Let's go backwards

The City of Portland reportedly forced its "youth violence prevention" director, Nike Greene, out of her job this past week. Given how badly the city is plagued with shootings and homicides, it's hard to feel too much sympathy for her. Either her position is poorly configured or she wasn't doing a good job.

Or maybe it's both. It sounds like her role – and the answer to everything – was to shovel out money to the nonprofit industrial complex.

In April 2021, the city approved $4.1 million for community-based groups to step up efforts to aid shooting victims and their families and try to stop retaliations.

Greene’s office distributed about $3 million to a handful of organizations that had gotten money in the past so they could expand their work in neighborhoods where gun violence has occurred.

Those groups included [Michael] Fesser’s Going Home II program, the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization, the Native American Youth and Family Center, Latino Network and Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, a minority-led nonprofit known as POIC that provides education, mentoring, family outreach and job training services.

The city also provided more than $600,000 in grants to support smaller, emerging groups to reduce and address the violence. The money was set aside to support intervention and wraparound support for families.

The organizations that received these funds in fiscal 2021-2022 were the African Refugee and Immigrant Organization, Insight Alliance, Black Men In Training, Healing Enriching and Learning Purposes and Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural & Resource Center....

She said she was most proud of increasing her staff of just two to a team of eight and the office’s budget from just over $1 million to more than $7 million, “allowing us to fully fund the evidence-based violence prevention strategies that we know will reduce the gun violence that we are seeking in our city today.”...

Outside her city job, Greene was a founder in 2020 of the nonprofit called Triple Threat Mentoring, which offers one-on-one and group mentoring to girls of color living in North or Northeast Portland, with a focus on “attitude, academics and athletics.” It offers leadership development, basketball and life skills instruction, according to its website.

Are all these nonprofits actually making a difference? How is their performance measured? Do they all comply with state and federal laws regarding financial transparency? We keep handing them the millions, but without enough cops who actually want to work, the shooting and stabbing statistics just keep going up.

With people like Greene, success is always just around the corner, if only we would just keep throwing money at the nonprofits.

“We may have seemed fragmented and even broken at times, but we continued to stay at the table together and because of you our city has an opportunity (to) bring about real community transformation, should they decide to seize it and resist the pressure to go backwards,” Greene wrote.

If by "backwards," she means back to when Portland felt like a clean, safe city, and the cops would answer the phone, I don't know, that sounds pretty good to me.


  1. My thoughts on all these non-profits feeding at the public trough, is that they all serve the same population and do pretty much the same thing. They all have staff, and they all have some sort of Executive Director. Now I'm not a big fan of "bigger is better" but given the overlap between these nonprofits wouldn't it make sense to focus funding on just one or two. It certainly would be easier to audit their performance and would cut down on redundant overhead.

  2. Do you think we need to use a different term than “nonprofit” to describe these organizations? It feels a little like the WW referring to the drug addicted downtown as “houseless”

  3. I notice that one of the organizations that you and the other commenters have attacked is IRCO. I like to think I know a bit about IRCO, as I've been a volunteer with that organization. I've done literacy tutoring and helped out in classrooms. IRCO does a great deal to help--as their name indicates--refugees and immigrants get adjusted to like here. But I guess it's easier to simply characterize this organization as "feeding at the public trough" than to take the time to learn what they actually do.

  4. People know what they do. How it's connected to gang violence is quite a bit more of a mystery. The questions are whether the government should be funding the organization, and if so, what the accountability is and should be.


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