We don’t blame you for wanting to erase thoughts of a presidential race in which one candidate did more than any other in living memory to make citizens who didn’t look like him feel despised and unsafe.
But now isn’t the time to forget. It’s time to act.
During these past 18 months of Donald Trump’s towering toxicity, local and important work hasn’t stopped—and neither has the need. And now that the election’s over, it’s time to get back to it.
Willamette Week’s annual Give!Guide is live and now accepting donations at giveguide.org. Giving has already surpassed $100,000 and is nearing 1,000 donors.
There are 141 nonprofits in this year’s Give!Guide that merit your consideration. Here are seven of them—groups that work locally to fight back against social ills that wracked the national news.
Be the remedy.
1. Housing crisis
Nobody could miss the blistering rise in rents across Portland—a 10 percent spike in the past year. But the Community Alliance of Tenants was fighting for tenant protections long before city officials declared a housing emergency.
CAT has spent 20 years advocating for renters and marginalized tenants in the Portland area by informing them of their rights through workshops and outreach.
Now it’s taking the fight to Salem. “We’re asking the state to make no-cause evictions illegal,” says Katrina Holland, the organization’s interim director, “and to lift the ban on rent stabilization so that local jurisdictions can decide what’s best for them.”
Portland’s rising rents have “had a really devastating effect on people of color, seniors, and people with disabilities, and they’re getting pushed out,” Holland says. “People should be welcome to come here, and people should be welcome to stay here if they’d like to stay here.”
2. Climate change
For some, global climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to weaken the trading posture of the United States. For 350PDX, it’s something that needs to be stopped in its tracks, principally by reducing fossil fuel emissions to zero by the middle of this century.
The group runs advocacy campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground, promote divestment from fossil fuel resources, and speed the transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power without taking advantage of minority groups.
“A big challenge is to maintain hope and to maintain our determination in the face of already living in a climate-changed world,” says Mia Reback, 350PDX’s staff organizer and development coordinator. “The work gets harder every week because every week we learn that we have to do more and we have to do it sooner.”
3. Sexual assault and domestic violence
Call to Safety
When the Portland Women’s Crisis Line became Call to Safety in May, it was for one reason. “The simple answer is that no part of our name was correct,” executive director Rebecca Peatow Nickels tells WW.
Call to Safety runs, among other services, a 24/7 crisis line that can be used by anyone of any gender. It’s available to anyone who’s experiencing sexual or domestic violence now or in the past. Callers reach an advocate on the other end of the line.
“Typically, one of the first questions an advocate will ask is whether the person is safe,” Nickels says. “An advocate will invite the caller to explain what they’re calling about and follow their lead on the conversation,” which can include emotional support and referrals to other services. “The average call is about eight minutes long.”
This work isn’t easy.
“The kind of work that we do, there isn’t a lot of acknowledgement from society that it’s a problem in the first place,” Nickels says. “We have to celebrate all of the successes that come our way.”
4. Educational equity
It isn’t everyone who starts thinking about college in fourth grade. But that’s when the students enrolled in the Marathon Scholars college program start heading that way.
The program focuses on low-income and minority children who show early academic aptitude—and mentors them all the way to college. The students, who’ll be the first in their family to go to college, stay in the program for 12 years.
And once students get into college, Marathon Scholars awards them $12,000 scholarships paid by sponsors.
“We say we’re small, but we’re mighty,” says Stephen Wasserberger, the organization’s executive director. “The need is huge. We’ve got 117 kids spread across the program right now, we’re going to recruit 20 this coming school year—and we don’t even scratch the surface.”
5. Criminal justice reform
Partnership for Safety and Justice
The Partnership for Safety and Justice, founded in 1999, works for criminal justice reform by working with everyone who’s directly affected by it: “survivors of crime, people convicted of crime, and the families of both.”
PSJ’s four main programs focus on sentencing reform, improving crime-survivor services, keeping teens in trouble out of the adult criminal justice system, and diverting public safety money away from prisons and toward “victim services, addiction treatment, mental health services and re-entry programs.”
“The criminal justice system doesn’t just impact that one person,” who gets jailed or imprisoned, says Cleo Tung, PSJ’s development director. “It’s impacting their families and their communities.”
Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization
Perhaps no group of people has been as vilified in this election as the refugees who arrive in Portland from war-torn places around the globe.
“Our communities face biases, for sure,” says Jenny Bremner, director of development and communications for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. “It makes the work all the more important.”
IRCO offers language, education, microfinance, case management and other services to refugees from nearly 40 countries around the world. The biggest challenge IRCO now faces isn’t racism: It’s rising rents.
Bremner says IRCO is expanding its services to the west in Washington County and to the south in Salem, where housing for large refugee families is cheaper than it is in Portland.
“The community need is greater and our programs are expanding in response to that need,” she says. “Success is when one of our kids is learning how to read in English and still speaks their native language, when one of our kids graduates high school and gets a full ride to a four-year college or university.”
7. LGBTQ RIGHTS
PDX Q Center
Coming out is difficult—especially when parts of the nation refuse to acknowledge your right to a public restroom. Since 2003, Portland’s Q Center has been making life a little easier for Portland’s LGBTQ people.
“What we really want to do is economic empowerment,” said Justin Pabalate, the Q Center’s executive co-director for development and community relations. “We have so many people who are relocating or houseless and need that training”—or who were part of the center’s programs for LGBTQ kids, and need help finding footing in the adult world.
Pabalate says he’s hoping to make a political impact, too. “My dream would be a candidacy school for LGBT folks” to train them how to run for political office, he says. “We don’t have enough of those.”