‘Tales from the Lighthouse’: Stories from the Burnside Shelter

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Andrew Hall (left) serving in downtown Portland with fellow staff member Erin Fowler.

Andrew Hall (left) serving in downtown Portland with fellow staff member Erin Fowler.

For those who don’t get to experience The Mission ‘behind the yellow door’ on a regular basis, we wanted to give you a glimpse at life at Burnside, courtesy of our Guest Care Specialist Andrew Hall:

Clean, sober and finally housed

“I have to share the good news! I finally got a place of my own and I’m moving in today. I’m 102 days clean and things are finally rolling for me. God is good.”

So said one of our regular guests at Burnside, a man we see every day–a man whose face is always lit with a smile–and a man who is not afraid to publicly proclaim that because of God that he is clean, sober, and moving forward. Please pray for this brother of ours as he moves into his new place. Pray that he remains clean, that he remains sober, that he is able to remain strong in his faith and continue progressing down the path the Lord has for him. And pray for the hundreds more like him whom we see, meet, and serve on a daily basis at Burnside. The Lord is good, the Lord is faithful, and the Lord empowers us to overcome.

Overnight staff love on Burnside guests

As the sun sets, as the seasons change, and as the cold and dark night descends upon Portland, often times anger, hunger, sleeplessness, and pain walk through our yellow door at Burnside. While the rest of the community sleeps, the night ministry team stands and waits for whoever may enter, to serve, to minister, to love. On one such night in recent days, two of our night staff, Joel and Josiah, experienced many of our guests who have proven time and again to be rather difficult. Out of rage and frustration and mental illness, two guests in particular came in and out repeatedly that week, causing disturbances and requiring to be escorted outside. Joel and Josiah refused to allow this to become routine. Instead, they acted out of grace and love and playfulness. Through intentional conversation and purposeful interaction, the men found themselves dancing in the lobby with one previously hostile guest. Another guest stopped, look at them, and said, “I love you” before she exited the building on her own. This is just one glimpse of the joy that can be found at Burnside, the joy that can be had with men and women who find themselves alone and hurting and lost…The joy that we strive to spread. Thank you to those who serve our many sites during the night, who love on our guests and residents when all others are asleep. Thank you for loving God and His people.

Burnside guest finds stable housing

Norman ArmstrongAll of our guests at Burnside are our brothers and sisters. Many of whom have become our friends, friends for whom we care, advocate, and love. We are frequented nearly each and every day by one such friend, a quiet gentleman with severe dementia. He has become a much-beloved guest for our entire staff, a man for whom we all at one time or another have advocated. We have watched him come in and out of our doors for meals, beds, and other services, and we have all grown increasingly saddened by this community’s seeming inability to find him something more sustainable, something that will provide him safety and security, warmth and comfort, peace and quiet away from these cold streets. We have worked for months with his case worker and many resources around the city to secure him stable housing, but all outlets have fallen short.

That is, until now. Today marks the first day our friend has a secure roof over his head. Today marks the first day our brother has a family of dedicated nurses caring for him. Today marks the first day of the rest of his life. Dominic Abaria and I had the esteemed honor to walk our friend down to his new home for the first time. As we walked, we learned even more about him. He shared with us that he has no family here in Portland, that he left Oklahoma, Arizona, and Utah years ago to come to the west coast in search of a new life. He hopped a train and rode it to Portland.

Ever since arriving, he has depended upon the Portland Rescue Mission to make it through. He has now lived on our streets for four years, four winters out in the cold, four summers out on the sidewalk, four springs and falls just trying to make it. Today he made it. Today he has housing. We thank God for His devotion and provision. And we thank you for your support that allows us to love on our friends and witness these special moments. Lives are changed by the hands and feet of God in this city.

Each guest, talented and gifted

487ba6e0-deaa-4eb5-b8ef-1a39706a63a5Hundreds of people walk through our bright yellow door on any given day. Whether for food or shelter, clothing, restrooms, or any number of our other services, men and women of all backgrounds and walks of life enter our building and our lives. We become a part of their world, if even for a fleeting moment, and we are deeply blessed when these moments blossom into relationship. However, regardless of the hours, days, and months we spend with an individual, rarely do we get to see the talents they possess, the skills God endowed within them before they were born. And when we do get the chance to witness their passion, it is a reminder of the beautiful uniqueness of character we encounter with every body that passes through these halls.

On a recent night downtown, a young man came to the mission during dinner time, not to eat but to bless. As he walked along the busy sidewalk, moving in and out of the throngs of his hungry neighbors, the man simply handed two portraits to staff and said, “I would like these to be given to the community. I want the people who work here to know that some of the folks out here are using their time creatively.” And just as quickly as he had arrived, he moved on into the bustling maze of Old Town. One portrait was of Audrey Hepburn smoking a cigarette, and the other of BB King blaring his trumpet, both hand-drawn with a basic ballpoint pen and later filled in with a permanent marker. While his tools are simple, his skill is immediately evident, his use of negative space is masterful, and his desire to share his creativity with the community is humbling. He respects beauty, he reveres art, and through his ink onto paper he pours out his passion. This is just one skill, one man, and one heart. May he cause us to stop and imagine what we have yet to see, who we have yet to witness, and how divinely unique our community continues to be.

If these streets could talk, the wonders they would speak.


GIVE CHRISTMAS CARE TO HURTING PEOPLE IN NEED

Your gift of $40 provides a meaningful Christmas present

Homelessness hurts. Because of their painful past, most of the people we serve haven’t had a joyful Christmas in a long, long time. The holidays only deepen their sense of loss and isolation. “There were lots of years where I didn’t really have Christmas at all,” says Doug, one of the men who sought help in our New Life Ministry for men.

You can give friendship and joy to a child, woman or man this Christmas. Your gift of $40 provides meaningful gifts they’ll open on Christmas morning, helping them feel loved and remembered. Help us reach our goal of providing presents for 160 people in all of our recovery programs.

Give joy this Christmas: PortlandRescueMission.org/ChristmasCare