Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I know all too well the challenges associated with locating shelters throughout our community. When the Hansen Building was converted to a shelter in 2016, before I was a county commissioner, I received an earful from neighbors upset about the lack of outreach and communication. When a shelter was then proposed in the Foster neighborhood in 2017, neighbors were similarly upset.
In the latter situation, I stepped up, forming a steering committee consisting of neighbors, local business owners, non-profits, city and county staff, and the shelter operator to improve communications and dispel fears. The result of that work was a Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA), which stipulates how information is communicated between the shelter and neighbors and how complaints are handled. Since then, there haven’t been any major issues that haven’t been addressed using the GNA, and over 800 individuals have sheltered in what’s now the Laurelwood Center, and 300 people have moved from the shelter into housing.
Last week, I provided a tour of the Laurelwood Center to Beaverton mayor Lacey Beaty, Washington County chair Kathryn Harrington, and Washington County commissioners Nafisa Fai and Pam Treece, and shared lessons learned from our community outreach process and GNA. The cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro were provided with funding by the state legislature this month to address homelessness, and the Beaverton City Council is considering where to locate shelters. Washington County is similarly providing additional housing and services associated with the passage of Metro’s Supportive Housing Services measure in 2020.
As regional leaders, we’re learning from and helping one another because we recognize that the success for any of us is tied up in the success of all of us. That’s how we’ll get things done.
Because of the work my office led around the Laurelwood Center, we were similarly approached by the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association this summer about their need for a GNA with the Central City Concern’s Blackburn Center, which is located in the Hazelwood neighborhood, and provides residential care and wrap-around services to those coming out of homelessness.
The Blackburn Center opened in July 2019, before COVID-19 shut down our lives. The pandemic also inhibited our ability to work together as a community to address some of our most complex issues. Community safety, trash accumulation, and homelessness significantly worsened in Hazelwood during the pandemic and the neighborhood felt disconnected from local service providers, who they wanted help from to solve these issues. The Hazelwood Neighborhood Association was eager to develop a GNA to establish stronger lines of communication, and Central City Concern was excited to work with this deeply-connected neighborhood association.
Obtaining community buy-in and support for shelters and supportive housing is key to addressing our homelessness issue, but it isn’t easy work. Yet it must be done.
I’ve been proud to help dispel fears, create trust, and establish lines of communication so that everyone can get what they need.
That’s the type of hard work, partnership, and trust we need to build in order to turn the corner and get people into safer living conditions. It’s a win-win-win. And that’s what we need more of in the months and years ahead.
In your service,
PS: I strongly believe GNA’s are key to successful shelters. Me and/or my office have had conversations and shared our completed GNAs with Cultivate Initiatives (who is slated to run the Menlo Park Village, a safe rest village site in Hazelwood), We Shine (who is working on a micro village at 125th and Halsey), and Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan.
In the Community
It has been a busy month! I was able to visit Ms. Good’s incredible classroom at Beaumont Middle School as part of my delayed Teach for a Day (I had a COVID exposure when this event was originally scheduled in December). While there, I answered questions from curious students, and learned about the challenges facing students, teachers, and administrators. It was a wonderful experience, and deepened my appreciation for all that our schools are charged with, as well as my commitment to provide students and their families with the supports they need to succeed.
On March 10th, I marked the two year anniversary of the first positive COVID-19 case in Multnomah County with county employees and reflected on the lives lost, the hardships we all endured, and the progress we’ve made in the fight against this deadly virus. We met near the Willamette River, and gazed at the Morrison Bridge, which was illuminated in blue for the week to remember those we’ve lost. I am hopeful that as we move forward, we’ll carry with us the newfound wisdom and appreciation for our community that we’ve fostered over these last two difficult years. You can read more about our commemoration here.
As COVID subsides, we are again meeting in person unmasked(!), and I was happy to co-host an in-person constituent coffee with state Representative Rob Nosse in the Woodstock neighborhood, a new neighborhood in my district. Thanks to everyone who turned out not to just talk about the problems facing our community, but to also ask about what we can do collectively to help. This is how we’ll get things done!
I also attended an Eat and Greet in my own Hazelwood neighborhood, hosted by Cultivate Initiatives, who is slated to run the Menlo Park Safe Rest Village. The event was an opportunity to meet the wonderful staff at Cultivate, learn more about their model, and ask questions about the proposed village. You can read more about the village here.
Last, but far from least, I attended a Bullet Free Weekend event in the Cully neighborhood, hosted by my friend Lionel Irving and Love is Stronger, an organization that works to provide mentorship to young men and build stronger communities to prevent violence. I spoke with inspiring young people who were holding signs to promote the event and met organizations like the Insight Alliance that are working to help people successfully navigate post-incarceration reentry. Gatherings like these matter, and I can’t imagine a better way to enjoy a sunny Saturday afternoon.
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