The Alcena has been awarded funding – St. Philip the Deacon, Portland

The Alcena has been awarded funding – St. Philip the Deacon, Portland

This blog is taken from St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church’s website with the assistance of the Rev. Maria McDowell. Read the original post here. The image above was from Design Research Office LLC.

On February 8th, the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB)  announced its award of $11,250,000 for The Alcena. This is a huge step forward! 

By awarding The Alcena this funding, PHB is indicating its confidence in Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc. PCRI and their mission to increase stability for low-income and vulnerable residents in N/NE Portland, especially Black residents. St. Philip is so proud to partner with PCRI in their work. We are also so grateful that a seed planted decades ago by the parishioners of St. Philip, to build affordable housing for seniors, is finally coming to fruition. As Mother Alcena Boozer said when she heard the news, “Hallelujah and Amen!”

What we are building

The award is to build a 74-unit building that includes both low- and very-low income housing, managed by PCRI, and partnered with NW Pilot Project as a Service Provider that specializes in servicing very low-income seniors. 

The planned development includes 75 units of affordable housing. There will be four studio apartments, seventy (70) one-bedroom apartments, and one two-bedroom apartment. Twelve (12) units are for tenants who are at or below 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Nineteen (19) units are Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units that are supported with Project-Based Section 8 vouchers. Forty-Four (44) units are for those who earn 60% of the area’s median income. These units expect to serve seniors from communities of color. 

It is likely that construction may begin within 18-24 months.

Who we are building with

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Inc, Portland’s oldest African American Lead nonprofit housing developer, with a focus on serving the Black and African American community in North and Northeast Portland, will serve as the lead developer. Second Stories will serve as the Development Consultant. Colas Constriction, Oregon’s largest Black-owned construction company, will build the project. Design Research Office will design the project with support from Salazar Architects IncThe Housing Development Center will serve as a financial management consultant.

The management by PCRI draws in African-American residents, and NW Pilot Project draws in seniors, creating the intersection where St. Philip is able to welcome our elders home. The award from PHB also commits us to use our land for affordable housing for 99 years. Basically, this is legalese for “as long as the building is still standing.” This means that the land of St. Philip will be in the trusted hands of a locally-owned, black-managed, non-profit that is committed to our community, our neighborhood, our land.

Next Steps

Now, a new phase of work begins. First, PCRI and STPD will enter into a contractual agreement regarding the use of our land. This agreement is under active discussion between Director Horner, Reverend Maria, our respective lawyers, and the Diocese. The priority of St. Philip is to ensure that  we complete our funding “stack.” It will likely involve the formation of an LLC held by PCRI and STPD which will own the new plot of land formed by joining 130 NE Knott St. and the STPD parking lot.

Second, we need to complete the funding “stack” for The Alcena. All affordable housing is funded by a “stack” of funding from a variety of sources. We are in the process of applyihng for further credits via the Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program.

Third, PCRI, NW Pilot Project, and STPD will discuss how to best partner with one another to provide the services necessary to support our new neighbors. STPD in particular can serve as a conversation partner with the neighborhood, helping build connection and relationship so that our new neighbors are welcomed and supported by the full Eliot neighborhood and STPD community.

A Community in the making

This award is two years and countless hours of conversations, meetings, late nights, brainstorming and hoping. It is a dream started decades ago by the members of St. Philip, who have tried to build housing at least three times before. This time, we passed the funding hurdle. Now, on to contracts, design, construction, and most importantly, continuing the build the relationships that will make this not just a housing facility, but The Alcena: An Affordable Living Community.

Welcoming our Elders Home, at St. Philip the Deacon

This blog was written and contributed by the Rev. Maria McDowell and the community at St. Philip the Deacon, Portland. Learn more about St. Philip the Deacon’s work Welcoming our Elders Home by visiting their website,

St. Philip the Deacon, in partnership with Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI), Urban League of Portland, Northwest Pilot Project, and the Leaven Community Land and Housing Coalition, is welcoming our elders home. We are stewarding the resources God has given us to build affordable housing for Black seniors and to renovate our building to ensure that we can continue to live out the heart of this parish: to create and support a stable community for vulnerable neighbors.

Accounts of St. Philip the Deacon typically begin with its founding in 1911 by a group of African-American Episcopalians of Caribbean Anglican descent. Often unstated is the legacy of racism in Portland, in Oregon, and in the Episcopal Church itself, the context out of which that audacious undertaking arose. Buying land, erecting a building, and expressing its particular call to support the black community was both a challenge and a source of pride for those stalwarts—and a strong response to having been “invited” to leave the Cathedral where most of them were members, but where they would never be allowed to share in leadership.

A photo from those early days, once on display at the diocesan offices, bears the caption “Mission for Colored Work.”

St. Philip took this mission seriously, though its membership and the reach of its work were hardly limited to people of color. Its current Sanctuary and Parish Hall date from 1945. Its unassuming architecture, manicured lawn, and rose gardens have virtually camouflaged the ongoing community activities housed within it over the years: the founding of the Urban League and NAACP chapters in its parish hall, the Lee Owen Stone Preschool cooperative, church social clubs, seniors’ computer classes, after-school programs, music and dance lessons, shared sanctuary for Ethiopian, Latino, and Native American congregations, the Deacon’s Dining Hall Saturday lunch program, and most recently The People’s Pantry, operated by the Hand Up Project.

In the face of the deaths of so many black and brown people, and the white supremacist legacy of our beloved Episcopal Church, our presiding bishop the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry exhorts us to become the Beloved Community. For many congregations, this means starting by learning through the Sacred Ground curriculum, developed to help our predominately white congregations face systemic racism. 

For St. Philip, it is the exploding housing crisis that has driven its current call to action. Members of St. Philip lost their homes in the Vanport Flood, the building of the I-5 freeway and the Coliseum construction, and the proposed expansion of Emmanuel Hospital. Members of our congregation grew up in homes where the deed specified that only whites could own the property their parents bought through white friends. The long history of red-lining and displacement of homes and businesses in N/NE Portland has led to the reality that almost 40% of the unhoused population in Portland are persons of color even though African-Americans make up only 12% of the population.

Several times in the past, the parish felt called to build affordable housing, twice attempting to purchase nearby houses and develop the property, but these plans didn’t succeed. The parish conversation arose again in 2019, and we connected with others who share our commitment to providing stable housing for all Oregonians. The Trustees of the Diocese of Oregon provided a generous 5-year grant to allow for staff and clergy funding to help St. Philip engage the neighborhood and expand its relationships and partnerships.

A Tale of Two Conversations

Throughout the COVID onslaught last year and continuing into the foreseeable future we are moving through the  difficult and challenging process of property development, including:

  1. Discerning as a parish who in particular we are called to love and house (because we can’t do it all!);
  2. Partnering with professionals create a plan that is both practical and well-designed;
  3. Development relationships to ensure successful long-term property management and wrap-around services for our hoped-for new and vulnerable neighbors;
  4. Negotiating the labyrinthine world of affordable housing funding applications for a multi-million dollar project.  

At the same time, we are using the community-organizing skills and relationships we have gained by our participation in the Leaven Land and Housing Coalition to help us better engage our neighborhood, creating relationships around our common love for this small part of Portland, and meeting the needs of our vulnerable neighbors. Over the next year, we will be asking our neighbors, What do you cherish about this neighborhood? As we hear the hopes and longings of our neighborhood we can then discern how we can come alongside what God is already doing around us.

Far from daunting, these dual conversations on affordable housing and neighborhood engagement are energizing our small parish. Our vision for “The Alcena—An Affordable Living Community” is revealing the interconnectedness of the national church’s three-fold mission of racial reconciliation, creation care, and evangelism. Our project partnerships and engagement with neighbors old and new, black and white and brown, are taking us into exciting new territory.  

True to its African American roots and through the power of the Holy Spirit, St. Philip the Deacon is “making a way out of no way” to fulfill our mission, “to be a vital presence in the lives of individuals, families, and the community.”

Congregation Close-up: St. Michael & All Angels, Portland

In the Hollywood neighborhood of northeast Portland, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church is well known within the diocese for their long-standing Misa service. As the church prepares to celebrate 25 years of worshipping in Spanish, the Rev. Chris Craun smiles, reflecting on how the service started and continues to grow and develop as the congregation faithfully goes into the places of challenge and discomfort created by being a bilingual and multicultural community.

Beginning as a small group gathered around the altar with the Rev. John Scannell and the Rev. Deacon Marla McGarry-Lawrence, the Spanish-speaking community transformed over the years from an outreach ministry to an integrated part of the church’s life. During a 2017-2018 parish visioning process, a significant amount of time was given to listening to and learning the stories of church members. One exercise involved building a map with photos of parishioners, their houses, and answers to the question, “Where else is home?” For many in the Latino community, St. Michael’s was that other home: a place to be known, and safe, and seen.

Celebrating Dia de los Niños

Chris credits this sharing of stories and experiences with strengthening the congregation’s willingness and ability to embrace resilience, which the vision process identified as a core value. Resilience is a necessary characteristic for a congregation that continues learning how to engage its bilingual and multicultural makeup.

During Lent this year, the church offered introductory Spanish lessons, creating an opportunity for English-speakers to take steps in vulnerability and courage. In her commitment to be the rector of the entire church body, Chris has spent significant time developing her Spanish skills and learning about Latino culture, determined to overcome her own discomfort and fear of looking foolish while modeling humility and a willingness to engage in spite of the mistakes that inevitably happen in cross-cultural relationships.

Building Beloved Community is a long process that The Episcopal Church symbolizes with a labyrinth, and St. Michael’s experience bears out the reality of this metaphor. Throughout many twists and turns, coming to this 25th Celebration of the Misa is a recognition that the English- and Spanish-language speakers of St. Michael’s are deeply committed to God and to each other.

Visit the St. Michael & All Angels website.

Congregation Close-up: St. Andrew’s, Portland

By Carol Cushman, senior warden of St. Andrew’s.

Saint Andrew’s roots are deep, providing continuous worship services since July of 1895. We have struggled at times with a lack of consistent clergy, but we were grateful for the support of the bishop and the diocese. Members step up in many roles to keep moving forward in Christ. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in North Portland is pleased to once again feel that we are moving forward. We have recently called a new vicar, Jonna Alexander.

Our visioning committee, led by Michael Henry, our able junior warden, is taking a fresh look at our property. We are developing a unified plan to be responsible stewards. An urban farmer is growing produce for market in the front yard with our food pantry receiving fresh fruits and vegetables from the bounty. Half of the “old” church, the Hereford House Pantry, offers food and other necessities to those in need in our community. We are working on the upper half (a painting party is in mid project) as we seek a compatible tenant who will provide health services to the community and income to promote sustainability of the parish.

The Undercroft is filled during the week with the sounds of Scouts, drummers, piano, and Capoeira. The kitchen hums with sounds of preparations for our frequent Sunday brunches, and we are exploring sharing the space with a group providing soup for the houseless downtown.

The spiritual life at Saint Andrew’s continues to grow. Through inclusive hospitality new members have joined and are active participants serving at the altar, as readers and in many other ways. Adult formation classes are part of the week, additional services and pastoral care enliven the life of the community. The Saint Andrew’s community is excited to see where the Holy Spirit leads us next. We invite you to come join us one Sunday.

Visit the St. Andrew’s website.