<<Urban Alchemy describes itself as a job-creation program for formerly incarcerated people. It was cofounded in 2018 by Lena Miller, a PhD in psychology who has spent decades on a mission to heal the affliction of violence in urban communities. She says that the traumas that the formerly incarcerated have experienced increase their emotional intelligence, giving them a unique ability to combat the homelessness crisis facing American cities. >>
<<In five years, Urban Alchemy has amassed at least $62 million in contracts, mostly with cities—San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sausalito in California and Austin in Texas. UA boasts that its budget has increased some 500 percent in the past two years. It says it employs 870 practitioners, 94 percent of whom have been incarcerated or unhoused.
And UA wants to take its model nationwide. “We’re the Google or Instagram of social services,” Miller says.
She envisions the group going “from city to city,” revolutionizing the industry. Until recently, UA’s website said it planned to expand to three more cities by summer 2025—including Portland, Ore., where it’s at the center of a plan to corral the unhoused population into massive city-sanctioned encampments.
Miller attributes UA’s success to the effectiveness of her model. “We should be excited,” she says. “You got long-term offenders who’ve done 30, 40 years in prison. They’re the alternatives to the police. And furthermore, the police and the police unions are with it.” >>
<<UA skeptics like Kaitlyn Dey, a Portland-based homelessness researcher, argue that politicians use nonprofits to keep their promises to reduce interactions between police and homeless people without substantially changing the system. And to the average liberal city dweller, having a nonprofit administer the sweeps makes that work appear more humane than when armed cops do it. Working with groups like UA also reduces transparency—internal UA e-mails, for instance, are not subject to FOIA requests—insulating local officials should problems arise.
Critics say Urban Alchemy is policing public space, while UA says its workers, who are not state-licensed private security guards, “provide complementary strategies to conventional policing and security.” Even if UA calls them “ambassadors” or “practitioners”—and even if, according to one former employee, the nonprofit stressed to the ambassadors that they were not “security guards” in internal communications—a search on LinkedIn shows employees describing themselves as security guards. >>
<<Since its founding, Urban Alchemy has faced dozens of allegations and at least six lawsuits alleging civil rights violations, physical and sexual harassment, and wage theft. Critics, including homelessness advocates, unhoused people, and former employees, allege that some of the practitioners have exacerbated the trauma of homelessness by dealing hard drugs, making sexual advances on vulnerable individuals, and harassing and assaulting people on the streets. >>
<<Next, UA is expanding into Portland, Ore., where Mayor Ted Wheeler is pushing through a controversial plan to combat unsheltered homelessness.
In early 2022, the city proposed sweeping all unhoused residents into several huge encampments, with up to 500 people in each, managed by the National Guard. Following widespread criticism, the city then “spent the year tailoring the plan and working on their rhetoric to ultimately make [it] politically viable,” says Dey, the Portland-based homelessness researcher. Now the plan is to create six encampments, each holding up to 150 unhoused people. At the end of last year, Urban Alchemy submitted a bid to operate as many as five of them; in March, Wheeler announced the location of the first site, which UA will run. The city plans to ban unsheltered outdoor homelessness except for these government-sanctioned encampments.
Advocates, experts, and unhoused people in Portland have expressed concerns about the prospect of UA-run megacamps. Andy Miller, the head of Our Just Future, a local shelter provider, says operating a shelter on that scale is “difficult work.” Maintaining a healthy environment while navigating the trauma of those sheltering there, he says, is no easy task.
“There’s going to be chaos,” predicts Vince Masiello, an unhoused resident of Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2), a safe rest site founded during the Occupy movement that eventually found its way to the corner of the parking lot near the Moda Center, where the Portland Trail Blazers play.
At R2D2, around two dozen longer-term residents stay in tiny homes, with additional communal shelter space for 40 more unhoused folks to bed down for the night. The village is autonomous, which means the residents—who have received de-escalation training—set their own rules and resolve conflicts democratically in weekly general meetings. “Even in our humble space,” Masiello says, “conflicts come up.” Trying to “scale that up” to a camp with more than 100 people, he continues, will be a disaster—one that he and other unhoused people at R2D2 say they fear.
“The idea that they’re actually going to successfully manage all the sanctioned encampments and force every single homeless person into them? I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Dey says. Such an approach, compounded by UA’s lack of training, is “going to implode.”
There’s also the question of cost. In its bid, UA predicted that it would cost over $5 million a year to operate a single 150-person encampment—or about $34,000 per person per year. >>
<< (In contrast, Portland’s R2D2 is run by an independent nonprofit without any city funding, in large part because the residents police themselves.) >>
<<As Kyser puts it, Urban Alchemy is “obviously not an alternative to policing—it is alternative policing.” >>
<<The Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) assessed the effort to clean up close-in southeast Portland with a report released Monday.
The City of Portland’s “90-day reset,” was launched January 26 to improve safety by stabilizing areas heavily impacted by camping, litter and graffiti.
Last fall business owners were threatening to follow others who had left the area due to lawlessness. They reached out to the Mayor’s office for help. Police patrols were increased, the Portland Bureau of Transportation tried to break up homeless camps and move illegally parked vehicles, and the city put up more lights. The results came out three months after the program ended.
Wins for the program, according to Mayor Wheeler’s office, included:
Lighting improvements: 220 trees wrapped with lights and activated throughout the District
Graffiti removal: 73,755 total square feet
Campsite assessments: 836
Unsanctioned camp removals: 321
Portland Police response: 89 arrests, 23 stolen vehicles recovered and 19 firearms seized
Pounds of trash removed by SOLVE: 4,963
Area cleaned by the Portland Bureau of Transportation: 9,830 square feet
Clare Briglio, Executive Director of CEIC and Central Eastside Together (CET), said “I’m pleased with the results of the City of Portland’s 90-day reset,” before resigning her post. “We appreciate the City of Portland’s efforts to address safety, cleanliness and accessibility in our District,” she said, “We’ve come a long way but are not there yet. It’s a work in progress, and we’re on the right track.”>>
<< A couple weeks have passed since the City of Portland’s camping ordinance officially went into effect. But while some of the city’s homeless are leaving sidewalks and parks, others are heading into more dangerous areas.
Some have migrated into areas along Highway 26 and I-405, where they are just feet from cars passing by.
The Oregon Department of Transportation says that despite putting up signs and fencing to prevent access, people are still getting through and setting up camp in areas under ODOT’s jurisdiction.
“The more we see people on the edge of the freeways, on the edge of the highways, the more jeopardy that they’re putting themselves in,” said ODOT’s Don Hamilton.>>
<<A judge has sentenced Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, 26, to 95 months in prison for his involvement in a 2021 rally outside a shuttered Kmart in East Portland.>>
<<He was convicted of 10 counts earlier this month. Although prosecutors didn’t prove he physically hurt anyone, he was found guilty of inciting the violence, telling the crowd, “When antifa shows up, show them no mercy,” according to a statement today from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
The brawl moved from the Kmart to the Parkrose High School parking lot, where Toese smashed the window of a car with a baseball bat, spurring on a group of Proud Boys who attacked the man inside. As WW reported at the time, the fight spilled out of the parking lot and the ideological foes pursued each other up Northeast 122nd Avenue, while police kept their distance.
Toese’s visits to Portland seeking to fight leftists date back to 2017, and include the 2018 assault of Tim Ledwith. He was indicted in that attack after a WW story examining why Toese hadn’t been charged. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was ultimately sentenced to six months in jail. He was back on the street by the Proud Boys rally at the empty Kmart.
In this instance, prosecutors successfully fought to raise Toese’s sentence beyond the 70-month mandatory minimum given his “long-term involvement in violent activity.”>>
<<Tusitala “Tiny” Toese will serve nearly eight years in prison for his involvement in a 2021 Proud Boys brawl with antifascists, after a sentencing decision by Judge Amy Baggio Friday, July 21.
Toese, 27, was found guilty in March on 10 assault, weapons, mischief, and similar charges stemming from a far-right rally at an abandoned Kmart building on August 22, 2021, at Northeast Sandy Boulevard and 122nd Avenue in Portland.>>
<<Toese was arrested on a warrant in January 2022 and later found guilty of two counts each of second and third-degree assault, unauthorized use of a weapon, riot, and first-degree criminal mischief. During the 2021 rally, which was all but guaranteed to escalate into a brawl with counterprotesters, rally organizers, along with other far right groups, showed up with paintball guns, bats, clubs, and bear mace, anticipating a fight with antifascists.
The violent event took place on a Sunday afternoon and eventually made its way to the Parkrose High School parking lot. The brawl saw no police presence–a decision that was initially defended by Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell, but later criticized by Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Prosecutors say Antifa protesters were “immediately attacked” by Proud Boys when they showed up at the rally. Video from the rally-turned-riot showed Toese shooting a paintball gun at antifascist protesters, attacking another person in a parked vehicle, and assisting others in tipping over an empty van parked nearby. He was later charged along with Justin Glidden and Miles Furrow.
Toese’s assault charges mainly stemmed from his attack on Mark Nunziata, who was sitting in his car in a parking lot at Parkrose High School.
Toese reportedly saw Nunziata and yelled “He is Antifa!” before smashing out the driver’s side window with a baseball bat and with a group, attacking Nunziata repeatedly with multiple weapons, according to prosecutors.
“During this rally, Toese gave various speeches and incited the crowd with statements like, ‘When Antifa shows up, show them no mercy,’” prosecutors from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office noted in a news release Friday.
Toese is well-known for his affiliation with the Proud Boys, a neofascist extremist group often involved in far-right political demonstrations. Most recently, four members of the Proud Boys were convicted of seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Prior to the 2021 riot, Toese was also charged with assault in Multnomah County for attacking a man in Northeast Portland in 2018. Before that, he was arrested on similar charges in 2017 for an attack at a political rally. He was on probation at the time.
During his criminal trial in March, Senior Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez told the court Toese deeply hated Antifa, as did other members of the Proud Boys. Vasquez said Toese played on that hatred to incite violence, citing Toese’s “long-term involvement in violent activity” as justification for a longer sentence.>>
<<A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge on Friday sentenced a well-known Portland-area street brawler to an additional two years in prison for his role in a violent melee outside an abandoned Kmart in east Portland in 2021.
Tusitala “Tiny” Toese already faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and 10 months in prison after he was convicted in March of 10 charges – including two counts of second-degree assault and riot – for egging on his fellow Proud Boys during a street battle with left-wing protesters on Northeast 122nd Avenue.
Toese was one of three men, all known as right-wing activists, originally charged in the Parkrose neighborhood clash. Miles Farrow of Oregon City pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal and was sentenced to probation. Charges were dropped against the other man but may be reinstated in the future, Senior Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez said in court Friday.
Judge Amy Baggio sentenced Toese to the additional 25 months for the riot conviction, to be served back-to-back with the mandatory 70-month sentence for second-degree assault. The additional sentence could be reduced by up to five months if Toese is credited for good behavior while incarcerated.
Prosecutors requested a sentence of up to 12 years and four months for Toese, arguing that the mandatory sentences for his second-degree assault convictions should be served consecutively, rather than at the same time, as Baggio ruled Friday.
Prosecutors were unable to prove that Toese physically hurt anyone, but the judge found him guilty of two counts of second-degree assault because Toese had spurred on the brutal beatdown of counterprotester Mark Nunziata, who was punched, kicked and hit with dozens of paintball rounds as he sat defenseless in the driver’s seat of a parked pickup in front of Parkrose High School.
Nunziata told the court that since the attack he has struggled with post-traumatic stress in addition to his physical injuries.
He said he feared he would die that day, trapped in the cab of the Honda Ridgeline. He said he pleaded for his life as the attackers beat him.
Nunziata asked Baggio to hand down a sentence strong enough to dissuade others from continuing to stir up violence in Portland for political reasons.>>
<<Proud Boys member Tusitala “Tiny” Toese has been sentenced to 95 months in prison. Toese was previously found guilty of 10 charges that include assault, riot and criminal mischief.
The charges are related to an Aug. 22, 2021 rally that Toese helped organize in the parking lot of the now-burned Kmart at Northeast 122nd Avenue and Northeast Sandy Boulevard, according to court documents.
In March, Judge Amy Baggio, 26, ruled that Toese was guilty on two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle, two counts of riot and two counts of first-degree criminal mischief. He was acquitted of one assault charge.
“During this rally, Toese gave various speeches and incited the crowd with statements like, ‘When Antifa shows up, show them no mercy,’” the DA said. “When Antifa members showed up at the rally, members of the Proud Boys immediately attacked them.”
According to court documents, Toese and his group started a fight with rally protesters. Dressed in tactical gear, Toese and his group were armed with paintball guns, firearms, blunt weapons, explosive devices and bear spray.
About an hour and a half after the fight began, protesters brought a decommissioned ambulance to the scene. Toese’s group attacked the vehicle and people inside with paintballs, mace and blunt weapons, causing extensive damage, according to court documents.
The people inside fled on foot and the vehicle rolled into a patch of bushes.
Toese’s group pursued the rally protesters south on 122nd Avenue, with both sides throwing explosives, the documents say.
At Toese’s command, most of his group returned to the main rally while Toese and a smaller group followed the protesters to the Parkrose High School parking lot.
At that parking lot, Toese noticed a man sitting in a truck with items that suggested he was one of the rally protesters.
Toese yelled, “He is Antifa,” and smashed the driver’s side window with a baseball bat. Following Toese’s directions, his group began breaking the remaining windows, popped the truck’s tires and attacked the driver.
The driver was eventually able to escape.
According to court documents, Toese was indicted on Dec. 16, 2021, but he was not found and arrested until March. At his March 23, 2022 arraignment, he pleaded “not guilty” to 11 charges.
He was released with conditions on June 10, 2022 to await trial. The judge ordered Toese be monitored by Close Street Supervision using GPS, and that any violation would result in rearrest.
However, according to court documents, Toese allowed his GPS monitor to go dead for 24 hours and did not respond to attempts at contact. Judge Jenna Plank issued a second warrant for his arrest on Nov. 15, 2022.
Toese was rearrested on Jan. 19, 2023 and this time, the judge set his bail at $1 million, according to court records.
Following his sentencing Friday, Toese will be taken to Oregon Department of Corrections to serve his sentence.>>
<<A well-known member of the Proud Boys named Tusitala “Tiny” Toese was sentenced to 95 months in prison Friday on charges related to an August 2021 “Patriot” rally in Northeast Portland.
Toese was originally found guilty on March 2 of two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of unauthorized use of a weapon, two counts of riot and two counts of first-degree criminal mischief.
On August 22, 2021, Toese helped organize a rally at Northeast 122nd Street at a vacant parking lot. Court records show that he incited the crowd by calling for violence against any leftwing protesters who showed up to the event, saying, “When Antifa shows up, show them no mercy.”
Counter-protesters showed up to the rally and, according to the DA’s office, members of the Proud Boys immediately attacked them. The clash led to a brawl that officials say included explosive devices, paintball guns, bats and clubs.
When the group reached Parkrose High School parking lot, Toese reportedly came across a man sitting in a car and yelled, “He is Antifa,” before smashing out the driver’s side window with a baseball bat.
Following this action, officials say Proud Boy members destroyed the car and attacked the person inside for “a prolonged period of time with multiple weapons.” The group also reportedly flipped over a leftwing protester support van.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez previously told the court that Toese had a hatred of leftwing protesters and purposely incited violence against counter-protest members.
“Due to Mr. Toese’s long-term involvement in violent activity, the state is seeking enhancements to increase Mr. Toese’s sentence above the mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months in prison,” Vasquez said in March.>>
<<A notorious member of the far-right Proud Boys street gang received a nearly eight-year prison sentence in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Friday, the culmination of criminal charges arising from a street brawl and assault in 2021 outside of the now-destroyed Northeast Portland Kmart building.
Toese has been a frequent combatant in clashes between right and left-wing demonstrators in Portland since at least 2018. After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2018, a judge barred Toese from attending demonstrations for two years. He received a six-month jail sentence in 2020 after failing to uphold those terms.
In August of 2021, Toese helped organize a rally of “patriots” in the parking lot of the vacant Kmart building on Northeast 112nd Street, according to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office.
“During this rally, Toese gave various speeches and incited the crowd with statements like, ‘When Antifa shows up, show them no mercy.’ When Antifa members showed up at the rally, members of the Proud Boys immediately attacked them,” the DA’s office said.
The confrontation spiraled into a brawl featuring the use of explosive devices, paint ball guns, bats and clubs. It spilled into the Parkrose High School parking lot, where Toese’s group found a man sitting in his car.
“Toese yelled, ‘He is Antifa,’ and smashed out the driver’s side window with a baseball bat,” the DA’s office said. “This action, along with Toese’s other statements, encouraged multiple Proud Boys to destroy the car and attack the victim for a prolonged period of time with multiple weapons. Toese and his group also flipped over an Antifa support van.”
On March 3 of this year, Toese was found guilty on 10 counts stemming from the 2021 brawl, including two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of unauthorized use of a weapon, two counts of riot and two counts of first-degree criminal mischief.
On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Amy Baggio sentenced Toese to 95 months in prison. Currently in Multnomah County custody, Toese will be transported to the Oregon Department of Corrections to serve out his sentence.>>
<<A 31-year-old man in custody at Portland’s Inverness Jail died Wednesday afternoon, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said.
Josiah G. Pierce was found unresponsive in his cell shortly after 3:30 p.m., according to the sheriff’s office. Staff and paramedics undertook “lifesaving measures,” but Pierce was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pierce had arrests dating back to 2010, including convictions for burglary and heroin possession, court records show. He had been in custody since May 31, the sheriff’s office said.
The East County Major Crimes Team is investigating the death with the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s office. The official cause of death has not yet been determined.>>
<<Josiah Gaylfor Pierce, 31, was found unresponsive on Wednesday afternoon in Multnomah County Inverness Jail, the sheriff’s office announced today. He died shortly thereafter despite paramedics’ efforts to revive him.
It is the fifth death in the county’s jails so far this year. None of them were related, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. There were only three deaths in Multnomah County jails in all of 2022 and none in 2021.
The sheriff’s office has offered few details about the circumstances behind any of the five deaths, although it has determined one was due to natural causes. At least one was an apparent suicide, WW reported.
The jails are struggling with staffing issues amid increased substance use and mental health crises among inmates, county health officials acknowledged last month.
Pierce was booked into the jail May 31 on charges of sex abuse, burglary and fleeing police stemming from an incident in which he allegedly attacked a bartender at a downtown Portland bar.
Detectives and the Medical Examiner’s Office are continuing to investigate Pierce’s death. The sheriff’s office said it could not comment further.>>
<<The Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries has found in favor of lawyer Amber Kinney, who alleged when she quit the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office in 2022 that District Attorney Mike Schmidt had set back women’s advancement in the office by “decades.”>>
<<This month BOLI found substantial evidence that Schmidt’s office had subjected Kinney to gender discrimination, retaliation and constructive discharge — meaning she was forced out when she resigned in January 2022.>>