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Programs allow Gresham city staff to better engage, support community needs and connectivity

The city of Gresham's reformatted Neighborhoods Division reached several significant milestones in the past year that allow for better customer service to neighborhoods and building positive relationships in the community.

Following the direction of city leadership, the Office of Neighborhoods and Community Enhancement, which includes the neighborhoods staff and Code Compliance staff, implemented programs city leaders said have made a difference across Gresham.

"You guys really are helping Gresham residents fulfill the Second Commandment — 'Love thy neighbor,'" said Gresham City Councilor Jerry Hinton during a council meeting Tuesday evening, Dec. 4.

Highlights from the neighborhoods division this past year include:

-- The Block Party Trailer was checked out 14 times for neighborhood parties since it was rolled out in early July.

-- Enhanced support to Neighborhood Associations through trainings and regular attendance at meetings.

-- Re-activation of the Mt. Hood Neighborhood Association, now called Hogan Cedars Neighborhood Association.

-- The addition of 14 new Neighborhood Watch groups including five organized by traditionally underrepresented communities including Spanish, Somali and Russian-speaking people.

-- Successful community outreach events including Green & Clean, Volunteer Picnic, Play Ball, National Night Out, Rock the Block, City Fest and the Teddy Bear Parade.

On the code compliance side, significant changes were made to better deal with the most common cases, including general nuisance issues and abandoned vehicles. This past year the group's accomplishments include:

-- Launching the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, which pairs homeowners experiencing a hardship with community volunteers willing to correct code violations. Four work parties have been completed so far, totaling more than 60 volunteer hours.

-- Renewed focus on customer service and emphasis on working with residents.

"The bar is low for interacting with governments, but you are changing that paradigm when you interact with residents on a human level and take the time to respond," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. "We are on the right track — this community wants to be a community."

-- The Gresham code was updated to streamline the process of removing abandoned vehicles. A full-time code compliance inspector was also dedicated to managing abandoned vehicles and RVs.

-- The "My Gresham" application used for online reporting has seen an increase in use, leading to a record number of code compliance cases at the city.

There is still more work to be done in the coming year. The city wants to increase awareness of the Block Party Trailer, find more volunteers for the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program and continue simplifying code language. There are also four neighborhood associations that need to be re-formed, including the Historic Southeast Neighborhood Association, which recently went inactive.

"I see this working, and appreciate all the volunteers," said Councilor Karylinn Echols.

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