Newcomer's Handbook Portland

Helpful Services

Knowing where to go for a particular service is particularly important when you move to a new city or state. The following information, which includes details about various services, including renting furniture, hiring a housekeeper, pest control, shipping services, and consumer protection, might make your life a bit easier. This chapter also includes sections about services for the disabled, seniors, new residents from abroad, and gay and lesbian life.

Rental Services

If you need to furnish a home right away and you don’t have time to shop for the perfect furniture and appliances, or if you won’t be in town for more than a couple months, you can rent practically anything you need. Be careful, though: if you rent household items for more than a few months, you will almost always end up paying more than if you had bought new furniture. In addition to the furniture rental establishments listed below, you might consider home staging services, or even rent-to-own businesses like Aaron’s ( or Rent-A-Center (800-665-5510, Be aware, though, that even credit purchases are usually cheaper in the long run than “rent-to-own” plans. Use these services sparingly.

The following are two long-established rental outfits in the area:

  • Cort Furniture Rental, 9495 SW Cascade Ave, Beaverton, 503-520-8800, 888-360-2678,
  • People’s Furniture Rental, 11035 SW 11th St, Suite 290, Beaverton, 800-922-1231,

Domestic Services

As with any service, satisfied friends and trusted colleagues are the best sources of recommendations for domestic service providers. Failing that, Angie’s List (888-888-LIST, advertises itself as a list of plumbers, auto mechanics, painters, and the like recommended by members, but you should still check references as you would (or should) with any contractor or service provider. There is a fee to join. Free online review sites like Yelp ( are another good resource, but don’t take every review, positive or negative, at face value.

For other goods and services, take a look at the Shopping for the Home chapter.

House Cleaning

You might decide to use a house-cleaning service on a one-off basis (before you move into a new house, for example) or on an ongoing basis. Before you employ any cleaner or cleaning service, be sure to check references and only use cleaners who are insured. (Agencies that employ bonded and insured cleaners usually say so in their advertisements.) Personal recommendations are your best source for finding cleaners, but of course cleaning services are also listed online and in the Yellow Pages (under “House Cleaning”).

If you’re trying to minimize the use of chemicals in your home, several companies such as Domestica (503-222-2334, use only nontoxic, environmentally safe products to clean your home.

Pest Control

While typical Oregon pests lack the horrifying cachet of, say, hissing cockroaches, they can nonetheless be troublesome to have around the house. In the insect department, dampwood termites and carpenter ants, if left unchecked, can cause structural damage, and other insects can be nuisances. Mammals that sometimes pose problems include possums, raccoons, skunks, bats, squirrels, mice, moles, or even nutria, huge, non-native rodents from Argentina that resemble giant beavers with enormous orange teeth. (This is true.) Rats often infest areas where invasive English ivy has established itself, and the inaccessible (to humans) spaces between parallel neighboring fences.

If these critters have invaded your home or yard and setting traps yourself has not worked or is not an option, consider calling an exterminator, or visit for comprehensive information about dealing with your unwelcome houseguests. If your problem requires a professional solution, consult one of the many services listed online or under “Pest Control Services” in the Yellow Pages. If your problem is with furry creatures, many services offer live trapping. You’re unlikely to want that solution for insects, but the following services claim to use less toxic (although not necessarily nontoxic) chemicals:

Postal and Shipping Services

Portland’s main post office is located just north of downtown, near Union Station, at 715 Northwest Hoyt Street (the main entrance is on Glisan). Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Neighborhood post offices are more convenient for most people, but tend to have shorter hours. To find your local post office (including contract post offices housed in local businesses), or to look up ZIP codes or postal rates, call 800-ASK-USPS (800-275-8777) or visit The Airport Mail Facility at 7640 Northeast Airport Way (503-335-7920) is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

If you’re between addresses and need a place to receive mail, you can rent a box at a local post office or choose a private mail receiving service. Many of the private services allow call-in mail checks and mail forwarding, but they often charge more than the post office.

Mail Receiving Services

Look in the Yellow Pages under “Mail Boxes-Rental” to find the most conveniently located private mail receiving services. The following services have multiple locations in the Portland area:

Shipping Services

In addition to parcel shipment and next-day or second-day delivery, most of the familiar national shipping services offer freight service for large items.

Junk Mail and Telemarketing

A deluge of junk mail will almost certainly follow you after you move, and everyone from the phone company to your mortgage lender will be anxious to sell your name to marketers. To curtail the onslaught, write to the junk mail overlords at Direct Marketing Association (DMAChoice, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, New York 10512) to request a form, or obtain or submit an online form at (Either way, they’ll charge you $1 for the privilege of removing your name from mailing lists; online, you’ll have to navigate through the propaganda explaining why direct mail advertising is the best thing since indoor plumbing.) Most—but not all—businesses and charities that send junk mail will exclude addresses registered with this service, but it may take 30 to 90 days for junk mail to slow. Registration with the DMA will not deter marketers that do not buy the organization’s preference lists.

The major credit bureaus share an opt-out line that allows you to reduce the volume of prescreened offers for credit and insurance that you receive. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or visit to have your name removed from mailing lists that the credit bureaus sell to direct-mail marketers.

You can stop those annoying dinnertime calls from legitimate commercial telemarketers (but not charities, political organizations, or rogue boiler room operations that scorn the law) by adding your number to the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. Call 800-382-1222 or visit

Automobile Repair and Maintenance

Finding a trustworthy mechanic is often difficult, to say the least. The best way to find a good shop is to ask coworkers, neighbors, and friends, particularly those with the same make of car, for recommendations. Shop around for a mechanic before you need one; if you wait until your car is virtually immobile, you’re likely to be tempted to take it to the nearest chop shop. Auto dealerships are generally reliable, if pricier than independent mechanics; at least they have the parts, equipment, and (one hopes) expertise to service the cars they sell.

If you’re considering an independent shop, you may want to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against it. (See “Consumer Protection” below.) If it’s just advice you need, consider tuning in to Tom and Ray Magliozzi (better known as Click & Clack), the guys on National Public Radio’s Car Talk program. Although the Magliozzis have retired, and Tom passed away in November 2014, old programs are rebroadcast on KOPB (91.5 FM) on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. The “Mechanics Files” page of the Car Talk website ( is a database of recommended (and reviled) mechanics, as reviewed by Car Talk listeners.

If the question isn’t who will repair your car, but rather who to call to have it towed, you’ll find lots of options listed online and in the Yellow Pages under “Towing-Auto.” To avoid a frantic search for towing companies after you’ve broken down, consider joining an automobile club. The American Automobile Association (AAA) (contact AAA of Oregon/Idaho, 888-422-2503, is the best-known club; it offers towing services, travel guides and maps, and lists of approved mechanics, among other services. The local club now offers roadside assistance for bicycles as well as motor vehicles. The lesser-known (and locally based) Better World Club (866-238-1137, offers similar services, and bills itself as “America’s only eco-friendly auto club.” Many national service station chains and insurance companies also offer road service plans.

Health Care

Health Insurance

At press time, the contours of the health insurance landscape in the Northwest and nationwide are changing. The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, now requires most Americans to have health insurance coverage or pay an annual penalty. Because the law also, among other things, requires plans to offer certain minimum features and prohibits denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, both the range and cost of available plans is very much in flux. For now, employer-sponsored plans cover most Oregonians (and Washingtonians) who have private health insurance. If your employer doesn’t provide coverage, or if you’re self-employed (or unemployed), you’ll need to shop around for health insurance. The new online health insurance exchanges somewhat simplify this process. Cover Oregon (, 855-268-3767) is the Oregon gateway to the insurance exchange. (Cover Oregon became infamous nationally after it spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a website through which no one was ever able to complete an insurance enrollment; hundreds of thousands of Oregonians had to mail in enrollment forms. The state eventually gave up on developing its own exchange, and the Cover Oregon website now connects to the federal exchange.) Washington’s health exchange is accessible at 855-923-4623, Be sure to compare deductibles and co-pays, the percentages covered for various procedures, restrictions on which doctors and hospitals you can use, the extent of prescription drug coverage, and exemptions for pre-existing conditions. Insurance premiums can vary dramatically from one company to another. Subsidies are available for lower-income workers.

The Insurance Division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (350 Winter St NE, Salem, 97301, 503-947-7984, 888-877-4894, regulates health insurance in Oregon. A range of consumer publications, including health insurance buyer’s guides and complaint statistics for various insurers, is available for download at the Division’s website; visit or call 503-947-7984 or 888-877-4894 to request publications by mail. In Washington, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (PO Box 40255, Olympia, Washington, 98504, 800-562-6900, provides similar services; health insurance information for consumers is available at

Health Care Plans

The following seven companies have traditionally provided the vast majority of private health insurance coverage in Oregon. Most of these companies also operate in southwest Washington.

Health Care Assistance Programs

Medicare is the federal government’s health insurance program for people age 65 and older and qualified disabled individuals of any age. For information about Medicare eligibility or to apply for Medicare benefits, call the Social Security Administration at 800-633-4227 or visit You cannot yet apply for Medicare online. In Oregon, volunteers at the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance Program (SHIBA; 800-722-4134, provide free, individualized counseling about Medicare and related programs, including Medicare-supplement insurance and long-term care insurance. Their website lists contact information for SHIBA sites around the state, or you can call them for more information. Washington’s similar SHIBA program (see below) is not limited to Medicare advice.

The Oregon Health Plan is the state’s version of the federal government’s Medicaid program. Administered by the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Health Plan provides health coverage for working people with very low incomes, as well as people with disabilities. Call 800-699-9075 or visit for information about coverage and eligibility requirements.

Washington’s Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) network dispenses advice and distributes information on a range of health insurance matters, including private insurance as well as government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Information is available from the SHIBA website ( or by calling the HelpLine at 800-562-6900.


For insurance-related complaints, contact the Oregon Insurance Division’s Consumer Advocacy Unit (503-947-7984, 888-877-4894,, which can help with resolving complaints. Their website includes an online complaint form. In Washington, contact the Insurance Commissioner (800-562-6900,

Finding a Doctor

If your job includes health benefits, your insurance plan or HMO may require you to use a participating doctor or facility (or may pay a reduced benefit if you use a medical care provider who is “out-of-plan”). If you have a choice of physicians, there’s no substitute for word-of-mouth; if you can, ask for a referral from a friend or trusted coworker. If that option is unavailable, such websites as and purport to rate physicians, but the ratings should probably be taken with a grain of salt (and an aspirin, then call them in the morning). The Oregon Medical Board (971-673-2700, 877-254-6263, regulates physicians in Oregon; contact them or visit the website to check on a doctor’s credentials and history of lawsuits or professional sanctions, or to make a formal complaint about a doctor or other medical professional. In Washington, the state’s Health Systems Quality Assurance Commission (360-236-4700, provides a somewhat equivalent service.

Portland is a national center for alternative and naturopathic medicine. As always, a personal recommendation is the best way to find a health care provider. Failing that, try the “Find a Physician (ND)” tool on the Oregon Board of Naturopathic Medicine site (, or call them at 971-673-0193. You could also visit one of the clinics at the National College of Natural Medicine (503-552-1551,


  • Adventist Medical Center, 10123 SE Market St, 503-257-2500,
  • Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at OHSU, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd, 503-494-8311,
  • Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center, 2875 NW Stucki Ave, Hillsboro, 971-310-1000,
  • Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center, 10180 SE Sunnyside Rd, Clackamas, 503-652-2880,
  • Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, 2801 N Gantenbein Ave, 503-413-2200,
  • Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center, 1015 NW 22nd Ave, 503-413-7711,
  • Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, 19300 SW 65th Ave, Tualatin, 503-692-1212,
  • Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, 24800 SE Stark St, Gresham, 503-674-1122,
  • Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, 2211 NE 139th St, Vancouver, 360-487-1000,
  • Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Hospital and Clinics, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd, 503-494-8311,
  • Providence Milwaukie Hospital, 10150 SE 32nd Ave, Milwaukie, 503-513-8300,
  • Providence Portland Medical Center, 4805 NE Glisan St, 503-215-1111,
  • Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, 9205 SW Barnes Rd, 503-216-1234,
  • Providence Willamette Falls Hospital, 1500 Division St, Oregon City, 503-656-1631,
  • Southwest PeaceHealth Medical Center, 400 NE Mother Joseph Pl, Vancouver, 360-514-2000, 503-972-3000,
  • Tuality Community Hospital, 335 SE 8th Ave, Hillsboro, 503-681-1111,
  • Tuality Forest Grove Hospital, 1809 Maple St, Forest Grove, 503-357-2173,

Affordable Health Care

Community and Public Clinics

Community clinics and some public health clinics offer free or low-cost treatment to low-income individuals and families; some clinics use sliding fee scales based on income.

  • The Coalition of Community Health Clinics (503-546-4991, is a coalition of community clinics located throughout the city of Portland. Their comprehensive website includes links to non-member clinics, including clinics that provide low-cost dental and chiropractic services.
  • Free Clinic of SW Washington, 4100 Plomondon St, Vancouver, 360-313-1390,
  • The Multnomah County Health Department ( operates several safety-net clinics in Portland and Gresham; for clinic appointments call 503-988-5558.
  • The Wallace Medical Concern (503-489-1760,, is based in the Rockwood area of East Portland/Gresham, and also operates a mobile medical clinic five days a week as well as an Old Town clinic on Thursday evenings.


Most hospitals and large clinics have their own pharmacies. So do most major supermarkets, discount stores, and warehouse stores, including Fred Meyer (800-576-4377,, Safeway (877-723-3929,, Albertsons (877-932-7948,, Walmart (, Bi-Mart (541-344-0681,, Costco (800-607-6861,, and Target (877-798-2743, In addition to such national drugstore chains as Rite Aid (800-748-3243, and Walgreens (800-925-4733,, Portland still has a fair number of friendly, independently owned pharmacies; just walk or drive around your neighborhood, or look in the Yellow Pages under “Pharmacies” for locations.

The following pharmacies are open 24 hours. Many emergency hospitals also have 24-hour pharmacies on-site.

  • Rite Aid: 2021 NW 185th Ave, Hillsboro, 503-645-7704; 10860 SE Oak St, Milwaukie, 503-652-8058
  • Walgreens: 14600 SW Murray Scholls Dr, Beaverton, 503-579-1878; 13939 SW Pacific Hwy, Tigard, 503-670-9812; 1950 NE Burnside Rd, Gresham, 503-674-8482; 1905 SE 164th Ave, Vancouver, 360-885-2938

Advance Directives

An advance directive allows you to state your wishes for medical care in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself; it also allows you to designate a person who will make health care decisions on your behalf. If you already have an advance directive in another state, it is a good idea to complete the form in your new state to ensure your wishes are honored. Oregon advance directives are available online at; hard copies are available from Oregon Health Decisions (503-692-0894, 800-422-4805,, or from most hospitals. You can download a Washington health care directive at a number of websites, including that of the Washington State Medical Association (; hard copies are available from hospitals or physicians.

Health Law—Protecting Private Information

A variety of federal and state laws, most notably the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), restrict health care providers’ ability to use and disseminate personal health information. The general rule is that a provider cannot share your health information with a third party unless you have given your written consent or there is a law that authorizes the provider to share your information. If you believe your right to privacy of medical records has been violated, you can file a complaint with the United States Department of Health and Human Services at their Region X Office for Civil Rights in Seattle. For details on how to file a complaint, visit or call 800-368-1019.

Consumer Protection

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to work to prevent it in the first place. Read all contracts down to the smallest print, save all receipts and cancelled checks, get the names of telephone sales and service people with whom you deal, date every paper you sign, make sure contractors are properly licensed and bonded, and check with the Attorney General’s office or the Better Business Bureau for complaints before you do business with a company.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts and suspicious nature, you’ll get ripped off. You negotiate, calmly but firmly and with documents in hand, but to no avail. What can you do? First, contact the local Better Business Bureau at 503-212-3022 (Oregon) or 206-431-2222 (Washington) or online at This organization will keep a permanent record of unresolved complaints, but its first priority is to encourage its affiliated businesses to address all reasonable complaints promptly and thoroughly. The BBB will not get involved until you have exhausted the usual channels of complaint—contacting the supervisor, manager, or owner, for example. You can also file a complaint—or threaten to file a complaint—with the Federal Trade Commission (877-382-4357, or with the agency responsible for consumer protection in the state where the offending business is located:

  • Oregon Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, 503-378-4320, 877-877-9392 (toll-free in Oregon),
  • Washington State Office of the Attorney General, 800-551-4636 (to request that a complaint form be mailed to you),

If all else fails, you can go to court—unless your contract provides for mandatory arbitration. (You did notice that arbitration clause in paragraph 37 when you read the contract in full, right?) You can file a small claims action without an attorney in cases where the amount at issue is $7,500 or less ($5,000 or less in Washington). Contact the clerk of court in your county for details. The Oregon State Bar has useful information about consumer protection and small claims court on its website (, and also operates a lawyer referral service; call 503-684-3763 or 800-452-7636, or visit the website for details. In Clark County, Washington, contact the Clark County Bar Association’s Southwest Washington Lawyer Referral Service at 360-695-0599.

Services for People with Disabilities

Getting Around


To obtain a disabled person parking permit, contact the Oregon DMV (503-299-9999, (In Washington, apply to the state Department of Licensing, 360-902-3770, TTY 360-664-8885,

The car rental companies listed in the Transportation chapter can usually accommodate special needs with 48 to 72 hours’ notice.

Public Transportation

Given at least 24 hours’ notice, most local and national passenger carriers will make any needed accommodations for passengers with special needs.

TriMet is fully accessible; buses have ramps or power lifts, light rail (MAX) cars and the Portland Streetcar have extending ramps, and WES commuter train car floors are flush with the platform. Stations have Braille signage, and bus operators announce stops in advance; computerized recordings announce stops on MAX and the Portland Streetcar. Service animals are allowed on all public transit. People with disabilities travel at reduced fares. For more information, visit TriMet’s accessibility page ( or call 503-962-2455 (TTY 711). TriMet’s LIFT paratransit program offers shared-ride transportation for people whose disabilities prevent them from using fixed-route public transportation. Call 503-962-8000, option 2 (TTY 711) for details or visit Portland’s aerial tram is also fully accessible.

Ride Connection (503-226-0700, helps older adults and people with disabilities with transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping, or local transport hubs. Their RideWise program helps people with disabilities to travel independently on public transportation.

In Clark County, C-TRAN (360-695-0123, operates lift-equipped buses. C-TRAN also operates the C-VAN paratransit service; visit or call 360-695-8918 (TTY 360-695-9715) for details.

Air Travel

The U.S. Department of Transportation publishes a free booklet entitled New Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability, also available online at For more information, call the DOT Disability Hotline at 800-778-4838 (TTY 800-455-9880).

Travel Resources

  • Adventures Without Limits, 1341 Pacific Ave, Forest Grove, 503-359-2568,, designs outdoor adventure activities for people of all abilities.
  • The Boulevard ( is a web portal for disability resources that includes a section on accessible travel and recreation.
  • Eugene-based Mobility International USA (541-343-1284, publishes several guides to international travel, exchange, and development for people with disabilities.
  • Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality, 212-447-7284,


Telecommunications Relay Service allows deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to communicate with hearing people through a trained operator using a text telephone (TTY). The relay operator translates both parties’ words verbatim and is required by law to keep all conversations strictly confidential. The service is free. To use the service, dial 711 from any phone or call 800-735-1232 (from Oregon) or 800-833-6388 (from Washington).

Access Services Northwest, 503-457-5000,, and Northwest American Sign Language Associates, 503-267-4861,, provide sign language interpreters and other communication facilitation services for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing individuals in Oregon and southwest Washington.

Independent Living

Independent Living Resources (2410 SE 11th Ave, 503-232-7411, TTY 503-232-8408, offers up-to-date information about, and advocates for, accessible housing, transportation, employment, and other community resources. The Washington State Independent Living Council (800-624-4105, coordinates independent living centers in Washington. (There are none in Southwest Washington at press time, however.)

Additional Resources

The most comprehensive sources of information for people with special needs are, a portal to hundreds of federal government sites and related links, and the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet, A few local resources include:

  • The Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas (503-223-7279, provides information and referrals for people with developmental or mental disabilities. The Arc of Southwest Washington (360-254-1562, performs the same role in southwest Washington.
  • The website of Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services ( includes a comprehensive database of services and resources for people with disabilities. It also operates a 24-hour helpline (503-988-3646).
  • Disability Rights Oregon (503-243-2081, 800-452-1694, provides legal advocacy and protection for Oregon residents with disabilities. This organization provides information and advice about issues including civil rights, special education, rights to services, health care, and guardianship. The Alliance of People with Disabilities (206-545-7055, 866-545-7055, offers similar services to Washington residents.
  • The Oregon Department of Human Services’ division for Aging and People with Disabilities (503-945-5811, 800-282-8096, has assembled a wealth of useful information and helpful links on their website. In Washington, the state’s Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, 360-725-2300,, provides a similar function.

Services for Seniors

The federal government’s Senior Citizens’ Resources web page ( is a useful starting place for general information for seniors, including tips on consumer protection, health, housing, and finances. In Oregon, contact the state Department of Human Services’ Aging and People with Disabilities division (503-945-5811, 800-282-8096, for information about services for Oregon seniors. In southwest Washington, the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities (888-637-6060, is a helpful resource.

  • Seniors with mobility difficulties or disabilities should peruse the Getting Around section of Services for People with Disabilities, above. Note that TriMet and other public transit agencies charge a reduced fare for “honored citizens.” The following are a few more local resources for older adults.
  • Adult Placement Network, 503-659-2029,, is a referral agency for retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and other housing options for older adults who cannot or choose not to live alone.
  • Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon, 855-673-2372,, helps connect seniors to local services.
  • Meals-on-Wheels, 503-736-6325,, provides nutritious hot lunches to people over the age of 60 at dozens of meal sites in Multnomah, Washington, and Clark counties, and delivers hot lunches to seniors who are unable to come to a meal site.
  • Metropolitan Family Service, 1808 SE Belmont St, 503-232-0007,, reaches out to older adults through programs that encourage and assist with independent living and provide volunteer opportunities for seniors.
  • Multnomah County’s Aging and Disability Services (503-988-3646, provides information about services for seniors, and in some cases operates those services (such as cooling centers for seniors in extremely hot weather).
  • Portland State University’s Senior Adult Learning Center, 503-725-4739,, provides continuing education for seniors and allows people over 65 to audit regular PSU classes for free.
  • The website of Seniors Housing Together ( offers tips on selecting housing options for seniors. If you are looking for a shared housing situation for older adults, Let’s Share Housing (503-719-5444, is a good place to start.

Services for International Newcomers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 300,000 Oregonians were born in other countries. The Portland area is home to tens of thousands of immigrants, including substantial communities from Mexico, Southeast Asia, Russia, Ukraine, West and East Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.

If you are one of these international newcomers, or if you want to be, a variety of helpful information is available online at the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website ( If you have specific questions, you can also contact the USCIS national customer service center (800-375-5283, TTY 800-767-1833). (Once you know what you need to do, you’ll inevitably have to fill out paperwork.)

If you need legal aid in immigration matters, you can contact one of the following organizations:

International newcomers who are experiencing culture shock can get a quick overview of American culture, etiquette, expectations, and quirks in the Newcomer’s Handbook for Moving to and Living in the USA by Mike Livingston, published by First Books. Call 503-968-6777 or visit to order a copy.


Most foreign consulates on the West Coast are located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and/or Seattle. The following countries have honorary consuls in Portland, who may or may not be able to assist citizens of the nations they nominally represent: Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Romania, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. Addresses and telephone numbers for most of these honorary consulates are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Consulates & Foreign Governments”; unlisted consuls are unlikely to be of much use to foreign nationals.

There are two full consulates in Portland:

Gay and Lesbian Life

Portland regularly appears in top-ten lists of the best cities in the U.S. for gays and lesbians. While the “studies” that generate these lists are generally based less on rigorous analysis than on a desire for page views and magazine sales, Portland’s inclusion comes as no surprise. For many years, the city has had a large, thriving gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community. By some estimates, nearly 10% of inhabitants of Portland proper self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Rainbow flags and “Queer Nation” bumper stickers are common in neighborhoods in much of the city (and to a lesser extent, in some of the suburbs), and Sam Adams, mayor from 2009 to 2013, was the first openly gay mayor of a large U.S. city.

While Portland is on the whole a tolerant and friendly home for gay singles, couples, and families, homophobia and discrimination certainly exist. In 2007 Oregon passed legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, public education, and public accommodations, with some exemptions for religious organizations. (Washington passed a similar law in 2006.) A 2004 Oregon ballot measure amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage passed with nearly 57% of voters in favor (although majorities in two counties, including Multnomah County, voted against the measure). This ban was overturned in federal court in 2014, but by then attitudes toward same-sex marriage in Oregon (as elsewhere in the country) had changed dramatically, and a planned 2014 ballot measure to repeal the ban—a measure the court decision made unnecessary—was widely expected to pass. Across the Columbia, Washington voters had already legalized same-sex marriage by referendum in 2012.

GLBT Resources

The biweekly arts, entertainment, and news magazine Just Out ( is an indispensable source of information about Portland’s GLBT community. Portland’s Gay and Lesbian Yellow Pages (, available for free at many area libraries, bookstores, and business, lists gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses, and includes listings for local GLBT clubs and organizations. (Otherwise, beyond being smaller than the phone company’s Yellow Pages and having generally more interesting ads, it’s really just a phone directory.) There are too many organizations that address the concerns and interests of GLBT community in Portland to list them all here, but the following organizations are a good starting point:

  • Basic Rights Oregon, 503-222-6151,, works for equal rights for gays and lesbians.
  • PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), 503-232-7676,, sponsors monthly meetings and discussions; visit for information.
  • Portland Area Business Association (PABA) ( works to build business and career opportunities in the GLBT community.
  • Pride Northwest (503-295-9788, organizes and promotes Portland’s annual Pride festival, held in downtown Portland each June.
  • The Q Center (4115 N Mississippi Ave, 503-234-7837, is a community center for GBLT and Questioning individuals.
  • Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center (2450 NE Sandy Blvd, Suite 100, 503-872-9664, provides counseling and a free drop-in center for GLBT and questioning youth under age 24.
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