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.
Listen to audio from the meeting in the video above.
There were 27 members at the meeting, and from a rough count, there seemed to be just as many non-members present too.
One of the most contested topics of the evening was a changing of bylaws proposed by SJNA land use chair Mike Vial that would result in any individual that was unable to provide an address from being an “active member” of the NA. This was reacted to by several local houselessness advocates at the meeting. They demanded that the meeting be adjourned prematurely.
After that was voted down by the majority of members, the concerns by those advocates were voiced. Their statements were met with opposition and several attempts to quiet them by Vial and the board chair Marisa Peter.
Despite threats by the city of not being recognized as a legitimate NA Overlook made the changes to their bylaws anyway. However, Lents did not and still doesn’t require an address to be an “active member” in their bylaws.
“It’s a direct attempt to silence the houseless of this neighborhood” stated Benji Vuong who was one of the main advocates who spoke out against the proposed changes. “The SJNA thought they could sneak this by the people of this neighborhood without notice and if we didn’t speak up, they would have passed the changes tonight” Vuong volunteers with several local outreach groups in St. Johns and many others across Portland.
Representatives from the SJNA said that the proposed change has been posted on their website for almost a month.
The next SJNA meeting will be on January 13th from 7 pm – 8:30 pm at the St. Johns Community Center (8427 N. Central St.). For more information on the meeting, visit the SJNA website linked above. Also visit the website to learn more about the SJNA and get involved with the organization.
There is a special meeting planned for Thursday, December 19th from 7 pm – 8 pm at the St. Johns Community Center. “The brief meeting will discuss one topic: Nomination for Special Committee – Grievance. It is open to the public.”
In other happenings at the meeting, a representative from 2020 Census gave a presentation.
The 2020 census is a decennial census and will be conducted in March. The census bureau is also in the midst of a giant hiring wave for census takers. The recent growth of the state of Oregon could result in an extra congressional seat if properly captured. Federal funding for states is also determined from the results of the census. Furthermore, the 2020 census is one of the most underfunded censuses for over a decade.
The removal of the Trump administration’s citizenship question on the census was beneficial because it would have been majorly compromising for the census and could have resulted in a drastic undercount for states that have a large population of undocumented immigrants.
The next agenda topic for the meeting was a presentation by Portland Fire & Rescue Station 22 – St. Johns. The presentation focused on fire safety during the winter season and fire hazards could be seen during this time of year that might not be seen year-round. Making sure your personal fireplace has been properly cleaned and that Christmas lights are working properly were two of the main things they mentioned to check.
A group called Friends of Frog Ferry was next to present about their work in St. Johns. For three years, Friends of Frog Ferry has advocated for a ferry system to be established in St. Johns. The goal of the group is to “create a safe and sustainable river-friendly passenger ferry service”.
Citing research reports by PBOT and other transportation authorities from around the country, Friends of Frog Ferry believes that St. Johns both qualifies for a ferry system and is in need of one. The group was unable to obtain an cost estimate from the City and is working to figure that out. The group shared their objectives of creating the new transit system and building an emergency response service into it.
The group shared what they envision how the ferry would be able to provide transit up and down the rivers surrounding Portland. They estimate an average ticket to cost somewhere around $5.50 from Vancouver to Portland.
The group hopes the system will provide transportation on the rivers from Vancouver all the way to Oregon City if feasible. The group claims to have over 1,500 supporters for the project, the majority of those being individuals. Frog Ferry hopes to be established fully by the spring of 2023.
The SJNA took the time to share updates that have occurred since their last meeting. Land use and the restrictions on construction on building affordable housing was one of the main topics explored during this time. The residential infill project was mentioned and that a public hearing about the project will be presented at City Council in January. The SJNA hopes to also have representation from the City sent to speak about it at a future meeting of the neighborhood association.
The topic of properly funding and supporting STEM programs in schools and the fact that there are few girls being attracted to these programs was one of the next topics spoke on. This agenda topic seemed to skip over the progressive movement to get the arts represented in educational programs and not just science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and instead be known as STEAM programs.
Like the Frog Ferry project, other aspects of the waterways around St. Johns were explored. The work of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council was shared and information about what they do was passed out.
The next agenda item shared was that St. Johns like many neighborhoods of Portland has a cleanup program planned in the near future for 2020. How that might be funded and what the prospective dates will be can be obtained via SJNA’s website.
Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.
On the night of Friday, September 27th, Village Portland was contacted by a concerned neighbor, named Moon Wise, who reached out to me about an assault of a houseless individual in St. Johns. (They chose to use their Facebook name for this story, fearing retribution from the alleged attacker.)
This account was also confirmed by another neighbor who witnessed the assault, posted about it on a St. Johns Facebook group, then immediately removed the posting.
On the night of Wednesday, September 25, a homeless neighbor was collecting cans as he usually did.
Near the crossroads of Fessenden Street and Mohawk Avenue, he said was assaulted by a housed resident who shot him dozens if not hundreds of times with paint balls at point-blank range. He was left with dozens of welts and bruises all over his body, and he also believes that his hand might be broken along with several ribs.
It wasn’t long before I found KGW’s report on the situation. Their brief report stated that a homeowner used a paintball gun to assault a houseless man. They also reported attack resulted in the houseless man being hospitalized.
However, their reporting left many questions about what happened unanswered. One glaring thing that Moon Wise wanted to be pointed out was that the alleged attacker isn’t a homeowner as KGW claimed he was.
In an exchange shared with Village Portland, a representative from the news station said the only on-record information they could get was from the police. They offered to “try to send someone out there” if someone would agree to talking on camera.
The neighbors declined the offer.
According to Wise, the assault was also far more brutal than KGW first reported. After reaching out to that neighbor it was divulged to Village Portland that the posting was removed from the FB group out of fear of retaliation from the assailant on the witness or their family.
With the help of St Johns advocates, the victim (who took an assumed name of Chris) spoke to us about the attack.
They said that night while looking for cans, he was locked in a dumpster by some neighborhood kids who also stole his backpack and bag of cans. He further explains when he was attacked and what led up to that.
Listen to the audio interview on KBOO Community Radio‘s 5 pm News, tonight (October 2nd).
“I did look in his car but I was looking to see if it was manual or automatic”. Chris explained in that interview that he did this because “my little brother has an engine for a Honda and he wants a car and I figured because it was on jack stands I figured they might want to sell it”.
He explains that the alleged attacker came out flashing a gun which he pocketed when a neighbor came out of their house. He then told a friend to grab his paintball gun while telling Chris the police were being called. Chris, feeling he didn’t do anything wrong, was willing to wait for the cops until a friend of the alleged attacker told him to shoot the houseless individual.
“When I started to run he was running with me shooting me and he wouldn’t stop” stated the victim, “So I ran up and knocked on a door but they weren’t home but he hit me a couple of times in the ribs and I couldn’t breathe so I fell down and he continued to shoot me even though I was begging him to stop.”
Chris also further states in that interview that the friend of the alleged attacker who told him to shoot him was someone Chis knew from the neighborhood and that he was afraid to press charges against Tomas because of that.
Photos of Chris’ injuries:
According to a witness, the incident began because the alleged shooter felt that Chris was either trying to mess with or possible steal his vehicle. It should also be noted that according to the witness, Moon Wise, and other neighbors the car possesses no working engine and is currently on jack stands. This was confirmed by an examination of the assailants’ recent social media postings.
Confirming Chris’ story, the neighbor said that after a chase the victim ended up screaming “please stop”, and was then cornered on one of the assailant’s neighbor’s front porches near the doorway. The assailant only stopped shooting when he ran out of ammo, they said, but then reloaded and continued to fire.
Eventually, the attack ended, an ambulance was called for him, and officers took statements but never arrested the assailant. “The biggest fear of [the houseless individuals] was that cops would steal his tent” according to the witness who also had to calm him down to be taken for medical treatment.
Chris said that at the hospital, his treatment was wound cleaning, even though he suspects he received a concussion and possibly broken or fractured bones.
Neighbors are terrified by the situation and how it concluded.
This was why Moon Wise reached out to Village Portland— to try and understand why there wasn’t an arrest for such a violent assault and to make sure this incident didn’t go unknown. Wise and other neighbors are fearful of having someone so violent living near them and are questioning why the assailant isn’t in jail for assault. Moon has even emailed Mayor Ted Wheeler‘s office about the incident inquiring why.
This inspired Village Portland to reach out to several advocates working in St. Johns to locate Chris. Before any of the advocates had found him four more neighbors on that block reached out to Village Portland as well and expressed their concern that such a dangerous individual was never arrested that night.
His neighbors said that the alleged attacker and owner of the vehicle has been seen periodically patrolling his block openly carrying a pistol even while children are present, and that he is often a source of multiple problems in the neighborhood.
Village Portland contacted the alleged attacker and owner of the vehicle in question, [the alleged shooter’s name was retracted when he said he didn’t consent to it being published] for comment on the incident through social media. He provided a cell phone recording of the security footage showing Chris near his car. Due to the poor quality of the footage, it is difficult to determine exactly what Chris was doing.
He insisted that it “clearly shows [Chris] searching my vehicle” but the recording also ends before the chase and alleged assault with the paintball gun began.
The Honda’s owner said he found a broken key in the door of the Honda but provided no proof. He also wrote, “I don’t know what his intentions were, just that it wasn’t searching for cans in my vehicle.”
When asked about the paintball assault, he only responded with, “he obviously knows he was guilty of something…” and didn’t answer any further questions.
Village Portland also contacted PPB’s North Precinct for information to this case. They confirmed the attack occurred, and also stated that the case has been referred to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. Angry neighbors are continuing to email officials asking for charges to be pressed.
Along with their attempts to bring the attacker to justice, there has been an outpouring of neighborly support for Chris. The neighbors provided Chris with cold-weather supplies, are trying to find him work, and have arranged followup medical care at Outside In, a resource for the homeless community.
Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.
McLam has been reporting on Jason Barns Landing, a managed camp in North Portland that’s taking what I see as a civil disobedience approach to their camp. And their answering the question: what happens when homeless folk tire of being moved— tired of having their community scattered— keep coming back to the same place?
Both Elia and McLam are volunteers at community radio station KBOO, and use their equipment to publish a podcast called Tripp-p. Like KBOO, Open Signal, is a resource for community media creators that we’ve been collaborating with.
Another media non-profit that trains homeless youth in video storytelling we’re collaborating with, Outside the Frame, also uses Open Signal equipment.