SNA March Notes and April Plans

Building Design, Police Oversight, and Homeless Camps

The March SNA general meeting hosted Heather Flint Chatto, who spoke about building design in the neighborhood, especially along Hawthorne Blvd. and Belmont St.

Complete with photos and illustrations, Heather explained the PDX Main Street Design Guidelines www.pdxmainstreets.org/designguidelines which are aimed at improving the fit between new infill and old buildings. Heather showed how structures built at different times and with different styles could fit together harmoniously. At the April general meeting the SNA will consider whether to adopt the guidelines which have been adopted by eight Neighborhood Associations (NAs) and business districts for 12 southeast main streets, including Hawthorne Blvd.

Building design has long been an interest of SNA. For history and context, please search our website (sunnysideportland.org) using the term “land use docs”. I especially recommend reading Adopted Sunnyside Neighborhood Plan-1999. This is far from a dry planning document; rather, it is a rich combination of history, architecture, and neighborhood aspirations. Proposed building projects above a certain size are required to notify the appropriate neighborhood association and although NAs do not have approval authority, the SNA generally asks builders to present their project designs at our general meeting. They usually seem open to questions and suggestions, which could include design guidelines.

Johanna Brenner, next spoke on the topic of increased civilian oversight of the Portland police. Johanna advocated that the SNA endorse a letter recommending specific language in the PPB contract (please see related article in this issue). The SNA encourages neighbors’ emailed opinions on the potential endorsement.

Taking up the final topic of the evening, the SNA continued its pursuit of pragmatic solutions to homelessness by endorsing the Committee on Safety and Livability to respond to the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ request for programmatic qualifications (http://ahomeforeveryone.net/news).

Both Heather and Johanna are scheduled to continue their respective topics at the April SNA general meeting. I hope to see you all there. Stay safe.

SNA Community Safety & Livability Update

Committee Meeting

The March SNA Community Safety & Livability meeting hosted Andy Miller, Executive Director of Human Solutions. Human Solutions was founded in 1988 to provide home weatherization and utility assistance for seniors and low-income households. Over the last 25 years, the organization’s mission has expanded to partner with, invest in, and advocate for people and communities impacted by poverty so that they can achieve long-term housing and economic security.

Andy Miller spoke of the well-researched idea that the most significant factor in a child’s lifetime trajectory is the zip code into which they are born. With this understanding, Human Solutions focuses on fighting intergenerational poverty at the neighborhood level, with a focus on eastern Multnomah County.

Human Solutions responds to immediate crises – operating three emergency shelters and providing rent assistance, eviction prevention, and utility assistance. The organization provides affordable housing, with over 650 apartments and over 200 more currently in development. Their housing advocacy is paired with job and career counseling and skills training – providing critical resources for people transitioning from public assistance and for those experiencing re-entry from incarceration and homelessness.

Mr. Miller notes that housing insecurity is a pervasive impact of our nation’s racist past and present. Black and brown people have been denied generations of wealth and opportunity — denied actual housing opportunities. Even though we’ve changed many of the laws that were in place for those generations, we are left dealing with profound consequences of insecurity. “For folks sleeping outside, you are 50% more likely to have a tent if you are White.”

Andy Miller also noted that he’s not a fan of shelters; they are an important stop-gap resource, but shouldn’t be more than a stepping stone to more stable housing. However, he notes that when he started working with Human Solutions, the average shelter stay was three weeks. The average now is six to twelve months. There just isn’t enough affordable housing for folks to transition into.

The work Human Solutions does is working; there just aren’t enough resources and people in need are being underserved. Millar notes that, “For every one person we help, there are nine we have to turn away.”
Why are there so many people who need the services that Human Solutions provides? Opinions about the causes of homelessness and housing insecurity vary widely; some blame addiction, mental illness, laziness, or bad luck. Human Solutions identifies poverty as a root cause – the significant gap between the high cost of housing and the low values of income. For example, in Portland, the hourly wage required to afford a studio apartment is $22.92 while the median hourly wages in the largest employment sectors – food & bar service, retail, and home health care – range from $12.47 to $13.74.

Andy wrapped up his presentation with an inspiring case study from Helsinki. Similar in population to Portland, Helsinki implemented universal basic income and a Housing First policy that provides unconditional housing. Finland is the only EU country where homelessness rates are falling.

The Equal Times website describes the simple idea at the foundation of Finland’s Housing First policy, “… everyone is entitled to somewhere to live, even people with complex psychosocial, health and financial issues such as addiction or poor credit ratings. The theory is that it is easier to tackle the multiple issues often faced by a person experiencing homelessness if that person has a stable home.”

Emergency Preparedness and the SNA Board Meeting

Digital preparedness on my cell phone.

As I look at my iPhone 11, I see what kind of resources I have to keep me up-to-date for emergency response. To begin with, I have my children, my husband and a good friend in Portland listed as emergency contacts on my phone. It’s especially important to have at least one emergency contact be someone out-of-state and to have that person be aware of that role. It’s likely that text messaging will be the best way to communicate, at least for awhile, if the power is knocked out city-wide or state-wide.

In the event of an earthquake or an extended power outage, having one or more power banks is important, as phone batteries drain quickly in the cold. Turning off unnecessary functions like GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi will significantly extend battery life. The apps that I have installed on my iPhone are: American Red Cross Emergency, American Red Cross First Aid, 211info, FEMA (you can customize alerts), and NOAA Weather.

And, finally, when I hear of any weather event that might affect the power in our area, I immediately charge up my phone to 100%.

The Other Emergency, an earthquake, that is…

For many of us in the emergency preparedness world, this pandemic is ‘practice’ for the BIG ONE. That is not to downplay in any way the seriousness of our current world issues. This is to say that, due to our training, both as professionals and volunteers, we were a bit calmer at the onset of the pandemic as we reviewed and revised our own preparedness efforts to meet the current challenge. This work and planning are ongoing. In the big picture, it is best to prepare, and then improvise, as needed.

Working at the micro-neighborhood level, it’s my job to get my neighbors as prepared as possible, having offered training and materials and workshops and tips over the years. This is hard work, but worth the effort.

Let me walk you through a very good scenario that I hope can take place after a major disaster in my neighborhood.  After the event, when  I have made sure my home and family are okay, and it is safe to do, I plan to walk through my neighborhood and check in on my neighbors. I know most of them by name and by sight and know they have enough food and water to last for two weeks. They all have a shelter in place plan that is activated and are keeping themselves as safe as possible, knowing that it is possible that we will be without any emergency services help for the immediate future.

As we are able, neighbors help neighbors nearby.

Those with radio communication skills like ham operators will be able to share news and critical information when cell phones and the internet are down. There are many licensed ham operators in the Sunnyside neighborhood.

We are calm and do the best we can because we all prepared ahead of time.
We prepare, and then we improvise.

Where are you on the preparedness continuum? Start where you are and keep going!

New Free Pantry at SE Uplift

We are excited to introduce a new community coalition to address food insecurity in SE Portland! Sunnyside Free Food Resources is an entirely neighbor-led group working to create greater accessibility to free food and resources for our Sunnyside community. 

A brand new free pantry is being hosted at SE Uplift (3534 SE Main Street). We welcome all donations of non-perishable items, including food, sanitation and menstrual products, and first aid. This pantry is available for everyone, and we accept donations from all who can give. 

Our work is inspired by PDX Free Fridge and other mutual aid efforts in Portland and across the country. It is our hope that community collaboration and participation will create more equitable living conditions for all. 

Connect with us via email at sunnysidefreefood@gmail.com or on Instagram @sunnysidefreefood for more information about available food resources, donation details, and how to get involved.