That Time of Year Once Again –

                   ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’ –

Sometime in early September the ‘heaviness’ starts to creep over me again. It seems my limbs are full of lead, everything I want to do feels threatened!

Marc’s birthday is at the end of September, and two weeks later it’s the anniversary of his trip to heaven! It’s just the weirdest thing that he left earth on the same day as my birthday too! So many emotions run rampant at this time of year ….. the beauty of the Fall, the old birthday celebration routines now mixed together sad and happy. Replacing beauty and celebrations with death and separation leaves only one possibility …. resurrection!

Yes, it’s been a bitter adjustment at times where I was dragged into a life event way against my will but I don’t require pity. I still appreciate condolences though, as that tragic day shook me to the core! I truly felt the clout of the devil but I can’t tell you how much I relish remembering Marc’s face, his wonderful ways, his love of life and God …. his desire to make a difference in this world  I can’t express how much I get in return for carrying the burden of his loss and sharing with others that hope can be had in this Age and that God is real!

We all were created with deep emotional needs that need expressing whether it’s joy or grief! We need to share our hearts in some way, and like the celebration of the anniversary of ‘9/11’ today, we should allow the pain in, and not refuse to feel grief! Emotions not released will backfire. Remembering our loved ones, remembering our country’s attack is important.

My sons Paul and Marc (L – R)

I and many others suffer loss all the time, but …. still, God is good! It’s OKAY to grieve, it’s okay to feel the loss and pain. God’s plans are not reckless but purposeful, no matter what happens to us or our loved ones!

 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’ –                                                                             Matthew 5 – The Beatitude’s

 

Look Who’s On Our Side

I‘ve been in contact with Dale and Sandy Russell from Visions of Hope recently. They visit Oregon prisons and have the most precious burden for the guys there. They know of A—–, the main defendant in Marc’s case, thru me, and last week sent him a letter which I’m sharing. I asked Dale if I could share and he said, ‘go for it!’ For a young man without a dad in his life, it’s a perfect letter to receive. Please pray Sandy & Dale will connect with him on 9/11 ….. Who said, ‘angels’ don’t exist ?

Dear A—–,

Just a quick note to let you know of an upcoming event at TRCI.  Riding High Ministries will be presenting at the facility on Sept 11.  This is an amazing demonstration with a horse – yep, a horse on site.  The process is to take a wild, unbroken animal and within an hour or two bring it to complete peace AND asking more of the trainer.  The trainer is Todd Pierce, the National Bull Riders Association Chaplain.  He has a way with horses that will astound anyone who watches.  He also brings his own experiences to the presentation that blends perfectly with how the horse does a complete turnaround in his outlook on life and discovery of life changing principles and solid hope for the future.

Sandy and I helped with RHM last year at SRCI and it left a lasting impression on us.  We will be at TRCI as volunteers (we are carded for TRCI) helping with set up and anything else needed.  We will probably have a guest or two with us as well.

We have a second goal in mind for this date.  We would love to meet you.  Our conversations with Diane De Han have given us an appreciation for her and the importance to communicate with you.  I know there must be a distrust for what she would like to do and for us, as total strangers, to want to meet you.  Why in the world would we want to do that?

Park in Downtown Portland, OR –

For whatever reason, God led Diane to contact us.  She convinced us you were important.  God continues to remind us you are important.  So, what do we do?  Our best reaction is to continue to reach out and see what happens.

God seems to have special plans, unique connections and constant surprises.  He seems to think Sandy and I have some sort of talent that sends us into prisons all over the state.  We never seem qualified, but He says different.  We hang on for the ride and ask for wisdom with what we hang on to and which direction our feet are pointing.  They sometimes bring us to guys named A—–.  We look forward to the possibilities because He started it!

Here’s what we hope happens; You get in touch with Chaplain Cardona and get on the ‘call out’ for 2:00 that day.  We run into you, OR better yet, you search us out.  (We would be the ones not in blue?)

A—–, we continue to pray for you and trust God for the rest.  Our vision would be for you to discover so much more than what we think you see right now.  What if there is a guarantee of new hope you may not have seen before and it starts on 9/11?  Wouldn’t you be just a little bit curious?  Our promise is there could be an amazing dscovery.  Please feel free to contact us before the date.

Blessings,

Dale & Sandy Russell

                                 Isn’t that the coolest letter?

If You Could Hear Them …..

Can you hear them?

If you knew their story, it would likely make you cry …..  I’m talking about African orphans …. Oregon inmates –

Inmate art donations sold to help orphans –

It’s so great how God works! I heard about Visions of Hope ministry leading services at the main defendant’s prison, Two Rivers, but I never knew they worked with an organization that unites African orphans with prison inmates!! I mean we all think inmates are these mean, gangster losers, right? Nah!

Visions of Hope travels to various prisons in Oregon and inquires if any inmate would like to donate art with the proceedings going to an orphanage in Kenya. They also ask if any inmate would like to be pen pals and sponsor an orphan?

You can read some stories at the link below and also view examples of art pieces which you can buy at very modest prices. Log onto this site and let your eyes do the talking –  http://visions-hope.org , 

An inmate from Two Rivers writes:

I thought about sponsoring but my past mistakes stopped me. Thank you for coming to prison and convincing me I could help a child. I try not to cry here. It shows weakness. I got a letter today from Jasper, my sponsored child. He called me ‘Dad’. The tears of joy flowed in my cell. Later in the day, your chapel service included the surprising plan of someone who would match my $5.00 per month. I cried twice today. The second time I didn’t care who saw me. Because I needed to tell someone how amazing my life is!’

There’s a documentary about these disparate groups called ‘Lost and Found’, here’s a short clip  ….   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnbZwfj7Pvg

God brings the oddest people together for His purpose. There’s a quiet yet profound story on those web pages.

Metal sculpture by inmate -story here, check out the video of the participants and view the art projects online at the visions-hope.org site above!

Sometimes people you never imagined could be in this world can become a staunch friend of yours. Don’t check off a person, he might be an angel to someone –

Good News and …. God News !

An UPDATE for MJ readers re: book, defendants & documentary ….

Marc’s journey continues up a notch!

A few months ago I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a book just yet. I knew it would be different from most topics out there as I write on a sensitive issue but I realized I have a certain blog following, and that some in the secular and Christian community would welcome frank coverage of tragedy and violence. I’d been knee deep with other projects so was busy as it was.

After friends expressed their excitement for the possible CNN documentary I began hearing more encouragement to write a book. Something started to ‘click’ inside, and I realized I could use my blog posts for some of the narrative. There’s alot of tedious stuff involved in writing a book itself, so ….  I realized I frankly wasn’t up to creating new content after I shared the story already in a blog.

While this decision was being made I was reading books by FB friends, and meeting other writers thru a FB writers group. I’d been an Eng Lit major and read widely and studied styles, content, but actually writing a book is a big undertaking, and I wanted more input. This new group is so much different from other bloggers/writers groups! It has the best focus. During this period I also came across and wrote an article for a wonderful writing site, Christian Writing Today. It’s got loads of free helps but also honestly discusses the problem areas, even our own wrong thinking, pride, duh! Yes, you can pay for guru’s, writing coach’s but you can learn alot on your own just to get a realistic idea before you start. It was like the door opened wider from all these resources.

Marc with Rose

All this input from various sources helped me assess why it was I really wanted to write anyway. There’s nothing more ridiculous maybe than a person trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, I don’t want to try something that’s not really ‘me’, just because I have a blog, future goals for Marcsjustice.com or cause people encourage me. For me, my personal life comes first, I’m not going to chase some nebulous ‘fame’ monster and I’m not going to become a ‘martyr’ to some cause‘ and lose all perspective like some people do, secular or Christian.

As I was seeking the right way to portray Marc’s tragedy it was crazy how God placed certain people right in front of my path, and the dots connected. I think one huge key aside from just having writing skills,, is knowing who you are in your ministry needs, and not chasing the world of ‘numbers’ only or of ‘pride’. I feel the message in Marc’s legacy comes off loud and clear on it’s own, and that’s what guides me, even tho there are stages that are painful to walk thru still.

On another note, last Saturday a contact I’d made a few weeks back called and now I’m hooked up with the best ministry in Andrew’s prison! It’s just way over what I dreamed could happen, as Andrew really needs a ‘community’ at TR, and it’s actually all set up and thriving. This contact also led me to a former ABC Dateline filmmaker who lives in Oregon. She’s worked on films with inmates before, and since I’ve written a screenplay, I feel there’s potential there for the future, which is what I’ve wanted all along!

     Some of the things we really want take time. Trees take time to grow, love takes time to develop but …. weeds grow fast –

Timing is so important in every aspect of life, and if we can accept that, we can live at peace with the goals we have and the tumult around us. Marc’s D.A. didn’t just go to college and pop on over to the Multnomah Court House …. she studied, trained with cases, grew in knowledge and skill. At times I’ve fretted over how to deal with the defendants, some doors seemed closed, but my prayers never cease.

We aren’t alone, others are so open to helping you bring God’s agenda to pass. That’s what I hoped for from the beginning, that He would help me complete Marc’s legacy!

An ‘Actual’ Home In This ‘Virtual’ Age

There’s almost nothing as important as having a home that feels like a ‘castle’. Ahhh ….. ‘ heaven’!

My comfort from the storm –

Home is where we kick off our shoes, smell our favorite food and hang out with our favorite smiles! It’s where we do our best thinking and recharge our life in every way! It’s also where we hunker down and escape the pressures of life. Without home we can’t last long.

Home can be a place with the sweetest memories, or painful transitions. It can be a place where we put in hours of beautification or bemoan a garden lost due to flooding. Somehow our ‘home’ makes so many hard times bearable.

A home should be where problems can be ironed out, where we don’t go to bed angry and where ‘No’ is not an option. Defeat will never cross the threshold then.  Even tho nightmares may trouble at times, or we stub our toes or get our neighbors BBQ smoke thru our window …. we can always make a ‘come back’ if we have a home that restores us. Peace and harmony must always reign there!

I’ve always cherished my home. It’s taken effort to make it a place this side of heaven. I don’t buy items that have no purpose, or keep anything around that makes me feel  ‘down’. I’ve made sure it doesn’t keep me trapped by trying to keep up with my relatives or the ‘Jones’. The colors have to comfort or inspire me. Marc and I both studied cooking and loved to prepare healthy dishes, so that tradition continues. Strong habits and routines make for good emotional restoration.

My mother was, among other things, a wonderful painter so I have some of her works on my walls. That’s one of my ‘traditions’, my sense of continuity about where I came from, who I am now. Family, beauty, music, good reading, great food make a home a home. You don’t have to talk alot at home, you can laugh, be grumpy or quiet, and your soul is still restored.

This living room is where I heard the news about Marc. Where I played his voice mails over and over. I speak to him here, I write here. I sing to God in this living room, not like I used to since it makes me too sad, but I still raise my voice to God in praise! That may sound stupid to you, it still does to me sometimes. It sounds ridiculous to be able to be happy enough while he’s up there. But …. Marc and I are still so connected, so I understand.

I’m actually surprised I’m not depressed where I live since Marc has gone on. Few years back I developed the habit of ‘living like I would if I had my dream life’, it may sound corny but I’ve never stopped wanting to live like that. Life is about dreams more than it is about failures. It’s about believing in a future and committing your struggle to God. We can only fulfill God’s promise of His kingdom on earth if we find nurture in simple things that mean alot to us at home.

Home has to be a place where God is completely welcomed! This is the place where we usually learn about Him, where our little hearts are made aware of His majesty, His caring. I’m so grateful for the examples I’ve had that have shown me what a home should mean. I can’t imagine how it must be for people to never have known any solace from home life. A ‘virtual home’ can never be the same as a physical place that we can touch or feel!

A farm scene by my mom –

Home isn’t just a ‘place’ but the interconnected lives of those rooted together in love! Belonging to real live people and places is the key that gives us a sense of fulfillment on earth –

‘In the house of the righteous there is much treasure’     Proverbs 15:6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CWT Article – by D. De Han

One of Marc’s photos –

Hope your summer is going well!

An opportunity opened up for me to write an article for Christian Writing Today!

This neat publication shares a gamut of information to push your writing career along in the right direction. It’s chock full of articles on how to write more effectively, how to deal with poor FB algorhythms or what to do with all the ‘hype’ out there and find quality aides for creating, editing or publishing blogs or books. Even if you’re starting out, there’s info for you.

Click on the link below and go to the ‘blogging’ tab at the top. The title is ‘Christian Blogging for Social Justice’. Would love your comments, but also ….. take a look at what this publication has to offer! It’s extremely user friendly and published/edited by an expert in Christian publishing.

http://www.christianwritingtoday.com/christian-blogging-for-social-justice/

God bless your summer reading!

 

 

Happy Independence Day!

                                   Happy Independence Day from a reformed optimist –

I’m constantly being reminded that I was once more fearful than I am now, and lived in denial about some things. Any fears I may encounter now I try to deal with sooner, rather than later. Tragedy has a way of correcting our former thinking.

As a writer I’m so aware of both the freedom of and fear of expressing ones thoughts on certain subjects. Politics or government are 2 things that are hard to bring up, but I have a deep need to be informed about the goings on in my country. I’m constantly searching for good resources. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gasped over what a writer writes on Twitter, etc. Many things I read I wouldn’t quote to a 10th grade Civics class. I’d like to think that if I had a teen in school nowadays that child would be informed but not propagandized. I’d like my child to be  presented with facts so he could make up his own mind. It would be painful if he was labeled for following his conscience.

I’m just missing the good ol’ fashioned responsible rhetoric of people with opposing views. I miss the trust of the other side. I wish that humor would return in our discussions about our country, even bad jokes I wouldn’t mind as much as the stuff offered today by many. People welcome passion, emotion …. but the addiction to anger, the obsession with blaming is not going to make our differing sides bond together as a nation to solve issues. Just passing some laws is not going to remedy so many of the challenges facing our nation.

I follow different political columns and tweets. I look for someone I can trust, I wanna know what the other side thinks, I wanna know their rationale ….their goals …. but increasingly I come across all kinds of material that’s so brief, self-involved, or un-substantiated. What’s so disturbing recently is the use of a platform to promote outright violence!

The TV political fare is often not that much better. When I turn it on I want ‘facts’ not ‘commentary. and so I have to hunt around at times for fair reporting on a topic, maybe check online. I’ve signed up with independent news sources on Twitter, elsewhere, so I’m doing what I can to wade thru issues. But most of the public is not like me, and many have given up on TV, newspapers. It’s hurting TV and newspaper ratings and finances. The liberal media has become at times like vultures swarming over a kill, and the conservatives often act like they’re on steroids, I find some of them painful to watch. There are other alternatives.

George Washington, one of my heroes, said, ‘A primary object …. should be the education of our youth in the science of government.’

I had a blessed experience with Marc in the political realm. I inspired him, he shaped me as well. We shared books, voting strategies and just a deep love of this country’s values. We joined groups that held regular discussions on political issues, and attended rally’s. We even prayed for our country together. People who care about a common good for all people have a bond that crosses many decades, age groups or walks of life.

Farewell card from my mailman last week –

I too grumble at times over politics but I don’t grumble over government. I think the worst thing we can do is to grumble all the time at home and create an atmosphere of anxiety, indifference and hopelessness about our role in politics. It’s easy to pass down a healthy respect for government if we keep informed and develop true values that last our life. Youth love a cause. It’s not hard to pass down values if we are a grateful and sacrificial citizen.

People many times fear talking about ‘hot topics’ but if we never bring those subjects up, it’s like we’re letting all the people with power, money, connections make our decisions for us. We are pawns of theirs. I don’t like relinquishing my personal power.

Practice good government. On the upper right is a card my (black) mailman gave me last week as he retired from years of service. I’m so glad for the respectful people in government I’ve known. Besides the years of service, this man was the one who tenderly handed me Marc’s remains in the small crate it came in, giving me time for tears and silence. He was an ambassador for God while working for the government. These things stay in your heart.

Some people might want to sue him or the government if he gave them the card above, thinking he was trying to convert them. I’m glad I live by my instincts re: peoples character and develop a relationship, so I can live in peace in a community –

 

Reflecting on the Defendants

I can’t share much about the defendants now at their request, also, there’s just things I plain don’t want to at this juncture, but I’ll share ….. God is so alive! I prophesied couple years back about what will happen in the future, and that’s enough for now.

I’ll also share why I’m involved in their lives …..

  1. The circumstances surrounding my son’s murder case were pretty typical for youthful offenders I gather, just some nice enough young men out late, who didn’t know each other and got angry over some tiny thing. It wasn’t a premeditated crime, or drug or sex crime, but a ‘stupid tragic’ crime.
  2. The two young men were very remorseful.

Marc on vacation –

Knowing it wasn’t a premeditated crime I think was a huge blessing. I don’t know how I’d feel if it was premeditated? I don’t entertain ‘what if’s’. Knowing the defendants were so young also made me feel okay about reaching out to them. It was more likely they were just caught up innocently and weren’t career criminals.

I’d been around my sons and their friends, I knew about the crazy antics, goofy innocence and the sweet smiles of confusion they might display at the moment they were found out. The defendants didn’t give off menacing vibes to me, so I felt okay bout reaching out. I also noticed they didn’t have family at the hearings, so I felt they maybe were needing some adult confirmation.

I don’t live in the state the crime was committed in so I had to go out of my way at times to get info on them. I spent intensive months getting all the resources I could to understand prison or probation protocol. I called prison ministries, and searched online. I spoke with some in ministry at church and those who’ve been incarcerated. I contacted the D.A., the lead detective, defense attorneys, Probation Officers and the State of Oregon Corrections Dept. to get info so I could understand what the protocols were before I contacted them. Sometimes it felt I was taking on the whole State of Oregon  or something.

I was on one hand afraid of street people, certain homeless and felons scared me …. but when I saw or heard the boys in court hearings they seemed either so fearful or lost, like a normal overwhelmed youth would be, so I had to go by my instincts too to guide me. To my astonishment they both responded pretty readily to my writing them.

The incident happened in Portland, OR

I also wanted to stay in contact as I found I needed to know them and hear their remorse again. Talking about the pain of the crime was important to me with them. I could see and hear how it helped not just me but them as well. The healing oil just flowed over me when we dealt on that level. Indescribable how comforting!

Thru them I was strengthened because of research into homeless statistics, shelters, facilities. I’ve researched prisons. On this journey I’ve re-discovered some things about youth and our culture that are so important to keep in mind. God gave me a heart for the boys as they’d been homeless for a couple months and when I spoke with or wrote them they were like so many previously normal youth ….. trying to be strong after a tragic event, trying to recover something normal, and …. thinking of their families or friends and missing them. They sounded like my friends children in that respect, who’re battling anti-Christian comments, drug and peer pressures.

I’d been assessing people wrong! I used to think that homeless were either jovial or scary, but I could totally relate to these young men as people, they weren’t too far gone. Their minds not confused, their hearts not seared from years of abuse on the streets or mental illness.

Another important reason I’m making an effort to know them is that they aren’t social misfits per se, not anti-government radicals or alt-right guys who’ve lost their identity and believe they are political creatures. They never blamed society for their problems to me! These guys communicate with me with their feelings and aren’t into arguing with me or feeding me some political jargon. They are direct, don’t curse and I saw immediately they were sorta clueless about all the attention a murder case entails. So it gave me confidence to approach them. They’ve always  shown me respect, and considered my loss and Marc’s memory in our discussions. It takes two, I’m not on a one-man road.

Peter cried bitter tears after he refuted knowing Jesus. How wretched he must have felt, that must have been a wake up call to him. Under duress so many of us can be tempted to do wrong things, even fatal things. None of us is above tragedy, I’ve found …. but God is able to meet every mistake we make with blessings we never knew could happen –

 

Immigration Policies, Drug & Weapon Wars

There’s so much going on at the Mexican border with the U.S. every day. If you aren’t familiar with how government works you might be wondering what’s going on with all the news coverage of separated families this week? There was every kind of opinion possible, and some outrageous threats as well.

Even tho the Flores Amendment of ’97 created the border arrangement for families we now have, and no prior President has corrected, supposedly the current battle in Congress over the immigration bill caused political parties to hurl accusations at each other and this hysterical issue was born. Instead of making some progress in their negotiations over the bill, there’s been pandemonium created over children being separated, and it deflects attention from the real need which is passing the bill and makes it seem like separating families is a new policy.

Car draped with Mexican flag near my home –

There’s a big picture out there! If you live in a border state and know how law enforcement works at the border or watch TV shows like ‘Border Wars’, you’d know about the huge war the U.S. is waging daily along our Mexican border. Drugs and weapons are being smuggled at mind boggling pace. There’s drug sniffing dogs working round the clock, cars being taken apart to locate drugs. There are people swimming or rafting across the Rio Grande all seasons, of course mostly at night. Some are caught, fingerprinted and  immediately returned. But the majority of people coming across the desert heat of sometimes 100-120 degrees aren’t children, but men mostly, sometimes youth 14 or 15 years old who are forced, or family threatened, to bring contraband.

The amount of drugs carried, shipped or driven to the U.S. would stagger your mind. Weapons also are shipped, driven over. This is going on while we have an opioid epidemic in the U.S. which is unprecedented!  People from every walk of life, economic strata are being affected. We’re seeing some families, even whole towns devastated by opioid addiction in the U.S.!

I don’t know what’s in the bill in Congress now but it seems there needs to be better transition at the Southern border for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers have 21 days to be checked out but in most cases it’s taking longer to be processed and re-united. It’s not like Border Patrol Marshalls don’t have enough to do, but from what I hear the influx of people seeking asylum is increasing so fast that more judges are needed to get people cleared faster.

We have to watch where we’re going –

I hurt for the Mexicans near the border who live in some pretty violent towns. The cartels are threatening their police, officials. But I hurt for the U.S. too! Many families here are being ripped apart by drugs on our own soil. I hope to God Mexican and Central American governments can get a better grip on the violent drug cartels there, there’s a great human tragedy going on that can be corrected if good people, good leaders would take charge in their countries and imprison cartel leaders so people can return to their lives.

Our country has an immigration policy to help ensure that people coming into our country do not have contagious diseases, aren’t criminals, are not coming across to make bombs or promote a political agenda against the U.S. The rise in slave and sex trafficking is just another hurdle to deal with in vetting people. We don’t like to see adults or children being marketed, that’s not who we are.

Government has a side that sorta sucks, it can be tedious to wait and work for what we want …. but it’s the best government we’ve ever had. Our country is a far cry from Venezuela, Russia, China, Myanmar ….  thank God?

 

 

Another Homicide in Portland & Strong Editorial

I heard some sad news couple nights ago right after reading the best ‘opinion’ on the predators in the homeless population in Portland.

One of Marc’s instructors at OCI was murdered at the school last Saturday! Chilling, harrowing news! We don’t know yet if the homicide was a personal dispute, robbery or an armed homeless person? I’m still very fond of and in contact with a few at the school, as they were over and above in giving the best care to every student …. to Marc and I. It hurts alot that they have to go thru the horrific process of being in shock and being investigated too.

The school is in a nice, yet busy part of downtown Portland, not too far from where Marc’s incident took place. In the murder above, like with Marc’s case, I can’t help but remember how it’s easy to startle a homeless person and cause a fatal incident. What’s happening in Portland is that the criminal elements are commingling more and more with the truly needy homeless and vets causing increased danger for individuals & the city! I’ve witnessed some encounters with homeless in downtown on my recent trip … it’s alarming how degraded it’s becoming there. The ‘Portland experience’ is changing, and it’s a shame as it’s the downtown area that many travelers go to visit.

I learned about the criminal element firsthand when dealing with Wesley, one of the defendants in Marc’s case. It pained me when he described how repulsed and fearful he was of the criminal element who at times beat him up, stole from him or threatened him. He was even stolen from in shelters, which you’d think would be safe. So he liked to be by himself to keep safe. he had to move so often just to stay away from the bad bums.

Here’s an article on this issue written by ‘5’ individuals who’ve worked as advocates for the homeless in Portland. They nailed it! It’s refreshing to read their compassionate, yet informed consensus on what’s going on. They don’t just site a problem but give facts and offer genuine solutions!

Portland must stand up to predators: Guest opinion

(File photo)

By David Kline, Lourdes Gonzales and Maura White

We are five residents of Northeast Portland who have all worked in homeless advocacy or other progressive causes. But we are motivated to speak out about a growing problem following the attempted murder of Portland father Kasey Lebechuck, who was stabbed 17 times after confronting a homeless person trying to set up a tent camp in his neighborhood.

The opioid epidemic and over-tolerant city policing policies have enabled a whole new population of grifters and predators to insinuate themselves amongst Portland’s homeless. They prowl our streets and neighborhoods, break into our homes and cars, assault us on the streets, lurk in our backyards, prey upon anyone they can, defecate on the sidewalks, shoot up on the street or in Starbucks bathrooms and harass local businesses and their customers.

These criminals are not the innocent homeless families or veterans trapped by economic circumstance or mental illness, with whom we all empathize. They are what social workers call “service resistant.” That means even if free housing and services were offered, they would choose to live on the streets and prey on people, including those who live in homeless camps. They are dangerous, and will do whatever they need to do to feed their drug habits or their criminal lifestyle.

It’s time for Portland’s leaders to step up and protect both the homed and the homeless, and get these predators out of our neighborhoods and into jails where they belong.

How bad have things gotten? The postings on the online community network Nextdoor spotlight the daily threats we face:

“I had a guy threaten to kill me while waving a machete,” reported someone at the children’s playground in Laurelhurst Park, once considered “the most beautiful park” on the West Coast.

“My daughter and her teenage friend were chased by a guy on SE Water Street after their dance class,” recounted another. “They don’t go there anymore.”

Trash behind local Los Angeles market where homeless rummage – D.D.

“My neighbor’s house on 35th and Hancock was just broken into,” wrote someone else. “A person on some kind of substance crashed thru their glass door, but was thwarted by the occupants.”

As one frustrated citizen put it, “We have no right to feel safe in our homes anymore. I have moved three times because [my neighborhood] was overrun with homeless.”

This rampant criminality has sparked a profound shift in public opinion in the last year. People have begun to realize that this new population of predatory homeless is very different from the innocent homeless — and that defending ourselves from the former does not mean attacking the latter. If anything, it means uniting with innocent homeless families to protect us all from such criminals.

The police do the best they can, but they are constrained by inadequate budgets to police these so-called “quality of life” crimes. Even when police make arrests for narcotic use, breaking and entering, defecating in the street, aggressive panhandling, burglary or car theft, the perpetrators are often quickly back on the street.

The irony is that it is precisely these “livability crimes” that erode the economic vitality and stability of neighborhoods and foster more violent criminal activity. This fact led New York City in the 1990s to adopt a “broken windows” policing policy that aggressively enforced “livability” crimes and transformed the city from a cesspool of crime into the infinitely more livable place that it is today.

But things are getting worse here in Portland. As Mayor Ted Wheeler conceded, there has been “a 97 percent increase in stolen vehicle calls, 64 percent increase in unwanted persons calls and a 32 percent increase in disorder calls.”

Yet despite this, our city has fewer police officers than it did a decade ago. The number of officers assigned to the Neighborhood Response Team responsible for livability issues has gone from 16 in 2013 to four today.

This must change. Portland residents demand that the city hire more police and bolster their Neighborhood Response Teams; aggressively enforce and prosecute “livability” crimes; remove all tent encampments from residential neighborhoods; enforce loitering-free safe zones around local businesses; and increase funding for both homeless services and neighborhood safety.

If the city fails to act, people (and the city’s tax base) will start moving out of the city. Each of us already knows neighbors who are thinking of moving out of Portland to escape the worsening filth and crime festering in our neighborhoods.

Portlanders rightly take pride in their acceptance of all lifestyles. But predatory criminal behavior is not an “alternative lifestyle.” It’s a cancer on the city and a threat to us all, and it’s time for the city to do something about it.

David Kline, Lourdes Gonzales, Maura White, Diane Zhitlovsky and Bethany Lemoine live in Northeast Portland.

(Published in the Oregonain online edition and found on Google’s Portland News.)