Wanted: A house

We just had one of the most delightful posts I’d like to share. It was an ask for a house.

Some background.

Elly was interviewing DeMarcus Preston about a bike ride that he organized against gang violence. Here’s a photo: 

During the interview Elly discovered some unintended consequences of Portland’s gentrification (thanks, in some part, to the many tech jobs created in the city). “’As people get displaced from inner and North Portland, [the gangs] moving east,’ DeMarcus said. It used to be that everyone had their territories pretty well sorted out, but now it’s common to have people from three different gangs living in the same block and running into each other at the convenience store.” DeMarcus says the gang violence he’s seeing is as bad as it was in the 1980s. 

Here’s the problem: “There is no safe house where people who want to leave their gang (apparently that’s a whole lot of people, some with regrets, others who were forced to join in the first place) can go to get on a new path.”

Clearly, what is needed is a house. “So, who’s in?,” writes Elly. “Got a house? Got money? Got part of the money? There are a lot of amazing things happening in Portland right now and the price of those things does not have to be violence. We can all succeed together.” 

Now it happened that that day I had a meeting at City Hall with Jillian Detweiler, the policy director for Mayor Charlie Hales.


I showed Jillian the post. I’ll admit that it felt kind of Pollyanna-ish…to hope that a government official would care or take the time to respond. She read it over, paused, and said, “Well, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.” And this, really, is the essence of Switchboard, and what Jillian pick up on immediately. It is impossible to know what is possible until you ask. Jillian then created an account…

…and forwarded Elly’s post to Antoinette Edwards, the Director of Youth Violence Prevention, and then took the time to comment and reply to Elly. 

Here’s her comment:

And Elly’s response: 

@marazepeda @MayorPDX jawdrop

— Elly Blue (@ellyblue)

November 7, 2014

There was another response from Chris over at the Portland Development Commission. 

Look: I know what you’re thinking. There are probably three ways this could go. Maybe, through some act of grace, charity, or bureaucratic wrangling, DeMarcus will get the house he dreams of to rehabilitate former gang members. Elly will report a success, and this post will embody what is possible when are vulnerable and courageous enough to ask for what we need and have our community respond. Perhaps it will be determined that there simply isn’t the capacity, or the necessary paperwork isn’t up to snuff, and it will die as so many things do, when minutiae overwhelm any possibility of the miraculous. Or maybe nothing will happen at all. Just another citizen with good intentions.

I don’t know what the outcome is, but I promise we’ll keep you updated. But DeMarcus telling Elly telling Jillian telling Antoinette, in under 24 hours, is, as far as I can tell, evidence that something on Switchboard is working. Quite simply: the connecting cables are in motion, and the right connections were made.