Approximately 70 people participated in the first community conversation on Sharing Public Spaces on Saturday, July 23. Portlanders from many different neighborhoods all over the city came to Kaiser Town Hall on North Interstate for two hours on a hot summer morning, to talk with and listen to neighbors with a wide variety of experiences sharing public sidewalks. Many citizens currently or formerly living outside attended, thanks in part to encouragement by Sisters of the Road Cafe's Civic Action Group, and by several faith-based community organizations. City staff from my office and Commissioner Fish's, the Bureau of Housing, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and the Office of Human Relations participated, as did members of the Human Rights Commission. I was very happy to hear the constructive conversations and good suggestions. Having worked in psychiatry for 26 years in my nursing career, I have seen over and over how good-hearted people talking together can help solve even the most challenging problems.
Some feedback from participants:
"Much more interesting than I expected"
"Maybe preaching to the choir - I hope more people who don't yet understand and care for our friends living outside come to the next meeting"
"The small group discussions were great. The volunteer facilitators were really helpful"
"I learned a lot"
"I liked that every table group included someone experiencing homelessness, so everyone heard their perspective and got to know them a little as individual people"
"It was good. I hope it leads to action and more help."
The meeting notes are here. We will revise the format slightly and provide additional information on services and work already being done by the City of Portland and others, for the second meeting this Tuesday, 7/21/09, from 7 - 9 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 1011 SW 12th Avenue. Please come to talk and listen.