Dignitaries, Friends and Volunteers Open the Doors at Community of Hope
After years of dire need, many months of planning and hard work, and hundreds of volunteer hours, the Community of Hope shelter officially began operations with its Grand Opening on February 12. The first residents had already moved in and helped show off the facility to elected officials, media, supporters and friends.
Dozens of people filed into the Hub, the multipurpose building, near the center of the St. Johns neighborhood. The Hub includes a gathering room where shelter families spend their afternoons and a kitchen where their dinners are prepared. The kitchen table was covered with a wide assortment of treats, all baked by volunteer Sharyn Bowes.
Some attendees came from the many churches in North Portland that have committed to the project through AllOne Community Services. The executive director of AllOne, David Brewer, spoke first. He cited progress AllOne has made over the past three years, providing care for the hungry and homeless. And with President’s Day weekend coming up, Brewer quoted Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the [one] who points out how the strong stumble… The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena …” And then Brewer said AllOne was glad to stand with people striving to live healthy lives and called on everyone to, “join us in the arena.”
Two elected officials also spoke. Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith recalled struggling as a single parent to provide for her children. Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz talked about one word we don’t often hear when addressing homelessness: love. Both stressed the importance of governments working with the community to help those in distress.
The first residents to take advantage of the transitional housing are Trena Harper and her three children Tariq, 7, and Tamir, 6 and Tete who is almost two. Her family is one of about 150 families in North Portland teetering on the edge of homelessness. Harper is grateful for the stability and opportunities that the Community of Hope provides. And she was happy to talk to the Oregonian reporter and anyone else who attended the opening.
As her kids reached for treats in the kitchen and played games in the next room, she told a reporter the shelter opened just in time for her. Staying at the next closest option would have meant moving her two boys to a new school on top of everything else. Staying in North Portland helps her young family through this rough patch.
Devlaeminck led the crowd across the street to the Red Sea Church, which is providing, for free, space for four families to spend the night. Tariq and Tamir raced ahead so they could show off their bedroom. Everything in the neat and clean rooms was donated or purchased with donations.
Devlaeminck’s remarks focused on the gratitude she felt for all the people who have helped make the Community of Hope a reality. There were government officials, local businesses, homelessness experts, schoolchildren who collected goods and decorated and all the “volunteers who have put in countless hours to raise funds, prepare our space, and serve the families especially Sharyn Bowes.” After thanking her husband for his constant support, she thanked God for “helping us overcome every barrier we have encountered.”
As Portland Commissioner Fritz finished her remarks, she asked people for questions. Little Tamir piped up and asked if he could say something. Of course, said Fritz. “I want to say thanks to Linda Jo for being so kind and helpful to me.” And he told the city commissioner just what he thought of Community of Hope. He said, “This is a good place.”