Today a statement was made to a private email list of volunteers and donors of Rahab’s Sisters, a non-profit that operates out of St Peter and St Paul Episcopal Church at 82nd and Ash. Executive Director Anneliese Davis made false and inflammatory remarks regarding a recent visit to the needle exchange site at St. Peter and St. Paul by members of Montavilla Initiative. We’d like to address some of her claims.
Anneliese writes: “Recently a new group in the neighborhood has begun targeting our guests and clients of the Multnomah County syringe exchange program. I have been deeply saddened to see women who already endure violence, exclusion and poverty have to walk past jeering men who take photos as they come to us for food, supplies and community. And by perpetuating fear and myths in the media, this group makes the streets even more unsafe for our guests who have nowhere else to go.”
Members and board members of Montavilla Initiative and its neighboring supporters have never targeted any guests of Rahab’s Sisters or clients of the Multnomah County syringe exchange program. Members visited the site and observed it from across the street on the evening of Friday, September 14th, 2018. During this visit, we observed a drug dealer selling heroin from a vehicle that was illegally parked on Ash Street in plain sight of Rahab’s Sisters volunteers and county employees. We also observed people attempting to urinate and defecate on adjacent neighbors’ properties, some of whom are members of our organization. When we observed this illegal behavior, we took still photographs of it and shortly after doing so, were threatened by two male individuals, one who was wearing a mask over his face. These individuals threatened to assault us, threatened the security of our homes, and used racist, homophobic, and misogynistic language toward us. This encounter was documented via video in order to share with Portland Police. To be clear, no women were photographed or filmed at any time. It is also worth noting that members of our group were primarily women. No one associated with our group jeered or harassed guests or clients seeking services from the needle exchange or Rahab’s Sisters. We don’t know where the director of Rahab’s Sisters got this information, but we can only assume it was second hand, since we didn’t see her at the site that evening.
Neighbors in the vicinity of this needle exchange have been dealing with chronic crime and livability issues for years and have tried to work with the volunteers of Rahab’s Sisters and the Multnomah County Needle Exchange employees. Volunteers and County employees have been condescending to Montavilla neighbors and have refused to take any responsibility for the behavior of their clients, nor have they made any attempts to prevent harm to those living nearby. Even reasonable requests by these neighbors that guests and clients not trespass at adjacent properties or threaten neighbors have been completely ignored.
Neighbors have called Portland Police to the site multiple times per month due to the conduct of those participating in these programs. Recently when the media interviewed people living nearby, Anneliese, from Rahab’s Sisters told the media that there have never been any of the problems that neighbors describe at the site. These statements are patently false.
Rather than working with neighbors to address these concerns, Rahab’s Sisters and Multnomah County Needle Exchange employees refuse to be accountable for the impact their clients and guests have on neighbors. Instead, they ignore their own rules and policies, prefer to falsely represent their programs and demonize the concerns and efforts of neighbors, some of whom are supportive of these programs but also desire to preserve public safety.
The broader statement that neighbors near this site and members of Montavilla Initiative are fear mongering is completely false.. Our desire is to elevate the concerned voices of thousands of Portlanders, including the residents that live closest to the church where these services are offered. We desire to send a message; that as residents of Portland, we will no longer tolerate crime being committed and overlooked, no matter where it comes from. We expect enforcement of existing laws, equity in its enforcement, and protection of neighbors who are threatened when they attempt to address crime. We are now attempting to reach the director of Rahab’s Sisters so she can be better informed about what is going on at this site, and also so she can clear up what actually transpired on that night.
Video documentation of the September 14th visit to the site is available by clicking here.