Living Room Conversations

Brad Malsin, Beam Development, co-hosted a Living Room Conversation Community Forum with Cameron Whitten to talk about the upcoming move of Right to Dream Too (R2DToo) to the Central Eastside. The forum also addressed houselessness in Portland.

Living Room Conversations are designed to create a safe space for heartfelt conversation. This concept is being used around the country with a moderator attending the gathering and keeping the conversation on track.

Basic ground rules keep conversations from deteriorating into angry dissertations or dominance of any one person or agenda.

The rules are: be curious and open to learning; show respect and suspend judgement; look for common ground; be authentic and welcome that from others; be purposeful and to the point; own and guide the conversation.

About thirty people attended and they were placed in groups of four to five people. Each group addressed a series of questions in three categories, then the group at large gave summaries of their consensus.

Malsin gave an opening statement about why he has become involved with this process. He said that there are too many people in crisis right now living in uncertainty on the streets.

Malsin works in the Central Eastside Industrial area and has come to know some of them. The different reasons for their life situation isn’t irresponsible laziness, but is most often mental or physical health. They honestly need help.

The Southeast Examiner was included in a group  with two houseless people, Gordon and Anne; and a young woman, Trillium Shannon, co-founder, Board Secretary, and supporter of Right 2 Dream Too.

Gordon lives at R2DToo. Because of a physical injury, he has been unable to work for several years. The small subsidy he receives doesn’t cover the cost of an apartment. This camp gives him some security, camaraderie and place to be.

Anne lost her apartment during a divorce. She never thought this could happen to her.  Fortunately a friend has taken her in.

The residents of R2DToo are concerned about the location since those living in the camp have to travel back to Old Town to receive many of the services they require. They will be given TriMet passes.

Unfortunately, as Trillium and several other noted that most of the people in attendance already knew about and supported R2DToo.

“There were only a few people who had concerns, and it is with people like them that we have the most work to do,” Trillium said.

Linda Nettekoven was also disappointed in the Living Room Conversation because the people who seem to have the homeless all lumped into one negative grouping weren’t in the room to have the opportunity to engage with a group of really interesting people.

There was talk of doing a follow up conversation and hopefully people from the neighborhood and the Central Eastside Industrial Council who have concerns will come and sit at the table and listen to people experiencing houselessness. NT

Reservoir

The Big Cut is here. With construction work beginning on the two-year, multi-million dollar Mt. Tabor reservoir disconnection project, the Portland Water Bureau is advising motorists of a road closure on 60th Avenue through mid-to-late November.

Approximately 100 feet of the northbound lane of SE 60th just south of SE Hawthorne Boulevard will be closed to through traffic so construction and maintenance crews can work on the west side of Mt. Tabor Park at the bottom of the stairs between Reservoir 6 and SE 60th.

Flaggers will direct traffic around work areas. Traffic and parking will be restricted on parts of 60th and the sidewalk adjacent to the construction zone. Construction hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The disconnect will remove the historic open air reservoirs from the city’s drinking water supplies. The work to bring Portland into compliance with federal regulations is proceeding despite objections from critics who say the City did not work diligently to seek waivers granted to other urban areas.

New city fosters houseless initiative 

While the mayor talks about homelessness, New City Initiatives on NE 81st has spent the last five years doing something about it.

The Initiative works with 50 faith communities throughout the City to provide job training, culinary classes and skill development such as budgeting, planning and even jewelry-making for women.

It has a Healthy Sisters program providing rides for homeless women to health-related appointments. In October, New City sponsored a Mt. Tabor race to raise funds for homeless education and training. It has organized Portland’s Day of Homeless Awareness and developed the Village Support Network for families needing rent support.

On its website, the Initiative says it is more important than ever to focus resources on the problem of child homelessness. “The most recent “Point-in-Time Count” in Portland and Multnomah County found that the number of unsheltered homeless families grew by 24% over the past two years, and that there were 2,225 children experiencing homelessness on one night.

That’s enough children to fill every classroom in five elementary schools.”

The Initiative believes that addressing childhood homelessness is a prevention strategy to end the cycle of poverty.

“Numerous studies have demonstrated that children who grow up in unstable housing situations are disproportionately likely to become homeless as adults.

“Ending child homelessness should be an urgent priority of local, state, and federal governments, and a matter of concern for people of goodwill everywhere.”

To learn more about New City Initiative, go to newcityinitiative.net. MP

Richmond Tree Vigil

Every Saturday, a handful of determined Richmond residents continue to gather at the site of a standoff over the removal of century old Douglas Fir trees by developer Vic Remmers.

With the foundation for one large home poured, they await confirmation that two remaining Doug Firs at the corner of Clinton and 41st will be saved when a second and, possibly, third house are built.

With the first structure apparently pushed as close to the eastern property line as allowable, residents on a recent weekend were wondering why the largest of the trees on the westside of the property was removed.

“It looks like there’s plenty of room for houses here,” said one. “He didn’t have to take down so many trees.”

Added another, “Developers just clear building sites the fastest, cheapest way possible to make a quick profit.”

For his part, Remmers remains unfazed by protests. “We are still working on the possibility of saving the trees at the corner. We have received some positive info from our arborist and we are feeling good about being able to save the trees.”

Final decisions will be made in mid-to-late November. MP

Homeless in SE

Police in SE Portland are following the mayor’s homeless initiatives with keen interest. In a casual conversations, several officers confirmed media reports that they receive mixed signals about how to respond to homeless complaints.

“Southeast has a huge homeless population from the waterfront to the springwater corridor,” said one officer who has developed relationships with men who have been homeless by choice for more than 15 years. “But the mayor isn’t taking into account is that some of these men want to stay on the street.”

When it comes to addressing the homeless he daily encounters, he says, “I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. Certainly, families with children need housing, and those with mental issues need help we don’t offer.”

A huge part of the problem is assessing who is mentally ill and who is not.

“At a recent in-service, a mental health expert said it takes psychologists weeks and months to determine if someone is mentally ill. We have to do it in a second.”

His partner takes a harder line. “The situation is extremely frustrating and potentially dangerous,” he says. “Portland is perceived as soft on crime. Some who come to town because Portland has a reputation as being easy are petty thieves or worse.

“Citizens tell us they no longer feel safe in their neighborhoods. Why should the rights of criminals be more important than the rights of citizens to be safe?” MP