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Posts Tagged ‘portland’

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Photo: Erin Clark for The Boston Globe
Cities as different as Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Providence, Rhode Island, are paying people experiencing homelessness to do maintenance of public spaces. In the photo, two men are cleaning up gardens along the Back Cove Trail in Portland, Maine.

Three cheers for cities that come up with creative ways to address homelessness! I’ve written about the practice of offering public-service work to people experiencing homelessness in New Mexico and Rhode Island. Now a city in Maine is testing the concept.

Brian MacQuarrie writes at the Boston Globe, “Seven men, stooped and sweating, tear fistfuls of crabgrass and milkweed from a tangle of overgrowth in a large public garden. It’s dirty work for $10.90 an hour, the minimum wage in Maine’s largest city, but there’s not a complaint to be heard.

“ ‘People are always coming by and telling us, “Thanks for helping — it’s looking good,” ’ says Jeff Vane, 49, standing knee-deep in urban brush. …

“Portland officials are inviting panhandlers to put away their signs and put on a pair of work gloves. They clean parks, beautify public gardens, and even place flags at the graves of veterans in exchange for a small paycheck and a possible path to better, lasting employment.

“ ‘It makes you feel good about yourself, makes you feel that you’ve still got it,’ Frank Mello, 49, says of the job. ‘It shows I’m not the homeless bum that people think I am.’

“Portland’s program, nearing the end of its second year, is not intended to erase panhandling, city officials say. Some men and women who ‘fly their signs’ at Portland intersections, most of them homeless and desperate for money, will never be persuaded to put them away.

“But it’s an effort that passes legal muster. Both Portland and Worcester, Mass., for example, had banned panhandling with ordinances that were overturned by federal courts, which ruled that they infringed on free speech. …

“Panhandlers are pitched on the program as a way to leave the streets, connect with benefits such as housing vouchers and food stamps, and find work in the future through a day-labor agency that partners with the city. Participation is voluntary — workers can drop out of the Opportunity Crew program at any time. But so far, no one has been asked to leave for failing to do the job or follow the rules.

‘I’ve always kind of believed that if you give someone a hand up, and if they’re so inclined, that’s all they’re asking for,’ City Manager Jon Jennings said in an interview. ‘I just don’t see as many people panhandling now.’

“The Opportunity Crew has a budget of only $40,000 per year, but the benefits go far beyond dollars and cents, city officials said. Through [late August], 281 bags of trash had been collected this year and 121 syringes removed from public spaces, said Aaron Geyer, who supervises the program. A total of 936 hours had been logged by crews of 6 to 10 people who work Wednesdays and Thursdays from April until October

“ ‘They show up on time in the morning, and they’re ready to work,’ Geyer said.

“The cost of a crew is pegged at $1,300 per week, and business sponsors that help pay for the program are promoted on city signs at the cleanup sites. …

“So far, 17 men and women have found jobs after participating in the Portland program, which Jennings said he hopes to expand. …

“Frank Mello [gives] each of his teenage daughters $40 a week from his Opportunity Crew earnings. The children’s mother died three months ago from a heroin overdose, he said.

“ ‘Basically, I’m working for my children. They need me right now,’ Mello said in a gravelly voice, straightening up as sweat poured from his face. …

“ ‘We all know each other, you know,’ Mello said, smiling and nodding toward his fellow panhandlers. ‘Now, we want to work.’ ”

Read more at the Globe, here. A previous blog post on the concept is here.

 

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Ingenuity can make a business out of almost anything. That’s what you may conclude after reading how a small Maine company is making something useful from lobster shells.

Tom Bell has the story at the Associated Press: “A startup company in Maine is developing a children’s bandage coated with a substance extracted from crushed lobster shells that would promote blood-clotting and is resistant to bacterial infection.

“The company, Lobster Tough LLC, shipped Maine lobster shells to a processor in Iceland for testing, and so far, the results are promising, said Thor Sigfusson, an Icelandic investor in the company. …

“ ‘My dream will be to use the massive amounts of lobster shells that are being thrown into dumpsters,’ he said. …

“The lobster shells must be dehydrated to remove weight and lower shipping costs. Lobster Tough this winter is shipping a portable dehydration machine from Iceland to Maine. The company eventually plans to build a $2 million dehydration plant somewhere on the Maine coast, said Patrick Arnold, an investor who lives in South Portland. …

“The bandages would be the first commercial product developed through the New England Ocean Cluster, a new business incubator in Portland.”

More here.

Photo: Tasty Island

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We all have ambitions, and it seems that there are people in Providence whose ambition it is to hold the tree-hugging record. If you can help, the date is April 25.

According to Tim Faulkner at EcoRi, the goal is to be greener than Portland, Oregon.

“In an effort to establish its green cred and presumably give a big thanks to the environment, the city will attempt to wrest a unique world record from the undisputed champion of green cities: Portland, Ore.

“What’s the record? The largest tree hug. Portland set the benchmark in 2013, with 936 people hugging trees at one time.

“Providence and the Rhode Island Tree Council will host the group hug during its Earth Day Spring Cleaning on April 25. The record attempt will take place at Roger Williams Park, after some 40 neighborhood cleanups across the city. Last year’s cleanups drew about 2,200 volunteers, and organizers hope the Portland record will fall if at least half of them join the after party in the park.

“Registration for the after-cleanup party at Roger Williams Park will be held from 1-2:30 p.m. All tree huggers must register, and early registration is recommended. To register, click here. The event begins at 3 p.m., and all participants must hug a tree for a minute.”

More here on solar power, composting, bike sharing, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s sustainability proposals, and plans for energy-saving streetlights.

Photo: Momma on the Move

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A nonprofit book service in Portland, Oregon, has recognized that “people living outside” are as likely to enjoy a book as people who live indoors.

Kirk Johnson writes in the NY Times, “A homeless man named Daniel was engrossed in a Barbara Kingsolver novel when his backpack was stolen recently, and Laura Moulton was determined to set things to right.

“Ms. Moulton, 44, an artist, writer and adjunct professor of creative nonfiction, did not know Daniel’s last name, his exact age, or really even how to find him — they had met only once. But she knew the novel, ‘Prodigal Summer,’ and that was a start. So, armed with a new copy of the book, off she went. Such is the life of a street librarian.

“This city has a deeply dyed liberal impulse beating in its veins around social and environmental causes, and a literary culture that has flourished like the blackberry thickets that mark misty Northwest woods. It is also one of the most bike-friendly, if not bike-crazed, urban spaces in the nation, as measured by commuters and bike lanes. All three of those forces are combined in Street Books, a nonprofit book service delivered by pedal-power for ‘people living outside,”’ as Ms. Moulton, the founder, describes the mission. …

“ ‘It’s not just a little novelty act — “Oh, that’s so Portland and cute,” ’ ” says Diana Rempe, a community psychologist. “Taking books to the streets, she said, sends the message that poor and marginalized people are not so different from the ‘us’ that defines the educated, literate mainstream of the city, whether in its hipsters, computer geeks or bankers.”

More here.

Photo: Thomas Patterson for The New York Times
Laura Moulton and Matt Tufaro in Portland, Ore. Ms. Moulton founded Street Books, a nonprofit book service for “people living outside.”

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Being reminded recently that Bored Panda was a good place to look for cool stuff, I read about a guy who makes his home in an airplane.

“Bruce Campbell is an inventive engineer who bought a retired Boeing 727 aircraft fuselage and upcycled it into an unusual and innovative home. The huge 3-engine commercial airliner is propped up on concrete pillars in a suburban wooded area outside of Portland, Oregon, and has its own driveway.

“The aircraft features a makeshift shower, but he is still working to install a working lavatory and to restore some of the plane’s original interior elements, like seating and lights. Campbell lives in this plane 6 months every year, and spends the other part of the year in Japan, where he is also looking to buy and similarly re-use a retired Boeing 747 fuselage.”

More here. Lots of pictures.

Photo: John Brecher
Says plane denizen Bruce Campbell, “Shredding a beautiful and scintillating jetliner is a tragedy in waste, and a profound failure of human imagination.

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Kai sent a link to a story about a guy who has his mother living in a tiny house in his backyard.

I had to laugh. The house is about the size of my garage, and as much fun as it would be to live in a child’s playhouse, I can’t imagine what a born pack rat would do with all her clutter. (Not to mention, how many grown children want a parent living in the backyard?)

Sandy Keenan reports in the NY Times, “In most cities, adding a second house to a single-family lot would be illegal or would set off an epic battle with the neighbors that could drag on for years. But not in Portland, Ore.

“There, this kind of housing — referred to officially as ‘accessory dwelling units,’ but better known as granny flats, garage apartments or alley houses — is being welcomed and even encouraged, thanks to friendly zoning laws. And additional living spaces are springing up everywhere, providing affordable housing without changing the feeling or texture of established neighborhoods the way high-rise developments can. …

“Eric Engstrom, a principal city planner, has seen these small structures become increasingly popular during his 16 years working for the city. And as he put it, ‘Given the low vacancy rate, when they’re done, you can rent them out in about an hour.’ Which means that adding an accessory dwelling unit, or A.D.U., increases the value of a piece of property. …

“It was in 2010 when the biggest changes took place. That was when the city relaxed the limitations on size and began offering the equivalent of a cash incentive by waiving the hefty fees usually levied on new development. Other cities in the Northwest have been moving in this direction, but Portland is the first to offer a significant financial benefit and one of the few that does not require owners to live on the site, provide additional off-street parking or secure the approval of their neighbors.” More.

I know of at least one resort community that allows accessory apartments for family members. It’s a good idea, but there’s always the worry that in the season, some folks will just rent them out to tourists and still need a place to stay.

Photo: Laure Joliet for The New York Times
A 480-square-foot garage, now a home: one of many small dwellings encouraged by the city of Portland, Ore.

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Got this from SmallerCitiesUnite! on twitter.

Rachel Walker writes at PeopleForBikes.org, “How do you get more people on bikes? Go to where they are, open up a ‘shop,’ teach them to build and maintain a bike. Help them earn a bike. Repeat.

“This is the philosophy behind the myriad of community bike shops sprouting up in inner-city neighborhoods throughout the country. Non-profit organizations that cater to the underserved aim to destigmatize and popularize cycling among communities that have probably not heard of Strava or clipless pedals. In these neighborhoods, bicycle lanes, racks, and, most importantly, riders, are noticeably absent.

“And that, according to the forces behind community bike shops, must change—for multiple reasons.

“ ‘For our core constituents, getting a bike and learning how to maintain it is about economic mobility,’ says Ryan Schutz, executive director of Denver’s Bike Depot. ‘Owning a bike lets them travel farther to find work and spend their money on food, instead of on gas or bus fares.’

“Like the majority of community bike shops, Bike Depot puts bikes into the hands of people who otherwise couldn’t afford them or may not choose to buy them. The organization accomplishes this through earn-a-bike programs and by selling low-cost refurbished bikes. They also teach members bike safety and maintenance skills.” More here.

Sounds like a variation on Bike Not Bombs, which started in the Greater Boston area several decades ago, refurbishing donated bicycles and sending them to poor countries.

Here’s what Bikes Not Bombs says on the website: “Bikes Not Bombs uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change. We reclaim thousands of bicycles each year. We create local and global programs that provide skill development, jobs, and sustainable transportation. Our programs mobilize youth and adults to be leaders in community transformation.”

All good stuff.

Photo: People For Bikes
The Community Cycling Center in Portland, Oregon, offers bike camps to local kids.

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