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A plan to have a transitional housing camp in every neighborhood, street racing, and a proposal to test drones in the neigborhood was discussed at theSt. Johns Neighborhood Association August meeting held online on Aug. 31st.
Verizon wants to use the Peninsula Iron Works building on N. Bradford St. and an empty riverside lot north of Cathedral Park, (betweenGreen Anchors and the Toyota lot), to test using cell phone towers to fly drones, said Matt Stein, who owns a business nearby.
The proposal is open for public comment on the city planners website (I couldn’t find it but I have an email out to the SJNA.)
One concern is the potential impact on the local raptors, including the peregrine falcons living under the bridge. The project would involve constructing a two-way street between the train tracks and the lot, Stein said.
The lot, which is owned by the Port Authority, has been vacant since 2007, said Stein, owner of Green Anchors, an eco-industrial park.
“[Verizon has] a lot of horsepower behind this. If the neighborhood is interested in having a say on this, it’s better to do it sooner,” Stein said.
Fatal street racing, little response
A double fatal motorcycle crash in St. Johns last Friday marked the 28th traffic fatality in Portland this year.
Responding officers said the motorcycle driver struck a pedestrian at very high speeds, and appeared to be part of an illegal speed racing event nearby.
Street racing has been an ongoing issue in North Portland. SJNA chair Mike Vial said he discussed the ongoing drag racing issue with the Commander of the Portland Police Bureau North Precinct. “The short answer is PPB is probably not going to do anything for us right now,” Vial said. “They seem to have bigger priorities.”
Several people proposed advocating for speed radar cameras on Columbia Blvd. One attendee wondered whether opening the Portland International Raceway could help divert street racing activities. Donna Cohen offered to form a group to look into the matter further.
Vial said he will write a statement for members of the community to send to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Mayor’s Office, and the Port Authority.
Neighborhood associations’ plan to propose sanctioned transitional housing camps
Portland’s neighborhood associations are planning to vote on whether to suggest that the City impose stricter regulations on camping and also establish sanctioned camps in each neighborhood, Vial said. The proposal would divert some money to short term solutions, and away from constructing affordable housing.
The proposed sanctioned camps would include some level of supervision, services, and volunteer support coordinated between the neighborhood associations and the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
Vial gave an update on the progress of the statement.
Several NA chairs had retracted their support in an earlier meeting between the neighborhood association chairs. Other than minor changes, the current draft will be voted on next month, Vial said.
The proposal says camps “where illegal activity is documented” would be cleared. One attendee asked if that meant “everyone at the camp would be cleared if one person breaks the law?”
Vial said he would ask the group for clarification.
The statement will be voted on in September’s neighborhood association meeting.
The $92 million bond to modernize Roosevelt High School did not provide as many STEM facilities as promised. Donna Cohen announced the School Board decided that the gap would not be addressed until 2024. “It’s unconscionable. It just flies in the face of everything they say about racial equality,” Cohen said.
In light of recent thefts and vandalism, Liz Smith, the president of St. Johns Boosters, the neighborhood’s business association, announced plans to survey the community about hiring private security. Smith said community patrols is also a possible solution. People interested in participating in the community patrols can email Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The date and agenda for next month’s SJNA meeting have not been determined yet, but may feature Multnomah County elections candidates.
The St. Johns Food Share is having a fundraising sidewalk sale this weekend, Sept. 5th and 6th from 9 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Local and state officials are working to provide relief for Oregon’s business community— and as of Friday, March 20th the federal Small Business Administration has approved Oregon’s disaster declaration for COVID-19.
For more information, and how to apply go to the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans page here. The Oregon Economic Development Association wrote that there was a two-to-three-week timeline and five days for disbursement on the loans.
According to its website, the SBA can provide up to $2 million to help “meet financial obligations and operating expenses” that could have been met if the disaster hadn’t occurred.
Efforts in Portland
Wheeler said that on Monday, March 16th, he authorized a task force led by his office and Prosper Portland, the City’s economic development agency, to assist small and large employers and their employees struggling with the economic impacts of COVID-19.
In a press conference Tuesday, March 17th, Mayor Ted Wheeler discussed how the City was working to mitigate the downturn’s impact on small businesses in Portland.
“Every option will be on the table to support the resilience and the recovery of our local economy,” he said. Watch the business-focused part of the Tuesday, March 17th press conference, or read the highlights below.
Update: On Wednesday, March 25th, Portland announced $1 million for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn, the Oregonianreported. The city will prioritize women- and people of color-owned businesses, with some conditions, according to the executive director of Prosper Portland.
The biggest news, however, that came out of that press conference is that the City barred evictions, and is allowing tenants impacted by COVID-19 to delay paying rent during the state of emergency. He also announced that the City’s tenants and borrowers would have a three-month deferral on rent and loan repayments.
Wheeler said the task force is also partnering with major employers and small businesses, front line communities, labor partners, work force development partners, and foundations. Wheeler also acknowledged cooperation from key City and County partners and Business Oregon.
Wheeler said he met with downtown property owners on Tuesday as well.
To help vulnerable businesses, Wheeler said Prosper Portland was immediately making $150,000 in grants available in a partnership with the Jade District Neighborhood Prosperity Network.
As home to many Asian-owned business, Wheeler said the Jade District is “amongst the hardest impacted by the economic downturn related to COVID-19”.
Wheeler said with time, he expects resources will be expanded to other areas.
Grants are being awarded to businesses in the Jade District and Old Town, and immigrant owned businesses and / or API owned small businesses are prioritized.
The Jade District Steering Committee also added $50,000 to the program. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m., March 23rd. Apply to the Jade District-Oldtown COVID-19 Small Business Response Fund here.
Wheeler said he is convening partners in the private sector to develop a commercial eviction strategy and other financial relief. He also thanked private landlords who allowed their tenants to defer or forgo payments.
For non-profit organizations impacted by the downturn, the Oregon Community Foundation has established the Oregon Community Recovery Grant program. Guidelines are still being formulated, but you can get more information and apply here.
Also on Tuesday, East Metro Economic Alliance called on small businesses across the state to share with the Governor’s Office how they’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Share a story with Leah Horner (email@example.com), Brown’s Jobs and Economy Policy Advisor.
Tina Granzo was helping spread the word about the EMEA campaign on social media. She served on the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association for four years, and knows that a lot of small businesses are suffering.
She wrote that the help will be good, but it needs to come quickly. “… with some businesses, the owners put everything they had (all equity) into their businesses and (as with Bipartisan [Cafe]) did things like pay employees a living wage, taking much less for themselves,” Granzo said. “So, not much of a back-up or safety net (even while waiting for help).”
Wheeler said he would be meeting with banks and credit unions on Thursday, March 19th, asking them to make sacrifices because he knows they are sitting on substantial reserves.
“As tenants are unable to pay rent, landlords and build owners would then not be able to pay the mortgage they are due,” Wheeler said at Tuesday’s press conference. He said he’ll ask the banks and credit unions to give them more coverage during this cash crunch.
Thursday, Wheeler said they would also be convening their two task forces and meeting with the business community on Thursday.
As of Monday morning, March 23rd, there’s been no update from the mayor or governor on these business-related initiatives.
A survey of more than 900 Oregon businesses by Built Oregon found that respondents are losing an estimated $4.8 million in sales. See some of the results of the survey below. The survey was first reported by Portland Business Journal; find more details here.
When asked for what kind of help they needed, many business owners responded: no-interest loans to cover rent and payroll; emergency working capital loans; and assistance for workers, according to the story.
More calls for action from the Portland business community:
At the federal level, the United States Chamber of Commercehas called for bridge loans for the 68 million American workers that are employed by enterprises with more than 500 employees.
Negotiations over relief measures are moving fast in Washington D.C., and as of Sunday afternoon the Tax Foundation reports:
The March general meeting of the St. Johns Neighborhood Association covered a lot of ground, including the information on the Willamette River industrial cleanup; a proposed housing development; a historical presentation, and other happenings in St. Johns.
The meeting was held on March 9th. On arrival, the March general meeting agenda, January and February meeting minutes, and budget handouts were all on table.
Rather than signing in, I was asked my name and was recorded by a person at this table.
Mike Vial, SJNA board member, announced that he was facilitating because Chair Marisa Peter could not be present. Vial began by going over ground rules.
Though most neighbors didn’t have a chance to review the six pages of minutes, Vial asked for a motion to approve the minutes. The motion was approved. Soon after, Josh Leslie and Shamus Lynsky noted an error on February minutes.
On the second page of the February minutes there is a note that the proposed bylaws passed. In fact, they did not have the required number of votes to pass the bylaw change in February. And although Vial requested a re-vote at that meeting, the second vote did not pass either.
The amended bylaws the board attempted to pass would have required all “active” members to provide physical addresses.
The minutes indicated the bylaws passed, which the board justified keeping in because they had initially thought it passed. Further down in the minutes it says that the next bylaws vote failed, so in the entire context of the minutes, it’s probably fine, albeit a little confusing.
Joseph Purkey was concerned that two consecutive votes are not allowed, so the second vote should be thrown out. In that case, the first vote is definitely important to have correctly recorded.
Lynsky pointed out that the whole point of minutes is to accurately record votes. In fact, that is the only function of minutes— the rest is just exposition. Several neighbors tried to convince them that it should be amended to correctly record that the first vote failed, but, again, the board said it was fine because it was explained later in the minutes.
Donna Cohen spoke about the new HAWK signal (red light signal activated by pedestrians only) coming to Fessenden Street. She thinks that instruction should specifically be given to children on how to use the new crossings safely.
Mary Margaret and Chris Stubblefield announced that Mayor Ted Wheelerhas given a one-year reprieve to closing of the Columbia Pool. This was met with some applause.
An event titled “Riots and Revolutionaries in St. Johns” was announced.
“On March 21, 1910, some 200 residents of St. Johns, Oregon, rioted against the so-called “Hindu” mill workers working and living in town. While this little-known riot lasted two hours, its aftershocks reverberated for years… following the trials, St. Johns became a center of East Indian anti-colonial organizing focused on the overthrow of British rule of India.”
Kennedy School Theater, NE 33rd Ave * Mon, March, 30th; 6 p.m. – doors, 7 p.m. – event * free
Willamette Cove Uplands
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public input on the proposed cleanup plan to address soil contamination on the Upland portion of the Willamette Cove.
“DEQ is working with the Port of Portland, Metro and others to clean up contamination at this property, a former industrial site in North Portland along the east bank of the Willamette River. The property comprises approximately 27 acres and approximately 3,000 feet of Willamette River shoreline. Located south of the St. Johns Bridge, adjoining or nearby neighborhoods include Cathedral Park, St. Johns, and University Park.”
Commenting is an important way to make your voice heard in decision-making. Please provide comments on the proposed cleanup plan during Monday, March 2, 2020 through Friday, May 1, 2020. by:
Email: WillCoveUpland@deq.state.or.us Mail: Erin McDonnell, 700 NE Multnomah St., Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232 At a public meeting, or Verbally, upon request
Sam Sarich did a 10 minute presentation with another person on his development of 18 units on North Oswego Avenue with no off-street parking and no affordable units. Mike Vial comments that this development is across from his house.
Sam had originally wanted to hold the presentation at the St. Johns Bachelors Club but was unable to do so because the building is not wheelchair accessible. SJNA members asked questions about drug house nearby, rent prices, and issues around parking. Sam says he is thinking of asking $1,600 for a unit.
Next up was Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association. Turner talked about the history of community policing and that there is not enough staffing at present for police to do an adequate job.
He talked about his son who is going into police work— but he advised him not to work in Portland because of the problem with under-staffing. He also talked about the importance of neighborhood associations communicating with the City and express the policing needs in the neighborhood.
On the topic of homelessness, Turners said the problem is that police have too many hats to wear and that they are not equipped to solve all these issues.
After that, was a presentation from Ethan Knight, a candidate for Multnomah County District Attorney. Ethan has many good endorsements and said he grew up on Sauvies Island.
Mike Schmidt was another candidate for Multnomah County DA. He said he was committed to community-based solutions and un-apologetically in favor of harm reduction.
A question and answer period followed. Although I had many questions for these candidates and raised my hand to ask them, I was not called upon by Vial, who was leading the discussion.
I would have asked why there was a disparity in criminal charges against houseless. I also would have asked why those committing crimes against houseless are rarely prosecuted, and if they are they are given very light sentences.
I am grateful to the SJNA board for hosting these candidates. I look forward to hearing from other Multnomah County candidates and hopefully ask questions of them.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Editor’s note: We’d like to thank Kelly for writing up her account of the meeting.
Oregon officials shut down schools to stop the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory virus commonly called coronovirus.
State health officials urge, “good hand hygiene, covering coughs and staying home if you are sick”. According to the CDC, symptoms can include fever, a cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms emerge two to 14 days after exposure.
There was a post a few weeks ago on a Facebook group page. Somebody asked a simple question similar to: “What’s going on this weekend, St. Johns?”
So many people piped up with events, fundraisers, and all sorts of gatherings in the neighborhood. And as you already know, and the Willamette Week just spotlighted, a lot of changes have been happening recently.
There’s no easy answer really, but in times of change it makes sense to value and support what you hold dear.
For a while now, we’ve been pulling together a list of neighborhood happenings in East Portland. Not just events, but opportunities to get involved, opportunities to support. We’re still seeking funding in the neighborhood, and are planning on starting that weekly neighborhood check-in for St. Johns too.
The citywide media does do some flyby reporting occasionally in the neighborhood. Some of it is helpful, but it often is framed to further split divides rather than solve problems. I think there’s a need for more small-scale consistent story telling and reporting, and having a publication and part-time reporter is our long-term goal.
And not every story has to be about a crisis. We covered a clean up on the – last weekend (see story below), and really prefer to focus on what we want to thrive, and encourage more people to get involved. The story reminded me of my time at smaller community newspapers, and that was awesome.
Art and music is crucial too— there’s no better way to bridge the divide and honor beauty and creativity.
In that effort of community building, we’d like to thank the wonderful folks at The Fixin’ To for hosting our benefit this week. We’d also like to thank Creature Party and everyone who showed up to hang out and dance with us. It was a really great time.
The future of media is uncertain, but we see that as an opportunity. Thank you for reading, and we hope that you continue to offer us feedback and story ideas as we grow. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we’ve learned the same goes for a publication.
We looked for goings on this weekend, and this was the best thing we found. But you tell us: what’s going on this weekend St. Johns?
On the sunny *Sunday* that was February 16th, about 40 folks attended a clean up along the PeninsulaCrossing Trail in St. Johns, the event’s organizer said.
*We originally said Saturday
“The motivation for the cleanup was to try to heal some of our divisive issues”, Kelly Tadlock said when asked why she planned the event.
“Though some will never heal some will. It was hopefully an offering to those neighbors who feel no one cares that they are living without basic sanitation, water, and heating amenities.”
“Mostly because we love our houseless community is why people showed up to support”, she said.
Supplies for the clean up were donated by individuals and local businesses. A nice spread of food kept the volunteers’ strength up, and gave an opportunity for the housed and unhoused to get to know each other.
Here are some more photographs from the event, including a few from the new home of the Belmont Goats located next to the trail.
Ever since the St. Johns Neighborhood Association board changed hands to several new members who express anti-houseless sentiments their meetings have been writhe with contention for their every decision or attempted change of the status quo.
February’s meeting was the more of the exact same situation. The meeting held at the St. Johns Community Center started promptly at 7 pm. A partial recording of the meeting is provided below.
Board member Mike Vial addressed the perception that the SJNA had an anti-homeless attitude. “We aren’t trying to be anti-homeless”, he said “we are just trying to address the concerns of neighbors”.
Safety concerns and public safety was one of the first topics of the evening, and several members voiced their concerns about how they feel uncomfortable with the houselessness situation in the area and further attributed most crime in the area to the houseless of St. Johns. Next, SJNA Board Chair Marisa Peters provided a public service announcement about the dangers of human and sex trafficking in the Portland area and suggested members educate themselves further.
Next thing addressed was concerns that members had that only the SJNA board members and not the rest of the community were invited to a meeting with Robert King, senior policy advisor for Mayor Ted Wheeler, about the houseless situation in St. Johns and the board’s concerns about the outreach and harm reduction organization Portland People’s Outreach Project. When asked why community members were excluded Peter responded that the decision was that of King’s and not the SJNA’s. She explained that there will be a follow-up meeting in 30 days.
The next agenda item was a committee report given by member Liza deGlee. The main thing mentioned was that neighbors are still concerned about the area near where PPOP distributes their harm reduction supplies. The SJNA is working to address those issues, they said.
Gloria Luzader, the board’s Safety and Livability chair shared that the next month’s NA meeting would feature this election cycle’s District Attorney candidates, and would take questions from the members and provide answers for the group.
Land use updates were provided by board member Vial. He mentioned that the NA is currently looking for a Spanish translator and interpreter for future projects so they can be more inclusive to those St. Johns residents whose second language is English. He further mentioned there is a redevelopment of an 18-unit apartment and several projects like the Lombard Multimodal Safety Project and Oregon Department of Transportation‘s I-5 project in the works.
The unfinished business section of the agenda was the longest of the agenda points for the meeting. Vial led that part and the first thing mentioned was the attempted bylaw changes. Previously SJNA tried to change the membership requirement for individuals to provide a physical address. This change was completely dropped once Vial was shown by research from Village Portland that the laws had changed. The new wording for that was actually “contact information” which can simply include an email address. This was found acceptable by advocates who felt the group was trying to silence the houseless residents of St. Johns voices.
The other changes made to the bylaw redrafting we minor and mostly grammatical in nature, according to Vial. There were several other bylaw changes that were questioned by attendees like TJ Parker, a concerned resident who believes the SJNA is being overly aggressive and rushing the bylaw changes. One of the major issues voiced by Parker and other members was that there was no requirement for board members to attend all meetings including general assembly, monthly, and board meetings. The grievance process for board members and the way it was structured was also mentioned as being a concern for members.
The bylaw changes have been a major issue for the SJNA for several months and the revisions have been highly contended while the group has attempted to pass them. Due to several members feeling the bylaw changes were being rushed by the NA, it was rejected due to the inability to get at least two-thirds of the voting member’s approval.
There were several tense moments during this portion of the meeting including board member * Rachel Day getting frustrated with those opposing the changes and yelling “get a life” at one of them and Safety and Livability board member Luzader getting up from her seat and walking over to get into Parker’s face to yell at him. This incident was concluded after an attempt by Peter to get Luzader to sit back down. Afterward, Luzader walked by this journalist while asking Vial “can I just kill him?”
* Editor’s note: We regret that there was a mis-attribution in the original version.
“The groups attempts to pass little changes within their bylaws is highly troubling” stated Parker. Others in attendance further went on to express that Luzader behavior was not acceptable as a member of the NA and that she should be removed.
This part of the meeting was concluded after Vial called for a revote and it was rejected again for lacking to get a majority voting approval. Vial later stated on Facebook that any further attempts to change the bylaws will not go forward and the whole process will be dropped besides the changes to the ‘address’ requirement as to reflect the new law of only “contact information” being needed.
Editor’s note: Based on feedback from Donna Cohen, we retooled / struck through some editorializing language in the reporting and included a direct quote from Cohen. We also added how to learn more about the STEM advocacy work at Roosevelt High School.
The final agenda point for the evening was an update on the attempt to get proper facilities at Roosevelt High School for STEM programs made by Donna Cohen beginning @ about 57:15. She again overlooked the attemptsto have arts included alongsidescience, technology, engineering, and mathematics. When asked why her response was, “they have a strong enough arts program, they don’t need help”.
This reporter asked about a movement to include the arts with STEM.
The point behind attempting to include arts is to increase advocacy for these programs, advocates contend. Cohen seemed to be unable to grasp that concept.
Cohen responded: “The thing to know is that Roosevelt has a full arts program. They don’t have a full STEM program. That’s why we have to focus on that.”
She added that when the school’s remodel was done, they had arts advocates participating. But when they remodeled the STEM work space, she said it was neglected.
A bond is going to fund a new building at Roosevelt, and Cohen said they are looking for more advocates to make sure proper STEM work space is allocated in it. Find out more about the effort here, or reach Cohen here.
After running over their allotted time by several minutes the NA meeting was adjourned.
Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.
About 100 people attended the St. Johns Neighborhood Association January general meeting. On the agenda was a presentation from a group that runs a syringe exchange as well as proposed changes to the organization’s bylaws.
@ 8:40 – Robert King, policy advisor to Mayor Ted Wheeler and former Portland Police Bureau North Precinct Commander, gives a presentation about public safety.
@ 27:20 – The Portland People’s Outreach Project gave a presentation about their work in the neighborhood. One of the neighbors who use their services spoke as well as neighbors who opposed the program.
Questions from neighbors interrupted their presentation, and you see them resume at the beginning of the video.
@ 1:04:30 – The board’s discussion of the bylaws begins. The board said they plan to vote on the bylaw revisions next meeting. We examined the issue closely, including some concerns neighbors have about the new SJNA’s stance on services here.
The next SJNA general meetings will be held on Monday, February 10 from 7 pm – 8:30 pm at the St. Johns Community Center, 8427 N. Central St.
General meetings take place on the 2nd Monday of each month, go here for specific dates.
We received a very detailed reply to our question about non-profits and the need for them to collect addresses from members. It sheds a lot of light on the conflict in St. Johns concerning the SJNA’s plan to seek a non-profit designation.
It’s unconventional, but because it’s so comprehensive and readable I’m going to include the entire message from Kristina Edmunson, communications director for Oregon’s attorney general:
“There appears to be some confusion about legal requirements so we will attempt to clarify:
Every Oregon public benefit corporation must have at least three directors that are responsible for overseeing the organization. Directors may also serve as officers. Some organizations also opt to have voting “members.” That is optional, although if that option is selected, then the “members” have certain rights under the Nonprofit Corporation Act, at ORS Chapter 65. The people who create the nonprofit are responsible for determining eligibility criteria for membership, which is generally include in corporate bylaws. Depending on the bylaws, members may have the right to elect directors, but they do not have the same decision making authority as the directors. The membership provisions in the nonprofit code are similar in concept to that state or local elections for a representative to a board or legislature.
Just like a registered voter must provide an address, a member is required to provide an address at which they agree to receive mailings related to the nonprofit and its elections. Up until this year, the address was required to be a mailing address, although it did not necessarily have to be a personal residence, just a place where the member would be able to receive mail. But the law was recently changed, and as of Jan. 1, 2020, a member must provide “contact information” at which they elect to receive election notices and other communications related to the nonprofit. ‘Contact information’ could be either a physical mailing address, a PO Box, or an email address.
There are some exceptions, but in general, the nonprofit corporation is required to maintain the membership list and provide a copy of the membership list that includes members’ chosen contact information to other members that request a copy of the list, which is not unlike obtaining a list of registered voters, although obviously on a smaller scale. In general, the membership list does not need to be provided to any governmental entity. The requirement that the organization maintain a membership list is a state law requirement, and not an IRS requirement.
Unlike the membership list, which is generally only made available to other members, both our office and the IRS require directors to provide a mailing address at which they can receive communications. That address may become a public record because the reports themselves are a public record, but it is not necessary to list a physical or residential address. A PO Box is acceptable and many directors list the address of the nonprofit.
Until the new legislation is integrated into the statute books later this year, the new statutes are a little difficult to read, but can be found at this link:
Although Portland is still grappling with rising rates of unhoused persons, some neighbors in the St. Johns are against any form of village project in their community.
Several transitional camps and village projects have been founded due to the housing state of emergency, such as the Kenton Women’s Village, Right 2 Dream Too, and the Hazelnut Grove Village. These village projects have offered stability and hope for residents, and access to services which would enable many of them to become permanently housed.
Hazelnut Grove Village is a well-known organized and City-sanctioned transitional village for those experiencing homelessness. For about a year, it has been seeking a new location within a reasonable distance from where it is currently situated in the Overlook neighborhood.
In 2018, organizers at Hazelnut connected with community and City leaders to re-establish the village at St. Johns Church, located at 8044 N Richmond Ave.
The lack of places for houseless persons to go in the area led some to establish a peer-led transitional houseless camp called Jason Barns Landing, that has since been disbanded due to frequent sweeps and pressure from authorities.
The plan for St Johns Village is slated to be similar in design to that of “a village in Clackamas County that is managed by Do Good Multnomah,” and the Kenton Women’s Village, with “bathrooms, kitchens and designed pods.”
The project is still in the late planning stages and isn’t expected to be built and ready for residents until late 2020, nearly a year from now.
Even though the St. Johns Village project has the support of a community organization called St. Johns Welcomes the Village coalition, St. Johns Church, and the Joint Office of Homeless Services— some neighbors are unhappy about it.
New NA board pushback
In October, the newly-elected St. Johns Neighborhood Association (SJNA) Board of Directors voted to oppose any “homeless camp, ‘tiny village’, or similar accommodation at this location regardless of whether the current Hazelnut Grove Village residents are relocated to this site.”
According to SJNA, “All fifteen of the new directors ran on a platform of opposition to the establishment of a homeless camp,” at the October board of directors election.
Expressing its staunch opposition to the village project, the SJNA sent letters to the parties associated with the project: JOHS, the St. Johns Center for Opportunity, St. Johns Church, and Do Good Multnomah.
In the letter to JOHS, SJNA wrote that “St. Johns residents are tired of being treated like second class citizens,” and that “any assurances by your office, or the City, that you will address our safety and livability concerns will be met with a great deal of skepticism.”
PPOP is an all-volunteer project of the Peoples Harm Reduction Alliance headquartered in Seattle. It’s website informs that PHRA “runs a need-based needle distribution program serving the region of Cascadia since 2007.”
In 2018, the PHRA won an award from the Seattle Human Services Coalition for ‘the most innovative program due to taking “a fresh innovative approach to the needle exchange model and non-profits in general.”
The St. Johns Center for Opportunity and the St. Johns Christian Church also received strong words from the St. Johns Neighborhood Association in opposition to the village project.
In the letters, SJNA asserts “that SJCO has decided to actively dedicate itself to harming our neighborhood,” and to “please be advised that SJNA will avail itself of every available administrative and legal remedy to prevent [the church] from profiting off of the suffering that you wish to impose on our neighborhood.”
The SJNA board accused the SJCO executive director Lindsay Jensen of “actively working to promote PPOP’s needle distribution project,” and that she was “the driving force” behind the move of Hazelnut Grove to a transitional village in the St. Johns neighborhood.
On December 5th, I reached out to the SJCO for comment on the letter they received from the SJNA. Lena, the interim executive director of SJCO, who replaced Lindsay Jensen on December 2nd, says she had just become aware of the neighborhood association letter after accepting the temporary position and that a board member would reach out to me to answer my questions. No further communication was received from SJCO for this article.
Shelia Mason is the leader of the St. Johns Welcomes the Village Coalition which supports the JOHS transitional village project.
Mason says that during the October SJNA board elections, “a group of neighbors who are passionately opposed to the transitional tiny home project, through standard NA process, flooded an NA meeting where annual elections are held, stuffed the vote, and took over the NA.”
Proposed changes to bylaws
At the December 2019 SJNA meeting, board members brought forth a proposal to alter the SJNA bylaws to require an address in order to be considered “an active member of the NA”, which was reported on by Village Portland‘s Cory Elia.
Many homeless advocates believe the address requirement is an attempt to exclude unhoused neighbors, and that having an address isn’t required for membership in a non-profit or neighborhood association.
Marisa Peter, chair of the SJNA, wrote that NA leadership were finalizing revisions to the bylaws with an explanation for each ahead of the vote at the February meeting. SJNA leadership are seeking a federal non-profit status, she wrote, which has different standards for members, and “requires membership to be defined”.
She said that it’s unfortunate that advocates believe the SJNA are trying to exclude unhoused neighbors. St. Johns Center for Opportunity allow unhoused people to use their address for mailings, she wrote, which would allow them to participate under the new standards proposed.
Increasing membership was part of the platform Peter ran on, she wrote, and the federal non-profit status will help them raise funds so they can improve outreach, including adding language translation and publishing a print newsletter.
Peter didn’t respond to the follow-up question regarding who was advising them on the federal non-profit standards or what sources they’re referencing.
The officials weigh in
We didn’t find a consensus for non-profit standards regarding members addresses on the state level, and a federal designation seems to be an entirely different issue.
In Oregon, non-profit organizations are registered and be certified by the Secretary of State. Andrea Chiapella, legislative director with Oregon Secretary of State wrote:
“SOS cannot weigh in on what the IRS requires as that would be under the purview of the IRS, but I can tell you that for SOS filings we require the names and addresses of the officers only. That would include at least the President and Secretary. We would not want or need the addresses of each member for our filing purposes, but again, we cannot speak to what the IRS might need.”
Doretta R. Schrock, an associate program director North Portland Neighborhood Services, the neighborhood coalition that oversees St. Johns said she thinks the law governing non-profit law requires members give addresses.
“I’m not a lawyer nor an expert on Oregon nonprofit law, but from ORS 65.224, it appears that a membership corporation must list names and addresses of members.”
She encouraged us to reach out to the Secretary of State, Department of Justice, or an attorney specializing in non-profit law. We reached out to the DoJ, but didn’t hear back before publishing.
St. Johns Neighborhood Association January general meeting:
St. Johns Community Center, 8427 N Central St * Monday, January 13 * 7 pm – 8:30 pm
Voting for the SJNA is available to:
“All members who have attended at least one (1) of the last two (2) general or special meetings of the membership or at least one (1) of the last two (2) board meetings shall have one vote each to be cast during attendance at any general or special meeting.
Membership is open to: “all residents 18 years of age and older, property owners, governmental agencies, business licensees, and nonprofit organizations located (or performing a significant part of their services) within the boundaries of SJNA.”
You can find out what neighborhood you’re in by entering your address here.
Timeline / further info on St. Johns Village
Mason also reiterates how the current location for Hazelnut Grove Village was always intended to be temporary, and that “talks about this specific move into St. Johns has been in progress for more than a year, if not 18 months.”
The City-run Home for Everyonepage regarding the St Johns Village, contains data about the homelessness in the area, a FAQ, expectations of the village residents, details of the proposed project, how the organizers would address safety concerns, and document links dating back to October 13, 2018.
With additional reporting by Andrew Wilkins.
Lesley McLam is completing her second degree at Portland Community College, studying journalism and communications. She’s the proud mama of a beautiful 14-year-old black cat, and a volunteer anchor, copywriter, reporter, and occasional producer at KBOO community radio who is just beginning to learn about the world of podcasting.