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 [email protected] or on Instagram @sunnysidefreefood for more information about available food resources, donation details, and how to get involved.

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Vincent Dawans and Kim Alter

If you’ve recently seen a tall dark-haired man circling SES with a garbage bin and a shovel, or throwing Metro bags into the back of a truck, you’ve spotted Vincent Dawans. Vincent joined the SNA’s Community Safety & Livability Committee in December 2020. Having spent much of his career working on poverty-related issues in West Africa, Dawans was increasingly alarmed by the poverty and homelessness he saw here in Portland—specifically in Sunnyside, where he and his wife Kim Alter and their son Felix have lived for 14 years. In December, he volunteered to lead a regular trash pick-up in the neighborhood with the help of other volunteers. In early February, he organized the successful clean-up of the gargantuan trash pile on Hawthorne and 36th. More clean-ups are planned.

Dawans and Alter met in Brussels, Dawans’ home town. Alter, who was getting her MBA via Boston University’s Brussels program, was working as an intern in the marketing department at Dow Corning, while Dawans worked in I.T. “I needed a mouse and my supervisor said, ‘You have to call Vincent (vahn-sahnt) at the help desk,’” she recalls. Even though she was transferred to the wrong Vincent (it’s a common name in Belgium), the couple eventually met. The rest is history.

In 2000, the couple launched Virtue Ventures, a small social enterprise consulting firm that focuses on projects in India, West Africa, and the United States. They have crisscrossed the globe for their work—from Washington, D.C. to Kazakhstan, Brussels again (where Felix was born) to Oxford, and Tanzania to Colorado, California, and eventually to Portland.

When did you settle in Portland?  

Vincent: 2007. That’s when Felix was to start school, so we had to find a place that was a bit more gentle than Washington D.C. and that was Portland in 2007. We had come here for work around 2002, working at an organization in Corvallis called Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, and we liked that it was a walkable city.

Did you settle immediately in Sunnyside?

Vincent: Yes. I got bamboozled into buying this house. Being the financially responsible one, I was going to rent for a year and …

Kim: When we looked for a place to rent, the guy showed up stoned. He was telling us it was a Buddhist temple or something like that. There was a homeless person living in the garage. We were like “Does he come with it?” So we walked back to our car. I’d already seen this house online…We paid too much for it.

Vincent: It’s an 1885 Queen Anne. It requires a lot of maintenance, but we love it. We do have a problem with too much demolition in Portland—turning everything into these square boxes. I understand that some of the older houses may not be the best environmental standards. We have to find a balance.

What do you love about Sunnyside?

Kim: The walkability between Belmont and Hawthorne. Being close to Powells, Movie Madness, the theaters where we would take Felix when he was younger, all the cool funky shops, access to the library and the parks. I really have appreciated all of that.

Vincent: I didn’t want Felix to grow up in an environment where you have to be driven everywhere. He went to Sunnyside Environmental School. As he got older he was able to take the bus further out. Also, I’m an introvert. So for me to be able to go out in the street and be there with people, without having to interact much, is important. You can do that when you’re in a walkable place.

What drew you to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association?  

Vincent: I’d grown very frustrated with the polarization of everything in this country, including the local government. We can’t do anything about anything because everything is about everything. That includes the homeless issue. One side says, “These people shouldn’t be here.” and the other side says, “These people have nowhere to go.” Somehow we manage to take these entirely compatible opinions and create two opposing teams around them and get stuck.

So when I saw the Community First Statement on the SNA website — which is nothing earth-shattering, just a pragmatic, down-to-earth statement of things to be done – I thought, “Finally! Something anchored in reality.” It doesn’t make for some crazy vision. I thought it was so refreshing, and the SNA had endorsed it. So I went to a CS&L Committee Zoom meeting. Then hearing the conversation of the committee, I thought, “These are people who are very pragmatic in their conversations.” It’s kind of sad that that’s something special. But it is, now. Being pragmatic and down-to-earth, today, that’s a special skill.

The trash clean-up was an easy point of entry for me. I was already doing that in my neighborhood. So that was a natural thing.

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

Vincent: I’d like to have more local government. We all know that the centralized form of government we use in Portland is broken. It might have worked when it was a smaller city but now that it has grown… You should have a neighborhood area where you could get services—from getting help applying for various government services (getting a driver’s license or applying for a passport) to the ability to get more basic requests answered on the spot (such as getting a permit for a block party or trimming a street tree). That’s how things are done in Belgium.

Kim:  I don’t know if it’s specifically Sunnyside or just a sign of our times, but things are changing. We’re less cohesive than we were, and less friendly. The eroding of the neighborhood with these new middle-section houses everywhere are destroying the physical integrity of the neighborhood.

Vincent: We can have a smaller city in a bigger city. My example of a decentralized government gives you the best of both worlds. It actually does work. That’s how Brussels is designed; it’s divided into 19 little cities, or “communes.”  It comes from the French Revolution and it’s a French concept. In Belgium, that level of government is responsible for street cleaning. So, that’s what I’d like to see for Portland. If we did that type of thing, I think it would make this a much more livable city.

Sunnyside South Green Street and Sewer Project Update

Environmental Services continues to design a project in the southern portion of Sunnyside to install, replace, and upsize approximately 9,000 feet of public sewer pipes. Environmental Services will also build 25 green street planters to manage stormwater runoff from streets, roofs, and parking lots. The sewer and stormwater improvements will increase sewer capacity, manage stormwater more naturally, and reduce the risks of street flooding and sewage releases to homes, businesses, and streets.

Check out the project website to see a map showing the pipe and green street locations, as well as construction methods:


Construction is not anticipated to start until winter of 2021 at the earliest. Engineers are finishing up the design, and planting plans are being collected from adjacent property owners for the green street planters.

Construction Methods

The city plans to use two different methods to construct this project.

  • Open trench excavation is the most traditional and most common method of sewer construction. This method consists of excavating down to, and exposing, the existing pipe (if there is one), so that it can be installed, repaired, or replaced. The trench is then backfilled and temporarily paved until the pipe is quality control tested.
  • Cured-in-Place Pipe Lining (CIPP) is a trenchless method of sewer construction. It requires little or no digging and significantly less time to complete than other sewer repair methods. CIPP involves inserting a flexible liner inside the existing pipe, inflating the liner, and exposing it to heat or ultraviolet light to “cure,” or harden the liner inside the pipe.

There is more information about these construction methods at

SNA Community Safety & Livability Update

Community Safety & Livability Committee Meeting 

During our February meeting, we heard from Oriana Magnera, a member of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission as well as the Energy, Climate, and Transportation Program Manager at Verde.The conversation started with an overview of the Shelter to Housing Continuum (S2HC) Project. This project is an update to the City of Portland Zoning code that responds to some of the challenges of locating shelter and low-income housing options by setting specific allowances for a range of shelter and housing types. The conversation covered a broad range of topics, with participants agreeing that the houseless crisis requires an urgent and tangible response that is not fully provided by the zoning code update.

Spot Cleaning on SE 36th at Hawthorne

In early February, an amazing group of volunteers from the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, Inner Southeast Action Network, Uri from Dairy Hill, Nancy from the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association and others turned out with shovels, wheelbarrows, and brute strength. Many hands made for light work. With 14 volunteers we got the whole 20 cubic yard dumpster full by 11:30 a.m.

SOLVE Clean up on SE Belmont and Cesar E. Chavez Blvd

Sunnyside residents joined volunteers from across the city to clean up two of our neighborhood’s commercial corridors. Two SOLVE staff members – Dan Daly (program coordinator) and Peter Brewer (founder of Detrash Portland, which has recently become part of SOLVE) – joined the effort to provide their expertise.

We had volunteers from both Sunnyside and outside the neighborhood – with one volunteer coming from as far as the NE Alberta/33rd area. It was quite humbling seeing people come from across town to help us clean up our neighborhood. Walgreens’ manager Claire generously allowed us the use of their property for volunteer check-in and as a collection point. Volunteers split into four groups. Two groups cleaned along both sides of Belmont, and popped onto side streets, from Cesar Chavez Blvd. all the way to 28th. Another two groups cleaned along both sides of Cesar Chavez, including side streets, from Belmont to Hawthorne. In total, volunteers collected about 20 bags of trash!