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AYCO facing displacement following government’s decision to nix Dream Center plan

October 14, 2021

Executive Director Jamal Dar pledges to find new Dream Center

Portland, Ore. — A Portland nonprofit that serves East African immigrant and refugee youth and families is facing displacement from its East Portland headquarters after their dreams of finding a permanent home were dashed by a decision from The City of Portland and regional government Metro.

This all comes on a day that was supposed to be for celebrating African Youth and Community Organization’s new Dream Center on Ne Glisan and 74th, a location of which Metro granted AYCO a temporary lease that is slated to end a little over a year from now.

It was the hope of AYCO Executive Director Jamal Dar that the former Trinity Broadcasting site could eventually become the permanent home for the nonprofit, which provides youth, healthy and disability, family, psycho-social and rental assistance services to members of Portland’s East African immigrant and refugee population, largely Muslim community members hailing from Somalia.

AYCO Founder and Executive Director Jamal Dar (center) gathers with the nonprofit’s supporters, including Rep. Khanh Pham (cyan jacket), Sen. Michael Dembrow (red jacket) and Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (neon green jacket), alongside the East African immigrants and refugees that AYCO serves and local community members during a Bike Town Hall on Saturday, September 18, 2021 (photo credit: Danny Peterson).

Despite support to site AYCO at the location alongside affordable housing from Oregon Reps. Khanh Pham and Barbara Smith Warner and Sen. Michael Dembrow, as well as community development partner REACH, Portland Housing Bureau and Metro decided not to adopt that plan.

“The outcome of this process is that AYCO will be displaced from this location, in the heart of the community it serves. This alone is very painful to the community that has gathered here & organized itself to connect people with each other and with resources and opportunities,” Dar said. “And the pain is deepened by the fact that there is no clear rationale being shared and no public process that allows the community to grasp and process this decision.”

The site was the subject of a Metro Bond Opportunity Solicitation that was conducted earlier this year wherein development partners were tasked with submitting proposals for developing affordable housing.

Eventually, the building that exists now will be torn down and replaced with something new.

AYCO Founder and Executive Director Jamal Dar (second from right) gathers with the nonprofit’s participants and staff during a Bike Town Hall on Saturday, September 18, 2021 (photo credit: Danny Peterson).

Despite AYCO submitting a proposal in collaboration with REACH, Sera Architects, Colas Construction, Community Vision and El Programa Hispano, that was not the plan that was ultimately greenlit.

Instead, PHB and Metro selected a team lead by real estate giant, the New York-based Related Companies, an organization whose chairman has ties to financing former President Donald Trump. Indeed, Related’s plan had fewer proposed housing units then the one put forth by AYCO and REACH.

All of this comes after AYCO showed it has a proven track record as a tenant in the building for the past year, developing youth leaders with the majority of the nonprofit’s staff, interns and volunteers being past program participants.

“This is a very sad period for the community around AYCO, made harder by the lack of clarity on what is driving the decision. Nonetheless, the community will never resign, and will demonstrate its enduring resilience even in the face of rejection by the current City and Metro process,” Dar said. “AYCO will persevere and create a Dream Center with support from all willing public leaders and with a community of committed individuals and organizations.”

Serving vulnerable communities who come from civil war, refugee camps and face xenophobia and racism daily, AYCO continues its commitment to uplifting youth and families, of whom they help more than 2,000 people per month.

You can give your support to help the nonprofit find a permanent dream center through AYCO’s Donate Now page.

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