The Common Cup Shelter at Sunnyside Church, one of my two congregations, operates from November 1st to March 31st each year, serving homeless families for periods up to 30 days. The Shelter relies on volunteers and donations for all of its needs. Contact Laurie Abeling (503-807-9466) or visit http://www.commoncupshelter.org/ for more information.
You can support the Shelter in a variety of ways:
The decision by Providence Health to stop distributing a guide on low-income health care services jointly published by Street Roots and the Multnomah County Department of Health because the 104-page guide lists Planned Parenthood as one of the services available is deeply disappointing and should cause public agencies to review any contracts with Providence Health and for Oregonians to consider whether or not they want to continue supporting Providence with contributions - or even to seek medical care at Providence facilities.
Providence Health's decision to deny much needed health care information about available resources to vulnerable populations in our community, along with health care workers, does nothing to advance the common good. Providence Health is operated by the the Sisters of Providence, a Roman Catholic organization, and I certainly respect their opposition to abortion services which is deeply rooted in their faith and is not political. But Providence Health's decision to stop distributing this guide, which includes information on family planning, will only increase unwanted pregnancies and thus increase the number of abortions. It will hurt many others who are seeking emergency shelter, housing, alcohol and drug treatment and mental health treatment.
The radicalization of the Roman Catholic Church's position on this issue, along with the lines they have crossed over it into the partisan political arena at the national level, is deeply concerning. If they are unable to provide medical care to Multnomah County residents in a way that is respectful of the church's values and the medical needs of women and low-income residents there are other hospitals than can. It is time to review the place of Providence Health in the Portland community.
It is worth noting that many in the faith community support letting women make their own health care decisions. The United Church of Christ and the the United Methodist Church are among many Christian denominations, along with interfaith communities, that make up the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Last night our friends Scott and Janice Gratton invited us to a special fund raising dinner to learn more about the Portland Children's Relief Nursery - a critical program that operates both in St. John's and East County - providing services to young children and their families:
We provide a range of services that “wrap-around” the family to reduce parental stress and social isolation. We’re teaching parenting skills, strengthening bonds between parents and their babies, providing targeted services, reducing child behavioral problems and improving social-emotional development in very young children.
We believe that by focusing on the social and emotional well-being of the youngest, most vulnerable children, we can strengthen families. We do this at a time when we can have the greatest impact on their lives, when their children are infants through age 4. Our families get the help they need, when they need it, to overcome their difficulties and emerge stronger — as a family. A failed family becomes a burden on the community. A successful one contributes to it. Together, we are making families stronger.
It was impressive to see Portland Children's Relief Nursery firsthand and to hear how this agency is working with families that have both suffered abuse or are at risk of abuse.
We hope that you will consider supporting Portland Children's Relief Nursery as they seek to expand services during difficult economic times.
I have a new op-ed up on The Oregonian today concerning local efforts to fight homelessness - and why those efforts aren't working.. Take a look and leave a comment there with your thoughts.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
As Street Roots reports, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted today to adopt a resolution opposing Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's radical proposal to place an 18 month lifetime cap on benefits for families with children living in poverty (the program otherwise know as TANF). The governor's proposal comes during a state-wide budget process that has already seen tens of millions of dollars given away to corporations and the wealthiest Oregonians.
...County Chair Jeff Cogen said he wouldn’t normally criticize the budget process, but that “this is such an egregious mistake that I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to do so especially because the impact is so deep in Multnomah County,” Cogen said. “Given the depth of these cuts and the pain that it will cause on the most vulnerable members of our community, people who are barely hanging on, it just seems like the wrong call.”
Street Roots also notes that "State Rep. Tina Kotek, who represents Portland’s North and Northeast neighborhoods, has proposed reauthorizing funds to keep TANF functioning, along with the employment component, with less severe cuts, including setting the eligibility limit at 48 months." A recent article in The Oregonian implied that Kotek backed the governor's proposal and I repeated that misrepresentation of her views in a recent op-ed piece. I've since written and asked for a clarification of her proposal.
Update: Rep. Kotek e-mailed me this afternoon to say that she will not vote for a budget with the governor's proposed TANF budget cut.
I applaud Chair Cogen and the Board of Commissioners for their leadership on this issue. Faith leaders from across Oregon have also spoken out against the governor's proposal and we need more local elected leaders to do the same.
This week the Homeless Families Warming Center opened for the winter season and today city of Portland and Multnomah County leaders gathered with people from the faith community to dedicate the space. Families that moved into this emergency shelter were also on hand to talk with members of this press about their personal experiences with homelessness.
The speakers today included Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Commissioner Barbara Willer, Human Solutions executive director Jean DeMaster, and The Rev. Brian Heron. I was honored to be invited to deliver the invocation.
Here are the basic facts about this mid-county program:
The Homeless Family Warming Center is a 60 bed homeless family shelter operating November 1, 2010 - March 31, 2011 at Eastminster Presbyterian Church. The church is located at 12505 NE Halsey Street in Portland and will be open every night 7am - 7pm. Here, families with children will have a warm, dry, safe and welcoming place to sleep. Shelter families will be able to acces housing, employment and other services designated to quickly end their homelessness.
Human Solutions operates the center.
Right now the Homeless Family Warming Center has a long list of supplies that are needed. These donations can be dropped off at the church between 7-9 pm each night. Contact Human Solutions if you can donate but those hours don't work for you. Volunteers are also needed.
To volunteer or to donate, please contact Amie Diffenauer, at 503-256-2280 or email email@example.com.
We especially need non-perishable food and beverage items!
Food Items needed:
Instant and Canned Soups
Powder Baby Formula
Sweet Rolls or Muffins
Vegetables: potatoes, baby carrots, celery, etc...
Fruit: bananas, grapes, oranges, apples, plums, etc...
Gift Cards for pizza places
Cold Cuts for sandwiches
Condiments for sandwiches
Sandwich Bags, Napkins
Paper Plates & Bowls
Plastic Cups and Eating Utensils
Beverage Items needed:
Coffee Grounds, Sugar, Creamer
Hot Cocoa mix
Household Items needed:
Blankets, Sleeping Bags
Pillows, Pillow Cases
Winter Coats for all ages
New Scarves, Hats, Mittens, Gloves, and Socks
New Children's Underwear
Hygiene Items needed:
New Toothbrushes, Toothpaste
Feminine Hygiene Products
First Aid Supplies
Diapers (size 4 & 5)
Invocation At Open of the Homeless Family Warming Center
November 4, 2010
Gracious and loving God,
We gather in this Holy place as people from diverse traditions united together in the belief that to lift up the common good of our community we must begin by taking care of those who are hurting and experiencing homelessness.
We gather to lift up to you the needs of families throughout Multnomah County that cannot afford the high costs of housing, the expense of medical care, or even the rising costs of food. Give all those in anguish comfort and strength, we pray.
We gather to lift up to you the staff of Human Solutions, the people of Eastminster Presbyterian Church, officials from Multnomah County, and all the volunteers who will work here over the winter. Give all those who make this Homeless Family Warming Center possible your blessings, we pray.
We gather, O God, to ask for forgiveness. Homelessness and poverty are a sin - a result of bad policies that have created an economy where the "least of these' are left behind. Help us to build a better community where justice rolls "down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream", we pray.
Soon the warm sun and blue skies will be eclipsed again by the reality of a rainy autumn and a cold winter. Let this warming center be a place of light in the darkness, more than just a place to get warm, but a place to find hope.
With humbleness, we pray.
- The Rev. Chuck Currie
35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
- Matthew 25:35-45 (NRSV)
This story published this evening in The Oregonian should break your heart:
Attorneys for the estate of a woman who died two years ago on the floor of a Multnomah County jail cell have reached a $905,000 settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county, its health-care provider and a former county nurse.
The woman, Holly Jean Casey, 36, died from pneumonia after her repeated calls for help were ignored by deputies and jail nurses.
The lawsuit accused the county and jail nurses of negligence and wrongful death for failing to help Casey, who complained for hours that she couldn't breathe. Casey's death also prompted a Multnomah County District Attorney's review that found she died of pre-existing conditions that were ignored or not properly treated by county nurses working in the jail....
Casey was arrested Jan. 3, 2008, by Portland police for failure to appear in court on a second-degree theft charge, a misdemeanor. Casey told the officers she was on her way to a hospital to be treated for a recurrence of pneumonia. At least she'd be warm and dry in jail, the arresting officer told her, according to the suit.
Casey told officers her spleen, which fights infection, had been surgically removed. The police advised jail staff of her medical condition and she was booked into the jail at 2:46 p.m. About an hour later, Casey was evaluated by a jail nurse, Rebecca Watts Jacobs, who gave her water, concerned about dehydration.
Watts Jacobs noted that Casey was sick with a history of recent pneumonia, had no spleen and suffered from lupus, and asked another nurse to listen to Casey's lungs. Both nurses, the lawsuit argued, failed to use a pulse oximeter to check Casey's oxygen saturation level, even though one was available and would have indicated Casey needed emergency medical care.
Watts Jacobs cleared Casey for incarceration without housing restrictions. About 5:08 p.m. , Casey was locked in a cell. She soon turned in a medical request form, writing: "I've got pneumonia for 3 days. Won't go away. I have difficulty breathing. It hurts bad. I have no energy. I have lupus and no spleen."
The form was ignored by jail guards and nursing staff. Throughout the night, Casey cried for help and pushed the call light to summon aid, but her pleas were ignored. At least 20 inmates, though, heard her cries, the suit said.
By 10:25 p.m., after a shift change, a sheriff's deputy asked Casey through an intercom what was wrong. She told him she had chest pain and trouble breathing. He sent another deputy to check on her. Just before 11 p.m., a jail nurse diagnosed Casey with asthma and another brought her an Albuterol inhaler without a doctor's prescription, instructing her to take several puffs.
But Casey's condition worsened through the night and into the next morning. She yelled for help, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe, please help me," banged on the call-light buzzer for hours and the jail cell door crying for help. In response, deputies yelled at her to shut up. Another deputy yelled at her to get off the floor, while a third turned off the buzzer without checking on Casey, the lawsuit said. By about 5 a.m., one deputy called for a medical nurse, Baxter, and asked the nurse twice to check on Casey, but Baxter never did.
By 7:32 a.m., a new deputy on shift checked on Casey and found her cold, blue and not breathing. An autopsy found Casey died of advanced pneumonia, with a contributing factor of not having a spleen.
We know about Holly Jean Casey but who do we not know about?
Have the policies and practices been changed?
What does this say about all of us in Multnomah County?
I hate to lose at anything but it wasn't hard to get over being crushed in the primary election last May for Multnomah County Commissioner. That's because voters advanced two outstanding individuals to compete in a run-off this November. Multnomah County residents are fortunate to have a choice between good progressive candidates who care about the future of our neighborhoods, schools and county-run programs.
Ms. Smith and I don't agree on every issue. We disagree, for example, on the impact the Columbia River Crossing will have. But I've never voted based on single issues. What I want in elected officials are smart people who think critically. Ms. Smith is that kind of leader. In her campaign she has shown an ability to bridge divides and build coalitions. She doesn't close the door on those she disagrees with. Instead, she invites people in and seeks common ground. We share the same basic values.
As Senator Wyden's long-time liaison to Multnomah County, she knows the issues, people, businesses and neighborhoods. She cares deeply about the people of Multnomah County and how our local government functions. Based on her experience, shared accomplishments and proven dedication to the community in which she raised her son, I will cast my ballot for Loretta Smith.
Increase In Poverty Impacts Children, Families
The U.S. Census Bureau, as expected, announced today that poverty levels had grown to their highest level since 1994. "There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase," said the Bureau. These numbers reflect the first year of the Obama presidency and the height of the Great Recession. The presidency of George W. Bush, whose economic policies were in full effect when President Obama took office, saw increases in the poverty rate during each year of his tenure in office after declines during the Clinton-Gore administration.
These numbers reflect real human suffering and a moral crisis faced by our nation. Economic policies that have benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and those living in poverty have pushed our nation to the brink of economic collapse. Only President Obama's stimulus plan kept America from falling off the cliff.
Obviously, more needs to be done. President Obama ran on a pledge to cut poverty in half in ten years. The Half in Ten Campaign - endorsed by the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Center for American Progress, among others - offers a road map on how to achieve that goal. We need the President's forceful advocacy to help dramatically reduce poverty in America. Sadly, the minority party in Congress has worked to advance the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration and have promised to extend those policies if given the opportunity.
Thursday morning the federal government is expected to announce the biggest increase in poverty levels since 1959. Oregonians are feeling the pinch. "Due to extraordinary community need, we opened up our family shelter earlier than expected this week. We were full within the first 3 hours. By the end of the day there were already 6 families on the waiting list," said The Rev. Kate Lore, Minister for Social Justice at First Unitarian Church. "This has never happened before--not even close." First Unitarian Church hosts the Thirteen Street Family Center, a program of Portland Homeless Families Solution.
Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury noted the increase in poverty levels and called on members of Oregon's Congressional delegation to push for additional federal assistance. "Without President Obama's stimulus plan we'd be in worse shape but we need Congress to act quickly to get additional funding for programs that help lift people out of poverty," said Kafoury. "To begin with, I call on members of our House and Senate delegations to endorse the Half in Ten Campaign (http://halfinten.org/) - the ambitious national effort to cut poverty in half in ten years. We've been cutting programs at the county level for ten years. Without federal help more families will become homeless."The Half and Ten Campaign Offers four principles for reducing poverty:
Promote Decent Work. People should work and work should pay enough to ensure that workers and their families can avoid poverty, meet basic needs, and save for the future.
Provide Opportunity for All. Children should grow up in conditions that maximize their opportunities for success; adults should have opportunities throughout their lives to connect to work, get more education, live in a good neighborhood, and move up in the workforce.
Ensure Economic Security. Americans should not fall into poverty when they cannot work or work is unavailable, unstable, or pays so little that they cannot make ends meet.
Help People Build Wealth. All Americans should have the opportunity to build assets that allow them to weather periods of flux and volatility, and to have the resources that may be essential to advancement and upward mobility.
Click here for additional information.
People of faith in the United States must hold the president and Congress accountable for addressing this growing crisis. No one should be forced to live a third world life in a first world country.
Last fall I wrote to Portland Mayor Sam Adams and then-Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler about ways local government could work in closer partnership with the faith community. Mayor Adams never responded but Chair Wheeler did.
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I've often felt (and this is a widely shared feeling by many in the faith community) that local government only talks to faith leaders when local government wants something. The viewpoints of religious leaders are not necessarily welcomed by local officials. Mayor Adams, for example, not only ignored my suggestion to forge closer ties between local government and faith communities but also ignored repeated invitations to meet with faith leaders to discuss his economic agenda before and after he first took office. An opportunity was lost.
After Chair Wheeler responded, Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury took the lead in looking for ways local government could become a better partner with faith leaders. Her office has since worked closely with Multnomah County Commissioner Barbara Willer, Wheeler's former chief of staff, to seek out ways we can engage in collaborative work. Both Willer and Kafoury recently attended the Oregon Interfaith Summit on Homeless Children, Youth and Families. Since then Willer has begun conversations with a diverse group of faith leaders to seek out ideas on how government and religious organizations can work together in partnership. A good model for such an enterprise is the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Commissioner Kafoury and Commissioner Willer are to be commended for their efforts. Multnomah County's faith community plays an important role in so many areas - delivery of social services, support for youth and seniors, assistance for victims of crime and mentoring projects for those leaving the criminal justice system, critically needed support for public schools, etc. We ought to be working on these issues together as the faith community continues to prophetically lift up the needs of the least of these in Multnomah County and beyond.
Hopefully, one day the city of Portland will follow Multnomah County's lead.
For the full size photos click here.
It was a short campaign but we had fun!
We fought the good fight but couldn’t pull off a victory tonight. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Our campaign knocked on over 5,000 doors and we raised enough money to be competitive.
But running against a good field of seven candidates who had either run for office before or who worked for politicians with established networks proved to be too much for this short special election. We couldn’t overcome the advantages.
I want to congratulate Karol Collymore and Loretta Smith for advancing to the next round.
Tonight I want to say a special word of thanks to Bob Durston, Wendy Marsh, Wade Nkrumah, Andrew Plambeck and Michele Rogelstad (our field director) for their incredible work as our campaign team. We also greatly appreciated the work of Michael King with WinPower.
We were also fortunate to have Gretchen Kafoury and Steve Novick backing our campaign 100%.
Of course, Liz Smith Currie and our daughters Frances and Katherine deserve the most thanks. They were amazing, as always.
And finally, thank you to all our volunteers and contributors. You put your faith and trust in me and I will be forever grateful.
We can’t thank you enough!
Talk about good press! Too bad it came after the results were in. :)
A New Campaign Web Site Will Be Live Soon!
This morning I filed as a candidate for Multnomah County Commissioner, Position 2.
County government is where many of the issues closest to my heart are discussed: health and human services, public education, and public safety.
As a Multnomah County Commissioner, I intend to be a full time representative of the people working for a better and more prosperous community.
Running for county commissioner was not what I had planned to do when I woke up this morning. But this rare opportunity has become available and my experience of over twenty years working with local government, non-profits and the religious community would benefit the work of Multnomah County.
I know the issues and know the people.
My assumption is that a number of candidates will file by the 5 pm deadline today and that they will all be good people who are qualified to serve in public office. Multnomah County has an abundance of talent and I look forward to having a conversation with voters that honors Multnomah County’s long history of thoughtful debate.
During a time of deep economic turmoil and a lack of solid leadership in some parts of the county this campaign should be about how we build a future worthy of our children.
I hope you will join me in this effort.