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'We can be there for them': North Portland neighbors meet, socialize at a distance

After days of working from home and away from people, neighbors decide to meet outside while respecting social distancing.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A North Portland neighborhood decided to start meeting regularly right outside their homes. They wanted to lift each other's spirits and make sure everyone was doing okay from a safe social distance amidst fears over the coronavirus.

Margaret Seiler thought of the idea she dubbed “Outside at 5.” Prescribed social distancing to avoid spreading the coronavirus meant Seiler had been from home along with most of her neighbors. Her desire for fresh air and connection sparked the idea.

“I just posted on Facebook like, let's all stick our heads out at 5 o’clock and just check in and make sure we're doing alright,” said Seiler. “Even if it's a good 10 feet apart.”         

Other neighbors were excited to join in.

“It's cool that we get to meet our neighbors even though it feels kind of apocalyptic,” said Emily Squadra.

“It's nice to know that they're there for us and we can be there for them,” added Craig Popelars.

Whether it's with a cold drink or an offer to run an errand for a vulnerable neighbor, the point was being together.

“You can sense stress in a person's body when you're seeing their shoulders hunched,” said Seiler. “You can hear it in their voice, all these little clues that you don't get from a typed message.”

Gathering together after spending many days apart has led neighbors to slow down and reflect on their relationships.

“Having those connections with one another,” said Juan Martinez, “when we don't have them, we miss them!”


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