Neighbor to Neighbor Conversation at Hacienda

Why Getting to Know your Neighbors Matters

A key takeaway heard at recent community meetings was “get to know your neighbors ” whether the topic of discussion was community safety, inclusion, or other.  In this time of rapid change and urban growth, connecting to your immediate neighbors may be less frequent to nonexistent.  With broader access to new technology and electronic media it is much easier to stay in touch with the people and issues you care most about that are not necessarily close to home.  According to a 2015 report from City Observatory—an urban-policy think tank—with contributors such as Dillon Mahmoudi from PSU’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning—about one third of Americans say they have never interacted with their neighbors.  Over several decades there has been known research on the increasing disconnect of individuals from community.  One result of this is fragmentation of community is the growing desire to seek ties outside your surroundings to find your tribe in order to satiate the need for belonging, shared interests, trust, reciprocity, being heard, support and like-mindedness.

What’s happening in Portland

With economically challenged and newcomer families with children it can be more isolating and daunting to not know your neighbors and have to travel a distance to meet daily needs with little time or opportunities for much else.  The fracture of diverse mixed income neighborhoods plays a key role.  Census data shows shifts in location of poverty and residences of communities of color in Portland.  It is partly the impetus for several complex long range planning measures, those in the know, encountered during Portland’s Comprehensive Plan update and the Residential Infill Project process, for instance.  Also, if you take a close look at a city’s budget, you will find that investment in social capital —whether it is place-based or involving communities of interest or identity—is notably disproportionate to the investment in other types of essential civic functions in urban areas.   It is not a new phenomenon as cited in the Observatory—“Jane Jacobs observed decades ago, cities work best when they bring people of diverse backgrounds, with different ideas and perspectives, into close connection”—.  Jane Jacobs’ influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) introduced sociological concepts such as “eyes on the street” and “social capital”.

On the upside, Portlanders may benefit from being more civically engaged.  In the City’s 2016 community survey 40% of respondents reported participating in a community project or attending a public meeting at least once in 2016.  This is a number that has remained relatively steady over the past five years —even if only half of those reported feeling that they had opportunities to influence government decisions.  The survey was out in November 2016 and the numbers of those who are engaged have likely increased since.   As you know there are many resources and initiatives to help connect people and to connect people to place.  The value of building relationships with your immediate neighbors can be easily overlooked and can depend on the level of disconnection and/or change happening around your block.  Are you willing to step out, take the time and offer to shovel the sidewalk of a disabled neighbor on a snow day, drop off groceries for an elder renter, or leave something for a new mother?  This immediate connection could help promote “community resilience” in small and big ways— which is also language that emerges frequently in the public discourse as of late.

Benefits of neighbor to neighbor connections

Exploring and realizing ways to reach out to your neighbors has countless benefits including access to resources, information, and support, and an increased sense of well-being, learning opportunities, open mindedness and of course belonging.  Living in proximity without stepping out of your comfort zone and making a connection may in fact be more painful in times of conflicting interests or when more immediate needs such as safety come into play.  Closer in neighbor to neighbor connections help to implement strategies such as Portland’s Healthy Connected Neighborhood.   As well, through local organizing more opportunities to know your neighbors can be fostered.  Even when we may not know our neighbors it can be reassuring and even a comfort to know you are surrounded in large part by people who need essentially the same things you do.  The Journal of Social Science & Medicine, found that people who said they knew and trusted their neighbors were also more likely to report higher rates of health and well-being than those who said they did not know or trust their neighbors.  Other studies have shown how making time for a little small talk with people you don’t know can make your day more enjoyable even if it may feel awkward.  This knowledge of the interconnection of community and health can improve our lives when put into simple practice.

Creating opportunities

With growing diversity in age, culture, background, race, abilities, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin and life experiences there are several ways to overcome barriers to neighbor to neighbor connections.  The Office of Neighborhood Involvement has an accommodations fund accessible through the district coalitions and other community partners which provides funds for interpretation, childcare, different abilities, etc. to help broaden access to participation.   Another resource to get to know and meet your immediate neighbors is to organize a block party,  potluck, or living room meet and greet which is not limited to closing the street in nice weather though that does have its advantages.   The neighborhood newsletter that is delivered to your doorstep also promotes National Night Out events including at apartment complexes.  It may also include information on organizing for emergency preparedness through the neighborhood emergency teams where ideally people on the block would know about the skills and tools available and the special needs of their neighbors.

There are opportunities to create something new such as a social media blast to invite all Portlanders to participate in an Annual Be a Good Neighbor event—a day where we intentionally step out to greet a neighbor(s) using a platform than can transmit the power of storytelling.  For example, a recent proposed demolition in Roseway showed evidence of an elder being priced out, while neighbors were trying to intervene and pay back taxes on her behalf.  There are many powerful untold stories of neighborly support rooted in connection.  When stepping out of your comfort zone being mindfully prepared to let go of any anticipated reciprocity helps to tame feelings of awkwardnessalso knowing when to give others the space they need.  Getting to know your neighbors fosters community cohesion.  By taking the time to connect with a friendly gesture it could be possible to grow opportunities for neighbors to be engaged.  If you haven’t already, today seems like as good a day as any to greet your neighbor whether in a stairway, elevator, or on your street.

By Sandra Lefrancois

Completion of 4 tiny houses at Dignity Village

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ashley Howe, ReBuilding Center, Marketing & Communications Manager
503-729-7935 | ashley@rebuildingcenter.org

 

REBUILDING CENTER, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, TRADES TRAINING GROUPS, CITY OFFICIALS, AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSELESS COMMUNITY CELEBRATE THE COMPLETION OF FOUR TINY HOUSES AT DIGNITY VILLAGE

Portland, OR (March 28th)  –  On April 4, the ReBuilding Center (RBC), trades training organizations such as Portland Youth Builders (PYB), Constructing Hope, and Oregon Tradeswomen (OTI), as well as members of the houseless community, city officials, community members, DPI Solar, and the Portland Trail Blazers, will be celebrating a major collaborative milestone—the completion of four tiny houses for the houseless at Dignity Village in Northeast Portland.

In 2000, Dignity Village was established as “a membership-based community in Northeast Portland, providing shelter off the streets,” where close to 60 Villagers work democratically to self-govern “with a mission to provide transition housing that fosters community and self-empowerment.”

Over the last couple of months, the ReBuilding Center, alongside trades training organizations, partners, volunteers, and Village residents, has been working to deconstruct some of the 15-year-old structures at Dignity Village that were plagued with leaky roofs, rotting wood, and mold, and were not secured with locks. Four new, insulated, and secure 8-by-14 structures have been built in their place with weather-resistant cedar and salvaged materials. About a third of the materials were donated by the ReBuilding Center, and the rest were funded by a couple members of the Trail Blazers community. Members of another houseless community, Hazelnut Grove, lent a hand to help Dignity Village construct the walls of all four houses.

The building process provided an opportunity for women, youth ages 17-24, people of color, and those exiting the criminal justice system to gain hands-on vocational skills while creating safe shelters that help residents achieve greater agency in their lives. “Some of these houses that people were living in were in terrible shape,” said one volunteer, “and the quality of their lives changed enormously in a positive way.” One of the Dignity Village couples that was able to move into their new home remarked, “It’s going to be so great to sleep on a mattress that isn’t wet.”

DPI Solar provided volunteer labor to install solar panels, which were affixed to each of the new homes with roof slopes designed to maximize solar capture. This technology aims to not only power Dignity Village, but also to become a net producer in the summer, allowing the Village to pass along excess energy to low-income users.

The Portland Trail Blazers helped coordinate the finances and the partnership with DPI Solar, saying about the project, “I am honored to bring together this great team of concerned citizens. It has been great partnering with Tom from the ReBuilding Center, Yianni, the architect, and Josh who has provided the solar panels. I also have to express sincere gratitude to a couple special Trail Blazers fans who funded the project and to the Blazers staff for helping to actually build the homes.”

Tumbleweed, a war veteran with disabilities and proud new owner of a newly constructed tiny house, said, “I’m very grateful and it’s so nice to be warm, dry, with a good lock on the door. Plus, I can’t hear the airplanes anymore and the cedar smells so good!” Various houseless villages around town have been coordinating with each other as part of a larger network. Tom Patzkowski, the ReBuilding Center Store Manager, points out that the project is, “a community collaboration between advocacy groups for people experiencing houselessness, and trades training groups that help disadvantaged youth and adults gain skills that will help them in their future careers, while working together and bonding with others.”

The completion of this first phase of the project allows organizers to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, with aims to construct four more tiny houses equipped with solar panels and to develop a prototype house that will allow groups to build repeatedly and scale up production in the future. The goal is to raise $25,000 in funding to build the next four structures by Labor Day, 2018. In the words of the volunteer Mike Mitchell, who will be serving as project manager for the next phase, “We’re going to figure out how to do things faster and better. We’re all in it together. It’s time to get this done because it’s worth doing. It’s a project with heart.”

For those interested in donating their time, materials, or money to the project, please contact mike@wolfgate.org.

 

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REBUILDING CENTER

Founded in 1997, the ReBuilding Center (RBC) builds equitable community through reuse by valuing and activating human and material resources to strengthen the social and environmental fabric of our local communities. RBC deconstructs buildings as an alternative to demolition, salvages and sells materials donated by the public, and invests its profits into its ReFind Education, Volunteer, and Community Outreach programs.

 

 

Advocate for NE Sandy Improvements  

Thank you to all who participated in the Nov. workshop with LUTOP. The information gathered will be included in PBOT’s pre-application for the Transportation and Growth Management grant. Once we clear this first hurdle we are going to need letters of support from the community for the proposal. We look forward to a community-driven planning process to highlight the right improvements for our area!

Air Monitoring Station in Sumner

Air quality advocates worked with DEQ to finalize an agreement with the School Districts for access to locate an air monitoring station.  This is at Helensview Alternative School in Sumner  near the community garden where neighbors live close to industrial and other air pollutants by I-205.  If all goes according to plan DEQ expects to start sampling air by the beginning of March.

2018 is Bright with New Capacity Building Grants!

Town Cinema to Screen Indie Movies for the Whole Summer

An independent film is a film production resulting in a feature film that is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system.

Travel Tips: America’s 20 Best National Parks

A national park is a park in use for conservation purposes. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns.

TownPress Half Marathon Draws over 500 Runners

A half marathon is a road running event of 21.0975 kilometres (13.1094 mi). It is half the distance of a marathon and usually run on roads.

Central Northeast Neighbors (CNN) is committed to broaden community engagement and leadership.  We awarded $11,000 in grants to four community groups and organizations that will engage diverse neighbors in the new year.  We are grateful  the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) invested $9,330 and CNN $1,670.  More significantly $150,000 in donations and other contributions will be leveraged by the grantees to accomplish community building goals.

Andando en Bicicletas en Cully, $2000             

Community Cycling Center with Hacienda CDC

To support bicycle advocacy and community leadership program activities. This partnership engages Cully’s Latino community in clinics,  workshops, community events such as Sunday Parkways, and skill building.

Community Organizing with the African American Community in Cully, $3000

Living Cully with Urban League of Portland
To cultivate culturally focused engagement and advocacy with Cully’s African American community. Funds will be used for outreach, organizing community meetings, and building networks.

New Year in the Park, $3000 
Hmong American Community of Oregon

To support immigrant and refugee community organizing for the SE Asian New Year celebration at Glenhaven Park in Madison South. The event builds leadership and strengthens partnerships between diverse groups.

Uniting to Break the Chains of Racism, $3000
Race Talks World Arts Foundation 

To conduct outreach and a training program for volunteer leaders from the CNN area at Race Talks. Educational panel events open to all at the McMenamins Kennedy School.

Building Community Together!
The Small Grants Program supports efforts that  achieve one or more of the following goals:
 Increase the number and diversity of people who are engaged in their communities and neighborhoods.
 Strengthen community and neighborhood capacity to build community leadership, identity, skills, relationships and/or partnerships.
 Increase community and neighborhood impact on public decisions and community life.

Block Parties Build Community!

It is the season to connect and get to know your neighbors while grilling and chilling. Some of the most popular gatherings are hosted at apartment complexes-  National Night Out in Hollywood (photo)  is an event that brings diverse neighbors together to enjoy BBQ and to make new connections that may not happen in other settings.  If you are hosting a block party on your street at anytime the new online PBOT application is now live!

National Night Out has been celebrated across North America on the first Tuesday of August since 1983. It’s a day when people hold parties to strengthen community cohesiveness and crime resistance, and get to know their neighbors and their local public safety officials. When neighbors get to know each other, they create a connected and safer community. Every year, more than 20,000 people in Portland participate. The Office of Neighborhood Involvement’s Crime Prevention Program has responsibility for coordinating National Night Out (NNO) in Portland.

  • Official date of NNO: Tuesday, August 1st, 2017. In Portland, residents and businesses may also hold a NNO party between Friday, July 28th and Sunday, August 6th, 2017.
  • Registration is open from June 6th-July 18th.

Questions? Call 503-823-4064 or email onicpa@portlandoregon.gov.

Stay Connected Workshop!

How to get the best outreach results using online tools–Busy organizing community activities with limited time and resources to get the word out -all the while hoping social media and online props will help you to meet outreach goals? Learn new tips using online tools to best reach your community at a free workshop conducted by a professional media trainer May 31st. Space is limited.

Neighbors Advocate to Improve Access in Under-invested Areas

Neighbors advocate for street improvements in areas that have been under-invested such as NE 82nd & 60th Max station areas, NE Halsey safety and access to transit and the NE 72 pedestrian & bikeway to Killingsworth in Cully.  City staff are proposing transportation options and concept plans with input from the community managed by PBOT’s Growing Transit Communities (funded in part by the State Transportation Growth Management Grant-TGM).

Recently Roseway, Rose City Park, Cully, and the 82nd Ave. Improvement Coalition hosted conversations on how to improve travel for all modes.  The 82nd Improvement Coalition is an effort by a group of advocates desiring to transform 82nd into a City street that serves the community with safe access.  The conversation hosted at the Dharma Rain Center, nestled a block East of 82nd across from Madison High School, provided opportunities for community input on the 82nd study: Understanding Barriers to Development with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS).  This effort involves exploring opportunities within new mixed use & employment zones, and commercial development on this key transit corridor under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT ).  The ODOT jurisdiction for 82nd  limits desired street improvements that can be implemented, thus community members are advocating for safe access , connectivity, and street amenities.  This project is funded in part by a Metro Community Planning and Development Grant and will involve the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).  The ODOT 82nd Ave. of Roses Implementation Plan is to create a list of feasible projects to improve safety, mobility, and access for people using 82nd Ave. to Killingsworth.

As for the Max stations, PBOT has been working with the neighborhood and property owners on the design for needed sidewalks, bike lanes, safe crossings, traffic calming, greenways connecting to safe routes.  Construction may come as soon as 2018  for the 60th from the Max Station to Halsey in line with a scheduled paving project.  This is funded in part by Transportation System Development Charges (TSDC).  These efforts come on the heals of community advocacy as Metro prioritized improvements.  Rose City Park has been advocating for adequate sidewalks close to 10 years ago.

Cully, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Oregon  emerged with active leadership that continues to work with the City for safe connected streets.  This is an area where a lack of direct bus routes to downtown requires residents to walk on streets with no sidewalks or designated safe routes for all modes.  The Connected Cully: NE 72nd Ave. project managed by PBOT funded by a Metro grant is to enhance walking and biking through the heart of the neighborhood along NE 72nd.  This will connect residents to schools, businesses, and foster needed access to parks and greenspace in Cully and Roseway. Traffic calming and pedestrian crossing improvements from NE Sandy to Prescott are part of the Active Transportation and Complete Streets Metro grant regional flexible funding.  The project also includes lighting, street trees, and place-making elements.

 

Let the Spirit of Community Prevail

The recent divisive election impacted many, especially underserved groups such as immigrant and refugee communities. It is a good time to ask what we can do to make our neighborhoods, streets, places where we gather, a welcoming place for all. There are many ways to nurture goodwill which helps to cultivate hope in difficult times.  Our nearest neighbors are a great place to start. It could be taking the time to greet those who you have not had the opportunity to meet or chat with.
Promoting inclusion, connection, and compassion shows how people turn a place into a community.  
Thank you for your commitment to community!
~Warm holiday wishes to all

Support Transportation Improvements in your Neighborhood

Metro is seeking your input about transportation projects competing for regional funding through November 7.  The Portland Bureau of Transportation submitted several projects for complete streets to Metro to compete for Regional Flexible Funds. Below are 3 projects that propose improvements in Central NE neighborhoods:
  • NE Halsey Safety and Access to Transit
  • Connected Cully: NE 72nd Ave Ped/ Bike Parkway
  • N/NE Columbia Blvd ITS (Regional Freight Initiative)

Read more.