Who We Are
The Portland Mutual Aid Network started in the summer of 2020 in direct response to the needs of the houseless/unsheltered community in downtown Portland Oregon.
In the midst of protests during early June 2020, the Portland Police Bureau attacked nightly with excessive use of force against protestors, and through the use of tear gas and police munitions, displaced and upended the houseless community.
We realized that we could answer the call of houseless/unsheltered people for additional support in terms of food and water. We asked everyone we met what they needed and in time throughout this year have expanded our offerings to include dozens of requested shelter, personal hygiene, and food products.
WHAT WE DO
We are an all volunteer network, currently serving downtown Portland (Old Town north of Burnside Street and west of Naito Parkway) and when we can, Laurelhurst Park. We also are starting outreach with meals to other parts of the city as well.
We make and distribute vegan food, necessary supplies, and personal care products weekly. Our reach is dependent on the engagement of volunteers.
The people we serve define what we do and what we offer. We are in response to, not expectation of, the people we serve.
We are always looking to serve more, network with other groups in need, and continue on a path driven by our motto: ENGAGE – LISTEN – RESPOND.
WHY WE DO IT
There was an influx of mutual aid and political groups during 2020 as political tensions rose. We made a choice to commit to continuing our help even after the die off of many of these organizations once a new President was elected, and even though our supplies were limited. We decided it would be better to last longer for people than to offer more in a shorter timeframe.
We are small, but we are consistent. People can rely on us each week and this is an important driving force for continuing to go out. We do not want to be occasional. We want to be a consistent presence in the lives of the people we support.
WHY MUTUAL AID?
Mutual aid is community response. It is not charity. It is rooted in listening and response to individual needs in the hopes of not just satisfying those needs but bringing about more widespread transformation. The idea is simple really: the community, of individuals, comes together and offers to people in need what they require from what they might have.
In 2020 when Covid-19 response shut down available resources for the houseless/unsheltered community, we realized we could help fill some, but certainly not all (or even most), of those gaps. It is a thriving network of organizations like ours which helps the community not just ours alone.
Through engaging, listening, and responding to the needs of people, and by working with other groups doing similar things, mutual aid begins a path (hopefully) towards a transformed existence.
We do as much as we can with the resources available to us. We try to envision better ways to not only serve people but to change the conditions which affect them. No one group will change those conditions, but collectively, through idea sharing and consistent outreach and imagination combined with action, we can hopefully get closer to that goal.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
Getting involved is easy. Write us on Instagram @portlandmutualaid or via email and we can tell you more.
Some people come out each week and help distribute supplies on the day we go out downtown. Others cook and distribute food (we supply to-go containers and utensils for this!).
Some support us through donations and others support this work through spreading the word via their social media channels. Things like fundraising, direct support in terms of showing up, or even just ideas for the people we serve are appreciated.
As a non hierarchical group, we include you in our planning and strategy. Your ideas matter. Please get in touch anytime and share what you might have to offer and we’d be happy to include you.