at 5425 NE Killingsworth, will be hosting the June 6th meeting of the Interfaith Alliance, from 12:00 to 2:00 PM.  Everyone is encouraged to bring a potluck item to share.  A discussion of the Portland 2.0 Project led by David Yaden, will be the focus of the meeting. 

The Interfaith Alliance will take a brief summer respite to refresh and re-calibrate.   The 2019-2020 Interfaith Alliance 1st Thursday monthly meetings will resume September 5,  2019.

What Pastor Frazier says about Genesis:  “I believe that Almighty God has created Genesis to grow and be a strong vibrant influential church in our city.  The community will realize what Genesis has begun to experience already; that is, to be a community that expresses unconditional love, a community of worshipers that touch the heart of God, and a light in the ministry of reconciliation. Family, Youth & Senior ministries will develop into solid ministries as our Outreach ministry finds a new, yet influential role in our community.  Genesis will become not a place to go but a people to belong to.”

Genesis Community Food Pantry is proud partner with the Oregon Food Bank and is an equal opportunity provider. Mondays & Thursdays – 4:00pm – 6:00pm

Genesis Community Food Pantry’s mission: To offer assistance to all in need, regardless of their current “status”.  We will open our doors and arms to serve all people.

Our vision: To participate in a community that relies on one another, loves one another, and supports one another, as Christ did.

Portland 2.0

About the Project

Beginning in the late 1960s, the Portland region boldly decided to head in a direction different from other urban areas—turning away from sprawl and freeways, rebuilding a vital and active downtown, maintaining desirable neighborhoods and attractive public parks and amenities. It gained a reputation for urban success, civic vitality and innovation. Let’s call that Portland 1.0.

However, our quality of life has not been equally shared. Some were simply left out, excluded. Importantly, the burdens of our desirability, especially displacement and housing affordability, have fallen disproportionately on those least equipped to cope and those historically bypassed by our “urban success,” especially communities of color and lower income groups.

Growth is creating new strains. And circumstances have changed, including an increasingly diverse population, technology, the economy, modes of civic engagement.

The Portland 2.0 project arose out of a belief that it is time to assess how things have changed and to ask some big questions about governance as a shared civic endeavor of citizens and leaders–about how things do or don’t get done, about the capacity of our civic infrastructure to shape and achieve Portland 2.0. https://www.pdx.edu/cupa/portland2.0

INTERFAITH ALLIANCE ADVOCACY TEAM REPORT: 

Residential Infill Project (RIP) Guidance to Prevent Displacement in East Portland by Sarah Carolus and Elizabeth Stepp

At a recent meeting of the Interfaith Alliance Advocacy Action Team,  Katie Larsell,  a member of the East Portland Action Team, shared her insights regarding the Residential Infill Project’s possible impact on East side neighborhoods.

Sarah Carolus reported that Katie Larsell emphasized the following points during her presentation:

  • Because of their larger lots, lower land costs and lower income of the population, East Portland has potential to attract significant infill development.

  • This potential development will cause displacement and other unintended consequences.

  • There was an amendment presented before RIP's final vote to allow East Portland to be exempt from the new zoning for 5 years. That was voted down 5-4. Katie advised that she would have voted for RIP if this amendment had been included

  • RIP currently is a one size fits all proposal, which will not work in all neighborhoods. City models of how RIP will change city are not necessarily correct. 

  • Some of RIP is needed to address Portland's housing goals. Reducing size of buildings, adding more housing choices, and creating smaller family sized units is good.

Elizabeth Stepp observed that Katie had made the following recommendations for actions by the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty:

  • Consider having a representative attend the East Portland Action Plan General Monthly meeting, at David Douglas High School (4th Wed. in the evening). The EPAP area is land east of I-205 and west of Gresham, and between the Columbia River and southern city limits.  It includes the Lents neighborhood.  

  • Consider sending a communication (position paper / submit comments) to the Mayor and City Council on the RIP and on the potential of adding anti-displacement mitigation measures and programs (see Oct. 24, 2018 letter from EPAP to City Council). 

 Excerpts from letter sent from the East Portland Action Plan to Mayor Wheeler, Commissioners Eudaly, Fish, Fritz, and Saltzman, Planning and Sustainability Acting Director Joe Zehnder, and the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC):

 The East Portland Action Plan (EPAP) is a City-community partnership which has been tasked with leadership and guidance to public agencies on how to strategically address community-identified issues to improve livability and prevent displacement in East Portland.  With the extension of the Residential Infill Project (RIP) into East Portland, the RIP will impact the following Action Plan strategy areas: Housing & Development Policies (HD.3and5) and, Housing Assistance and Safety Net Services (SN.1 and.3).

 The original ‘A’ overlay RIP map, which included all recommended RIP neighborhoods, contained only one East Portland neighborhood -- the rest of East Portland was not included. Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff analysis showed that RIP could be a destabilizing and displacing force in certain East Portland areas which are already experiencing pressure from rising rents and rising home prices. Other East Portland areas were not included because of drainage problems, and in some cases, because of limited public transportation.  If adopted as proposed, the RIP will increase the number of allowable units on each lot within what is now traditionally single-family areas.

 East Portland Action Plan Economic Development and Housing Subcommittees advise that the following be implemented if the RIP ‘A’ overlay is extended beyond the initial BPS recommendation into East Portland:

 Before the Portland City Council votes on accepting the RIP report, property owners in East Portland must be notified about the change. City residents were notified of the original RIP and given ample time to respond during an open comment period. Property owners, neighborhood associations and business associations in East Portland looked over that proposed RIP and saw that it did not include them. They need to know if it does include them and have significant time to address the adjustment. This change impacts a lot more people in East Portland than it did originally, and such a monumental change should not proceed without informed East Portland input.

Using an equity lens, create an East Portland Quadrant Plan equivalent that plans projects and zoning changes tailored to conditions specific to East Portland. East Portland is racially, ethnically, and language diverse, has more poverty than any other part of the city, and has multiple school districts with different needs to consider. There is a different pattern of street grids and many large undeveloped lots. Property values, while rising, are still lower compared to the rest of the city. A one size fits all RIP, created in response to problems in other parts of the city, will have unintended consequences for East Portland. 

Establishing a Quadrant Plan equivalent prior to implementing the RIP in East Portland will lessen the unintended consequences. This Quadrant Plan equivalent will have the depth and project orientation of the downtown Quadrant Plan. 

The original BSP staff report stated that the RIP could increase displacement in East Portland. There is no reason to doubt the basis of this analysis. East Portland needs a full range of anti-displacement mitigation programs in place BEFORE the RIP comes to East Portland.

Anti-Displacement Mitigation Programs Needed:        East Portland Action Plan insists that you put in place displacement prevention tools before you implement the RIP in East Portland. One consequence of hastily implementing the RIP in East Portland that is not planned, but is entirely predictable, is a continued and rapid displacement of current residents, especially people of color.

 We advise the implementation of robust mitigation programs, using the example of inner northeast Portland as a cautionary tale. The City made extensive changes in that area without adequate mitigation programs in place. The result was widespread and, much regretted, displacement of too many people, notably, the now diminished African American community in the area. The City cannot claim naïveté as to the impact such changes make when intervention does not proceed implementation.  

The BLS staff made the following recommendations on what programs should be put in place before the RIP comes to East Portland:  "In support of vulnerable homeowners”:

  1. Offer outreach and education to low-income homeowners about the ‘A’ overlay provisions and their opportunities and risks.

  2. Provide technical assistance to low-income homeowners on how to build additional unit(s) on their property and how to manage rentals.

  3. Increase funding for financial assistance programs regarding: a. Home-ownership; b. Home-repairs;   c. Down payment assistance; and d. Loans to homeowners to build additional unit(s) on their property.

 Programs to support vulnerable renters of single-family homes:

  1. Develop anti-displacement strategies for specific areas facing early stages of displacement risk;

  2. Fund education programs for low-income renters regarding tenant rights, financial literacy and other skills that could help them stabilize their housing situation; and

  3. Pilot a program to give qualified displaced households preference for affordable housing units in or near neighborhoods where they were displaced.

 With robust programs in place, the changes in density and new building could be a way of creating wealth for East Portland homeowners. We know East Portland will change -- the City of Portland has charged the East Portland Action Plan to provide guidance, because we are a diverse group that establishes common ground in the best interest of East Portland. Take our guidance. Protect East Portland community rental tenants and build wealth for existing East Portland community members, not predatory investors. East Portland Action Plan Summary https://multco.us/file/30127/download

HOMELESS:  LIVING WITH STRESS & TRYING TO LIVE WITHOUT IT

by Aliza Saunders |Street Roots/ 3 May 2019 

Street Roots wanted to learn more about what being able to relax means when you don’t have a home. We shouldn’t have been surprised that this exploration turned into conversations about stress on the streets.

An intense job interview or narrowly catching the bus might cause an immediate and even thrilling dose of stress, called acute stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Not all stress comes in small spurts, however. Chronic stress is “grinding stress that wears people away day after day, year after year,” a form of stress that can be debilitating, according to the American Psychological Association.

This stress can result in serious psychological and physical health consequences, such as anxiety, insomnia and a weakened immune system. The American Institute of Stress has compiled an exhaustive list of 50 common symptoms of stress that includes difficulty making decisions, depression, trouble learning, lack of care in appearance, and rapid and mumbled speech. Like many psychological conditions, chronic stress manifests in diverse and sometimes nonlinear ways. In addition to daily uncertainties such as finding the next meal or staying dry during a rainy night, people who are or have recently been homeless often carry childhood trauma, which may contribute to deep and sometimes crippling stress.

For 13 years, Mykel Garner lived on the streets and faced immeasurable stress. He was abandoned by his grandmother to Child Protective Services when he was 8, and since then, he has lived in more than 10 group homes, struggled with addiction, been shot three times, and spent time in a psychiatric hospital. “When I was on the streets, I didn’t have a choice,” he said. “I had to just be submissive and admit that I had been beaten, and basically in the end, I just wanted to die. I tried so many times to just give up.” 

Despite these challenges, about three years ago, Garner felt the most relaxed he had in a long time. He was clean and sober with a sponsor and attending recovery meetings. Garner felt accepted, hopeful and a part of something. Around that same time, Garner was also moving into his apartment, where he has lived for the past two years. While it alleviated many of the stressors he had faced on the streets, moving into an apartment also introduced new ones. The owners of his housing unit have tried to evict him four times, Garner said, and now he has been getting ill in his room and feels he’s been unable to be effectively diagnosed.  “Now, with housing, it’s like someone has control over me, and they basically have control over … (my) life or death. If I go back to the streets the way I am, I don’t think I’ll make it without going to prison or getting killed,” he said. “I just don’t see myself making it because it took everything I had to make it through everything I did this far in life.”

Heather Harrington has been living on the streets for two years, and like many homeless individuals, she faces the daily stress of making enough money, keeping warm despite harsh weather conditions, and protecting her belongings from theft. She also has to navigate those living around her. 

“I’ve never seen so many people who seem lost, and they need help,” she said. “They’re just wandering around ... talking to themselves or sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk or screaming at the top of their lungs to someone who’s not there. It’s stressful. It puts me on edge.”

John Smith, finding that his health became compromised after living in shelters for about 12 years, began living on the streets last year. Smith takes medication for high blood pressure, which he attributes to both his family history and the extreme stress of being homeless.  “Being out on the streets, you never let your guard down because that’s when you end up getting hurt,” he said. 

Jerrick Harrenstein lives in a shelter. He went there every night during the winter. Harrenstein battles with daily mental health issues and often feels like his stress is inflicted on him by his surroundings.  “I’m stressed out all the time. It’s part of life – my life,” he said.

Leo Rhodes, a homeless advocate, has been homeless for 30 years and has been in housing for the past eight. Rhodes was met with violence when living on the streets.  “I fell asleep on the waterfront, and I got hit over the head three times with a pipe. That brings a lot of stress on you,” he said.    

Combining years of trauma with difficulties of daily stressors, those who are or have been homeless often live with lingering, and sometimes chronic, stress. Even so, these folks frequently show resilience in the way they are able to cope. However, many people living on the streets have been through so much trauma and loss, leading to this chronic stress, that they are now unable to simply relax.  “I don’t feel relaxed ever living on the fucking streets,” Harrington said. “It takes a while to even feel relaxed again. “I could go from here into a house, and I won’t be relaxed. I’ll never be the same. It’ll never be the same. It’s called PTSD, I think.”  https://news.streetroots.org/2019/05/03/homeless-living-stress-and-trying-live-without-it

HEALING STRESS WITH A SANDWICH

by Bonnie Gregg

Stress is part of all of our lives, but living with the uncertainty of not knowing where you will sleep or how you will survive from day to day has to be in a category all its own.  You may have social security or a disability benefit, may be working one or more minimum wage jobs, but there is no way you can pay rent, feed and clothe yourself, pay cost of prescriptions or support your drug/alcohol habit.  

So living on the street is not a choice but a necessity.  Whether you are an 18 year old, newly released from foster care, a runaway striking out on your own,  an alcohol or drug addict,  someone who had it all, and lost it all, a victim of mental or physical illness,  a veteran still suffering wounds from the battlefield (psychological or physical), just out of prison having served your time but with nowhere to go, a battered wife seeking escape from an abusive marriage,  a mother of children with no job and no place to go,  an elderly person, without resources, the list goes on – when you first arrive on the streets, you are fresh meat.   You quickly learn that the ways you lived your former life no longer apply.  You have entered a “feral community”, where your survival depends on your ability to learn the rules of the street, and who is in charge which is not you. Those who have been there the longest have the most might.  Someone you may think is your “new best friend”, may rob you of your possessions.   

You take your blows, and over time discover how to survive.   You learn what time to be in line for the soup kitchen and shelters; you find your way around social services, where to go for medical help, to obtain clothes, to take a shower, etc.  You may even make a few friends.  Still you are never sure where you will be sleeping.  Even if you guard your space, someone may take it.  The shelters are crowded and though they may be warm, they are not for everyone.  Many worry about having their things stolen, or catching an illness. Lying on a pad on the floor, beside others seeking shelter,  listening to the noises, inhaling the smells, struggling to get comfortable often produces its own kind of stress.

That is the reason that for many, a homeless camp is appealing.  There you can pitch your tent and have a place to sleep and keep your things.  It may not be a house but it provides you the semblance of a home and a neighborhood as well, as you become part of a community.   That is the reason news of “a sweep” strikes such terror in homeless camps. They may “tag & bag” your belongings so that you can pick them up later,  but you are back where you started, on your own and on the streets. Your stress becomes infinitely worse, as you worry about what happens next.

AS THE NUMBER OF HOMELESS INCREASES, not only in cities, but across the state, efforts are being made at every level to find ways to help the homeless obtain affordable housing and a pathway back to a healthy, productive, hopefully happy life.   Many faith communities, neighborhood coalitions, government and service agencies are trying to make things better.  Volunteers work in food banks, soup kitchens, clothes closets, day and night shelters, etc.  Churches offer their land for the construction of tiny houses, or a parking lot to accommodate those living in cars.   

Creating platforms to address the systemic problems of poverty, involving a variety of participants, including the homeless themselves, together with representatives of government, social service agencies, think tanks, etc., has been suggested as the best way to deal with the current crisis.

Worrying about the problems of the poor, particularly the homeless, affects everyone who  cares about humanity and our common need for food, shelter, and a productive life.  What can we do?  So many questions. So few answers.

Deacon Mike O’Mahoney of the Madeleine Parish surveyed the situation, and asked himself what he might like if he was homeless,.. and  the thought came to him:  “Maybe a sandwich!”  Everything is better with a good sandwich in your stomach.  And wouldn’t it be nice if instead of having to stand in line at a soup kitchen and then make your way back to where you were camped, someone would bring the sandwich to you,--  along with some clean socks, maybe some hygiene itemsNot, of course, if they were going to try to sell you their religion, but if they were open to some plain conversation, that might be nice.   

Mike began the Maddie’s Cart’s Monday Sandwich (Now Meal) Program about a year ago, making breakfast burritos.  He asked Dave Albertine to help him, and had soon enlisted 20 or more men, women, and children making meals in Madeleine’s kitchen at 5:00 AM in the morning (for 7:00 AM delivery) and at 5:00 PM in the afternoon (for 7:00 PM delivery).  The volunteers  accompany him to deliver the meals and meet with the homeless.  On a recent Monday night they delivered 300 meals.   That’s 300 homeless people. Maddie’s Cart may not solve the problems of poverty, but on Monday nights, along with a meal, socks & stuff,  “love is in the air”.  Burdens seem a little lighter.  Small talk is exchanged. Laughter is heard. 

Poverty and its pal, “chronic stress”, have no place among the folks gathered around Maddie’s Cart. Whatever distresses them disappears as people come together as a human family, on a small planet in an immense galaxy, beneath a bridge in Portland, Oregon.

Tom Hering