How do you help a panhandler in Portland? Meet Rhea

Rhea tells her story.

Rhea tells her story.

Rhea’s been “flying a sign” for two years in east Portland. “I hadn’t done it in a long time,” she says. “I didn’t think I’d ever have to do it again, ya know?”

Some people’s signs tell lies to gain sympathy, but Rhea can’t make herself do that. “I just have to be honest about what I need. Coffee, something to eat, a hostel so I can get a shower or do laundry. Otherwise, I have a hard time standing out there.”

Rhea would love to have a home and a job again. “But I would never go to a job interview looking like this, all dirty,” she says. “Not having an address and a phone. It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s a vicious circle.”

On a good day, Rhea will make about $4 an hour, enough to cover her basics. “I have lots of regulars who help me. Even if they can’t afford to give me a dollar, they’ll stop and ask how I’m doing. That’s almost better than money.”

Read Shane’s story from our “Rescue Portland” Summer Newsletter [PDF].

DID YOU KNOW? At our Burnside Shelter, extended shelter for 1-6 weeks is available for up to 10 women (starting August 2015) to provide stability, meals and hygiene. Our three-month Connect Ministry for up to 16 women provides additional help with relational accountability and spiritual encouragement.


Here are six ways to help a person who is homeless:

  • 1.) Anticipate the opportunity and be prepared with resources.
  • 2.) Smile and say hello. Acknowledging the person gives them dignity.
  • 3.) Engage the person in conversation. Take time to listen to their story.
  • 4.) Ask what their greatest need is and help if you can. In many cases, helping with food or clothing is better than giving money. Keep care kits with you that include socks, toothbrushes, soap, bottled water, snacks or gift certificates for food. Include our clip-out coupons that describe services available at the Mission.
  • 5.) Carry Trimet tickets and encourage the person to come to Portland Rescue Mission for help. Let them know you support the Mission so that their needs will be met. Our Burnside Shelter is open 24/7 with caring staff and volunteers.
  • 6.) Ask if you can pray for them in any way and take a moment to do so.

Download your free copy of “5 Things A Homeless Person Could Use” along with instructions on how to pack a care kit: