PORTLAND, Oregon — On Monday, staff members at Mother + Child Education Center in Northeast Portland had a full day of ahead of them. There were classes to teach new parents. There were free baby supplies, clothing and food to share with clients. But those plans quickly changed when they got to the office.
“When we came into work on Monday, literally somebody had decided to go to the bathroom all over everything,” said Mother + Child executive director Maura White. “I just wanted to cry.”
White found human feces smeared all over a mural outside the nonprofit at 1515 NE 41st Avenue. Piles of waste dotted the yard and filled buckets — it was even smeared into a padlock on their fence door.
“We spent all day washing everything down,” said White. “It was just gross, and so we called and canceled appointments. Moms couldn't come in that day because it was taking that much time to clean it.”
Days later there were more problems. White said that someone ripped out their Ring camera and broke a porch light. Another man caused a big disturbance.
“We actually had Portland Street Response come and respond,” said White. “He was having a mental health crisis but he wouldn't leave for almost four hours. So they removed him, got him safely somewhere — well, he came back. He was back causing trouble with other people who slept on the porch the next night.”
White said that what happened this week is a graphic snapshot of an ongoing problem. Safety conditions have become so unpredictable that White now keeps the front door locked during business hours. Visitors must knock to be let in.
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“We've had moms come up when someone's coming up with a mental health crisis,” said White. “I have young staff coming to work, having to crawl over people that are on the [porch]. There's alcohol everywhere, there's needles outside ... it's not safe for my staff.”
White said Portland police officers run extra patrols in the area and have even trained them to de-escalate less dangerous situations. But beyond that, she said the most frustrating reality of her problem, is that there is no apparent solution to it. She's asking community members to help support them and be vigilant on their behalf.
“When they're walking by they can say, 'Hey, is there anyone on that porch?'" said White. "Make sure no one's trying to damage it when they go to Trader Joe's. Look out for us, just like you look out for our neighbors."