City of Portland employees work around the clock to meet the needs of Portlanders every single day. These are their stories.
“I’ve worked for the City for 20 years. I’m with CityFleet and I’m the supervisor for our satellite shops, which is five shops.
We are sanitizing every vehicle and even the bicycles and the doorknobs, the fuel islands cause we have the fueling system here. And the fuel nozzles, the handles, doorknobs … you name it, everything is getting sanitized. It’s taking a lot of extra time. It’s quite the…its quite the deal. But you know what? We’re doing what we’re doing to do our part to help knock that thing down.
For all the police and the fire vehicles that come through here, if they transport somebody that has COVID-19 in there, we set up outside vendors to completely sanitize the entire vehicle, inside and out. We’re set up, we’re ready. If it comes down to multiple vehicles at a time, we can do it. We’re on it, we’re ready, we’re cruising on it. “
Emergency Coordination Center Manager, Bureau of Emergency Management
“As COVID was starting to become a recognized global pandemic, I was at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute in the Advanced Academy, which is a course on leadership for emergency managers. After that, I monitored the emerging global pandemic while doing my job as a training and exercise coordinator and Interim Operations Manager.
The most useful information I have heard is from infectious disease and economics experts, physicians and nurses on the front lines, and from COVID patients who have recovered. I have also really appreciated City and County elected leadership who have emphasized the ‘Stay Home’ message, while also working to provide economic assistance to those impacted by the secondary economic disaster.
Working on the Emergency Coordination Center during a crisis is incredibly stressful. Leaders also tend to work longer hours than the rest of their staff. I decided to plan to take every Wednesday off, delegate duties, and work from home only if needed if I felt up to it. I encouraged all of the ECC leaders to do the same. My go-to stress relief is breathing exercises/yoga and TV shows and movies. I cannot go to yoga, barre or mounted archery practice anymore, but I can do yoga videos and resistance band training to keep in shape.
This emergency is far from over, and no doubt I still have a lot to learn. Most emergencies we’ve had in the last few years were over in a day or two. But this one is very different; it’s more like the ‘Big One’ we’ve been preparing for. There will always be more that can be done, and you always feel ‘behind,’ no matter how much you do. Don’t burn yourself out. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
As a longtime Lord of the Rings fan, I’m reminded of Frodo’s conversation with Gandalf.
Frodo: ‘I wish none of this had happened.’
Gandalf: ‘So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.’”
Information and Referral Specialist, 311 Customer Service Program
“My name is Teresa Solano and I’ve worked with the City of Portland as an Information and Referral Specialist for 16 years. I help community members access the appropriate outlets to fulfill their needs.
Our division passes constituents to various agencies including clinics, aid providers, and bureaus and offices throughout the City of Portland and Multnomah County. Before COVID-19, our office received an array of calls related to graffiti reports, noise complaints, abandoned auto reports and campsite reports. There is a temporary moratorium on several of these grievances due to concerns with moving people and possibly spreading exposure to COVID-19.
On Monday, right after the ‘stay at home order’ took effect, countless local business owners called Information & Referral to see if their business would be impacted by the mandate. People were worried about closing shop and laying off employees. We received tons of questions about access to aid – including grants and other government funds to support employees being laid off.
Some community members express concerns with leaving home because of possible citations, and that’s not the case. Portland Police is shifting their focus to educate people on the situation, rather than handing out citations and making arrests. 211 continues to be a good resource for those worried about food and shelter. Community members can also contact us at 503-823-4000 for emergency food box deliveries through the Police Bureau’s Sunshine Division.
My best advice for people is to stay home. If you want to take a walk – take a walk while being obedient of the social distance order. Lastly, remember to take care of yourselves: Drink water, exercise, wash your hands, get sleep. These are all great preventative measures.”
Disability Program Coordinator, City of Portland Office of Community & Civic Life
"It’s important to practice anything we want to do in an emergency in regular, everyday life. Like accessibility — if we’re already used to making things accessible, it will be a habit we keep when an emergency comes around.
I’ve been offering a lot of information and support to emphasize the importance of accessible communications in the last couple of days. We’ve had some excellent conversations around the importance of providing CART and American Sign Language interpreters at press conferences and creating and sharing screen reader-accessible social media posts and documents, for instance.
I also want to lift up that I’ve been offering this support in collaboration with amazing disability equity staff from the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Equity and Human Rights, Portland Bureau of Transportation, and fellow staff from the Office of Community & Civic Life. And staff from the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management have been great about making sure this information is shared with the people who really need to see it. (We really do talk to each other!)
While offering recommendations and tools for accessible, equitable community engagement is part of my regular work, there is an increased sense of urgency around supporting people to get it right the first time. Otherwise, people with disabilities feel forgotten, more isolated, and have access to less information in these most uncertain of times." Joanne Johnson
Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program
"We’re a small team; there are only three of us. We check in every morning and every evening. We have a difficult job, so we’ve already developed a rapport to get through challenging situations – and that hasn’t changed. Our role is not to solve homelessness, but to incrementally improve the experience of those living outdoors and the community at large by providing trash mitigation and sharps disposal services. Specifically, I work on hygiene access for people who are experiencing homelessness. Hygiene is a fundamental human right – and if you don’t have anywhere to live, this right doesn’t exist.
Everything that I’m doing now is regarding hygiene services for individuals who are living outdoors. When COVID-19 became an issue, outlets told people to not panic and practice good hand hygiene. And I’m thinking to myself … how? We have all of these individuals experiencing homelessness who are trying to wash their hands, and they have absolutely no ability to wash their hands at all – or use a restroom facility.
I conducted outreach from Tuesday through Friday of the week that things were beginning to shut down. I was out in the field – in the areas above the highways and the forested areas of Portland, looking for people to let them know what was happening and trying to figure out what they needed. I was walking through these areas with tons of wool blankets. I could not get rid of supplies to save my life because individuals would not take more than what they needed. People were like, “I already have a blanket… maybe those folks down there could use one.” I could not give away hand sanitizer. Meanwhile, others were hoarding hand sanitizer from Costco. I would ask Portlanders to remember the sense of scarcity and how anxious it makes people feel. Be empathetic to your neighbors. I find it ironic that we struggle to provide bathroom services to vulnerable individuals, yet others are fighting over toilet paper.
The anxiety and urgency to provide for our families is something that houseless individuals experience daily. This is an opportunity for Portland to empathize with this feeling: We’re all experiencing some form of doing-without in our everyday lives.”