Saturday, March 28, 2009

Prosperity Through Community

Prosperity through community - Tuesday, March 17, 2009
An article I wrote for Urban Connections, a Mennonite Missions Network publication:
http://mennonitemission.net/Resources/Publications/UrbanConnections/Story.asp?ID=1382


Steve Kimes is pastor of Anawim Christian Community in Portland, Ore., a church with a membership made up of the poor and outcast from “normal” society—the impoverished, the homeless, the mentally ill and those on public assistance. As a worship and community space for those who are marginalized, congregational leaders also work to educate society about true causes and realities of poverty and to fight against the dehumanization of and prejudice against the homeless.

Lately, Anawim Christian Community has been having its 15 minutes. Anawim is a community church among the homeless and mentally ill in Portland, Ore., and the media has slowly tracked to our door. A couple local papers have interviewed some of our members and a local magazine is stalking me, the pastor, (with permission) to see what I do. And National Public Radio interviewed one of our regular volunteers. A common question we answer is “How has the recession hit your church?”

I hem and haw and talk about donations going down. Which is true—some of our larger donors have backed off. But I am embarrassed to tell the truth. That the recession is great for our church.

Urban Connections - March 2009


1. On Our Street: Marvel at Miracles By Regina Shands Stoltzfus – We live in days that are ripe for miracles. As we focus on the troubled economy and the impact on ministry, we also see the possibilities of experiencing something so remarkable that we cannot keep quiet about it.

2. Prosperity through community By Steve Kimes – The recession is great for Anawim Christian Community in Portland, Ore. Because it is a community of the poor, its resource base is growing. They have found that the more mouths they have to feed,the more God provides.

3. Community and relationships break free from economy By Ron Copeland – Christ calls us to create completely new economies, like the one growing in Harrisonburg, Va., instead of relying on what is accepted in the Western world.

4. Bridge of Hope: Healing in relationships By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen – Bridge of Hope aims to end and prevent homelessness for women and children through creating local affiliates that bring together professional staff and church-based mentoring groups to empower single mothers. There are currently 16 operating affiliates and four more in the start-up process in seven states.

5. Resources: Ministry in troubled economy – When seeking information to help you interact with those affected by todays economy, check these online resources, selected by Mennonite Mission Network staff members.

6. Urban briefs: News from your street – What stories are making news across the urban church world?

7. Opportunities at upcoming gatherings – Three planned 2009 gatherings will allow participants to engage missional, urban and immigration issues with experts and colleagues.

8. Talk back: Letter to the editor – Continue the conversation.

Anawim has a lot of ministry going on. We offer three meals a week and I help run another. We give away clothes, offer showers to people on the street, and provide worship services and Bible studies for those who wish to follow Jesus in our particular way. But it is mostly run by the poor for the poor, by the homeless for the homeless. A large percentage of our donations come in $1 and $5 bills, from people’s disability checks or a bit from their part-time jobs.

So how does the recession helps us? Because we are a community of the poor. The more poor that we welcome, the more our resource base grows. We have had our best year ever since the recession began, last December. Yes, it is more mouths to feed, but the more we have, the more God provides.

*****

One person called me recently and said, “I’ve recently stopped being homeless and I want to give back. How should I do it?”

I replied, “When you were on the street, what did you want most?”
She thought and responded, “I really wanted a place to go to the bathroom and some hot coffee in the morning.”

I smiled and said, “Then maybe you should buy $5 gift cards to Starbucks and give them to people on the street, so they can have some coffee and a place to go to the bathroom, if only for a morning.”
Mutual aid is as much knowing what the poor need, as it is giving.

*****

Adam Smith is much maligned. He is considered the father of capitalism, which is seen as the economics of greed and selfishness. It must be remembered, however, that Smith’s Wealth of Nations was meant to be more of a description of market economics, rather than the creation of it. And more than this, Smith never intended greed to be centerpiece of economics.

Before he wrote his most famous work, Smith wrote a short book of moral philosophy called The Theory of Moral Sentiments. “Sentimentality” as Smith described it, is nothing more than empathy, which he considered the basis of moral philosophy. In order for us to be moral beings, we must consider the needs and hopes and desires of the other. In the same way, if we are to have a sound economic community or society, we need to understand others' needs in order to meet them. In the end, although he did not realize it, Smith was describing the community in Acts 2:44-45, “And all who believed had all things in common… sharing with all, as any might have need.”

Our society has never really experienced this beautiful synergy, except in small pockets. Today, capitalism is seen as an opportunity to create need in those who have excess, rather than meet need in those who have lack. Even “stewardship” is frequently seen as increasing wealth for later distribution rather than distributing wealth for present increase of all.

*****

In Anawim, we took the economic philosophy of empathy on in a radical way. To begin, with the support of our local Mennonite congregation, I quit my full-time job which supported my family of four and we became homeless for eight months. Some of our friends (perhaps all of them) thought we were crazy. They asked how we could help the homeless when we were homeless ourselves. But we trusted, like some modern loaves and fishes tale, we would always have extra to provide to those in need. And so it has been.

In response to our faithfulness to give to the needy, God has gradually given us more and more. And as our economics increased, so did our opportunities to meet the needs of the poor around us. One meal turned to four. A living room we stayed in became a two-bedroom apartment, which held six of us, which then became a six-bedroom house which is filled with our extended family, most of whom used to be homeless.

More importantly, however, is how the homeless and the mentally ill who attend our church have stepped up to the plate of service. As we hit the edge of burnout, the community steps in and gives us relief. Now we have meals that are set up and cleaned up by street people and worship that is participated in by everyone. Some folks may sing loudly and off key, but it is all the more joyous for all that.

*****

And, just recently, Anawim has made their bravest step—they invited the middle class to our community. This is a difficult step, for the middle class has a tendency to take over that which they consider to be inadequate. But most of the middle class who join us understand that Anawim is to be run by the poor for the poor.

And we are seeing Anawim become a more well-rounded community because of the middle class, both culturally and economically. The homeless have much to give: serving hands; a readiness to work at a moment’s notice; a willing heart to give what they have to those in need; the knowledge of where one can get one’s basic needs met today. The middle class also has much to give: the ability to pay for labor done; a drive to meet basic needs such as food and clothing; a growing respect for the poor.

Right now, as more of the middle class understand what it means to be poor, there is an opportunity for more empathy. Empathy creates community. And community based on empathy creates an economy in which all the community’s needs are met. Anawim isn’t there yet. But we’re getting there.

We have a certain kind of prosperity. Most of us are still on the street, and many of us are still hungry some days. But we know that we have people who care about us and truly want to see our needs met. That is a kind of wealth many people don’t have.

Read more about the practice and theology of Anawim at www.nowheretolayhishead.com.

Talk back: To respond to this story, e-mail urbanconnections@mennonitemission.net. Subscribe to this and other e-mail lists through Mennonite Mission Network.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Styxx

 
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On page 6 of the article, there's a couple paragraphs on Styxx, who stays with us. Styxx liked it so much that he wants to send Bart "a box of cigars."

http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/

Sleeping Homeless

 


Pics like this makes people think that the homeless are lazy. People see the homeless sleeping on benches, in churches, at meals, and they think, "No wonder these people are homeless! They sleep all the time and never get off their butts to work!"

What most people don't know is that when the homeless sleep, it's because they're tired.

Sleep is one of the hardest things to do when you are homeless. The police roust you in the middle of the night on occasion, but even when they don't you are listening for them. Or for kids who want to beat you up. Or for stray animals. Or whatever else that might harm you. Or it just might be really cold and you don't have adequate warmth.

The point of being homeless is that you don't have four walls and a roof. This automatically means less security than a housed person and less protection from the weather. That's a given. Well, this also means less sleep. It's hard to rest when you don't feel safe, when you might get rousted at any time of the night. It's hard to sleep when your bed is wet. It's hard to sleep when the ground you're sleeping on is so cold that your body temperature drops.

So the homeless often catch up on sleep during the day. Which makes them look lazy. But many of them are just trying to not go insane. Some of them succeed.
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Pic was taken by Portland Monthly Magazine

http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/

Steve and Styxx Diving

 
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One of the pics from the article in Portland Monthly Magazine.

Magazine Article On Steve

 
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Portland Monthly Magazine did a pretty long article on me and Anawim. It's cleverly written, and if you want to have a "Steve intro", it's a pretty good one:
http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happiness Is Not Personal Happiness

I am on a few philosophy forums, in which we respond to questions and posts with reasoned analysis—or at least that is the hope. One of the questions that sometimes circulate is sometimes phrased, “What is the greatest good?” or “What is the best life?” Most participants respond with a concern for their personal happiness, wanting to live a life of pleasure, or of intellectual or spiritual joy.

And why not? It is taught to us by our parents, by television and other media that the greatest concern for us as individuals is that we be happy, that we have all of our hopes and deepest desires met. There is nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. All the great religions and philosophies have personal joy and inner peace as a goal.

However, to obtain that happiness, we often forget what we must do to obtain that happiness. I believe that unless we work to bring joy to others, we will never find joy or peace within ourselves.

A couple, after having fallen in love, decide that they will live together, and make a commitment together to be a community. Once two people begin to live together, they find that their happiness is no longer just dependent on their own concerns, but also concerns for the other. If their partner is unhappy, then they are unhappy as well. So their peace depends not so much on striving for happiness themselves, but for trying to bring peace and contentment to another.

This basic principle grows the more we are involved with others. As we have family, we need to work for peace for all. The longer we are in a community, we find that the needs of the community are tied to our own. If we live in a city of a million people, any one unhappy person we meet on the bus or the street could ruin our day. Soon we find that our happiness is not a personal commodity, as if we were an island to ourselves. Rather, contentment for ourselves is dependant at least on every other person we meet. And, to a lesser degree, to every other person in the world.

Thus, I believe that our happiness cannot be created by meeting our own needs and fulfilling our own desires. Rather, happiness is to be found in relationship, in community.

I grew up in a middle class suburban community, insulated, where I never met anyone with real needs. Our way of life and consumption was what I thought of as “normal”. My ideals all changed when I lived in a few urban areas in India and Bangladesh. There, I was followed by beggars and saw my friends living in poverty that I had never experienced. I realized that those in need were just as human and just as good and bad as I was. They were my equals, but many of them are condemned to spend their lives picking through garbage piles for whatever benefit the hundred others who had been through that same pile had left.

After my wife and I had moved to Portland, OR, we began listening to and having community with the homeless. As I listened to the stories of the homeless, and began to share their experiences myself, my own joy and sorrow became tied into their own. But what I realize is that this is true for every single person who relates to my homeless friends. Every person who gives them spare change so they would be left alone, every man who says, “get a job,” every woman who spends a few moments chatting with the homeless, every person with hope who smiles at a homeless person—that small event changed their own level of happiness. It was an experience, built with other experiences with other people, that creates their own sense of well-being or grief.

Should we participate in creating other’s grief, then we ourselves live lives of grief. But if we participate in other’s sense of well-being, then we can create well-being for ourselves. Thus, I believe that “the good life” is found, not in seeking our own happiness, but in seeking other’s well-being.

Yes, we can certainly create a sense of joy in ourselves if we get drunk, or if we watch a movie. But if our contentment is based on outside forces changing our own mood, we will soon cause sorrow in others who participate in our life. Self-focus ends up draining those who love us. But if we instead focus on assisting others to obtain happiness, whether in the short term or long term—

If we give hand warmers to a stranger who shivers in the cold
If we give a hamburger or energy bar for a person holding a sign declaring their hunger
If we spend a half hour in conversation with someone who is desperately lonely
If we share a movie we really enjoy with someone who has no pleasures in their life
If we invite to a family holiday meal one who has no family to share it with—

Then the happiness we share will be ours as well. I believe that there is no personal happiness. There is only happiness we share with others, especially with those who have little joy in their lives.

Real Change Is Owned Change

Three weeks ago a historic meeting took place. It may not have repercussions that change the nation, but it was significant for East Multnomah County, for Portland and Gresham, Oregon.

The event was this: a group of forty homeless people met and talked about what services they wanted for their community in Gresham. I believe that this will change up to a half a million people’s hopes and expectations, perhaps more.

This may seem insignificant. After all, community and neighborhood meetings like this take place in every urban neighborhood in the United States, every month or two. How can one community meeting among a small group of homeless people be important? It is important for the following reasons:

1. It showed that the homeless exist in East Multnomah County
Although a meal for the poor has been served five days a week in Gresham for twenty years, if any other church or organization goes to the city of Gresham and asks for assistance from the city for the homeless, they deny that there are any homeless in Gresham. They say that the homeless live in the urban areas of Portland, not the suburb of Gresham. In this way, the city of Gresham doesn’t have to take responsibility for the homeless they have. When the forty homeless men and women met in a small church in Gresham, it showed that they did exist and have existed for decades.

2. The meeting showed that the homeless are a community
Often the homeless are called “transients”, as if they didn’t permanently live in the county, but were just passing through. This meeting showed that the homeless not only lived in the area permanently, but also that they are a community, able to speak with one voice to their own problems and to come up with their own solutions.

3. The meeting showed that the homeless want to work toward their own solutions
Most of the time “solutions for the homeless” come from well-meaning middle class folks or professional lobbyists, assuming that they knew how to solve “the homeless problem”. That day just a few weeks ago, the homeless showed that they can create their own solutions, and they are willing to work for them. In this time, the homeless came up with three ways they want to help themselves, with some help from outside, but they are willing to put in the necessary labor to begin and to maintain all of these notions.

Although most of America have wanted the homeless to pull themselves by their own bootstraps, but rarely have the homeless been given an opportunity to speak for themselves. Every community has problems, whether the urban homeless, a small town in a rural area, a minority Latino population in Los Angeles or a primarily white suburb of Miami. What is often forgotten for the poor, however, is that any solution that is created for them must also be created by them. If the poor are given a service without their input or assistance, then a number of effects occur:

-The poor don’t feel they need to work for it, because the service was a free gift
-The values of the middle class are promoted, instead of the values of the community being serviced
-The goals of the poor aren’t met because the poor weren’t consulted as to what their goals are

I believe that if a community—any community—is to be assisted, the community must own the assistance. This can be seen in a single individual. If a person wants to make real change in their lives, from overcoming addiction to maintaining an exercise program, he or she has to want that change, without any outside pressure. It is a cliché, but still true: “If you are going to change, you have to want it for yourself.” If this is true for one person, it is even more true for a community. If real change is to happen for the poor, then the change must begin with the poor.

It is my hope that this meeting in Gresham, OR might be replicated among every needy community all around the world, and that the service workers might listen to the solutions, asking for continual input and volunteer labor from those receiving the services. In this way, there may be an infrastructure for the needy that would actually support the needs and goals of the needy. And then, as a few more become needy in our ailing economy, the power to help themselves would already exist for them.

I believe that the seed for helping the poor is within the poor community itself.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jump in a Dumpster, Go To Jail

Just read this blog post:
http://www.lahomelessblog.org/2009/03/is-outlawing-dumpster-diving-anti.html

So dumpster diving is outlawed in Sacramento. I'm not sure that the purpose of it is an anti-homeless law. However, I do think that it is a narrow minded policy.

As a regular dumpster-diver myself, part of the benefit of diving is to limit the terrible waste of reusable, recylcable material. We are throwing away our resources-- if some wish to use the resources we throw away, then why not?

Also, as the poster wrote, as poverty increases in our country then so will the need for alternative resources. It seems a poor time to pass such a law.

If the reason for the law is as stated, to limit identity theft, then it seems as if they are focused on the wrong arena. Perhaps the money that would be spent in enforcing an anti-dumpster diving law would be better spent educating people how to dispose of their personal information.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Steve's Preaching"

 


This impromptu painting was done by Jeff Strong while I was teaching on Revelation 12. I have no idea what he was thinking about when he did this. But here it is.
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chuck and PMC Choir

 


The Portland Mennonite Anawim Choir leading a hymn sing on Tuesday night. Chuck is on the far right, singing with them.
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Impromptu Wedding Reception

 
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Kevin Wayne

 


Playing at the impromptu wedding reception.
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Freaky Friday

 


What a long, strange Friday it's been.

I already knew, waking up that I was going to have to cook the Friday meal for 70 or so people. I wasn't sure who was going to help, though, or when. But that's okay. Styxx and I headed out at 11:30 and helped Richard unload the food for the meal that night at Sunnyside. I noted that we had a lot of cranberries and peaches. Hmmm, what kind of sauce would that make? I called up Diane to have her read me the recipe for cranberry sauce from the Joy of Cooking.

Then we headed out to Gresham to do our run. We picked up food from our "Silver Tray" folks, Marie and Victor. Then we picked up bread from Zarapath pantry. We hit our regular dumpters, and it was an excellent day-- we got undented cans of beef stew and chili, a 25 lb. bag of white onions, and about 200 dollars worth of pepperoni sticks.

We get back to Sunnyside at 3pm and start prepping for the meal. Lo and behold, we have many people to help! Yea! Robert and Ray and Clay and Chuck all show up! Styxx and I actually passed Chuck in Gresham, but we had no idea he was coming to meet us at Sunnyside!

So Clay gets working on the peaches so we can make a unique kind of cranberry sauce. Ray makes lemonade and cuts bagels. Robert warms up the ministrone soup and butters bagels. Chuck cleans off the tables and floors. And Styxx moves stuff around. Wow, it's just so smooth and organized!

Kevin Wayne also shows up to set up sound. He has brought a documentarian with him who is making a movie about street musicians in Portland called In Plain Sight. She wants to film, and I arrange it for her to film a certain section of the room, so those who don't want to be filmed don't have to. She pretty much focuses on Kevin anyway.

At 5pm, Jesse and his friend Tabitha show up. At 6, I open up talking about the fruit of the Spirit and we pray and we serve the meal all eat! It's wonderful!

Then, after most people have been served, I note that there is a couple-- David, whom I know from Anawim long past, and Patsy. Patsy is in a wedding dress and David is in a suit. Oh, man.

About a month before David and Patsy told me that they were getting married by a judge and they wanted me to lead a spiritual ceremony the same day. I did a little bit of counseling, but it was the judge actually marrying them, so I had no problem with this. It gives me a chance to talk about commitment in marriage, which is good. So I told them that if they wanted me to do this, they had to give me a call, because a wedding takes preparation. And that we could have it in the park across from Sunnyside on Friday night-- that way I could be there for Sunnyside and do the wedding, no problem.

Except they never called. I wasn't ready and I was still organizing the kitchen. AND I had a Bible Study to lead? Nope, that had to be put off, I guess.

So here was a couple, prepped to have a wedding ceremony and I am not ready. I'm dressed in my usual hat, leather coat and blue Guatamalean pancho with boots. I don't have my Minister's manual (which is actually online-- I never bought one), so I don't know all the official/traditional things one must say. Okay, this is crazy.

But it gets done. We hold the ceremony on the ramp outside the church, in front of the sanctuary. All the people in Sunnyside are invited, and many of them look on. The couple's friends are there as well. I open with I Cor. 13, and talk about how "love endures" and "love never fails". They read the vows they have prepared. And I make up vows of love and life-long commitment from the top of my head as they exchange rings. It was nice, and touching and short. But the couple was happy, and that's all that matters.

I go back inside the church to find it pretty much emptied. Most of the people had left after the wedding. Kevin has stopped playing for the evening, the cooking crew is gone, and we had run out of soup. I go to the kitchen to hear Styxx say, "Sorry, we're out of soup," and I look at him and say, "That's not true. You know that!" Then I go to the van to collect the cans of beef stew we've got in the back. Styxx warms it up in the microwave, and we're all set. We have just enough food for those that straggled in late.

Then the wedding party comes in and sits around, hanging out. Kevin decides that since there's a crowd, he'd play another set. He plays a few songs and then he plays "Knockin' On Heaven's Door". The bride and groom start to dance. Then others do. So now Sunnyside has turned into a wedding reception. A lot of people get teary-eyed (including Kevin-- come on, admit it) and I take some picture, as above.

At Eight I make my usual announcement: "You've got ten minutes to leave or I put you to work!" The wedding party leaves, grateful. We do the clean up stuff. Jesse and Justin and friends help us out and there is a short drum circle using counters and pots. Awesome.

It was the most unique Friday ever. And, on top of it all, we ate the one-of-a-kind creation of warm cranberry-peach-pear sauce. It was great. I can give you a recipe of it for a hundred people, no less.
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Rights of the Homeless

(Based on the Homeless Constitution by Mack Mavrick)

We, the homeless of the United States, are citizen of this country. As citizens, we declare that we should be treated as full citizens and not as outcasts. We have the right—as every other citizen—to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A. We have the right to be treated equally with every other citizen regardless of income, race, religion, political opinion, sexuality, appearance, mental illness, handicaps or disabilities (even when self-inflicted).

B. We have the right to sleep, as all citizens have the right to do what is necessary to ensure their own survival.

C. We have the right and need to use public restrooms for public health reasons. We request that sanitation stations be erected in each major city of the United States for public health.

D. We have the right, as guaranteed by the Constitution, to gather together in public spaces, such as parks, sidewalks, and opens spaces for public use.

E. We have the right not to have our possessions taken from us by the government without due process.

F. We have the right not to be unduly harassed by state or local police. If the police see us involved in illegal activity, then they have the responsibility to question us, but if we just “look homeless” then we insist that we have the right to be left alone

G. We have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, just as any other citizen. Strangers or passersby calling out “get a job” or “bum” is the equivalent of a racial slur.

Please check out the website about the dehumanization of the homeless on http://www.nowheretolayhishead.org/dehumanization.html

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Swindled Heart

A wonderful essay by Pam H about her response to a beggar at a mall:

http://www.burnsidewriterscollective.com/social/2008/08/a_swindled_heart.php

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tent Cities That Have Made A Difference

As we are considering a tent city in Gresham, this is a timely post by Mental Floss:


http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/21689

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rudy and Lori Get a haircut

Rudy and Lori, an Anawim couple who got baptized in Anawim, gets help from a barber.
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Homelessness In Gresham

Anabeth asked how homelessness in Gresham differs from Portland and who is involved in helping them. "I am wondering about the situation in Gresham regarding people living outdoors as I am only more familiar with what is going on in Portland. Can you please tell me a little more about it? Do we know approximately how many people are living outdoors in Gresham- have the numbers increased the past couple of years b/c of Mayor Potter's ordinances? I know that Eastside Foursquare Church there has done some things- are they empowering people?? Is it My Father's House that was just built for housing people living outdoors in Gresham- though I know that obviously not everyone is helped in a situation like that, people are still left out and my question for them is still about how their services are being played out- are they empowering or patronizing?"


There are basically three services for street folks in Gresham: Zaraphath Kitchen which has a meal six days a week, Anawim (showers, clothes and a meal one day a week) and My Father's House for homeless families. EastHill has been out of the loop for a number of years, but they are trying to re-organize their assistance. Right now, they are filling out Zaraphath so that there are meals every Sunday, and they want to provide socks-- which is what Anawim has done for years. But maybe this means that we can provide socks for the SE group instead.

Gresham is a different street experience than Portland. There is a lot more room for camping in tents and there is less dependence on services. The police are more consistantly active in kicking the homeless out of the city and there are people hired by the city to throw away people's tents and gear if left behind. So the homeless are more hidden. The only place they are alowed to hang out is Gresham Main Park, but even there they are carefully monitored by the police. Sometimes the police are abusive and in fact at least four homeless I know have successfully sued the city of Gresham for police brutality. Many more have been abused without suing. For all of these reasons, not very many people have moved from Portland to Gresham.

Homelessness has grown in Gresham, but mostly it is young people who have increased the numbers. When we talk about the homeless, the numbers are all guess work, but I'd say there's about 200 chronic homeless and someone has quoted to me a statistic of 200 young people on the street (That number might be a bit high-- they might be including those who hang out with the "gutter punks" but still sleep at home). A large number of these people live on the Springwater Corridor bike trail.

Recently there have been three groups wanting to advocate for the poor in Gresham. But I noted that all three of these groups were full of middle class churches and leaders who wanted to help the homeless but who weren't interested in having the homeless own the services. That is the kind of system we don't need in Gresham. We have a lot of strong, ready-to-work folk who would do work to support a service as long as it was a service they asked for. This was one of the main purposes of this community meeting-- to get the homeless involved in the conversation of how to serve the homeless. To get them to own the service from the ground level so they would own it and participate.

I'd say that My Father's House does empower, but they aren't dealing with the chronic homeless at all. They help families in crisis, which is great. But I note that Gresham-- East Hill in particular-- is willing to spend literally millions of dollars for My Father's House, but the chronic homeless get nothing but tickets and abuse. I think it is long overdue to have some services for all the homeless in Gresham, but I also think that to do it rightly, we need to draw upon the willing help and resources of the homeless.

Okay, you asked a lot of questions and got a long answer. Hope that's okay!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Community Meeting of the Homeless, Gresham OR

February 28, 2009

Moderated by Steve Kimes, pastor of Anawim Christian Community
Participants: 40 men and women living on the street in Gresham
Observing: Representatives of Anawim Christian Community, Key Conversation on Poverty and Oregon Coalition for Christian Values

Minutes:

1. Introduction by Steve Kimes
The purpose of the meeting is to determine what the homeless desire in order to meet their needs. This is so advocacy groups and the city might know what the community of the homeless desire. It is also so that the homeless might participate in ownership of any services provided. The minutes of this meeting will be sent to advocacy groups and to those in Gresham interested in assisting those living on the street in Gresham.

2. What services do you (the homeless) want in Gresham to meet your needs?A return of the East Hill Benevolence Center/ A day shelter
“A safe and warm place to be during the day without being accused of loitering.”
A warm place to sit during the day
Coffee available
Bathroom available 24 hours a day
A facility to wash clothes
A space to camp overnight without police supervision
“We need a safe place to sleep without worrying that anyone will bother us.”
Assistance to obtain ID
The Human Solutions Medical Van to Gresham
Assistance with medications
“If I had my medications, I wouldn’t need to drink”
NW Medical Teams Dental van to come to Gresham
A medical resource center where referrals could be made
A place to get mail
Low income housing
“If housing prices were lower my daughter and I wouldn’t need to be on the street at all”
Free transport between Troutdale and Gresham
Night shelter
A donation distribution center for street folks
Pro bono attorney
A day-long storage space with lockers

3. The Three Top Priorities
Each need listed was voted on, with everyone on the street having two votes. These were the three items considered to be the most important:
a. Safe Camp site—17 votes
-Would need to include outhouses, fresh water
-Would be maintained by the residents, with each resident volunteering upkeep of the camp
-Would be policed by the residents
-Would need to include garbage service
-Could include showers, some electricity

b. Day shelter with various services—9 votes
-Would include places to sit and to linger during the day
-Would include coffee
-Would include an address to send mail to
-Could be a donation drop off and pick up site
-Would be a place to do laundry
-Could have a phone available to street folks
-Could include bus tickets, especially for medical appointments
-Would have regular volunteers from the street folks, assisting

c. An overnight shelter—7 votes
-Separate place for those 21 and under
-“bare bones”—just a warm room with cots to put sleeping bags on and a bathroom
-A check in time and a check out time

d. Other issues which gained more than one vote
-Low income housing— 4 votes
-Assistance with mediations— 2 votes

4. Comments and Concerns“I don’t want to be forced to camp with others, especially if it might harm my sobriety”

Disagreement about alcohol and drug use—some say it should be allowed in camp site, but most were firmly against such use.

“Everyone must be responsible to clean up their own garbage, no matter where they are”

“All of this is speculation, anyway. We all know that the city won’t allow us to do any of this.”

Some concern about being safe from police harassment

“We wouldn’t need any of this if it were just legal to sleep on the street.”

Some discussion about a need for a labor pool in order to have flexible work. “A ‘Labor Ready’ for people on the street.”

It was noted that some of the services requested are already provided, e.g. Anawim provides mail service, and there are a few medical and dental resources for some and TPI provides ID assistance. Others pointed out that these services, in general are inadequate for the need, and some are located in Portland, not Gresham.


SK
3/1/09

These minutes may be freely sent to anyone who has interest. Please retain the content of the minutes as presented by Steve Kimes in order to protect the comments of those on the street. If anyone wishes to make commentary on the meeting or minutes, please do so separately.