Our Blog: United States
March 19, 2013
Welcome Tiffiny from I Have a Dream
By Laura Koch
Earlier this month, I had a chance to visit Alder Elementary for the first time, and to get an update on the housing mobility work the Vibrant Village Foundation is supporting. As I learned, there is a lot going on!
Tiffiny Hager, “I Have a Dream’s” new Mobility Reduction Resource Coordinator, started on January 22th, and is sharing space with us at the Vibrant Village office on Alberta. We drove out to the school together, on SE 172th and Alder, which gave me an opportunity to pick her brain about what she has been learning in her first few weeks and where she sees the biggest priorities for families at Alder.
Tiffiny’s role was created to help mitigate the flux of families moving in and out of the Alder school catchment area due to different stressors, like substandard housing, feelings of cultural isolation or disconnect and economic insecurity.
Prior to coming on with “I Have A Dream”, Tiffiny worked for Multnomah County for ten years, where she gained experience with similar projects at Vernon and Harrison Park Elementary schools and coordinated housing programs to increase student retention. While with the County, Tiffiny also worked at Columbia Villa (now New Columbia) in North Portland which is notable considering she is now working with some of the same populations that have migrated east in search of more affordable housing. According to Tiffiny, “We are continuing to see increased registration in east county schools, which will continue to drive the need for more culturally appropriate services and opportunities to make this community feel like home.”
Tiffiny shared some of the goals for her new position, “I am hoping to help end this cycle of poverty and displacement and help families get established with the resources they need. Through the Housing Mobility project, we are dealing with similar problems but looking at it from a more integrated and broader community-partnership perspective.”
“I Have A Dream” is partnering directly with Human Solutions and Home Forward to provide short and mid-term rental assistance and social service support. Already this year there have been 140 new families registered at Alder in need of such services. “I Have A Dream’s” goal is for the housing mobility program to increase housing stability, help families gain a better attachment to the school and ultimately help kids do better in school. Through this partnership, 62 families have been securely housed already this year, which is a huge success and movement in the right direction.
January 4, 2013
Urban Gleaners expands staff
by Laura Koch
Urban Gleaners, founded in 2008, is quickly gaining notoriety in Portland as a small but mighty champion against hunger.
They pick up surplus food from grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farms, restaurants and event sites, and deliver it to over 24 agencies and schools serving families living below the poverty line throughout the Portland metro area. Urban Gleaners believes that hunger is less a problem of scarce resources than it is inefficient distribution.
With the help of a $25,000 grant from the Vibrant Village Foundation, Urban Gleaners expanded their operations with the hiring of a new staff person last fall.
When I caught up with Emily Kanter, assistant director, at the end of December to ask how things were going, she breathed a sigh of relief. Their new program coordinator, Ava, had apparently come “at exactly the right time.”
Ava Mikolavich joined Urban Gleaners in October. Ava first discovered Urban Gleaners when she worked with Real Time Farms, connecting farmers’ markets and farmers across the country. She is originally from Portland, went to school in California and spent time in New Orleans on various food-related projects before moving back to Portland last year.
Ava is now helping manage volunteers, coordinate food donations and deliveries and ensure schools get reliable quantities of food. She is also taking on many other operational duties as Urban Gleaners continues to grow to meet demand throughout the community.
Urban Gleaners recently solidified two new partnerships with Le Cordon Bleu and the Art Institute of Portland. Both of these culinary programs purchase a lot of raw produce to use in their classes. Emily explains, “students might be practicing their cutting techniques, so they go through hundreds of potatoes that they don’t actually cook.” That’s where redistribution is key.
Urban Gleaners is also expanding their partnership with five new Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) school programs including Alder, César Chávez, East Gresham, Harris and Woodmere. These schools, and others throughout the county, function as emergency food pantries that rely heavily on canned goods. Urban Gleaners is working to secure larger quantities of fresh foods for these school programs.
December 18, 2012
Support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in Oregon
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced a new policy directive known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is estimated to impact close to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 and their families, nearly 30,000 in Oregon alone.
According to Larry Kleinman from PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), one of the leading advocates for immigrant rights in Oregon, “the DACA program, and the events that brought it about, has immense significance for the immigrant community, for our society generally and for transforming the divisive politics and crushing impacts of our broken immigration system.”
For qualifying immigrants, DACA will offer a series of critical benefits: protection from deportation for up to two years (renewable); work authorization; access to travel abroad for educational, employment, or humanitarian reasons; and—depending on the state—a driver’s license and access to in-state tuition. For potential DACA beneficiaries—known as DREAMers —this is a tremendous, potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain greater access to civil society and expand their already meaningful contributions to social, economic and civic life in the United States.
The President's announcement resulted directly from what Larry described as “courageous activism of undocumented immigrant youth.” Beginning in 2008, hundreds of DREAMers began to engage in civil disobedience, putting themselves at direct risk of deportation to countries they barely knew. Larry equated this type of courage to the “lunch-counter sit-ins of fifty years ago,” and applauded these young people who “braved potentially dire consequences to insist on just treatment.” Now, thanks to the DREAMers' leadership, underscored by the powerful message sent by the Latino vote in November's election, a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants is on the nation's 'front burner.' As Larry explained, successful DACA applicants “with a work permit in one hand and a driver's license in the other, are now empowered to lead more decisively than ever.”
This September, in our home state, the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) took a leadership role and convened a collaborative funding effort to respond quickly to the growing number of DACA applications being filed in our state. The Vibrant Village Foundation joined five other funders—Meyer Memorial Trust, Northwest Health Foundation, Collins Foundation, McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, and the United Way—to pool $180,674 towards this cause. The funds will be dispersed among six qualified organizations currently working to meet the demand of residents in Oregon. These organizations are CAUSA, Catholic Charities, Immigration Counseling Service, Lutheran Community Services, PCUN and the Center for Non-profit Legal Services.
Larry noted the importance and timeliness of this community investment to help integrate these immigrant youth into society and to build capacity for the organizations that will continue to assist ten million more people when immigration reform becomes a reality.