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'Sometimes it's just support. Sometimes it's to help them know where to go next.'

TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Mary Pat Silveira and Peter Herring spearheaded the creation of the West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community's new response team.Since it was formed in early 2017, the West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community (WLAIC) has worked to gradually extend its reach and establish a foothold in the city — hosting lectures, making connections with other organizations and forming committees to address different facets of its mission.

But as more residents learned about and connected with the group — its mission is mission is to ensure quality of life for all in West Linn by working to prevent hate crimes, abuse, harassment and discrimination — some members realized that their efforts were missing a key ingredient.

"We have these three committees on the Alliance," group member Peter Herring said, "and they kind of cover broad areas — there's a city government and police committee, there's a schools committee that deals with high school, junior highs and the school board, and there's an outreach community that does public education.

"But then there's individual people running into individual events that we thought needed some help."

It could be a race-related dust up at a local school or an instance of sexual harassment, both of which were reported to the WLAIC in recent months. The point, members say, is that these scenarios often occupy a gray area when it comes to how the victim might respond — too hurtful to ignore, but perhaps not quite severe enough to call the police.

That's where the WLAIC hopes its new "response team" can step in. Formed in April, the team has 12 members who can be contacted through a Google phone number. WLAIC member Mary Pat Silveira acts as the point person for the team, directing callers to the team member she feels is most equipped to handle a given situation.

"Sometimes it's just support. Sometimes it's to help them know where to go next, whether it's a county organization or the police — even if it's not a crime, if we think it warrants police attention," Silveira said. "We try to direct them, to serve as ombuds-people to direct them to a service that can help them if they want it."

Silveira said the team has responded to a handful of incidents so far, and has established a relationship with a liaison from the West Linn Police Department. But she and Herring expect many of the calls to the team will fall in that gray area outside of law enforcement.

"A lot of these things don't rise to the level of a crime, and so people don't know who to call," Herring said. "So we want them to know we are a good group to call, if they don't know."

The response team can be reached at 406-640-4313. You can also learn more or report an incident of concern at http://westlinnalliance.org.

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