Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

expanded in the community for within this project is an important seed of self-help. Johnson sees a time not too distant when organizations like Legal Aid will disappear. Unfortunately, these organizations while providing useful services have not “empowered the people to continue on after they are gone. What happens,” she asks, “when they’re all gone and nobody cares about enforcing the laws?” As an answer, she proposes to train more volunteer paralegals who can act as advocates to people in the community. THE CRIB is soliciting sponsorships of $100 from businesses and private clubs to fund a paralegal for a year. This amount will cover food, transportation and childcare. THE FOOD distribution program, called Hi Chair, is operated by volunteers who pick the food up from the Food Bank (which gathers food from whatever sources will donate it for Portland’s hungry) and hand it out at their King Facility office once a week. Sixty to seventy members take advantage of this no- questions-asked service for a 25C fee. “A lot of people say, well, they’ve got food stamps so they don’t need that much food,” says Johnson. “See I know that the street value of food stamps is a third of the face value. O.K? That’s reality. People are selling food stamps to subsidize their income. Now I can’t say they’re their food stamps cause I don’t know that they’re selling them. But I know that if I were hard pressed for money, you know you’re going to provide for your family. We have people who are utilizing our food distribution aspect, some don’t receive food stamps, some do receive food stamps. So we’re saying we only subsidize what they have because we have to be very realistic about this whole thing. And we don’t have to operate with a sheet over our eyes.” community, something which is painfully scarce now, and the housing component of THE CRIB is looking into building or buying housing to be cooperatively owned by the residents. Linda is undaunted by the size of the project or the lack of capital. “We’ve operated for three years with no money. I don’t think I’m being optimistic. We could put it together even if we sell shares to our members.” For now, they are operating a landlord/tenant hotline where people can get answers to questions about their legal rights over the phone. Funding for THE CRIB would baffle most bureaucrats. Membership in the organization costs $2 a month plus 25C for each activity or service the member takes advantage of. Ms. Johnson says they don’t coerce people to pay the dues because they don’t want to scare anybody off and they would rather spend their time elsewhere. But they bring in enough from their 580-some members to pay the rent. They also get CETA money to hire teenagers to work in their various projects as part of the Youth Career Training Program, and have a grant from the McKenzie River Gathering to pay expenses for parents who use their school advocacy program. This last expenditure is necessary according to Ms. Johnson because “these are barriers in our community. People are interested, but you’ve got to realize that people don’t have the tangible things in our community that other communities have so we’ve got to remove the barriers toward participation.” The rest of the labor is volunteered. Linda is firm about her volunteer status. “This is my personal opinion: I don’t think you can get a good volunteer who is interested in the success or failure of the group if the person they’re volunteering for is getting paid. If you really believe what you say you believe, then you we just let them be kids because that’s what they are. They’re too young to be in the Army. It was out of this program that the adult literacy project grew. Workers helping to distribute food began noticing that some of the adults who came to pick up food couldn’t read the signs with instructions printed on them. They would often bring a child along to read for them. Now the project has about 15 adults (age 16 and over) being taught to read every Wednesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. Their objective is to bring reading skills up to the third grade level at which point community college classes can take over in helping them toward their Graduate Equivalence Degree (G.E.D.). As a first step toward creating earning opportunities in their community, THE CRIB has organized an Extended Saturday Market, held the second and third Saturdays of each month (beginning in May) in the underground parking lot of Fred Meyers on Killingsworth and Union. People can bring just about anything to sell: baked goods, produce, crafts, clothing, and the cost to the vendor is $5 each Saturday. It has been well-attended and Linda wants to boost the business further with live entertainment. She sees this as one of the few outlets for N.E. teenagers to make money legally. “We have one teenager who came and sold her clothes and dolls and toys she no longer needed. The next time she saw we didn’t have coffee and it was cold so she came down and sold coffee.” The market will continue at least through the summer and possibly into December. JOHNSON SEEMS to have limitless vision of the possibilities of cooperative community action. For example, she wants to create affordable housing in the have got to commit yourself as much as you’re asking the volunteer to. Now, that might be a ploy to get people to work,” she added laughing, “but I wouldn’t ask them to do any more than I do.” “I think that what we have to be talking about are what kind of networks can be developed now to safeguard ourselves from the pressure that’s going to take place.” For THE CRIB’s members, the pressure will certainly be a drastic cut in food stamps and other government benefits along with continued increases in the cost of clothing, housing, fuel and food. As the poor are increasingly abandoned, Linda fears there will be friction among the hungry and that food riots will be the next kind of riots we see here. So she would like to see people start putting 10% of every dollar they have toward developing an emergency storehouse for the family. And she sees the possibility of bulk buying on a community basis: food, clothing and fuel. And the creation of solar and wind power as resources for the poor. THE CRIB, she believes, can be the vehicle for this community self-sufficiency. At the end of conversation, I asked Linda if she didn’t think she was rather unusual to be coordinating this effort as a volunteer with such dedication. And didn’t she see that this kind of organization was not necessarily repeatable in other communities. “Well,” she said, “I’d like to think I’m unusual but the truth is I’m not. I know this can happen in other communities because it is happening. There’s a group in San Francisco that’s doing the same kind of thing. And the way I look at it, if a community can’t find the people to make this happen, they don’t need it.” • SUMMER OF'81 BOOK ARTS & CALLIGRAPHY CERAMICS DRAWING & DESIGN PRINTMAKING FIBERS & TEXTILES PHOTOGRAPHY METALWORKING WOODWORKING College Credit Available Summer classes and Workshops Beginning All Summer Long Call 297-5544 for information at the west end of Burnside Clinton St. Quarterly 13