MAY 2019 NEWSLETTER

 “We have a calling to empower every brother and sister in our community facing hardship and hopelessness. We walk together as an alliance of interfaith communities because we believe doing things together is better than doing them alone. We lead with our hearts and open our minds to understand the causes of poverty and the challenges of escaping it. We work hand-in-hand with families living in poverty by encouraging and supporting them as they move to stability. We boldly advocate for systemic change to help eliminate the root causes of poverty. We know the road is long but we believe as Martin Luther King, Jr. did when he said, “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase."

- Tom Hering

Interfaith Alliance on Poverty presents MAYOR TED WHEELER 

 Speaking on Poverty in Portland: Root Causes & Strategies 

he 1st Thursday monthly meeting of the Interfaith Alliance will be replaced by the Monday, May 13th gathering at the Madeleine Parish Hall, 3123 NE 24th Av,  to hear Portland Mayor, Ted Wheeler, discuss “Poverty in Portland Root Causes & Strategies”.   

6:30 PM - Pizza, Beverages, & Cookies

7:00 PM - Mayor Presentation w/ time for Q& A

8:00 PM - Small Table Debriefs 

Childcare available, pre-registration required. Please register by May 6th.  RSVP to bonniejgregg@msn.com. No admission charge, but free will offering appreciated.

1st Thursday APRIL 4, 2019 INTERFAITH ALLIANCE MEETING – ROSE CITY PRESBYTERIAN

Rose City Park Presbyterian  Pastor David Dormack welcomed the members of the Interfaith Alliance   to the April 4th, 1st Thursday monthly meeting.  He told how Rose City first started as a Community Church in 1909, occupying the same property they do now.  They asked the Presbyterians if they could join their church, and after first refusing, they finally did.  At its peak, Rose City Presbyterian had 1,500 members and the “biggest” Sunday School in Portland.

From the beginning, they were a social activist church. One of their members was a founder of Planned Parenthood.  It is said that the pastor of the Rose City Park Presbyterian Church was responsible for organizing the Junior Rose Parade, an outgrowth of the pastor’s efforts to round up children to attend Sunday School.  

“The Junior Rose Festival, focused on children, began unofficially in 1921, on the city's east side, and included its own parade and junior court. It became an official part of the Rose Festival in 1936.[2] The festival's annual Junior Parade takes place in the city's Hollywood district. The Junior Parade has grown to an event involving nearly 10,000 children, making it the world's largest parade for children.”   -- All because of a Pastor’s call to the children of his neighborhood. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland_Rose_Festival 

Rose City Park Presbyterian embraces the “More Light” movement, welcoming the LGBT community.  They have recently undertaken an outreach ministry to the Sudanese refugees settling in Portland.  They focus not only on “hunger and homelessness” but also on the “arts”.  They house several non-profits as rental partners.  All are welcome at Rose City Park Presbyterian!

ohn Elizalde introduced guest speaker,  John Topanga, President of ECO Northwest, Pacific Northwest’s largest and well respected economic consulting firm, that provides  “independent, insightful and relevant analyses” to strengthen policy and investment decisions.

John opened his remarks saying that if you asked Portlanders what they think Portland’s greatest problem is, they would say “Homelessness”.  However, most members of the business community have “no grasp” of the problem or the root causes.  The public as a whole is equally ill informed, which makes it hard for public officials to know the best ways to respond. 

Homelessness is not evident all across the nation.  For instance West Virginia has high opioid addiction, but no homelessness.  Arkansas has a high number of people receiving disability pensions, but no homelessness.

On the other hand, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii have high numbers.  This is partly due to climate and available resources.  In Portland, approximately 56,000 persons experience Episodic Periods of Poverty, perhaps one or two years before they are able to recover  financial stability.   Another 1,700+ are “chronically poor” caught in a web of poverty from which it is difficult to escape.  In Multnomah County 40% of the homeless are unsheltered.  People of color are adversely affected due to systemic issues.  Where all Americans account for 13% of the homelessness population, African Americans account for 40% of that number.

John indicated, we are experiencing the consequences of 40 years of Federal policies limiting public housing and support for affordable housing.  Section 8 Vouchers need to be substantially increased.

The housing market is driving up costs for every segment of society, not just the poor.  During the period from 2010-2016, six houses were being built for every 10 needed.  Many families are living paycheck to paycheck, one crisis away from bankruptcy.  An illness, lost job, or unexpected expense can push them into the ranks of the homeless.

In the ECO/Northwest Report of March 2019, Regarding Homelessness in Oregon,  they conclude that: “The state (Oregon) will not make progress on homelessness if the hard work is done only by those who directly serve the homeless on a daily basis.  The problem is too big for that.  Progress will require collective action by a range of action by:

public and non-public agencies that work not only on homeless issues, but also broader housing and land use regulatory policies, 

federal partners willing to re-examine and invest in rental assistance, 

state policymakers who can chart new state roles in housing policy,

business leaders who will provide leadership and support strategies, 

philanthropies willing to convene and invest in research  and development, and 

universities that can lead in research and policy innovation.” https://www.oregoncf.org/Templates/media/files/reports/OregonHomelessness.pdf

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.  The Portland 2.0 Project will be the main topic for discussion. 

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

HAZELNUT GROVE RESIDENTS FIND NEW HOME

by Bonnie Gregg

Molly Harbinger reports in the April 10th issue of The Oregonian that  “The congregation of St. Johns Christian Church, in the neighborhood’s downtown,  voted Sunday to volunteer a church-owned property across the street as an option for the tiny home village of Hazelnut Grove, currently located at the intersection of North Greeley and Interstate in the Overlook neighborhood.”

This is good news for the homeless residents of Hazelnut Grove who started building their own community in 2015.  Out of whatever materials they could find, they built tiny homes near the intersection of North Greeley and Interstate in the Overlook Neighborhood. 

Hazelnut Grove endeavored to be self-sufficient, working with the City to obtain sanitation and other services.  They adopted and enforced their own rules for their community’s behavior, but as their numbers grew, their Overlook neighbors became increasingly uncomfortable.  When a fire was deliberately set in August 2018, engulfing the hillside and threatening their homes, they’d had enough.

"To actually see someone light a torch and intentionally lay it down, toss it down in the tall dry grass and stand there, and watch it build, was something I did not expect to see” said  one resident  not giving her name for fear of retaliation.

The Overlook Neighborhood Association  demanded that the City move Hazel Grove. https://www.koin.com/news/local/multnomah-county/overlook-residents-concerned-over-nearby-homeless-camp/1366910783

The City struggled to find a solution.  Therefore, it was a welcome development when the members of the 114 year old St. Johns Christian Church voted to offer their property across the street from the church at 8044 N. Richmond Avenue. The property could accommodate up to 25 residents.  

But, the St. Johns Village will not be the same as Hazelnut Grove.  Instead of structures built by the homeless themselves, it will resemble the Kenton Women’s Village, where 8’ x 12’ sleeping pods, built by volunteer contractors, have been constructed with just enough space to sleep and store belongings.  It may not be Hazelnut Grove, but it will offer space for their community, as well as welcoming neighbors just across the street at St. Johns Christian Church. 

THE STRUGGLE AGAINST POVERTY

by Bonnie Gregg

In America & Canada

According to the “Homelessness in America Report”, (HUD’s Annual Point-in-Time Count)  -- a total of 552,830 Americans were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018.  67% were individuals; 33% were families.  18%  were people with disabilities who have been homeless for an extended period of time.

“The ten states with the highest homeless rates account for 55% of the homeless population. New York, Hawaii, Oregon, California, and the District of Columbia top this list. These states and jurisdictions also have the highest housing costs in the country. Compared to other parts of America, residents in these states spend higher percentages of their income on rent/mortgage payments.

Homeless services providers are equipped to offer temporary beds to about 70%, leaving 30% without beds.   During the winter months, temporary shelters are set up.  However, many people are unsheltered, living on the streets, in abandoned buildings, under bridges or in tent communities.  

In recent years, the poverty rate has  decreased from Great Recession levels. However,  —42.6 million Americans, or 13.4 percent of the population, continues to live in poverty. https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-report/ 

So how are the Canucks, our neighbors to the north,  faring?  

David Brooks writes in the New York Times, that “between 2015 and 2017, Canada reduced its official poverty rate by at least 20%.  Roughly 825,000 Canadians were lifted out of poverty in those years, giving Canada    its lowest poverty rate in history.”

David  states that,  ”In Canada, though the median length of stay in emergency shelter is approximately 50 days, most people experience homelessness for less than a month (29% stay only one night), and manage to leave homelessness on their own, usually with little support. For these people homelessness is a one-time only event.

  “People who are chronically homeless (long-term) or episodically homeless (moving in and out of homelessness), form a smaller percentage of the overall homeless population, but at the same time use more than half the emergency shelter space in Canada and are most often the highest users of public systems. 

He explains that this is because, “About 15 years ago, a disparate group of Canadians realized that a problem as complex as poverty can be addressed only through a multisector comprehensive approach.  They realized that poverty was not going to be reduced by some innovation – some cool, new program nobody thought of before.  It was going to be addressed through better systems that were mutually supporting and able to enact change on a population level.

“So, they began building citywide and communitywide structures.  They started 15 years ago with just 6 cities, but now have 72 regional networks, covering 344 towns.  “They began by gathering say – 100 people from a single community – a quarter who had lived with poverty; the rest from business, non-profits,  and the government.  They spend a year learning about poverty in their area, talking with the community.  They launch a different kind of conversation. 

First, they don’t seek better poor, they want fewer poor.  That is to say, their focus is not on how do we give poor people food so they don’t starve.  It is how do we move people out of poverty? “Second, they “up their ambitions”.  How do we eradicate poverty altogether? “Third, they broaden their vision.  What does a vibrant community look like in which everybody’s needs are met?

“After a year, they come up with a “town plan”.  Each town’s poverty is different; so, each town’s plan is different.  Each town’s assets are different; so, each town’s plan is different.  The town plans feature a lot of collaborative activity.  A food pantry might turn itself into a job training center by allowing the people who are fed to do the actual work.  The pantry might connect with local businesses persuading them to adjust their hiring practices so that high school degrees are not required.  Businesses might pledge to raise their minimum wage.  The plans involve a lot of policy changes on the town and provincial levels – improved day care, redesigned transit systems, better work-force development systems.

By comparison, David Brooks asserts that, “In many American communities we’re mostly “scattershot.”  That’s the problem with our distrust and polarization. Transformational change rarely gets done.  Everything is fragmented.  There are usually a bevy of public and private programs doing their own thing.  In a town there may be 4 food pantries, which really don’t know one another well.  The people working in these programs have their heads down, because it’s exhausting enough just to do their own work.  A common model is one-donor funding one-program.  Different programs compete for funds. 

“The foundation heads, city officials, and social entrepreneurs go to a bunch of conferences, but these conferences don’t have much to do with one another.  In other words, the Americans who talk about community don’t have a community of their own.  Every day they give away power they could have if they did mutually reinforcing work together to change whole systems.” 

By contrast, David Brooks states that because of their efforts to create town plans, “By the time Canada’s national government swung into action, the whole country had a base of knowledge and experience.  The people in the field had a wealth of connections and a sense of what needed to be done.   The two biggest changes were efforts in city after city to raise the minimum wage…. and the expansion of a national child benefit, which can net a family up to nearly $6,500 a year per child.  David tells a Canadian success story in the fight against poverty.  Unfortunately, this story is contradicted by other reports.

The CANADA JUST THE FACTS REPORT states: “Nearly five million people in Canada – that’s one out of every seven individuals – currently live in poverty.  An estimated 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness, with roughly 35,000 being homeless on any given night.  When comparing these to US statistics, it should be noted that   Canada has an overall population of 35,623,680 compared to the U.S.  overall population of 326,625,791https://www.indexmundi.com/factbook/compare/canada.united-states/demographics

Almost 1 in every 5 Canadian  households experience serious housing affordability issues (spending over 50% of their low income on rent) which puts them at risk of homelessness.

Three-quarters of Yukon’s population live in Whitehorse where the average price of housing increased 80% over six years.

Estimates place the number of homeless individuals living with a disability or mental illness as high as 45% of the overall homeless population.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts that its major national housing program funding fell  from $3.04 billion (2010) to $1.68 billion by 2017 — a $1.36 billion difference

Between 1980 and 2005, the average earnings among the least wealthy Canadians fell by 20%.

Over the past 25 years, Canada’s population has increased by 30% and yet annual national investment in housing has decreased by 46%.

http://www.cwp-csp.ca/poverty/just-the-facts/ https://www.homelesshub.ca/about-homelessness/homelessness-101/how-many-people-are-homeless-canada

Although it is clear Canada shares some of the same poverty problems as the U.S., David Brooks suggestions on implementing a “multi sector comprehensive approach” corresponds with the recommendations of John Topanga, Director of ECO Northwest, who says that    “collective action by public/non-profit agencies, federal partners, state policy makers, business leaders, philanthropists, and universities” will be required to eliminate poverty.

 Nevertheless, David Brooks’ assertion that Americans  working to solve problems have “no  community of their own”, attending “a bunch of conferences”,  working in a fragmented way,   and competing with each other for donor dollars does not seem entirely accurate.

Americans working on the front lines of poverty,   – whether they are  from charitable organizations,  “think tank” groups, City or State government, soup kitchens, shelters, or food pantries,   may not be working   in the   systemic way he suggests—but they are working together collaboratively. 

 They know each other and they know what the problems specific to their community are. They also know what it would take to fix many of the problems of poverty. 

 It isn’t as if we don’t have structures in place capable of solving the problems of poverty, but communities cannot do it alone.  What we need is a national will to make the elimination of poverty a priority and a willingness to spend the resources to make it happen.  Instead programs that could help reduce poverty are cut,  punishing the poor and leaving communities to deal with the consequences.

POVERTY AROUND THE WORLD:  65 MILLION PEOPLE ON THE MOVE…..  

Across the globe, poverty is produced by a number of factors, causing massive migrations:

DROUGHT- LACK OF CLEAN WATER  - A single drought can mean disaster for  communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on a reliable harvest.  Drought   leaves families without access to clean water, forcing them to use dirty water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and watering crops.   In East Gojam, Ethiopia there has been no rain in 3 years putting families at risk for disease and malnutrition.  This causes many fathers to migrate in search of a new home, followed by their families.

HURRICANES  & FLOODING – Countries that are vulnerable to heavy rains and/or high winds are also at risk for forced migration.   Victims include Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Somalia, etc.  According to a 2017 report by Cornell University, climate change could account for up 1.5 billion migrating by 2060. 

EARTHQUAKES – Devastating earthquakes have occurred on every continent in the world producing millions of homeless evacuees.

WAR & CONFLICT  - The most common factor for forced migration around the world is war and conflict.  Currently there is a crisis in Myanmar with over half-million Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh in fear ofethnic cleansing.  The UN has declared Myanmar “the fastest growing refugee emergency” in the world. Ongoing too are Syria’s civil war, that has left 6.3 million Syrians displaced.  The Democratic Republic of Congo has the highest number of displaced in Africa, with 6 million people forced to flee.  South Sudan has also been plagued by war, causing flight of their citizens. https://www.concernusa.org/story/5-causes-forced-migration/

Unfortunately, nations who traditionally have accepted immigrants and asylum seekers are now closing their borders, leaving the homeless to scramble on their own or accept sanctuary in detention camps. Their futures, and consequently our own, are in the balance.  

Will the United Nations supported by nations around the world rise up to solve this crisis?  Or will nations, hide behind their borders, closing both their minds and their hearts.  World-wide 68.5 million “homeless people” are now housed in detention camps awaiting permanent placement.  They are not going away, and as time passes and their numbers grow, neither decrees or detention camps will keep them from trying to achieve their freedom and a place to call their own.   It is what you or I would do. 

This is a global humanitarian problem, that requires a global humanitarian response.  Like “Climate Change”, the clock is ticking.  We ignore  these realities, at our peril.   https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/us-accepted-refugees-2018/; https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/migration-new-map-of-europe-reveals-real-frontiers-for-refugees/

REFUGEES IN PORTLAND

Most refugees arriving in Portland come from Somalia, Ukraine,  Myanmar, Bhutan, South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.    Oregon has three resettlement agencies:  Lutheran Community Services, Catholic Charities, and the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, who contract with the US State Department to resettle refugees.  They assist refugees upon their arrival, finding them a place to stay, and helping them adapt to their new country.

Imagine what it might be like to land in Portland International Airport, thousands of miles from where you were born, knowing little of the language, and nothing of the culture.  For the last few years you have been a camp dweller, enclosed by a fence, existing in a controlled environment.   Before that, you were part of your own homeland where most everybody looked like you, had the same color skin, spoke the same language, observed the same religion, shared the same music, etc. …  a place where your ancestors had lived   for centuries and where you were surrounded by family and friends.   Generally the climate was warmer, too  

Then you were driven out of your home by forces out of your control -- as guns and/or violence ravaged your land, perhaps killing members of your own family,     OR the land dried up OR an earthquake struck  OR a hurricane cast you adrift.

Catholic Charities tell us that generally refugees enter the bottom rung of the economic ladder, competing   for entry-level jobs.  Remarkably most thrive and prosper, and within one generation become strong, contributing citizens of the United States. https://www.catholiccharitiesoregon.org/ils/

CAUSES OF CENTRAL AMERICAN MIGRANT FLIGHT

he largest portion of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border are coming from Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala, which make up Central America's Northern Triangle, where severe poverty and widespread gang violence have prompted huge swaths of the population to flee. 

The history of Central America dates back to the Mayan Empire that was overtaken by the Spanish during the 1500s who introduced their language and culture into the region.   After most of the Central American countries gained their independence from Spain during the early 1800s,   foreign exploitation, civil wars, and government corruption produced economic instability and widespread suffering among the people.  

The United Fruit Company was an American corporation that traded in tropical fruit (mainly bananas) grown on Latin American plantations and sold in the United States and Europe.   When Guatemala and Honduras agreed to help UFCO exploit their country’s resources, it had a deep and lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries.   After a period of decline, in 1984 it was transformed to the present-day Chiquita Brands International.

Today, a major cause for the instability of the region is due to the inequality of pay which results from the ownership of farmland and large corporations by a wealthy few.   In addition to deep poverty, gang activity and crime   has affected the majority of the population.  Some say gang members deported from the United States are responsible for the rise of the gangs in Central America.  This may or may not be true, but there is no question they have enhanced their power.   Basically, gangs operate a “shake down” operation, demanding payment under threat of killing a family member, abducting a teenage daughter into prostitution, or recruiting a teenage son into the gangs.  And they make good on their threats,   killing anyone who protests,  causing this region to have  “the highest level of crime and homicide rate in the world”.   

These are some of the reasons men, women, and children are driven to leave their homes in Central America, taking only what they can carry on their backs, walk hundreds of miles, giving their money to strangers in hope of a chance for a better life, without fear of gangs or violence.  They are not a caravan of “criminals”, they are a caravan of victims fleeing criminals.

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/search?q1=content_en_le  https://www.therealstreetz.com/.../22/central-american-gangs-povert

IMMIGRANTS LIVING IN FEAR – HIDDEN AMONG PORTLAND’S POOR

In Portland, we tend to think the immigration crisis exists along our nation’s southern border far away from us.  Because they seek to make themselves invisible, we don’t always see the immigrants among us, who are generally hidden within the ranks of the poor, --- whom we also have trouble seeing unless they are carrying a sign by the freeway or camp in our neighborhood.

We learn from Catholic Charities that they are “feeling the effects of local and statewide detainments and deportations. Calls from individuals and families seeking immigration legal services have spiked to an average of 550 per month since February 2017, far outweighing our capacity to respond to each individual’s unique set of circumstances

“The Immigration Legal Services Team’s current ability to assume new cases and/or offer case management services averages just under 25 per month, while the number of cases we have had to refer out to other legal service agencies has doubled to an average of 60 per month.  “Increased arrests, detentions, and deportations are already well underway across the state, with steady increases in deportation arrests from this time last year and a doubling in the number of arrests of undocumented individuals without criminal records.  The toxic effect of this increased enforcement activity has fundamentally altered daily life in immigrant communities throughout Oregon and threatens the health and wellbeing of millions of families.  

“Particularly inmixed-status families in which one or both parents are undocumented and some, or all, of the children are US citizens, the continual and unrelenting threat of deportation that will rip a family apart is causing a real and costly public health crisis. 

“Mental health and education professionals are reporting sharp increases in trauma and stress symptoms in children of undocumented parents.  Many children are not attending school and many adults are afraid of leaving their homes. 

“Additionally, the threat of large-scale family separation and repatriation to dangerous situations has caused a grave sense of hopelessness and fear in many Latino communities in our area.” https://www.catholiccharitiesoregon.org/justiceforimmigrants/cfid/

BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETING 04/04/19 – NOTES by Sarah Carolus

This meeting was held in the evening at IRCO (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization) in order to give that community an update on the Bond‘s status and also to engage them in finding ways to better access Bond opportunities. Mayor Ted Wheeler was present for the entire meeting. 

The Bond’s Progress  

  • The Housing Bureau gave an overview of the Bond’s production goals, priority communities, location priorities, how much progress has been made fulfilling the goals, what projects are completed and what projects need to be developed. This information is similar to what was presented at the March meeting and I didn’t note them again.

  • 159 households have moved into either the Ellington or the 105th & Burnside property. Culturally specific community partners, such as IRCO, SEI, NAYA, have referred 71% of those households. 

Next Steps in Bond Solicitation Process 

  • Consultation meetings were held in March with developers, contractors, and non-profits about the upcoming Bond solicitation process. 

Some take-away points from those meetings were

  • 1. A clear definition is needed of what supportive housing is and what services will be eligible 

  • 2. There needs to be a clear outline of the evaluation and selection criteria

  • 3. Strategies for reaching communities of color need to be expanded. 

  • 4. Low barrier screening is important in order to reach intended populations. 

The evaluation process will have 2 review committees. The first will be internal and will evaluate the technical, financial, and feasibility of proposals. 

This committee will be made up of Portland Housing Bureau, Joint Office of Homeless Services, Prosper Portland and some Multnomah County staff. The second committee will be a community review. On this committee, there will be 2 Bond Oversight members, minority evaluation program representatives, and representatives of some stakeholder groups. 

  • Criteria for evaluation will be ranked and are: an alignment to Bond goals, an equity plan, qualified and experienced representatives, a preliminary budget, a proposed service delivery plan and project schedule. 

  • The target date for the solicitation to begin is April 22nd with a deadline of late June. 

Breakout into Small Groups and Comments from Groups 

  • Those present were asked to join small discussion groups. Each group had a Bond Oversight member and a Housing Bureau Staff to take notes of what was said. 

  • There were 2 discussion questions. The 1st one was “How can we make Bond opportunities more accessible to developers, contractors and community agencies who have not worked with the City in the past? What relationships should we form or strengthen?” The 2nd question was “What actions should we take to improve access to Bond housing for community members from Communities of Color?”

  • There was a brief sharing of one comment from each group. All the discussion points will be taken back to the Housing staff. 

The next meeting will be July 18th. 

Tom Hering