Shawn Penney loves Northeast Portland. In fact, he loves it so much that he’s dedicated his life to making it better.
Partners in Community
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 Edition of NECN’s newspaper, Hey Neighbor!
NECN provides fiscal sponsorships to community organizations around the area. This month we check back in with Repair PDX’s Lauren Gross, who received sponsorship in 2017.
HN: Tell us about your organization.
LG: Our mission is to spread repair culture. We do that by hosting monthly events called Repair Cafés where volunteers fix people’s broken items for free. Our goals are to repair items and extend their life, shift attitudes about getting something repaired instead of immediately throwing it away, and empower people to learn to fix their own items. We were inspired by the Repair Cafés organization in the Netherlands, who began hosting events like ours in 2009. In 2013, several of us who wanted to make this happen in Portland, got together and started organizing. It’s been a rewarding process and we continue to love what we do.
HN: How has having NECN as your fiscal sponsor helped you achieve your mission?
LG: We are so totally grateful to NECN for agreeing to be our fiscal sponsor! For the past four years, we have been operating as a grassroots organization that is all volunteer run. None of us get paid, which means we have a very limited capacity to make things happen. Fiscal sponsorship allows us to accept donations that we would not have otherwise been able to accept, which includes grants as well as in-kind donations. NECN also helps with admin and promoting our activities, which will definitely help build our capacity and allow us to do more!
HN: What’s been your impact so far?
LG: Since we began in May of 2013, we have hosted 44 repair cafes in the Portland area and fixed around 2,000 items. We have also helped other groups in our region get started. There are now similar repair groups that host events in Beaverton/Hillsboro, West Linn, Gresham, Milwaukie, and Vancouver. Our events are more than just fixing things to keep them out of the landfill. They are about fixing people’s treasured items and building community in the process. The feeling of community that comes from volunteer and participant problem-solving and fixing something together is really special.
HN: What’s next for Repair PDX in the coming year?
LG: We would love to build our capacity so we can do more! We’ve already been a resource for other groups in our region, and we’d love to help more people host their own events in their communities. In addition to continuing to host repair cafés, we’d also like to start hosting workshops and perhaps organize an apprenticeship type program where anyone wanting to learn repair can partner up with our volunteers to learn how to repair items. It would be wonderful to expose kids to tinkering and repairing things as well.
You can find out more about Repair PDX at their website: repairpdx.org
Right 2 Dream Too
Partners in Community
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of NECN’s newspaper, Hey Neighbor!
When Right 2 Dream Too opened their doors in 2011 as a respite for people experiencing houselessness in downtown Portland, it came with a lot of publicity, both good and bad. Right in the heart of the city, on the northwest corner of Burnside and Fourth Avenue, it looked to some like yet another tent city.
In reality though, it was different; a self-governing place of rest for all types of people, a safe place to relax with a strong sense of community.
This past summer, Right 2 Dream Too, or R2DToo as it’s come to be called, gained attention again when it moved across the river to a discrete location across from the Moda Center.
Within a stone’s throw of the Yellow Line Max Stop, R2DToo gives shelter to houseless residents who sign up for a place to sleep day or night. Participants must agree to a strict code of conduct that, among other things, bans substance use of all kinds. R2DToo also provides its own security detail.
And while talk of a “tent city” sprouting up in the inner northeast core was met first with some trepidation, the surrounding community has welcomed the new residents as their own.
“It’s pretty easy to look at the situation from the outside and have your opinions but trust me, that will change when you start doing the work,” says Keith Jones, chair of the Resident Committee of the Lloyd District Community Association. He goes on to say that the residents of Right To Dream Too are members of the community just like any other neighbors; they do weekly litter pick-ups in the neighborhood, meet with other community members over spaghetti dinners, and overall share a common interest in making this small corner of the Northeast quadrant a nicer place to live.
Jones hopes to see the model expanded into other parts of Portland, as the perpetual and severe housing crisis continues to push people onto the streets, and neighborhoods grapple with how to accommodate the shift. “The Portland community needs to start having a conversation about what kinds of things we can all do. We can’t push this problem away,” he says.
Tucked away on a hillside facing the river, it’s easy to pass by the Moda Center Transit Center by train or by car and not even notice the Right 2 Dream Too space. And perhaps that’s just as it should be. Like any other neighbor, they blend right in.
R2DToo is an all-volunteer run, 501c3 not-for-profit organization. Donations of sleeping bags, socks, and prepared food are always welcome. You can also donate funds on site, 999 N. Thunderbird Wayor here: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=Shyv_dJ0KihfEtbPC9AfRBzz8sS3AkMC4_Li_GtM2UK09LuyvJXUBdpZIvB0KSUjKgZu6G&country.x=US&locale.x=US
by Mischa Webley, NECN Staff Writer