By Midge Pierce
Good Neighbor Agreements are touted by staffers from SE Uplift and Portland’s newly rebranded Office of Office of Community and Civic Life as a way to solve dicey issues such as the fear and distrust that follow the homeless population.
Several agreements are in the works on the Eastside, notably a Foster Shelter Steering Committee proposal to encourage cooperation and acceptance of a contentious shelter opening soon in the 6100 block of Foster Blvd.
The draft, designed to ensure the safety and livability of a community of both neighbors and shelter residents transitioning to permanent housing, calls for open communication between all parties and clear expectations.
Intended signatures include shelter manager Transitions Project; several area neighborhood associations; a 7 Eleven; Mt. Scott Learning Center; Assembly Brewing; the Foster Area Business Association; East Precinct Police and SE Uplift (SEUL) as liaison.
Good Neighbor Agreements are not legally-binding. Instead, they are intended to promote respectful discourse and collaborative problem solving between all impacted by the houseless crisis. For agreements to be effective, OCCL and SEUL staffers recommend neighbors adopt a welcoming attitude and avoid us vs. them language.
The eastside’s most recent Good Neighbor discussion is between the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association (SNA) and the Sunnyside Community House (SCH), a basic needs resource center that recently dropped plans to open a fifty-bed shelter.
In a spirit of “hate will not be tolerated in this neighborhood”, SNA agreed to develop a Good Neighbor Agreement with SCH over coming months. The concern addressed at the NA’s December meeting was not Community House services, but enforcement of rules it already has to monitor: including debris, camping and an unsupervised Port-a-Potty that a new board member suggested might move around the corner from a school to her street.
The Community House is located across from Sunnyside K-8 school’s playground.
Although the playground fence was recently equipped with a needle drop box, and, hours before the NA meeting, the school had gone into a lengthy safety lockdown caused by a likely unrelated threat, an assistant principal claims the school has a good relationship with the House and students even help with meal prep.
Staff presenters indicated the best way to enter Goodwill agreements was to name five things the neighborhood association needed from the Community House and five things it was willing to give back.
One noted that cookies and common courtesy when new residents move in, might be a helpful greeting.
In a holiday letter of thanks to volunteers posted on Next Door, Community House founders John Mayer and Pat Schwiebert indicated lack of funding for 24/7 supervision was a challenge. The letter cited thirty-eight years of Wednesday evening Hard Times Suppers that this year amounted to some 18,000 plates of food to more than 120 needy.
In addition, SCH provided 2500 showers and 20 nights of emergency weather shelter, along with hosting a 24-hour toilet, additional dumpsters and a small computer lab with donated computers.
The letter indicated that when the un-housed were asked what they would like their “housed” neighbors to know, responses included, “I’m trying”, “I like to work”, “I wish you asked me my name”, and “We’re not all addicts and alcoholics.”