Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
North Portland — Terrance Moses and the team at Neighbors Helping Neighbors are helping address the community’s houseless problem one trash bag at a time.
Actually, it’s more like 6,500 pounds of trash each week.
That is what Terrance estimates he takes to the dump each week after collecting trash from those who are living in small local camps in tents, cars and RVs.
And even that isn’t enough.
“Last month we put out four, 40-yard dumpsters in Delta Park and filled those completely up. And the very next week there was more trash,” said Terrance Moses, founder of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “And it’s more than just the trash. It’s becoming an environmental issue now because everywhere you go, you smell garbage.”
What Is Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a community nonprofit organization that Terrance started in 2016.
Terrance is retired from the military, which is worth noting because I think it speaks to his character, experiences and get ‘er done approach to a problem. You may not know Terrance, but you may have driven by his highly decorated home in Kenton during the holiday season.
In 2016, he responded to a request on Nextdoor for help cleaning up some trash along the Peninsula Trail. That one off request led to daily visits. That led to seeing a bigger need in the community and mapping out houseless camps throughout North Portland. That led to starting the nonprofit.
“And we go around and we seek out where houseless shelters, roadside vehicles, RVs are located at. And we start to dialogue with them and ask them, ‘What do they need and What can we do for them?,'” Terrance said. “And then one of our biggest things is the trash removal and building a bridge between our unsheltered folks and our housed neighbors.
“There’s always friction when houseless folks move into a community neighborhood and set up camp. What I tend to do is I seek out these kinds of interactions and I asked folks to contact me where I can go and have a cordial conversation with the houseless person and try and start that dialogue and offer some assistance so that when folks come to their home, they’re not seeing a pile of trash. They’re not seeing litter everywhere. And in hopes of be more inviting and cordial to our houseless neighbors because they have nowhere else to go.”
The group mostly serves North and Northeast Portland. But they’ll also provide training on how to replicate the service in other neighborhoods.
He said they are out collecting trash 7 days a week, two times a day. But it’s more than just trash collection. They will also provide food and clothing when they have it, as well as offer guidance if other help is needed.
They are also a connection, or a bridge to those that are housed.
“But what I really appreciate them, not only the work that they do, but it’s the method in which they do it,” said Liz Smith. She is president of the St. Johns Boosters, which the business association of St. Johns. They reached out to Neighbors Helping Neighbors to help with trash pick up around the St. Johns Plaza.
“And it is with very much a compassionate outlook,” Smith said. “They give out trash bags to the houseless camps so that they can try bag up their own trash. It is truly outreach. It’s not just, we’re going to help you with an issue or to clean up. It’s really a connection. And I very, very much appreciate that approach. And that is why their name is so appropriate. Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”
No End In Sight
Terrance and his group have a unique perspective on the houseless problem from their vantage point.
“The problem is a lack of shelter. We don’t need more in and out shelters. We need a place that these folks can call home. Whether it’s a sanctioned camp where they can have tiny homes of their own,” he said. “I mean, it just seems so easy, but I don’t know how easy it is.
“And a big deal is mental services. We need these services for our houseless folks. We just can’t keep saying that, ‘Oh, they’re addicted to something. They put that on themselves.’ That’s not good enough. It’s not up to us to judge them. We just need to get them the help they need to try and get them in and out of the streets. Cause everybody, we’re not going to save everyone. Some of them are going to fall back into their addiction, but we still have to try. We have to give them some shelter so that they don’t live on the streets.”
How You Can Help Neighbors Helping Neighbors
For those interested in helping. You can go to their website or their Facebook page and sign up for a volunteer shift. They will provide some Zoom training and you can meet them at a site clean up. But you can also just walk around your neighborhood with some friends – socially distanced, of course, – and do a regular litter patrol. You can then call Metro’s RID Patrol to have that trash picked up.
Better yet, you can send them some money. Terrance estimates he is spending about $680 a week in dump fees.
It is head scratching that Metro and the City of Portland can’t find a way for those fees to be waived or send him a Golden Ticket Pass to the dump.
“We need to as a city, as a state and as a government, this should be unacceptable for us to have people living on the streets,” Terrance said. “It’s just should be unacceptable. We should not be like this at all. And we shouldn’t cast blame. We shouldn’t judge. We just need to do something about it. And right now there is no end in sight. And so until we find a permanent fix for this, I will be out there helping our houseless folks.”
Nathan is an award-winning freelance content marketing producer (words, video, audio, strategy). He also is an award-winning newspaper reporter. He has an MBA and a BA in Editorial Journalism. He is a past director of SEMpdx’s digital marketing conference, and past director on the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee. He has two great kids, likes to sail, ride his road bike, and make beer.