A new SJNA board is introduced, and the transitional housing village is discussed

By MARGO CRAIG

Editor’s note: We were informed by Liz Smith, president of the St. Johns Boosters said that it’s the St. Johns Center for Opportunity running the storefront improvement program, not the Boosters. The incorrect information is struck through in the story and what was added is italicized. We apologize for any confusion and greatly appreciate reader feedback.

A new board of directors introduced themselves to the St. Johns Neighborhood Association in this month’s General Meeting held November 9th online. Many echoed Chair Jose Alamilla’s goal: make SJNA more inclusive.

Vice Chair Gary Becker vicechair@stjohnspdx.org said he hopes to keep operations running smoothly.

Secretary Jennifer Stein moved the meeting platform to Microsoft TEAMS because it can host more people and is cheaper than Zoom. It also offers closed captioning in English and Spanish— though many members appeared to have problems with this feature.

Bernadine Lee is Treasurer. Current SJNA funds are $3,324.

A separate arts fund raised $100 to repair a mural and fund a sculpture project. 

Michelle Brinning is chair of land use.

Gloria Luzader, chair of safety and livability, introduced herself as “part of a group that was very much against the location of St. Johns village given its proximity to schools”.

The St. Johns Village Project will build 19 tiny homes, or “pods”, on an empty Richmond Street lot across from the St. Johns Church to transition people off the streets and into permanent housing. Luzader added that she is “not happy with the direction the website is going in.”

Rose Williams is in charge of outreach for the transitional housing village. She is the former St. Johns Farmer’s Market manager, a food equity advocate, and someone who wants to “help rebuild community trust in the organization, and develop a consistent strategy for communication to make sure that people can attend meetings, stay aware of agendas and keep the community updated about developments with newsletters”. She also wants to find translators for the materials.

Trina Noonan will focus on board organization and functionality. Joining her was Bryan Noonan, an “at large member” who wants to help with cleanups and neighborhood projects.

Other at-large members include Emerson Loustau, who has been involved in projects involving Portland’s homelessness crisis; Colette Peck, an active volunteer in organizations throughout the city; Jessica Ehnot, who is focused on assisting children and businesses through the pandemic; and Heather Campbell, who is updating the St. Johns logo and helps run St. Johns Clutter Busters, a group of volunteers that clean up trash in the neighborhood.

The next event will meet at James John Elementary School this Saturday, Nov. 14 at noon.

Stephanie Blair, introduced herself as the new director of the St. Johns Center for Opportunity, an organization that focuses on workforce development, neighborhood placemaking and small business development.

It is funded by Prosper Portland. Blair also runs the Farmer’s Market which will pick back up in Spring.

Watch our visit to the market from earlier in its season:

Meeting

The St. Johns Center for Opportunity has downsized in space and staffing. Blair is the only full time staff member and the new location at 8160 N. Jersey Street will no longer run a food pantry or offer free clothing. (The Clothes Closet has been moved to Grace Fellowship Church on N. Bank Street open Sundays after service).

Liz Smith, president of St. Johns Boosters, offers free social media consulting for business owners through the SJCO.

Smith said it is the SJCO that’s hosting the storefront improvement project. She kindly provided this link to the program.

Smith is running a fundraiser through December for a grant funding program for local businesses to upgrade their interior and exterior storefronts. She is working on launching that program earlier than January, as planned.

People who donate to the program may win prizes, she said. Contact Smith and get more information on the program at info@stjohnsboosters.org. She’s been president of the group since January.

Smith has been helping businesses move to online ordering and curbside for pandemic precautions. She is working on a comprehensive list showing how people can buy what businesses offer, what their current situation is, and how you can get in touch.

The current list is here.

Smith urged people to explore alternative ways to support St. Johns businesses. “Gift cards, for example, are a great way to support businesses quickly”, Smith said. She is also looking for ways to engage people running businesses from home.

Holiday lights strung around the district will be turned on November 10th, Smith said. While St. Johns Boosters typically raises funds for the lights, this year the festive lighting is a gift.

This year, there will be a holiday tree in the St. Johns Plaza, but no lighting ceremony. Smith is working with IQ Credit Union to hand out art supplies so people can make decorations for the tree at home.

The upcoming St. Johns Boosters meeting will feature two speakers. One will talk about the Lombard Street Project, which will tear up old railroad tracks next summer, and another will talk about business recycling.

Donna Cohen is hosting a free workshop on Nov 17th: “Misinformation, fake news and political propaganda,” which she discussed on a recent episode of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud. Those interested in attending can call the Bandon Public Library to sign up.

Drafting the Neighborhood Agreement with Do Good Multnomah

Chris Aiosa, executive director of Do Good Multnomah and Andy Goebel, emergency management director of Do Good Multnomah and pastor of Portsmouth Church attended the meeting to summarize progress on the Neighborhood Agreement between Do Good Multnomah and the SJNA regarding the St. Johns Village for transitional housing.

“The one thing I want to remind the people of St. Johns is that there is a housing crisis in every neighborhood in the city. There is no resource in St. Johns and we are bringing one to the neigjborhood that we are really excited about,” Aiosa said.

“Our hope is that we want to be good neighbors and we want to come together and support these new neighbors that will be moving into the neighborhood and work alongside all of you to make sure that it is successful,” Goebel said.

Construction to lay foundational work begins tomorrow morning. ModsPDX, a St. Johns business, is building the pods that will be moved to the location. They hope to move people in by 2021. Staff will provide pod and support services. “It’s not that someone moves into that space and that’s their new home. It’s a space where they will be supported in transition to their new home,” Aiosa said.

“We are committed to mitigate that in whatever way we can, but Do Good [Multnomah] will not be solely responsible for taking care and dealing with all the campers immediately around the village or in the neighborhood. Our programming has to do with the village itself.”

Aiosa described the village as an “alternative, cost effective and successful shelter model” that operates similarly to transitional models. “In our village manual, we state that we want to work with individuals to move them into permanent, affordable housing in 24 months or less”. The average stay in the Kenton’s Women’s Village run by Do Good Multnomah is 10 months.

Do Good Multnomah is currently working on obtaining referrals from local service providers and community members to ensure the pods are filled by current houseless neighbors in St. Johns.

One neighbor was concerned about the village attracting more street camping. 

“The language around ‘camp’ is unfortunate. We are building a village,” Goebel said.

“Although the concern around camping around the village is a genuine concern. As an organization, we will be able to communicate with anyone trying to camp in the area.” He added that the City has told people camping by the lot to move for construction.

Another neighbor was concerned about language in the agreement around smoking, trespassing and littering. “None of these should be mentioned in these agreements because these aren’t reciprocal. Housed neighbors aren’t asked to do this.”

The directors reassured that these are general terms given in good faith to neighbors concerned about the village’s proximity to schools. 

“More so than placing the burden on the residents, we place it on use to make sure that we are being a good partner, to make sure that this is going to be a successful program, that we are going to be a successful great neighbor that St. Johns can be proud of,” Aiosa said.

One neighbor questioned the purpose of the agreement if it is not “legally enforceable”:

“To the extent that this agreement is violated by one of the parties, what can anybody do about it. And if they can’t do anything about it, what’s the point?”

Goebel answered, “If the stakeholders aren’t interested in abiding by the agreement then they shouldn’t be part of the agreement. The participants have a separate service manual that the directors, i.e. us, would make sure that they are living up to… If we didn’t hold our end of the bargain, folks can go to the Joint Office of Homelessness [Services] to make sure we are holding up to our end of the bargain.”

Several community members pointed to similar agreements made between SJNA and businesses, like 7-11, Recology, Columbia Steel.

(Basic information and links to related documents can be found here: www.ahomeforeveryone.net/stjohnsvillage.)

The auction for the Do Good Multnomah fundraiser for Veterans Day is open:  https://dogoodmultnomah.org/fundraiser

St. Johns Food Share has changed hours to Monday 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and Friday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

***

3 thoughts on “A new SJNA board is introduced, and the transitional housing village is discussed

    1. Happy to help! There is a lot of awesome work happening in St. Johns and we want to spotlight it and encourage more folks to get involved.

      Indie media is challenging, so the best way you can help is to spread the word & share our work with friends and neighbors!

      Thanks for reading & caring about your community,
      Andrew Wilkins

      Like

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