From the very beginning, community voices have driven the initiative to dedicate an extra $20 million to affordable housing in North and Northeast Portland. As the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) moves closer to a plan for how to invest that money, community voices continue to play a key role in guiding the work.
Together with Bishop Steven Holt of the International Fellowship Family, PHB co-hosted a gathering of North and Northeast Portland faith leaders this month, along with Mayor Charlie Hales, to continue the conversation of how to best serve a community deeply impacted by a long history of displacement.They discussed the challenges that inadequate parking places on the elderly, and stories of former neighbors who now come from as far as Damascus, Oregon and Woodland, Washington to access necessary services. Those who provided transitional shelter to vulnerable populations were concerned that there would be no permanent housing for them. Others spoke of the generation of young adults who will soon be leaving their parents' homes, but will have nowhere else to go in the neighborhoods — or the City — where they grew up.
Beyond housing, they spoke of the need to rebuild a sense of community. They reminisced about historic neighborhood businesses like House of Sound, Dean's Barbershop, and Neighborhood Bill's, and they shared the alienation of many who say the neighborhoods where they once attended elementary school no longer feel familiar to them.
Five of these faith leaders, including Bishop Holt, have agreed to remain involved in this work as the initiative moves forward. They are Dr. Mark Strong of Life Change, Paula Dennis and Janice Norris of Blessed Temple Community Church, and Reverend Lynne Smouse Lopez of Ainsworth United Church of Christ.