I've posted the summary of comments from the second meeting on Sharing Public Spaces, here. That was the forum on July 21, attended by more than 200 Portlanders. I remain grateful to everyone who participated, and especially to the volunteers from Resolutions NW who facilitated the small group discussions.
Many folks sent me comments afterwards. The following is an excerpt from a participant's email (posted with permission), that to me captures the spirit of the meetings:
"I thought last night went really well. I was impressed and very happy to see that so many people came and participated! I was thankful for the small group discussion time as I felt there was a broader representation of the audiences we were seeking to come. I just wanted to share with you an experience that happened in my group that left an impression on me.
We had about a third of our small group from the business community and a third of the group who are currently without housing. I did not add much to the discussion last night because I wanted to observe and learn and try to understand the interactions between these two groups. There was one lady in my group that has been homeless for quite some time and she and the business men really seemed to share an understanding about sharing sidewalk space and the differences between the "Road Warriors" (and suburban youth who come into the downtown area posing as 'homeless' to get money from people- they are the ones I've personally seen be the most 'aggressive') and people in general who are "homeless". It was neat to hear one of the business men say, "Now I see the difference." It was really neat to see the mutual respect and understanding that came about from that interaction between the business man and the lady.
It was also very helpful for me to hear and seek to understand the business men and their point of view (of how downtown businesses really are losing customers though I question how much the recession in general has to do with it too). Because of the small group experience, it's actually made me think about backing off a little on the sidewalk obstructions ordinance/disorderly conduct and try to focus more on making sure that we are going to have adequate emergency shelter for people this winter. I know a couple of years ago several churches opened their doors to help with shelter. I want to look into that."
These comments illustrate part of what I was hoping to achieve with the community conversations - Portlanders talking with and listening to each other, and thereby coming closer to agreeing on necessary steps to move forward. Much like the process that the Street Access For Everyone committee members have been through over the past three years, now broadened to include even more caring Portlanders.