Midway business group learns about ‘Portland Street Response’

You’ve already missed the delicious pizza served at this outer East Portland meeting, but you can still find out, here, what took place at a luncheon meeting of the Midway Business Association …

Meeting new business people in the district is one of the delights of many who attend events held by the Midway Business Association.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Networking, noshing on freshly-made bubbling pizza, and learning timely information were all part of the Midway Business Association (MBA) meeting in the noon hour on April 7 at the Pizza Baron restaurant.

It was well-attended, with 23 individuals representing district businesses, nonprofits, and neighborhood associations settled-in after networking, and serving themselves pizza slices.

Attendees serve themselves slices of two Pizza Baron favorites: White Garlic Sauce Chicken pizza, and The Baron’s Bonanza!

After self-introductions, Venture Portland MBA District Manager Rich Reece brought the meeting to order. He introduced Pizza Baron founder Bill Dayton, who addressed the group.

Telling of how the MBA was founded was Pizza Baron founder Bill Dayton, with his son (and restaurant general manager) Jeff Dayton at his side.

He told how their family restaurant has been community-oriented over the years. “It started when Johnson Creek was flooding; we decided to help out neighbors and businesses by just taking pizzas to them,” Dayton recalled.

Dayton said he continued to be more involved in civics, decades ago, in an effort to help control “cruising” along 122nd Avenue — working with then-Mayor Bud Clark, on that, and other community improvement projects.

Bill Dayton calls for business people to help reactivate the MBA’s district.

Recalling that he was one of the original founding members of the MBA – and is still active, and in business – Dayton offered, “I’m here to help you. I know things that went wrong, I know things that went right, and can give you a lot of advice, if you want it.

“All businesses are welcome; and, at the same time, we need to get major retail business involved. But they’re very difficult to get,” observed Dayton. “It’s time to decide to get the Midway District back in action again.”

MBA Board Member Lorelei Young of Keepsake Family Tree Video welcomes back returning MBA members, and encourages first-time attendees to join.

Talks about Portland Street Response
Next up was Portland Street Response (PSR) Program Manager Robyn Burek. She told about this program, officially part of Portland Fire & Rescue, which started as a pilot operation on February 16, 2021.

When PSR began, the program primarily served the Lents neighborhood, and was co-located with PF&R Lents Station 11, said Burek.

Portland Street Response Program Manager Robyn Burek explains the program she supervises.

The program’s objective is to “free up” Portland Police Bureau officers from having to respond to calls to assist people experiencing houselessness, or who have low-acuity behavioral or mental health crises – so the officers can go on to address the more critical calls, Burek explained.

Sorting out ‘street issues’
When going on a typical “Welfare Check” call, PSR workers sort out whether it involves a person they are called to help, or is a homeless issue only, or it concerns an underlying mental health issue, such as schizophrenia — or relates to drug-induced psychosis.

“We can’t force people into drug treatment, getting mental health care, or to stop living off the street,” Burek remarked. “We do our best to ‘treat them in place’, and gain that trust, so they know that we’re ‘safe people’ to be around, and that we can help them. We may not be able to end their houselessness or addiction – but we are able to provide them with the steps they need to try to navigate the system, and to get to that place themselves.”

Service area, hours expand
As the PSR pilot program continued, it expanded in April, 2021, to the north, west, and east beyond their original service area – at which time it approximately matched the PPB East Precinct boundaries.

According to their “Call Density by Location” online map, many of the 900 calls to which a PSR team has been dispatched during their first year have included the Mt. Scott-Arleta, Foster-Powell, Woodstock, and Brentwood-Darlington neighborhoods.

In November of 2021 the PSRF program added a second shift, Monday through Thursday, 10 hours a day, and operate overated overnight on Friday through Sunday for the first time.

Soon, says PSR’s Robyn Burek, they will be operating, fulltime.

Then, this March, PSR launched citywide operations, going on calls Monday through Sunday, from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. using four outreach vans, Burek told the group. “If this expansion works out as expected, we’ll begin dispatching teams citywide in July, and scale up to 24-hour coverage in October.”

Asked why PSR does not operate 24 hours a day already, Burek responded, “During the night shift, there are higher-acuity calls, most of which are dispatched to police officers. Peak hours for us are 10:00 a.m. until after the lunch hour, and calls then begin to decline, so that by 10:00 p.m. the calls have tapered off.

However, come July, PSR will be adding five more response vehicles as they go to a 24/7 model of operation, Burek pointed out. “Last fall, PSR had about a 13-minute response time; but now, the wait can be as long as 30 minutes  –  to an hour  –  for response; so, we’re working to bring that response time down.”

Pitches neighborhood association participation

Centennial Community Association Chair Dan Bramske tells about his neighborhood.

Before the meeting ended, Centennial Community Association Chair Dan Bramske informed those present about his neighborhood, which is located in the MBA District.

“Centennial is, I believe, the third largest neighborhood in the city – it goes from 143rd Avenue east to Gresham, and from Stark Street south to Powell Butte,” Bramske outlined.

“Like every other neighborhood association, we have gone through a really tough time during COVID-19 pandemic; only holding virtual meetings,” Bramske said. “Like a lot of other organizations, we are rebuilding our strength.”

May 19 Midway Business Association ‘In-Person’ Mixer
From 4:30 until 6:00 p.m. on May 19, come by, and join in, with other area business owners, managers, and people interested in helping improve the Midway Business District.

It’s not a formal meeting, organizers say. “Free pizza and prizes are the big themes for this event.” Again, it’s at Pizza Baron, at 2604 SE 122nd Avenue, 97236, just south of Division Street.

For more information about the Midway Business Association, see their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

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