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Moreland Presbyterian updates 'homeless' plan; community approves

The Moreland Presbyterian Church, which riled its neighbors with a belatedly-announced plan to house a homeless woman, or homeless woman with her kids, in her own car on their parking lot with a Porta-Potty nearby, has reconsidered the idea and responded to community feedback.

At the SMILE Board meeting on October 18th, Don Schoenbeck appeared on behalf of the church to announce that essentially all the community requests for the program had been accepted, and the homeless woman, or woman with children, would be housed in a dedicated space within the church, behind a locked door for which she would have the key. The space will have sleeping accommodations, a microwave oven and coffeepot, a bathroom and running water, a telephone, and a list of church contacts for assistance.

Will Harris of JOIN, the nonprofit organization which has been assisting the Portland homeless for twenty years, was present to explain how they would vet the participants in the church’s program – for whom this would be a waystation to affordable housing.

At the presentation a neighbor or two of the church grumbled about the short notice to them of the revised plan, but all present, without exception, voiced approval for the plan, and some volunteered to assist with it.

The SMILE Board then voted its approval, expressing a preference for access to the site by participants by sunset and departure after sunrise – which the church agreed would be beneficial – and setting up an ad-hoc committee of SMILE, composed of church and neighbor representatives, to review the program at intervals and to keep the communication lines open. SMILE Board member Gerri Sue Lent volunteered to Chair the committee. A question was raised in connection with the meeting about a “clarification” in the October BEE which a church representative had requested, that a program like this was not being considered. The answer, apparently, is that although this plan actually was under consideration, there was no plan for on-site supervision as a component of it, which the church believed THE BEE had suggested there would be. The distinction was not made clear to THE BEE, so the retraction printed turned out to be overly broad.