A rapidly growing nonprofit in Portland that provides after-school and summer programs for East Bayside youth and assistance to their parents is looking for bigger space and having trouble finding it.

Our Place Director of Programs Fayla Sutton said the nonprofit wants to serve its young members from “a safe place for them that will be theirs.” Contributed / Our Place

Our Place Youth and Community Services works with 40 youth and 25 families and has a list of “30 to 40 kids whose families want to join, but we don’t have the space capacity,” said Libby Catania, founder and executive director.

Its current headquarters is a rented room on Munjoy Hill, she said, which has space for 10 kids at a time.

Most Our Place families live in Kennedy Park, and the organization would like to be based nearby, but the neighborhood’s “intense gentrification, with lots of new breweries and little boutiques and coffee shops,” has so far blocked that effort because it is now cost prohibitive for the nonprofit, Catania said.

Property owners with buildings in that area are looking to rent to businesses that will make them a profit, she said.

“For three years, we’ve been trying to get our foot in the door with space in that area, because it’s critical that kids and families can walk to us,” she said. “It’s really disheartening to lose out on those opportunities.”


In addition to hosting after-school programming and summer camps, “we meet with parents and caregivers 200 hours a year, helping with forms, phone calls, applying for citizenship” and more, she said. It also offers free meals and mentorship programs.

Catania said Our Place is seeking more involvement from the city and the Portland community to bring their dreams to fruition and expand their services and capacity, and she’s hopeful the support will come.

“It’s critical for kids to have that space to gather.”

Mario Martinez, president of Our Place’s board of directors, says it’s important the group has a home in the community it serves. Contributed / Our Place

Catania, who previously worked as a special education teacher at East End Community School and for the Portland Housing Authority, started Our Place because she saw the need for more programming for kids, especially middle-school aged, and support for low-income and immigrant families in particular, she said.

“I saw there were these amazing kids and families that weren’t being engaged by other programs, and their basic needs and learning needs weren’t being met,” she said.

Our Place grew from a two-week summer camp in 2022 with 20 kids, to now five after-school groups and four weeks of summer camp for 40 kids. Its “full-family approach” engages with both parents and kids, and follows their guidance and vision for their community, she said.


Mario Martinez, president of the board of directors, said it is important that Our Place has a home in the community it serves.

East Bayside is home to many immigrants, Martinez said. “I’m one myself. I went to Portland High School, and faced a bit of a language barrier.”

That barrier and a lack of assistance prevented him from doing things he wanted to do, like enrolling in after-school sports.

Much of Our Place’s work involves helping families get connected with available resources, and assisting in their transition to the U.S. education system, he said.

In East Bayside, he said, “there’s an abundance of breweries and grow facilities, putting other parts of the community on the back burner. There’s a lack of support for initiatives like this.”

When Our Place holds activities in the neighborhood now, Catania said, the children often have to go into the breweries for water or to use the bathroom.

Our Place programs director Fayla Sutton said she wants the children she works with to have a neighborhood space where they can “just be kids.”

“We want a safe place for them that will be theirs,” she said.

More information about Our Place is available at ourplaceportland.com.

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