Sunnyside Neighborhood Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Casey Filice and Becky Straus

Casey Filice and Becky Straus moved to Sunnyside with their son, Forest, during the pandemic and they are so glad they did. Filice, who is a labor organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU, one of America’s biggest unions), has fond memories of living in Sunnyside in the ‘90s when she was in her early 20s. Straus, a legal aid lawyer at the Oregon Law Center, was living on Hawthorne and 44th when she met Filice in the early aughts. When I met them recently, their son, Forest, had just made his moms blueberry muffins for Mother’s Day—and I got to enjoy one with a cup of coffee on their front porch. 

How long have you lived in Sunnyside? 

Casey: We bought it in September, 2020. Before that, we’d been in Foster Powell. 

We both rented when we were younger. I’ve lived in 3 of the 4 quadrants, but mostly in Southeast. 

Does your son go to SES? 

Casey: He’s 4, so he’s in preschool. 

Casey, what do you do? 

Casey: I am a labor organizer in the property service division of SEIU Local 49. We mostly represent workers in janitorial, security and airport service industries.  

Becky, tell me a bit about your work. It has something to do with preventing evictions, if I’m not mistaken.  

Becky: I work for the Oregon Law Center, which is a nonprofit law firm. We provide free legal services to low-income people on a range of issues, not just eviction cases. Since the pandemic, I’ve focused exclusively on building out an Eviction Defense Project. Our offices have always done eviction defense cases—but the scale at which we are doing them now is pretty unprecedented. We’ve been able to get federal funds for new grants and money through the state, county and the city. We’ve hired a bunch of new lawyers and we’re trying to do a high volume eviction defense model. It’s a different model than what legal aid has done before. 

Are there other organizations doing this important work?  

Becky: From the standpoint of lawyers and eviction court, we are one of the primary ones. The Metropolitan Public Defender Community Law Program is doing some of that, too. They complement our work. And Portland Community College’s legal clinic just got in the game, too. Their work is a great model because they are utilizing law students to help support their case work, which is a really sustainable way to have these kinds of services. 

How big is your team now?

Becky: We have about 30 staff members on the eviction project alone, and that includes attorneys and paralegals. And, we’re still hiring.

What do you love about Sunnyside? 

Casey: I love the trees in this area. I really love that we can walk and bike to everything.  

Becky: I would add the community, as well. Once we moved here and we met people going to the playgrounds, we found meaningful connection with people really quickly.  

Casey: Houses I used to rent rooms in—the homeowners are still in the neighborhood. I have so many great memories of this area.  I am really happy to be able to raise my son here.

Becky: We really love Navarre (John Taboada’s Spanish restaurant) on 28th and Burnside. When we moved here and realized that we were within a short walking distance, it kind of shook our perspective a little bit. We had a moment of gratitude! There are so many reasons. The winter before last when it snowed and everyone was skiing down Salmon, I was like, ‘Oh yeah: we live on a bike avenue! Of course, this is gonna be the place where people ski…’

What is one thing you would change about Sunnyside, if you could?    

{Both are silent for a minute or so…seemingly, they can’t think of any critiques.}

Becky: I do feel that there’s a solutions-oriented mindset in Sunnyside. Of course there are the people who are not as engaged and don’t understand the complexity of the issues—they knee jerk to the easiest message. But most people are engaged. When we first moved here and we would go to Sunnyside playground—that was when we first learned of the work of Beacon. [Beacon now has a tiny house village at Bridgeport United Church of Christ in Montavilla.] 

There are people doing active, productive things.

Are you cat people or dog people? 

We have an eight year old dog, Gus. We have had him since he was a puppy and we think he is an Aussie-Shepherd mix, but we are not sure.  

Give to the Shower Program

As the holidays near we’re approaching the one year anniversary of the Sunnyside Shower Program. This year we have sponsored several vaccine events, instituted a vaccine mandate, and conducted a de-escalation training for the volunteers. In the coming months we are conducting a needs assessment of our regular clients to see how we can improve the program in 2022. We gratefully accept donations to keep our volunteer-run project going. You can donate on our website  (https://sunnysideportland.org/donate) or via Zelle to [email protected] Please specify the Sunnyside Shower Program. Thanks!

Sunnyside Neighborhood Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Corey Schuster

During the pandemic, you might have seen Corey Schuster selling wine out of the back of his pick-up truck on Taylor Street just east of the Sunnyside Environmental School. When we were all stuck at home — and some of us weren’t even venturing out to the grocery store, let alone to a wine shop — it was lovely to be able to buy a bottle of rosé on the street while taking an evening walk. Talk about buying local!

For the past decade, Schuster has been the sole winemaker at Jackalope Wine Cellars (jackalopewinecellars.com). He purchases grapes from farmers and makes his wine at the Portland Wine Company at Powell and SE 50th. To taste his wines (and those made by Love & Squalor winery) head there on Thursdays or Fridays from 4-8 p.m. or Saturdays and Sundays from 1-7 p.m. You can bring your own food and order a glass, a bottle, or do a tasting. He lives with his partner Candace Fallon, a biologist who works at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

How long have you been a winemaker? 

Corey: This is my tenth vintage! You would think I’d do something about it. I spent a couple years working for different wineries, doing anything they put in front of me. I had a lot of opportunities to do work in tasting rooms, lab work, and events. When the Southeast Wine Collective opened in 2012, they hired me to run the bar. It felt like a safe place to start making wine so I jumped in.

When did you move to Sunnyside?

Corey: I moved to Portland in 2006 and have lived within a half mile radius — in Sunnyside — pretty much the entire time. The first place I lived was on Yamhill and 26th. Then I moved to 34th and Stark for a year. We’re now at 35th and Taylor and have been here since 2007.

Do you rent or own?

Corey: We’re renting. It’s an old house that was turned into a fourplex. Our landlords are awesome. We really love it here. Our location is pretty much perfect.

What do you love about Sunnyside?

Corey: I love all the amenities: restaurants, bars, and grocery stores. We have access to downtown and the highways to get out of town. It’s pretty great. And now that the winery is 1.5 miles away, work is also an easy commute.

What is one thing you’d like to see change about Sunnyside?

Corey: I love the piazza idea! [Floated by a Sunnyside board member at a recent meeting.] It’s not something this country does really well—having a central area. The center of Sunnyside—a place you can sit and hang out and greet the neighbors.

How is the harvest going?

Corey: The quality [of grapes] is looking good. Some of the vineyards I work with—their yields will be way down. Part of it was the heat, especially for vineyards that don’t irrigate. The grapes just don’t bulk up, which means really small clusters and small grapes. It’s just less fruit. The last time we did get rain was while flowering was happening—so the rain affected the fruit.

Schuster’s 2020 releases include a rosé, a carbonically macerated Merlot, a Pinot Noir, a Viognier, and a white Cabernet Franc. You can find them at New Seasons, Division Wines, Providore, and Whole Foods.

Follow Corey on Instagram or Twitter at @JackalopeCorey

Community Cares (SNACC) Committee Updates

The SNACC committee met on Thursday, Sept. 16th after a long hiatus. Jes Maran is stepping down as chair. Board member Emily McCadden offered to co-chair (for the time being with Jes) until someone else volunteers to co-chair with her.

We gave brief updates on the shower project, which has recently been blessed by a lot of donations of both funds and toiletries, and we discussed the possibility of a vaccine mandate for those who come for showers. 20+ shower volunteers participated in a super awesome de-escalation training in September, led by Zack Hart from Hygiene4All. Hannah helped organize a vaccine event on September 30th for the houseless at the Sunnyside Methodist Church. We also discussed rolling out the “Get on the Sunnyside” campaign that a group of U of O grad students helped prepare for us
last year as part of a class project. This would entail some work on the website, but the posters are already made. The focus of the campaign is to acknowledge the need for a neighborhood that is healthy, safe and welcoming for all who call it home. We encourage anyone who is interested in these efforts to attend our next SNACC meeting on Thursday, Oct. 21st at 6:30 p.m. Meeting details will be posted on the SNA website the week of October 18th.