Mill Park neighbors host dinner for homeless shelter

Here’s why there was a party in the parking lot of an outer East Portland business center just south of the Wy’East Shelter …

Many people turn out for a unique event in the Mill Park neighborhood that brings residents of the nearby Wy’east Shelter and their neighbors together.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For the second year in a row, Mill Park neighbors hosted a dinner in the parking lot just south of the Wy’east Shelter, temporary, low-barrier shelter for up to 125 men the evening of October 11.

Neighbors, residents and interested folks gathered for a meal, to listen to music, and chat.

Mill Park neighbor, and dinner organizer Caleb Coder, says events like this help those who live nearby to embrace the shelter.

“The dinner we held a year ago September was born from wondering what it would look like for a neighborhood to embrace a shelter, rather than to reject it or be disengaged with it,” said organizer Caleb Coder.

“We came up with this ‘third way’ of looking at what we are doing; it became a place for people to come together, electively as neighbors, acting neighborly, and getting to know one another,” Coder told East Portland News.

Volunteer Beth Ivester helps out by serving supper.

He didn’t do it alone, Coder remarked – about 30 volunteers helped out organizing the get-together.

“It’s the simplicity of sharing a meal, a cup of coffee, and a conversation that can transcend the complexity, violence, dehumanization, racism, and rejection,” Coder added. “So, collectively as neighbors, we’re turning a negative narrative – not healthy – into something that is a way to create a community of inclusion, and a community of transformation.”

Singer and songwriter Kjirsten Tornfelt serenades diners at the event.

At the low-key social, smiles were abundant, as people enjoyed a meal, fresh donuts, and coffee.

“Seeing people coming together brings a lot of joy to my heart,” Coder reflected.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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