Shower Project Reaches 60+ People

Awesome shower volunteer Marisa Espinoza, who works at the Northwest Pilot Project, crunched the numbers for us. Since January, when we launched the shower program at the Groves, we have served 63 houseless individuals. Some shower weekly, some come less often, but all of them thank us repeatedly for offering them this opportunity to get and stay clean. I often get texts like this from our houseless neighbors: “Thank you a ton for everything, Hannah. It really means a lot what you do.” 

Thanks to the Groves for continuing to allow us to use their facilities for this program. I’m also so grateful to all 23 of our amazing volunteers—most from Sunnyside but some come from nearby neighborhoods to help out. We could still use two additional volunteers for an every-other-week shift this fall. If you’re interested, please reach out to me at hannahmwallace@gmail.com. Shower days are in the afternoons on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Cat Tales: Ham, the Klepto Cat

“Have you seen my running shoe?” my neighbor Dana Buhl asked me recently. I hadn’t seen it but my husband and I had noticed some curious items turning up in our yard—some red camellia flowers (we don’t have a camellia bush) and a red ball of yarn. Two weeks later, Dana’s 15-year-old daughter spotted one of their dog’s chew toys in the back of our mutual neighbor’s backyard. Charles Aguilar and his fiancé Brittany Peralta, who moved into that house six months ago, have four beautiful and playful cats. So I texted Charles asking if they might be missing some yarn. He said “No, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my ‘lil white cat got it from somewhere and brought it to your yard. He brought us a crow, a mouse, and a random shoe recently.” Then he texted a photo of Ham, the cute white cat that I’d noticed prowling through our backyard.

Dana was amused to learn that the culprit was a feline (though sadly, she was not reunited with her shoe because, not knowing whose it was, they’d tossed it). I started stashing my running shoes inside. But, unwisely, I left my Crocs out. A few weeks later, I couldn’t find either of them. I searched our house, to no avail. Finally, desperate, I texted Charles. “I’m missing my Crocs. Has Ham brought you any?” He shot back, “Yes, we have a black Croc!” A few days later, I spotted the other in their backyard. I jokingly said he should post something on Nextdoor about his klepto cat. “I’m thinking about it. I have a pair of Nikes here now. Black with a grey swoosh,” Charles typed.  

Charles says Ham’s stealing habit began when he was an indoor cat—with their daughter’s Barbies and sandals. He’d find them hidden in weird places around the house. “I’d do laundry and there’d be a Barbie in the laundry basket,” he says. Ham, who is just one year old, has one blue eye and one yellow, giving him a rock-star air. “He’s got a lot of personality, for sure,” Charles says. But Sunnysiders—especially if you live in the westernmost quadrant of the neighborhood—keep your shoes inside!   

This is a new regularly-occurring column in the Sunnyside Newsletter. To submit stories about your or a neighbor’s cat, email Hannah at Hannahmwallace@gmail.com   Cats must live in Sunnyside. 

SNA Community Care (SNACC) Committee Update

Volunteers Needed

Come join a fantastic group of Sunnyside volunteers at the Shower Project at the Sunnyside Methodist Church! Because two of our regular volunteers are moving—one to Taiwan and one to Montavilla—we could use a volunteer every other Thursday (from 1-3 p.m.) and every other Saturday (either shift). Shifts are two hours long and mostly involve chatting with your fellow volunteers as you wait for folks to finish their showers. It’s a great way to get to know your houseless neighbors! Please contact Hannah Wallace at Hannahmwallace@gmail.com if you are interested. Thanks!

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Nathan Howard and Leslie Wright

Howard, who was born and raised in Southeast Portland, is president of the cannabis farm East Fork Cultivars, which he founded in 2015 with his brother Aaron. They started the company to grow high-CBD strains of cannabis for their elder brother, Wesley, who regularly used the plant to alleviate symptoms of a rare neurological condition. Leslie, who grew up in San Diego, is a mental health nurse who is finishing her doctorate in psychiatric mental health at Oregon Health and Sciences University. They met when Leslie was working at the Bus Project (now called Next Up) and Nathan was a legislative aide for State Senator Mark Hass. “The Bus Project was putting on an end-of-the-legislative-session celebration and Nate came to the event. I invited him to sit at my table and the rest is history!” recalls Leslie.

Lately, the couple has been working with a group called the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance to persuade the City Council to decriminalize all psychedelics and protect home cultivation and ceremonial religious use of the plants. They just got a labradoodle puppy who they named Blue. When I spoke to the couple in late May, Howard was just getting ready to open Hemp Bar, East Fork’s all-ages CBD café, on 63rd and Foster.

How long have you guys lived in Sunnyside?

Nathan: Five years, in two different locations.

Leslie: We purchased this house two years ago. We fell into the opportunity in a very lucky white privilege way. Nate’s dad is a real estate agent. His first boss in Portland owns a ton of houses and he’s slowly been selling them off. So he was selling this house but never listed it. We did a seller-finance contract with him so we don’t have a traditional mortgage with a bank, which is great because I was about to start school and I probably wouldn’t have qualified because I wasn’t really working.

What do you love about Sunnyside? 

Leslie: We really love Southeast because you can walk everywhere and a lot of our friends live here. And our street has got so many kids on it!

Nathan: I love that aspect. We probably have 16 kids within a block or so, and they’re frequently in our front yard, climbing our apple tree. We just got a dump truck of 10 yards of gravel delivered, and they’re all playing in the gravel and seeing if they can come over and hang out with our puppy Blue. We just love it.

I also love the open-mindedness of the neighborhood. There’s still some fear-based NIMBY stuff going on, but there’s such open-mindedness and I find that so energizing. And I’m starting to see way more diversity—including racial diversity. I’m really hoping that we’re trending towards more diversity in every sense of the word and less homogenous everything. I hope that continues and if that continues that I think I’ll start to love Sunnyside even more.

What’s one thing you would love to see change about Sunnyside?

Nathan: I guess I’ll answer that by saying what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid that Portland—Sunnyside included—is vastly underestimating the amount of in- migration that we’re going to continue to have over the coming decades. We’re vastly underestimating the amount of climate refugees the Pacific Northwest is going to be taking on, specifically the Portland Metro area. And so what I’m really fearful of is that liberal, progressive, open-minded, Sanctuary City Portland—seemingly overnight—could turn into a pretty xenophobic place if we don’t properly plan for a lot more people. So I’d like to see us begin to seriously consider changing that. And that means investing a bunch more infrastructure and housing and probably changing even more zoning laws in certain areas.

Leslie: I don’t know that I have much more to add. Making it more personal: I have friends who have chosen to live in North and Northeast because it’s more racially diverse. I’ve had friends of color who have told me about experiences where they would walk down a street in Sunnyside and people would stare at them from their porch, or smile in a way that was too familiar. Both send the message that they don’t belong and they feel unwelcome.

Why did you name your puppy Blue? 

Leslie: I had a dog named Red growing up, so I thought it’d be on-theme. But then also we were talking to the woman who we bought him from, and she told us that he’s like this kind of old soul, kind of a dopey super chill dog, we thought like “Blue,” blues. That’s cool. That’ll work.