Portland police union host a meeting to discuss plans to make Wapato a shelter

The efforts to turn the Wapato Facility into a homeless shelter is still a possibility, and the Portland Police Association hosted a meeting Wednesday, Sept 26 to hear suggestions from the community about the plan.

The tens of millions of dollars spent on programs aren’t providing resources that are humane, compassionate, and fair, said Daryl Turner, president of the PPA, and he said he has lost faith in elected officials’ ability to do the job.

Willamette Week reported on Sept 25th, that Mayor Ted Wheeler reopened negotiations with facility owner Jordan Schnitzer about the possibility of a shelter. If a deal doesn’t happen soon, Schnitzer said he’ll demolish the facility. In the story, he address many of the concerns about the potential shelter.

Homelessness isn’t solvable, but Turner said opening Wapato would be a way to get help for the most vulnerable and improve livability for people in Portland’s neighborhoods. Most of the crowd of about 40 seemed to be neighborhood advocates.

At a press conference in early April, City Council candidate Loretta Smith talked about the idea. Oregon State representative Lew Frederick, an Old Town business owner, and a representative from Southeast Allied Communities also spoke in support of the Wapato plan.

The future of Wapato has become a dividing issue in this fall’s City Council election. Smith supports the plan, while her opponent Jo Ann Hardesty opposes it.

There was push-back from the few homeless advocates present, but it also seemed some were open to the idea. Ibrahim Mubarak, executive director of Right 2 Survive, suggested that there could be a tiny house village on the property, and another advocate thought it could be best run as a land trust. One homeless advocate said she was against the idea until she took a tour of the facility.

Another advocate, Ben Kerensa, noted that several shelters have closed recently, and the ones in use now aren’t all that nice a place to stay. While people criticize Wapato for being sterile, it’s cleanliness should actually be a positive point.

Portland Mercury reported on the meeting here. It’s a good point that while the meeting was pitched as an idea session, Wapato was the only solution on the table. There were several more than “one or two” homeless advocates present, as they reported, but it’s also true that the meeting wasn’t widely publicized.

The plan to turn Wapato into a shelter was originally rejected by Multnomah County officials because it was too expensive to retrofit, too far from the City, and that homeless wouldn’t want to stay in a place that was designed to be a jail.

Angela Todd with the Montavilla Initaitive said the plan is to offer the shelter as an alternative to jailing homeless people for low level crimes. The District Attorney is on board with the idea, she wrote.

“They want to make a center to rehab and help with medical needs, job training and so forth,” she said. “If we can agree on this solution, a petition will begin for 10,000 signatures to ask the city council to give an emergency order for permits to house 600 people, so the center can be up in about 60 days.”

At the meeting Turner said residency at the shelter would be voluntary, and that residents could leave any time.

There’s an online petition asking public officials to convert Wapato to a homeless shelter.  It has over 4,500 signees currently, and can be found here.

Homeless activists offer training for shelter volunteers, call for neighborhood-based shelters

East Portland needs more emergency shelter space and volunteers staff, said Pastor Steve Kimes, who helps organize an emergency warming shelter at Anawim Christian Community, located at 196th and Glisan.

Kimes is offering a two-hour training for volunteers to staff warming shelters on Thursday 1/26 (FB event) at East County Church of Christ. He organized the training after the City of Portland offered to open community centers as warming shelters during the recent cold weather snap if neighborhoods could staff them.

Due to the sub-freezing temperatures and foot of snow Portland was hit with earlier this month, five people have died on Portland’s streets this winter— and there are many months until the potential for dangerously cold weather passes.

The city opens warming shelters when the temperature drops below freezing, but you’ll notice on the map below that most are located in downtown, closer-in Portland or in far East County and Gresham. (Taken from 211 data, the interactive map where the image below was sourced is regularly updated during severe weather.)

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Jennie Shaver, who heads Montavilla Neighborhood Association‘s committee on Housing and Homelessness, said the City expected a lot from neighbors on short notice. Along with providing volunteers, neighbors had to have a security guard and a manager with paid experience working with the homeless. Shaver said she has lots of experience working with the homeless, but none of it paid.

When she realized the community center wasn’t an option, Shaver reached out to Saints Peter and Paul Episcopal Church, where she volunteers with Rahab Sisters, a women’s support organization. The church deacon made an emergency decision to host the shelter.

Only Mt. Scott Community Center met the City’s criteria and opened as a warming shelter, she said, and American Legion Post 134 on Alberta Street hosted a shelter as well.

Peter and Paul’s has been wanting to offer more services to the community, but Mak Kastelic, director of music ministry and church building curator, said they just didn’t have the resources. “But to have the neighborhood come in with its own energy, organization, and people, it was perfect,” he said. “At least we have the building.”

The entire shelter was organized in 36 hours, Shaver said. When the call for help was put out, 60 volunteers stepped up at the end of the first day, the schedule organized with a Google doc. At the end of the fourth night of having the shelter open, 80 blankets had been donated, along with supplies and every bite of food to feed about 40 guests a night.

Organizers tried to have three volunteers on site throughout the night, and each started their shift with a ten minute orientation. Homeless folks were dropped off by the police and fire department, and the shelter was listed on 211. Generally, everything ran pretty smooth, Shaver said, crediting community volunteers.

Shaver sounded disappointed with the City of Portland’s efforts. She said they didn’t help with community outreach, they just made demands. And when the volunteers asked for bus tickets to help their guests the next day, they were denied.

In the four years he’s been living in the neighborhood, Kastelic said he’s been impressed with what the Montavilla neighborhood can accomplish, and he points to the organizing of the warming shelter is another example of that.

The church plans on being available as a warming shelter regularly, and is also considering hosting a cooling shelter in the summer. Kastelic credits neighborhood leaders Ben Kerensa and Shaver for doing the heavy lifting to make the shelter happen, and says the church needs do more planning to be prepared for next time.

Kastelic also said it blows his mind that there isn’t more shelter capacity in Montavilla. Now that their shelter is closed, people have to go all the way across town to  find a bed.

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Back before the call to staff warming shelters went out from the City and there was still a foot of snow on the ground, I called the churches hosting warming shelters, hoping to learn what they did to be approved to host one. I didn’t get reach anyone immediately at Anawin or Imago Dei Community, but when I called American Legion Post 134 the phone was answered on the second ring.

I asked Seth Grant, who served as a medic when he was enlisted and volunteers at the post, if there were any issues with insurance or government permits that they had to work through before opening their doors.

“Nah, we just did it,” Grant said casually.

They opened the shelter Wednesday, 1/4 with volunteers from the neighborhood as well as veterans. He said there were some problems expected when you put people with drugs and psycho-social issues in a cramped space, but he said the military mindset worked in their favor.

“You have to address it directly. You’re in our house,” Grant said about stopping an argument between two guests. He told them: “You can tame your shit or hit the bricks.”

A few city and fire department officials came by to inspect their building, and Grant said the fire marshal installed the required smoke alarms herself. A mental health care provider gave the shelter’s volunteers, who were mostly veterans, a crash course on how to identify and manage people with mental illnesses. He said they hadn’t reached out to learn how the shelter impacts their insurance, but would at some point.

Along with the warming shelter, Grant said they’ve pushed out several pickup trucks full of clothes for residents of Bud Clark Commons. With movies playing and a bar, the environment is unlike most shelters, he said.

The service work has been therapeutic for the veterans as well as the guests. After combat, it’s hard for veterans to recreate their tribe and purpose that was once so clear in a war zone. Service work gives them that, Grant said.

“We took a vow to serve country. Just because the [military] unit is gone, it doesn’t take the desire to serve,” Grant said. “Why aren’t others [legion halls] doing this, and churches, whose base tenant take care of fellow man, why aren’t they doing this? We are one of few non-city resources doing this… it’s unacceptable.”

Somewhere between inspiring and shaming, Grant said we can get more groups stepping up to serve the community.

Post 134’s mission statement, and home to this amazing image:

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Mike Pullen, communications coordinator for Multnomah County, wrote that no one is turned away from shelters in severe weather— even if they have to be transported to another shelter with available space. On the night of Sunday 1/15, he said they had a record 807 people in warming shelters overnight, and that’s over and above the 1,200 beds in our year round and winter shelters.
He wrote: “We prefer to use spaces that have already been approved as shelters, because it is faster and more efficient to bring them on line. These include churches and fraternal halls and public buildings. Basically, they need to be safe for large groups to overnight in, so the fire marshal needs to do a walk through to check fire exits and our staff make sure that bathrooms are sufficient and in working order.”
The training Kimes is hosting will give volunteers what they need to know to volunteer a shelter, and it will also go through the basics on how an organization can host a emergency shelter. Kimes has been hosting a emergency shelter in Gresham for five years. He said it took them about a year to work through the process to get opened.
From conversations with other organizations, he said that Gresham’s permitting is more involved, but with Portland, it’s less clear what’s expected. Kimes said organizations need to be persistent, and that he thinks both Gresham and Portland are willing to work with those wanting to host a emergency shelter.
If neighbors can’t make the training Thursday, Kimes said he’d be willing to host another if the interest is there. The best advice he’d give to volunteers of a shelter: keep a positive attitude and show the guest respect. On the church’s web page is a four-part series called Intro to Help the Homeless, presented by Kimes, who has been working with the homeless for 22 years.

Fed up with being ignored, some Lents neighbors back activist moving Springwater campers to Eastmoreland

If you’re tuned in enough to find this story, you’ve probably already heard: an activist is planning on moving homeless people living on the Springwater Corridor to Eastmoreland— the neighborhood where the mayor of Portland and the Multnomah County Chair live— rather than have them moved along without sufficient shelter or facilities.

But what you may have not heard is that several Lents neighborhood activists support the move. They say it’s not fair that lower-income East Portland bears a disproportionate amount of burden accommodating the homeless— and affluent neighborhoods like Eastmoreland should take their share. Requests for help in East Portland have been ignored, they say, and they haven’t been included in decisions on placing homelessness services.

On July 16, the day after Mayor Charlie Hales announced the Springwater Corridor would be cleared of campers, activist Jesse Sponberg posted a Facebook event called Exodus. He wrote that it is being organized to minimize injuries and arrests during the sweep and pressure the City into real solutions:

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Robert Schultz, Lents neighbor and co-founder of Lents Active Watch, was one of the first to comment, offering his support and inquiring about logistics. It’s an uneasy alliance, acknowledged by Sponberg when he responded that while he and Schultz don’t agree on everything he’s happy the 20-year Lents resident is willing to work for the greater good. Since the plan was announced, Shultz has continued to defend the plan— upsetting Eastmoreland neighbors.

Jennifer Young, also a Lents resident associated with LAW, added that people / activists have bought into the idea that Lent’s residents are just NIMBYs (not in my back yard), but the “real enemy” is the government officials whose inaction has fueled conflict between neighbors and campers.

Her comment on the move:

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People are stepping up to support the move: offering rides to the location, and a kitchen for the new camp. The five-year anniversary of Occupy Portland is Oct. 11th, and this movement is already its spiritual successor, no matter what happens. Sponberg commented that it’s going to take the entire city to pull this off.

Sponberg said shelters are nasty places, and he advocates for more places like Hazelnut Grove, where homeless folk can have space to build tiny houses and organize themselves.

The Exodus isn’t the only response to the sweeps, which have already happened in some places. Springwater Corridor campers are leaving on their own, and neighborhood activists say they are relocating other places in the Lents area. Officials are stepping up outreach, and some homeless activists are advising campers to “stand their ground“, and they’re pledging to stand with them. It’s a tense situation, and there has been more violence than usual lately. Another group called Boots on the Ground PDX is establishing another camp on public land. The location won’t be announced until July 31st, setting up another conflict with nearby neighbors who aren’t bought in on the plan.

I first heard about LAW through OPB’s Think Out Loud. A reporter accompanied the groups’ founders on one of their regular trails walks. The program (which is definitely worth a listen) didn’t offer any easy answers, but it showed that Schultz and the other co-founder were listening.

LAW isn’t an official group, Schultz emphasized that the group has taken no official position on the Exodus. Some support it, some do not. LAW includes “radicals on both sides and the more even tempered that want to see solutions”, he wrote me.  Schultz said LAW has helped people into housing, done clean ups, and provided food for the campers he said he sees as neighbors.

Schultz said when the group started they were called vigilantes, but they haven’t received a single complaint. The criticism goes both ways, however. Both Schultz and Young don’t appreciate the what some activists are bringing to the conflict in Lents.

“Advocates drive into Lents and tell everyone this and that then go home and hiking on the weekends while we live with the impact of that division…” Schultz wrote. “Very frustrating to face division from outside our community.”

I spent two-and-a-half hours on the phone with Jennifer Young Friday afternoon, and not a minute of that felt wasted. I was shocked by her stories of inaction by the police and local government in Lents, as they work to clean up crime, drug dealing, and prostitution. This site was started for neighborhood-level journalism, and I’m starting with Montavilla, but this issue shows that all of East Portland doesn’t get its fair share of services or voice in the media.

Young said she heard late last year that there’s a plan to push the homeless to East Portland, and she’s seeing the results now. The lack of police and government response reminds her of when she worked in North Portland’s Albina neighborhood in the ’90s— before the neighborhood entirely transformed by gentrification.

Young isn’t new to this issue. She has worked in mental health for 20 years, specializing in the chronically mentally ill and homelessness. She works full-time in mental health and regularly volunteers her time in the neighborhood. When asked point-blank, she said she does believe services are available for families, veterans, and the mentally ill. Human Solutions Family Center (160th & Stark, 503-256-2280), is a family-only shelter that doesn’t turn anyone away.

She’s also critical of what she calls the “poverty pimps” who have a vested interest— some as a career, some as an identity— in homelessness, and the local media who doesn’t dig deep enough. Homeless people have to want help, and she said it bothers her that vulnerable people are enabled in an unhealthy lifestyle.

Several Lents neighbors say that when they call the police, they often simply don’t come. Young said the lack of response is even worse when you mention the problem involves homeless people. We also discussed the fact that the City of Portland stopped crime information online and CrimeReports.com, the site that used to publish 9-1-1 calls, no longer does. This makes it difficult for people to track what’s happening, keeping all the day-to-day crime and problems blacked out.

It’s a complicated, emotional issue, and as a writer, antagonism is so easy to set up with this issue. But what struck me about this alliance is that it crosses some entrenched battle lines, while spotlighting a point that Schultz and Young consistently make: Lents residents deserve equal application of the law and an equal distribution of homeless resources.

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The parkway on SE Reed College Place where the new homeless camp is planned.

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The It’s hard to tell from the image below, but SE Reed College Place is a parkway between SE Woodstock Blvd. and Crystal Springs Blvd.

Neighbors push back against new East Portland homeless shelter

Many neighbors aren’t happy about a 200-person homeless shelter planned for the Hansen Building at 122nd and Glisan, and tempers flared at a meeting Thursday (7/7) night.

It was good to see that both KOIN 6 and FOX 12 covered the meeting. Their stories focused on neighbors’ concerns about potential threats from homeless folks staying at the shelter and the fact that the neighbors weren’t involved in the decision.

In a tense exchange captured by FOX 12, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury didn’t answer a question about why neighbors weren’t consulted, responding that they are placing shelters everywhere around the county.

There isn’t a lot of detail in those stories, but you definitely got a sense that many neighbors are worried and angry. One neighbor who supported the shelter made the point that homeless are already in the neighborhood.

Many neighbors, including myself, were turned away from the meeting because the room was full. A person who worked at the building running crowd control said there were about 350 people packed into a room meant to hold 150. It looked like about 50 people were turned away. File_000 (2).jpeg

I received a mass email from Kafoury just after 5 pm. She apologized that there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the auditorium, and made assurances that neighbors and residents would be kept safe once the shelter opens, and the neighborhood would not be disrupted.

Slated to be open before the end of the month, the Hansen shelter is to be temporary, open for only about 12 to 18 months. “The shelter will cost an estimated $1.3 million annually with a staff of roughly a dozen people providing services, including access to housing, health and income resources, as well as referrals,” according to a release from Multnomah County.

The plan was announced officially Wednesday (7/6), but from what I could find it was first floated in a 6/28 Portland Tribune article. The story had no mention of the environmental problems with the building, but in a later Tribune/KOIN story included those concerns from Multnomah County board members Loretta Smith and Diane McKeel:

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There isn’t a working kitchen in the building. Will the residents have to travel 45 minutes to downtown for meals? According to the story, the building doesn’t have central air conditioning or heat, and the water runs brown and has a high bacteria count if you don’t let it run before drinking. Black mold, sewer flies, and asbestos are problems that have been remediated, officials said.

Smith and McKeel want to see the unused Wapato Jail re-worked to house the homeless. The Hansen shelter is supposedly temporary; as was downtown’s Peace shelter that opened January and is closing soon. A women’s shelter in Multnomah Village opened fall of 2015 and closed in May, based on a promise from Mayor Charlie Hales. A May KOIN news story said one women’s shelter will be opening up in the summer and another in the fall, but we don’t know how many or what category of the 267 (about 80 to 100 of those being men) displaced from the Peace shelter will be housed at Hansen.

Another big concern from neighbors: we don’t know anything about the people staying at the shelter. Peace’s rules don’t require identification, though they do forbid drugs and drug paraphernalia.  I’ve heard it will be the same set of rules for the new Hansen shelter, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.

I regret the way this has been handled by Kafoury— and I’m glad she’s acknowleged her mistake. I’m waiting on a few questions from Multnomah County officials, including how people can get on the email list for updates on this project.

Are there any assurances that would make you comfortable with this shelter, or is it simply a hard no? So far it doesn’t look like much had changed since the meeting, but if you have any questions please let me know. I’ll do my best to keep up with this issue.

How a “Sneaky” Move by Mayor Hales Motivated an Activist to Beat the City of Portland in Court

On Wednesday, Portland City Council will vote to challenge a federal court ruling striking down its exclusion policies. While I agree with the ruling, it’s worth noting how intense their meetings can get.

Here’s a video of activist Joe Walsh and a few of the other meeting regulars pushing back against a council decision, for a little background. Walsh has been tossed out of several City Council meetings for disrupting proceedings, but a federal court recently decided that The City violated his First Amendment rights when 30- and 60-day exclusions were added to punish him.

What didn’t come out in the Oregonian story were the details of why Walsh was excluded, and the fact that he isn’t the only activist that has been hit with exclusions. Walsh said he knows of three other activists excluded from City Hall— including one who was given a permanent ban after trying to film the removal of a man having a mental crisis during his City Council testimony.  Another activist wasn’t allowed into City Hall after a confrontation with City Hall security. Both incidents were filmed, and I’ve embedded the video later in this post.

Other activists have simply stopped coming to City Council because of how City Hall security treats testifiers, Walsh said. The federal judge was clear in his ruling: the City Council can’t prevent citizens from petitioning their government, and Walsh said he thinks The City needs to accept the ruling and stop trying to punish activists with exclusions. The City has the tools to throw out disruptive people, and that should be enough, he thinks.

Walsh received his last exclusion on July 8th, and he told the story on KBOO’s Voices from the Edge, hosted by Jo Ann Hardesty. The full interview is here (it begins at 5:45). Without legal support, the 73-year-old retired shipyard supervisor beat City Hall in court, and it’s a great story.

On the program, a KBOO listener called in to ask Walsh to tell the story (beginning at 30:05 in the interview) of how Mayor Hales’ “sneaky” (as the caller described it) procedural maneuver on July 8th set Walsh off. This led to his last removal and exclusion from City Hall— and sparked his lawsuit. It’s also a great story, one that begins with some bureaucratic minutiae.

Routine council agenda items are bundled in the consent agenda, items that are voted on all at once. But if someone wants to talk about one of the items, the City Charter allows them to do so. Walsh thought that a $100,000 transfer from the Bureau of Transportation to the Portland Police Bureau for police overtime needed discussion, and Mayor Charlie Hales had to pull it from the consent agenda and open it up to discussion.

It’s also important to know that Walsh has a medical issue requiring him to visit the bathroom regularly. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, he requested in writing that the mayor and city council give him a reasonable accommodations for his disability (bathroom breaks). Walsh charges that Hales used the power of the gavel and Walsh’s medically-induced absence to get the overtime item through without discussion.

From the interview:

“What Charlie Hales does is he moves the item way after regular business which means that it takes two to three hours to get to it. So the people that wanna talk about it can’t spend that kinda time. So they leave. But unfortunately for Charlie, I’m retired so I can stay. But I have to go to the restroom… so I was out at the restroom, and he pulled it out of order and they voted on it. I mean my oxygen and all that stuff was still there. So they knew I was still there.

I walked back in and was told by a friend, “Joe, they voted on that thing, it’s gone.” So I yelled to Charlie I wanted to speak on that item, and he said no we already voted on it. I said you can’t do that. I pulled it, I wanna to talk about it. So we got into this big battle back and forth and finally they threw me out. And that’s when I got the 60-day excursion [sic]. And that’s when I said enough’s enough.”

Beyond KBOO’s coverage, only the Oregonian has been writing about this story. In a piece by Maxine Bernstein from when Walsh first filed his suit, the reasons were given about why Walsh had been ejected and excluded from City Council.

In the article, the story about how Hales moved up the item pulled from the consent agenda was simplified down to: “Walsh sought to testify about an agenda item that the council had already moved past.” I don’t know how Hales’ move was so stripped of context, but it’s another example of how every time I scratch the surface of a story in this town, weird details emerge.

I found that day’s agenda on the City’s website, and the consent agenda wasn’t voted on in the order it was listed. That supports Walsh’s point that the item he wanted to discuss was pushed later in the meeting. I also listened to a few hours of audio from that day’s City Council meeting, but wasn’t able to prove or disprove Walsh’s story from the on mic audio only. (In the ruling, however, the federal judge confirms Walsh’s story that he missed the vote, the possibility of malicious intent by Hales wasn’t addressed.)

The Muscle at City Hall

The video below was filmed on Nov. 25th. It shows a homeless rights activist being forcibly removed from the City Council meeting. The camera person , Kif Davis, and the activist were both arrested. It’s an ugly scene that I think could have been handled better by City security. PPB is being monitored by the US Department of Justice for its treatment of the mentally ill, and the first report on the agreement said PPB was only in “partial compliance” with reforms. The report says that PPB officers are trained in mental health intervention, but they are not being sent to all mental health calls. Is City Hall’s private security trained in mental health? Couldn’t they have just allowed the situation to de-escalate by waiting for the ambulance like the disturbed activist wanted?

 

Kif Davis, the camera person, was given a permanent ban from City Hall for this incident. It was his third exclusion, he said, but since the federal court’s ruling he has been allowed back into City Hall. He is still facing a criminal trespassing charge, he said. The activist in the video having the breakdown is still in jail, Davis said, and was also excluded from City Hall.

I don’t know the history of the camera person, but the following video seems like an egregious example of City Hall security overreach. The camera person was there for a public meeting, and when they didn’t immediately answer the security guard’s question they were under suspicion and pretty quickly thrown out.

 

If you’ve made it this far, here’s the last video you should watch. Davis confronts the security guards that threw him out of City Council chambers. Whatever your opinion of this issue, you gotta admit it’s fun to see these bruisers silenced by a guy with a camera. And if this is what’s captured, what else is happening that’s being missed? It seems there are more shenanigans happenings than just the exclusions. Based on the push back to this ruling, it seems the folks at City Hall have yet to learned their lesson.

I’ll give the last word to Michael Simon, the federal judge who ruled on Walsh’s case:

“A presiding officer may remove a disruptive individual from any particular meeting, and a sufficiently disruptive person may even be prosecuted for such conduct if public law permits. But no matter how many meetings of a city council a person disrupts, he or she does not forfeit or lose the future ability to exercise constitutional rights and may not be prospectively barred from attending future meetings. Our democratic republic is not so fragile, and our First Amendment is not so weak.”

RNA December Board Meeting

Taking stock of what was accomplished in 2015 was the only agenda item for the Dec. 7th meeting of the Richmond Neighborhood Association. Nine board members were present, as were six others.

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The deadline to submit comments on Portland’s Comprehensive Plan is Jan. 7th. Comments will be submitted by the RNA board, and a separate set of comments will be submitted by the Division Design Initiative. Follow the link to submit testimony, and learn more about the plan.

One vote was taken at the meeting. All nine board members present voted to apply to SE Uplift for just over $1,500 in communication funds to publish the Richmond News. The News costs $950 per issue to print, and a board member said the money from SE Uplift will cover about two of the four annual issues.

Reports were given from: Land Use Committee, DDI, The Richmond News, fund raising activities, and other activities of the RNA. There was also a presentation on neighborhood demographics, attendance at RNA meetings and an update on the RNA website. The SE Uplift representative was not able to make the December meeting.

Heather Flint Chatto, DDI coordinator and RNA board member, said that the DDI would be applying again for a SE Uplift small grant. DDI won a grant last year for design guidelines, and is considering a design tool kit for this year’s proposal.

RNA board chair Cyd Manro said the best way to win the grant is to explain how the project will better the neighborhood, involved multiple organization, and leverage funds from other sources.

Flint Chatto gave a short presentation on DDI’s 2015 accomplishments. The inter-neighborhood design group has raised $8,900, hosted 18 meetings with 17 organizations, distributed ten art installation suggestion boxes at local businesses, and crafted a list of ten design policy suggestions.

After two meetings, the Elections Committee is suggesting that board candidates give notice that they are running. There has been no decision on whether candidates will have to issue a statement on their positions, said board member Doug Klotz. There was no one to present from the ethics committee.

Klotz, chair person of the Land Use Committee, said he expects developers to submit more plans before Portland’s new comprehensive plan is enacted in mid-2017. It’s isn’t necessarily stricter, he said, but they are familiar with the current plan’s requirements. After the new comprehensive plan is enacted, he said, notifications will be required for all buildings. Now notification is only required along Division.

I reported on The Richmond News, as the new editor. I thanked everyone who helped me with the newsletter and said a neighborhood news survey would be distributed soon. Board member Jonathan King said it was distasteful to have Allen Field write the story about circumstance surrounding the board election when he was so closely involved.

The board also plans to express support for a grant for the 70s bikeway and a recreational center on the open space west of what used to be Washington High School. A pilot project on giving more notice for demolitions is proposed for the Richmond neighborhood.

An update on a Good Neighbor Agreement between Salt & Straw (3345 Division) and neighbors showed progress. There has been a reduction in noise, illegal parking, and litter.

There is a neighborhood visioning meeting planned for Jan. 11th, 7 pm at Waverly Heights Congregational (3300 SE Woodward). A board retreat will be held the day before.

Suggestions from the neighbors in attendance included: having a neighborhood calendar of events and plan to increase voting in future board elections.

 

Having a Safe Space Policy is Easy, Enforcing It is the Hard (and Important) Part

“They who have the watch must keep the lookout…” an old West Indian saying goes. It speaks to the responsibility of those who are chosen, or set themselves up, as protectors of a community.

Several months back, a member of the Food not Bombs PDX community asked for help because they were being harassed by another member. It was a brave and probably difficult choice. We all just want to make tasty food, sit in the park, and eat with friends, but FNB PDX has a safe space policy, and we should have the courage to defend our friends and our values.

Meetings were held with both folks involved, and a small self-selected group of FNB volunteers decided the accused had violated the community’s safe space policy and should be banned from the feed. As far as I know, there wasn’t an announcement about the process, and I wasn’t included in the meetings even though I had helped cook almost every week for about nine months. I did my best to keep track of progress, however, hoping things would be handled well.

I was surprised that this process wasnt more open. Of course the person who is asking for help shouldn’t have share personal details with the entire community, but at some point the situation needs to be shared with everyone— so there can be buy-in for any decision reached, and so community members can guard against a person who has been found to cause harm.

K, the person who was banned, is still allowed to attend FNB. He has not acknowledged the harm he has caused and is still causing harm by verbally attacking members of the community, including myself, for what he thinks was an unjust process. K is a thin, light-skinned male with brown eyes. He is balding, with curly black hair and a full beard. Lately he has been covering his face with a scarf.

In my opinion, the response to the situation from the FNB PDX community has been a failure, and I’m not helping with the meal any more unless things change. Along with not enforcing the ban, the inner circle of volunteers has failed by not have a more open process, and not communicating with the wider FNB PDX about the decision reached. I feel responsible for this situation because I’ve invested time and energy in this community, but those who have have conducted the process bear the bulk of responsibility for what I see as serious failures.

The person who asked for help isn’t satisfied with the current situation either, and is also questioning whether she wants to be associated with a group unwilling to protect its members. She has asked at least one member of the inner-circle of volunteers to help enforce the ban, but the person who asked for help said they refused. I hope that when the wider FNB community finds out what has been happening, they will also demand changes.

I’m sure I will be criticized for making this public, but I’ve talked to many of the folks who organized the process, (there’s no formal leadership structure, so I’m not even sure who was included) and I don’t think the will is there to enforce the ban or open the safe space process. Regardless of what happens, I must speak my truth and my reason for moving on.

I wouldn’t be surprised if those who controlled the process will try to silence the conversation (by deleting a Facebook post), so that’s why I’m posting this on my own site. I hope that this post will spur action, and at the least, allow others to learn from FBN PDX’s missteps.

Soon after the safe space meetings, as we prepared food one Monday, one of the inner-circle organizers said Kay was banned from FNB and should not be served. There was a brief explanation given, enough to make me comfortable with the decision. Even though I wasn’t part of the process and uncomfortable with its exclusivity, I was glad to have a role in enforcing the decision. After a few hours of chopping and cooking, we biked the food to the park. Another newer, non-inner circle volunteer and I were the first of about six servers, sitting in the grass happily serving food.

When K reached the line of serving pans and extended his empty bowl to us, we told him that he was banned for his bad behavior. One of the inner-circle volunteers briefly told him he was holding up the line, but other than that, it was just us two awkwardly and apologetically refusing him. Where were the people who decided on the ban? It would have been nice to have some backup, some community support, but no one else stepped up.

A long-time volunteer, who I believe was part of the meetings, told a friend to take his bowl and let her fill it. The other newer volunteer and I were thankful for an end to the standoff, although it felt wrong. A couple of kids were angry and yelled at me for attempting to refuse service to K. I tried to explain the situation to them, but they weren’t hearing me. We argued for a bit, then they took their food and left.

I’m not sure what happened at the following servings, and then I was out of the country for five weeks. When I returned, K was back around creepily hanging out but not really engaging with anyone. I’d say hello, but mostly I just ignored him. I didn’t think to ask what had happened with the ban.

At FNB two Mondays ago, I was verbally attacked by K. He said I was an asshole and unjust for “just going along with the group” concerning his ban, all while jabbing his finger in my face and shaking with anger. It’s not fun being cussed out while trying to enjoy delicious handmade pasta and puttanesca sauce with fruit salad, but I’m glad it happened. It woke me up to the fact that this situation isn’t settled.

The only advice I got from one of the inner circle volunteers who overheard the interaction was: “I would have kicked his ass.” K’s attack is the second and last time I will be left hanging by this community. I found out later he’s done the same thing to several other community members, and it seems like there has been no community response.

The attack made me investigate what was going on. Since I was gone, I wasn’t sure if there had been some sort of reckoning that I didn’t know about. Nothing had changed, I found out; the ban was just not being enforced.

A few years back a group of bike (bicycle) gangs collectively known as Zoo Bombers organized Monday Funday in Summers Park. They cleaned up trash, stopped fights, intervened with the police, and helped keep event safe and fun.

One Monday back then while I was playing dodge ball, somebody came on to the court and barked a few sentences I didn’t hear. He turned and walked away quickly. About half the players followed. I followed too, just to see what was going on.

About 20 people formed a semi-circle around one person, a youngish man with baggy pants and a flat brimmed hat pulled down over his eyes. He was told several times he wasn’t welcome at the park. They yelled. They jeered. Somebody snuck up behind him and expertly snatched his pants down. The crowd could have easily beaten him up and dragged him out of the park, but they did not. He argued with the crowd, but after a few minutes went silent. The crowd held their ground, continuing their demand that he leave. In about ten minutes before he left, and the crowd cheered before returning to their beers, bikes, and dodge ball.

I was told the person asked to leave had threatened someone with a gun at a party, and the community decided he was no longer welcome at the Zoo Bomber events. I’m glad I was told what was going on— and when I found out what happened, of course I supported the action. The flexing of community power was truly a beautiful thing to watch. At the time I wondered why they didn’t just smash him so we could get back to playing dodge ball, but looking back their commitment to non-violence is laudable.

FNB PDX is an entirely different community, with entirely different values, but I think we could learn from how the Zoo Bombers handled their ban. Here is my suggestion:

Summer Park is public, but if K joins the feed, whether to eat or just sit, I think a group of people should let him know why he is banned and ask him to leave. It doesn’t have to be loud, and shouldn’t be aggressive, but it should be clear— and the message should come from several individuals. The person who asked for help thinks that folks should express individually that they don’t want his company, and get up and move if he joins their circle. We have slightly different ideas on tactics, but we both agree something should be done.

I would be willing to stay involved if more than a few folks are willing to commit to standing with me in asking K to leave, and the inner-circle volunteers commit to a more open safe space enforcement process. Otherwise, I’m done with helping the Monday FNB.

In one sense K was right: I was unjust for “going along with the group.” But not by enforcing the ban— rather by letting the ban slide. I apologized to the person who asked for help for my inaction, and still have some hope the FNB PDX community can come together to find a solution. The entire FNB PDX community owes her an apology as well. I doubt anyone who has witness this safer space process would ask for help… they would probably just stop coming.

Everyone deserves food and everyone needs community, but we must hold fast to standards of conduct. K maintains he has done nothing wrong, and has learned nothing from this process. I feel the ban should be upheld until he admits fault and begins the process of change. By just letting him hang out, we are denying him the accountability that could motivate him to get help and disrespecting the person who bravely asked for help.

I have really enjoyed cooking food and getting to know the volunteers of FNB, and I know I’m probably burning bridges with this post. It’s satisfying to save food from the landfill. It’s fun turning it into a healthy, delicious meal with compassionate, fun folks. It’s wonderful serving that food to activists and the food insecure. Even with all the great experiences I’ve had through FNB PDX and the relationships I’ve made while volunteering, I refuse to help with an event that won’t uphold its decisions and values.