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. 

Sunnyside Piazza Update

We have postponed the restoration project for painting the Sunnyside Piazza on Yamhill St. and 34th Ave. until September 2021. We are looking to create a new design that is led by community involvement. Further details to come in August. You can contribute towards the restoration of this beloved landmark by donating to the campaign’s GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/sunnyside-piazza or via the SNA website homepage. We’re trying to raise $1,500 to cover our expenses. Follow the Sunnyside Piazza Facebook page for up-to-date details and ways to get involved.

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Jes Maran

Jes Maran, who was elected to the SNA Board last June, has been fearlessly leading the many projects of the Board’s Community Care Committee (otherwise known as SNACC) since December. She lives with her mom (Cathie), son (Octavo) and cats (Thor, Fenn, and Bit). Maran co-founded and runs the Formation Lab, a company that integrates social equity into the planning, design and management of public infrastructure with fellow Sunnyside resident, Nicki Pozos.

What brought you to the neighborhood and when?

We’ve been in this house for almost three years. Before that we lived in North Portland. My Mom, Dad, myself and my son lived in the house in North Portland until my dad passed in 2018. I got pregnant when I was in graduate school. That wasn’t really in my plans, so my parents said I could live with them. My folks and I raised Octavo together. My son did say at one point, “I would really like to not have any more parents; I feel like I have way more parents than everybody else.” I said, “Yeah, that’s fair.”

How would you say Sunnyside is different from other neighborhoods you’ve lived in?

It’s definitely a more well-off neighborhood than where I was, generally speaking. There’s a lot more diversity of family types and it’s louder and more active and it just feels a lot more energetic. Inner SE has its own strong personality that’s distinctive, but the individual neighborhoods don’t feel like they have a real strong barrier—Richmond, Sunnyside—they kind of blend in together. But Sunnyside always feels like it’s the heart, right? We have a chunk of Hawthorne; we have the best parts of Belmont.

Houselessness is nothing new in Portland, but what was the moment for you when you thought, yikes, this is really next level?

I long had a sense of compassion, but the turning moment for me was talking to one of the men who was camped over at Sunnyside Park and he talked about going to Sunnyside Environmental School. He and his sister went there and he talked about his teachers, and playing on the playground as a kid. This had been his home for his whole life and it still is his home. This just shifted for me from the sense of houseless folks as being this sort of transient intruder to being like, oh, you’ve been here a lot longer than I have, and you know this place way better than I do. I am the visitor.

What does the Community Care Committee do?

Since it came together in its current form last December, we’ve been supporting houseless neighbors primarily, but that’s expanded into general service to the neighborhood. It’s been out of this committee that Vincent [Dawans] developed his trash pick-up crew and Hannah [Wallace] developed the shower program. Then Ash [Hester] did a big clothing drive over the winter and Matt [Lembo] and I (and others) have worked on the sanctioned sites initiative. The initiative is about how Sunnyside can create shelter for houseless residents so that we can disrupt the sweeps process of just shifting people from place-to-place and start building places for people to live to be more stable, so they can get their feet under them in order to be healthier and/or to move to the next phase in their life.

Tell me about the first site, Beacon Village.

It’s a 10-unit tiny house village on the parking lot of Bridgeport United Church of Christ in Montavilla. The church approached Pat Schwiebert, the founder and director of Beacon PDX, to let her know they were interested in renting out space. We’re focused on the village itself and taking it through permits. We’ve ordered the houses, we’re getting the leveling platforms built, and coordinating the volunteers to create a safe space. I’m hoping that we’re able to get folks moved in in a couple of months.

There have been two community meetings about Beacon Village. What was your experience of the second one, held on June 8th? 

What I heard was a lot of fear about one’s personal space being infringed upon—fear of increases in crime and fear of visual blight. But I also heard a lot of folks really wanting to be supportive, but just having concerns about how it’s implemented. It was interesting to see, as in any neighborhood (and I think we have this very much in Sunnyside) that you have a younger cohort of folks for whom this is a no-brainer. Then there is an older group of folks — generationally but also people who have lived in the neighborhood longer — who just don’t want a village anywhere near them.

One of the things that’s interesting to me is that the church is private property. It’s not a public facility. I strongly support the notion that as a good neighbor, it’s important to share when you’re making big changes. We don’t necessarily tell our neighbors exactly what we’re doing in our own homes. So there’s just a little bit of feeling like there’s a right to know those things.

Adopt One Block Update

[See a more recent version of this map at https://sunnysideportland.org/adoptoneblock/]

As of June 28th, 80% of the blocks in Sunnyside have been adopted through Adopt One Block. We have 128 blocks adopted and only 32 blocks still seeking adoption. This is close to three times as many blocks adopted than when we started our neighborhood outreach in early April. We had 43 adopted blocks then. The areas marked in grey on the map have been adopted; areas in black still need adoption.

More information about Adopt One Block (including an updated map as well as information about how to adopt a block) is available at sunnysideportland.org under the Volunteer menu.

If you have adopted a block, please let our Cleanup Coordinator know so we can improve collaboration and coordination among block ambassadors as well as offer local support. So far, block ambassadors covering 40 blocks have made themselves known. Those blocks are identified with a thin white line on the map. Your contact information will not be shared publicly, but knowing about you will allow our Cleanup Coordinator to privately connect adopters of neighboring blocks if they both choose.

To make yourself known to the SNA as a block ambassador, or if you ever need help with disposing of excess trash, dealing with larger items that have been dumped, needles or biohazard cleanup, please contact Vincent Dawans, SNA Cleanup Coordinator at dawansv@gmail.com.

Last Chance for Feedback on Public Trash Cans Coming to Sunnyside

This autumn, the City will be adding 182 new public trash cans throughout Southeast Portland. The city is actively seeking feedback from people who live or work in Southeast Portland on where the new cans should (or shouldn’t) be located.

As of June 15th, we received 44 comments from Sunnysiders covering 29 intersections.  The survey will remain open until the end of July, so don’t wait if you want to provide further feedback. A link to the survey, current results and more information is available at sunnysideportland.org under the Give Feedback section in the sidebar.