Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We’re counting down 10 weeks to World Homeless Action Day on October 10th.

This week’s big idea: Make A Care Kit

If you've ever been approached by a homeless man or woman, you may have felt uncomfortable about how to respond when asked for money.  We recommend anticipating these opportunities.  Make some care kits in advance to keep in your vehicle.  These can be a good alternative for situations when giving money isn't the best option.

The following items can be placed in quart- or gallon-size Zip-Lock bags.

  1. Socks
    Homeless men and women spend a lot of time on their feet. A fresh pair of clean, dry socks can feel like heaven on tired, soggy feet.  Throw in some band-aids to help ease the pain of blisters.

  2. Reusable Water Bottle
    Water brings relief, especially in hot weather. But instead of bottled water, consider a reusable bottle as an eco-friendly option.

  3. Lotion
    Lotion and lip balm are often welcome items. Anti-bacterial lotions can help when soap and water aren't available for washing hands.

  4. Soap / Shampoo
    Save the small unopened soap bars and shampoo bottles from your hotel visits. Their compact travel size are convenient and light weight. Larger soap bars are great too. But if you're packing soap in a care kit, be aware that its scent can be absorbed by packaged crackers, making for a less-than-tasty snack.

  5. Toothpaste / Toothbrush

  6. Towel / Washcloth
    Showers aren't easy to come by for homeless men and women.  A towel and washcloth are helpful for washing as best they can in a restroom.

  7. Comb / Brush / Razor
    Contrary to stereotypes, most homeless men and women prefer to stay clean and well-groomed.

  8. Snacks
    Throw in some packets of nuts, crackers, dried fruit, trail mix, granola bars, breakfast bars, instant noodles or other light-weight, quick snacks.

  9. Resource Guide
    Portland has a wide variety of services available to homeless men and women that they may not know about. You can request copies of the "Rose City Resource Guide" to hand out with your care kits.  If you're in another city, do some research if a similar guide is available.

  10. Encouragement
    All the items above are helpful, but the most meaningful part of a care kit is the opportunity for a conversation and friendship. Your smile and offer of help could be the encouragement a homeless man or women needs to make it through another day.

What items would you add to this list?

    Monday, August 23, 2010


    We’re counting down 10 weeks to World Homeless Action Day on October 10th.

    This week’s big idea: Visit A Homeless Organization

    Have you ever toured a homeless shelter? Take the time to do so this week. Ask good questions about other places homeless people sleep in your city.

    (Credit to www.Change.org)

    Living without a home of your own is a devastating experience. But sleeping without a home is downright difficult. Some of these places receive media attention. Others may surprise you. But all of these overnight accommodations are completely unacceptable for regular human habitation.
    1. Storage Units
      Many have called storage units the modern-day cardboard box. Sure, they're not ideal, but they’re dry, secure and beat the dangers of the street. And they offer a way for people to keep some of their belongings rather than abandon them or have them stolen.

    2. Cars
      Living out of a vehicle may seem like a bearable solution to losing one's home. But when your home is on four wheels, it's impossible to sit still. Each day, you must be on the go to evade authorities and the expensive citations for illegal parking or sleeping in a vehicle (Yes, there are ordinances against this.). You sleep with one eye open; you can never be perfectly at ease. And the nomadic lifestyle makes it difficult for homeless organizations to stay in touch to provide help.

    3. Motels
      Cheap motels became the newest thing in subsidized housing and the de facto shelter for families affected by the recession in 2009. For families, it's an affordable alternative to shelter and safer than the streets. But with cramped rooms, unsafe conditions, and little space for cooking, it is far from a good alternative to safe, decent housing. And when money runs out, families are back on the street.

    4. Tent Cities
      Since the economy has been hurting, homeless encampments have sprung up in communities across the U.S. Some - like Sacramento, Providence, or Nickelsville - garner lots of media attention; others go quietly unnoticed. As diverse the residents and characteristics of these communities may be, they all have on thing in common: they are cloaked in controversy. Portland’s tent city is Dignity Village (http://www.dignityvillage.org).

    5. Parks
      After walking all day or night, it’s tempting for a homeless man or woman to stretch out on the lawn or a bench for some rest. Parks are open to the public and a decent place to get a nap during the day. But sleeping in the park at night is usually interrupted by police asking offenders to move along.

    6. Streets
      While it may seem counter-intuitive that a homeless person would choose to stay on the streets rather than in a homeless shelter, there are understandable reasons for doing so. Shelters tend to attract people who are chronically homeless and addicted. This can be frightening to someone newly homeless or to those who struggle with mental illness or social phobias.

    7. Foreclosed Houses
      Across the country, hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes are boarded up, idle and empty. At the same time, homelessness has been on the rise and the need for decent affordable housing is as great as ever. It comes as no surprise that homeless men and women choose to become squatters in vacant homes.

    8. Abandoned Buildings
      Much like the situation with foreclosed homes, there’s no shortage of empty warehouses and other business buildings where homeless men and women take shelter.

    9. Couches
      When homelessness strikes, friends and relatives are often the first place of refuge. Homeless families and individuals sleep on couches, in garages/sheds and backyard tents. Although they are technically homeless, they are unseen and left uncounted in an official homeless census – until the hospitality wears out. Then, they end up on the street.

    10. We Don't Know
      For all of those homeless individuals whose unfortunate living situations are documented, recorded, and broadcast to the public, there are hundreds more who remain anonymous. The methodology for finding and counting homeless people is imperfect; we simply do not find everyone.

    Monday, August 16, 2010


    We’re counting down 10 weeks to World Homeless Action Day on October 10th.

    This week’s big idea: Learn About Homeless Organizations

    Statistics and stories shed light on the plight of homeless men, women and children.  Use these online resources to expand awareness and inspire action.


    1. Portland Rescue Mission
      503-MISSION (647-7466)

           Burnside Shelter
           111 W. Burnside
           Portland, OR 97209
           (503) 906-7690

      Meals, shelter (men), clothing and showers for overnight guests, restrooms, recovery program with life skills assistance.

           Shepherd’s Door
           13207 NE Halsey
           Portland, OR 97230
           (503) 906-7650

      Recovery program for women and children, includes life skills assistance

    2. Union Gospel Mission
      3 NW 3rd St
      Portland, OR 97209
      (503) 274-4483

      Clothing, meals, shelter (single men, single women), recovery program (men and women)

    3. City Team
      526 SE Grand Avenue
      Portland, OR 97214
      (503) 231-9334

      Meals, shelter (men), showers (men), recovery program (men)

    4. Central City Concern
      232 NW 6th Ave
      Portland, OR 97209
      (503) 294-1681

      Employment, housing and healthcare

    5. Transition Projects
      475 NW Glisan Street
      Portland, OR 97209
      (503) 823-4930

      Shelter (men, women), housing assistance, food, clothing, showers, laundry

    6. Salvation Army
      8495 SE Monterey Avenue
      Happy Valley, OR 97086
      (503) 794.3200

      Shelter (women and children), recovery program (men)

    7. Sisters of the Road
      133 NW Sixth Avenue
      Portland, OR 97209
      (503) 222-5694

      Meals, job training

    8. Julia West House / Daywatch
      522 SW 13th Ave
      Portland, OR 97205

      Showers, restrooms, job and education assistance

    9. Northwest Pilot Projects
      1430 SW Broadway, Suite 200
      Portland, OR 97201
      (503) 227-5605

      Housing assistance for seniors

    10. New Avenues for Youth
      1220 SW Columbia
      Portland, Oregon 97201
      (503) 224-4339

      Housing, job and education assistance for youth

    For more organizations in the Portland, Oregon area:

    Monday, August 9, 2010


    We’re counting down 10 weeks to World Homeless Action Day on October 10th.

    This week’s big idea: Learn About Homelessness

    Statistics and stories shed light on the plight of homeless men, women and children.  Use these online resources to expand awareness and inspire action.


    1. Change.org – End Homelessness

      Helpful blog covering issues of homelessness and related stories.

    2. Alltop.com – Homelessness

      Compilation of 40 top blogs related to homelessness.  Includes links to the five most recent posts on each blog.

    3. InvisiblePeople.tv

      Short candid video interviews with homeless people from all across America.

    4. U.S. Conference of Mayors - Hunger and Homelessness Report

      (PDF download) Annual report on hunger and homelessness in 27 U.S. cities including Portland, Oregon.

    5. National Coalition for the Homeless

      Facts and statistics about homelessness in America.

    6. National Alliance to End Homelessness

      News, facts, statistics, interactive maps and more about homelessness.

    7. Homelessness Resource Center

      Compiled articles for researching homelessness.

    8. 211 Info

      Online and phone-in organization connecting people in Oregon and southwest Washington with community resources.

    9. Street Roots

      Street paper and blog in Portland, Oregon covering homeless advocacy.

    10. Rose City Resource

      Comprehensive online and printed guide to homeless services available around Portland, Oregon.  Includes categories for meal, shelter, clothing, restrooms, health care and more.

    Monday, August 2, 2010


    We’re counting down 10 weeks to World Homeless Action Day on October 10th.

    This week’s big idea: Challenge Your Thinking

    What are your assumptions about homelessness?  Like most issues, there’s far more to homelessness than the stereotype.

      1. Most homeless people are middle-aged men.

        For many, the word “homeless” conjures up images of scraggly men standing on street corners holding cardboard signs. The face of homelessness is changing. In fact, the fastest growing segments of the homeless population are women and families with children.

      2. Homeless people need to “just get a job”.

        Getting a job is a challenge for most people in these days, and incredibly difficult for a homeless person.  Most lack clean clothes, showers, transportation, a permanent address and phone number.  Others have a criminal past, learning disabilities and lack of education that holds them down.  Even if they find work, their low income often cannot sustain them.  

      3. Homeless people are dangerous.

        Homelessness is often associated with drugs, alcohol, violence and crime.  So yes, life on the streets can be perilous for homeless men and women.  But very few crimes are committed by homeless people against those of us who try to help them.  At Portland Rescue Mission, the attitude we see most often from homeless men and women is gratitude.

      4. Homeless people are lazy.

        Surviving on the street takes more work than we realize.  Homeless men and women are often sleep-deprived, cold, wet, and sick.  Their minds, hearts and bodies are exhausted.  Though help is available, they may have no idea where to begin navigating the maze of social service agencies and bureaucracy.  With no transportation and little money, they can spend all day getting to food and maybe an appointment before they need to search for a safe place to sleep.  And they do this while lugging their precious few possessions along with them in a bag or backpack.  It is not a life of ease.

      5. People are homeless by choice.

        No one starts life with a goal of becoming homeless.  People lose jobs and then housing.  Women run away to the street to escape domestic violence.  Many people have experienced significant trauma and simply cannot cope with life.  Others struggle with mental illness, depression or post-traumatic stress. Yes, poor choices can contribute to homelessness.  But outside circumstances strongly influence those choices.
      6. If homeless people wanted to, they could pull themselves out of it.

        Once a man or woman loses a job or a home, getting those things back can feel nearly impossible.  Imagine trying to get a job when you have no address to put on a resume, no phone number, no shower and no clean-pressed clothes.  Often, things like legal issues, criminal history, mental illness, physical and emotional health hinder progress even more.

      7. Providing food and shelter only enables people to remain homeless.

        Food and shelter are essentials for life.  By offering these and other outreach services, like restrooms and mail service, we build relationships with people in need.  Then we’re able to offer them something more through our recovery programs, like counseling, addiction recovery, emotional healing, spiritual guidance, education, life skills and job training.

      8. If we provide sufficient affordable housing, homelessness will end.

        Putting a roof over the head of a deeply hurting person will not heal emotional wounds, break addiction, create relational stability or establish healthy life skills.  Housing can help people who are homeless due to poverty.  But it can be a shallow and temporary solution for the many people who are homeless because they are unable to function in a “normal” life. 

      9. Homelessness will never happen to me.

        Talk to the hundreds of homeless men and women we serve each day and they’ll tell you that they never intended or expected to become homeless.  They’ve had solid jobs, houses and families.  But at some point, life fell apart.  They are desperate for a way back home.

      10. Homelessness will never end.

        Many U.S. cities have established ambitious goals with 10-year plans to end homelessness.  While these plans to provide housing and better centralized services to homeless people are important in reducing the scope and duration of homelessness, they will not completely eliminate it everywhere for all time.  But homelessness does end—one life at a time.  With your help, we continue to restore the lives of hurting men, women and children every day.