Help Start A New Children’s Museum!

The Board of The FLIP Museum is looking for volunteers. FLIP is a 501(c)(3) that seeks to open one or more multicultural children’s museum(s) in the Portland area. Its Board formed to give local children a place to learn through play, with a special emphasis on accessibility, inclusivity, and fostering connections between children and their caregivers. FLIP seeks to create a place where children of all backgrounds, abilities, and identities can learn and connect with their communities through play. FLIP is a young organization, but it has begun this project by creating a mobile exhibit (a play food cart) which it brings to community events in the Metro area, free of charge. FLIP intends to create more mobile exhibits in the future, and has just secured funding to hire its first Executive Director. To learn more about FLIP, check out its website:

FLIP is currently looking for new members of its Board and Advisory Board, as well as volunteers who are interested in helping staff events. The time commitment is variable depending on how large of a role an individual wishes to take on, but FLIP is hoping to build a team of people willing to volunteer long-term. FLIP is particularly interested in people with backgrounds in fundraising, grant writing, event planning, early childhood education, marketing, or nonprofit development. If you are interested in helping bring a new children’s museum to Portland, please email [email protected]. FLIP welcomes donations of any size. To donate, please visit and click on the Donate Now button.

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Paul Susi

I first got to know Paul Susi when I attended an Oregon Humanities event in 2021 about housing and belonging. Susi was a skillful facilitator—asking questions to get us all thinking about the subject in a broad way. He also impressed me as a deep listener. A few months later, he emailed that he’d started doing some vigilante social work, helping replace lost IDs for people living outside. Knowing that many of our guests at the Sunnyside Shower Project had had their wallets stolen or taken when Rapid Response removed camps, we asked for his help. It wasn’t long before I figured out that Susi, a regular contributor to Oregon Humanities magazine, is also an accomplished actor who performs in one-man shows and ensemble performances. A Sunnyside resident since 2010, he is also a long-time participant in the Dragon Boat Races—his team is called “No Teacher Left Behind.”  

You are a writer, an actor, and an activist. You’re someone who has been an outdoor school Site Supervisor and worked at homelessness shelters. How do you describe yourself when people ask, “What do you do?” 

Paul: Like most folks of my generation, it’s just a matter of survival. I’m a Portland native, a son of immigrants. I was too angry to go to college, too afraid of debt to go to college. I disappointed my parents in their American dream by not going. When I was an angry adolescent, I found that culture and theater gave me structure and meaning in ways that school wasn’t able to provide. I felt the need to balance a life of culture with a life of service, and also I needed to pay rent. (Laughs.) 

You performed Wally Shawn’s one-man show The Fever last August at a makeshift theater in Lloyd Center. What drew you to that play? 

Paul: I’ve long been in love with that play. It felt—now more than ever—so timely. It’s a person of privilege confronting the realities that undergird his very comfortable, safe lifestyle. A cultured man—a kind, good-hearted and liberal person who, as we all do, has insulated himself from the realities of what it costs to live a life of such privilege. When I first read that play 25 years ago, I knew that it was an important wake-up call.

Somehow it made me think of the current homeless crisis and how some Portlanders insulate themselves from the realities of it. 

Paul: It’s like that scene in the play: you’re having a nice dinner at a nice restaurant and right across the street is a homeless shelter. “Can we close the blinds? Because they’re harshing our mellow.”

Will you be performing anything new soon? 

Paul: In August, I had a production of Macbeth at Salt and Sage production company at Shaking the Tree Studios. We’ll do a remount of the Iliad, one actor/one musician—that I toured to over 30 prisons in 2018-2019. We were commissioned to mount it by West Sylvan Middle School. There are Ukrainian and Iranian refugees attending who have been struggling with race and bullying. Their teacher has been using the Iliad as a tool to teach how we get caught up in cycles of trauma and rage. The sixth graders said, “Why can’t you take this back to prison again?” I thought, “Oh! I can.” 

Recently, you wrote a wonderful essay in Oregon Humanities about how you were a host for a low-barrier shelter in 2016. You say, “Most of the guests were in their fifties or older. Many were employed, but simply had one too many marks on their rental history, or couldn’t scratch together enough to make first and last month’s rent plus a deposit.” Coincidentally, this shelter was located in the building on Southwest Washington that has recently been the site of a lot of fentanyl overdoses. What made you decide to share the story of running this shelter now?   

Paul: There’s been this steady drumbeat of stories in Willamette Week and The Oregonian about that block—about what they’re calling Washington Center. We were mindful of tending that property. Even then there was sensitivity over a shelter there—a lot of business owners were concerned. Over the last few years, in part because of the pandemic, a lot of those businesses have left. They never received support from the city—or from their landlords—that they kept asking for. 

The shelter was run by Transition Projects and we made a point of asking our participants to be respectful of our neighbors. To clear the space when we weren’t operating, for example. There were never any lines, because we used a reservation system. We had a three block radius that we walked every hour, making sure no one was camping out, no one was overdosing, and asking people to move along. When we first opened, people were flabbergasted [to get access to a low-barrier shelter]. 

How long have you’ve done your mutual aid ID Assistance Project? How many people have you helped over the past two years?

Paul: I’ve helped more than 50, spending about $1,000. I have a notary commission in Multnomah County—that’s the golden ticket. All the big homelessness nonprofits in Portland can issue letters that waive the fees at the DMV for your driver’s license. But that means nothing if you don’t have ID to prove who you are. If you catch a clerk on a bad day, you need to bring two forms of ID. [Obtaining those—including copies of a birth certificate—costs money.] I walk a line between assistance and advocacy. As a private citizen, it’s not appropriate for me to go with them. I write a check to the DMV with a special checking account. I write a memo to connect the check number and its amount to the person coming in to get their license.  

If you’re applying for a “Real ID” the person has to have a money order or a check in their own name. [Most houseless folks do not have these.] This is one of the ways we dehumanize people. So I’m starting to develop a cozy relationship with the Post Office, which sells money orders.   

My hope is that every neighborhood gets their own notary who could do this. I think it’s about personal relationships, like what you guys do at the Shower Project. Building trust within communities that are already there. No one wants to go to Transitions Projects, in part, because you don’t know anybody there. It’s not your neighborhood—it’s not where you hang out. 

What do you love about Sunnyside?   

Paul: All my life, I’ve felt we live in nine different Portlands that don’t talk to each other. Each slice of Portland thinks it’s the only Portland. Sunnyside is one of the rare physical spaces in Portland where it feels like several areas intersect. Laurelhurst and some spaces on Belmont and Hawthorne feel like institutions that give Portland depth and meaningfulness.

Inner Southeast has a layered, and sometimes dark, history. I remember when both the Bagdad and Laurelhurst theaters were porn theaters. Portland has always been racked with police violence and profound inequality. My grandparents were living on 30th and Stark when Mulugeta Seraw was killed. [In 1988, the Ethiopian immigrant was brutally killed by three white supremacists on Southeast 31st and Pine.] My mom was afraid of Inner Southeast. The reality of that history is here. I wrote an article last summer about an unmarked grave at Lone Fir Cemetery where Chee Gong, a Chinese migrant laborer is buried. Hundreds of people—most of them Chinese laborers or asylum patients—are buried at Block 14. For 20 years, people have been saying we should do something about it but there are still no grave markers.

What do you think could be improved upon in Sunnyside? 

Paul: I think that the default assumption—not just in Sunnyside but in all the Neighborhood Associations—is that the people who deserve to be called neighbors are the people who are housed. If I could change one thing, it would be that neighborliness doesn’t recognize whether or not you have a physical space of your own. I think we’re getting there.

How did you get involved in the Dragon Boat Races? And how fun is it?

Paul: It’s so delightful! I’ve been on this team since 2011—a long time. Our team is No Teacher Left Behind—we’re a bunch of middle school teachers. That original generation has retired or dispersed so while there’s still a corps of teachers a lot of the members are spouses, siblings, children of teachers, significant others. When I was recruited to the team, it was about to fold. I was one of several theater people who joined at the same time.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?  

Paul: I love dogs, I really do. But yeah, my ex and I adopted a cat, Sticky, in Sept. of 2020. She’s very dear but very finicky. 

News from the President

Hi neighbors! I hope that you are enjoying your Oregon summer—getting out into nature, scarfing down local produce, and enjoying all the festivals and events that Portland has to offer in the sunny season. Our neighborhood main street festivals are coming up, with the Hawthorne Street Fair ( on Sunday, August 27th and Belmont Street Fair ( on Sunday, September 9th.

The SNA board has been taking time this summer to get ourselves organized. We lost a ton of experience and history this year with three people deciding to leave us: longtime board member (and former president) Matt Lembo, treasurer Vincent Dawans and at-large member Emily McCadden. Thanks to all three for their service to the community! Luckily, several new folks have gotten involved. I’d like to welcome all the new board members and officers: Kendra Hansen (treasurer), Eric Miller (secretary), Andru Morgan, and Mike Thelin. I’m excited to have everyone on board! Please, if you see these folks around Sunnyside stop to say hi, thank them for their involvement, and let them know about issues you’d like the SNA to tackle.

One issue that I hope we can continue to advocate around is pedestrian safety and traffic calming. As many of you know, on July 15th a woman was tragically killed on Cesar Chavez Blvd. near the library. An allegedly drunken driver lost control and flipped their car, striking the woman who was simply waiting for a bus. We all know that the Sunnyside-stretch of Cesar Chavez has some of the narrowest, least protected sidewalks and that drivers frequently drive recklessly through this area. As of this writing, we don’t have many details about this particular crash, but we do know that the road design encourages high-speed driving and that there is very little buffer between the sidewalk and the travel lanes. As with anything around transportation, change will take time and money, but if we start now, maybe we can get a better, safer street.

As always, if you have issues that the SNA can take on, or projects that we can help you with, please reach out. You can contact us at [email protected] or you can reach me directly at [email protected].

Newsletter Delivery Help Needed

Have you ever dreamed of having your own paper route? Join the newsletter delivery team! Each month, about 60 dedicated volunteers deliver the neighborhood news to every household and business in Sunnyside. When a volunteer moves away or gives up their route, we add these blocks to the “Gap Map,” which is printed on the back of each issue, showing where we currently need delivery help. 

It’s a great way to meet your neighbors, get some exercise, and give a little bit back to the community. Most routes cover one or two blocks and take about 20 minutes to deliver. The newsletters will be delivered to your door. If you’re interested, please contact Diana Deumling at [email protected]. 

Thanks to all the volunteers who bring this newsletter to our doorsteps!