It’s freezing outside, ice is surrounding you and you’re living on the streets. Where do you go? How do you warm up enough to feel your fingers and toes again? What will it take for you to just survive the night? These questions only begin to highlight what our guests were asking themselves when the Portland area was hit with our recent cold snap. In response, the Burnside Shelter answered the call by faithfully serving as a refuge and sanctuary from the harsh reality of the streets.
“Being homeless is beyond difficult, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But being homeless during the winter can be deadly,” said Guest Care Specialist Andrew Hall. “Providing refuge during the winter months literally saves lives, and we know that the shelter and services we offer at Portland Rescue Mission can be the difference between starting fresh or falling backward, being full or going hungry. Shelter is a basic need for survival.”
“I remember walking by a dumpster, and finding a really nice piece of cardboard. … It covered my whole body,” described Robin, who spent a significant amount of time on the streets battling the elements herself. “But before I knew it, I was waking up in the morning. It was freezing cold, I was wet and it was like 30 degrees. Someone had stolen my cardboard.
“My feet were numb, my hands were numb and I couldn’t stop shaking. It was so cold. That piece of cardboard meant everything to me.”
Life becomes all about survival for men and women on the streets. Instead of moving forward towards a better life, they’re stuck trying to stay alive. Our staff at the Burnside Shelter were ready for the winter conditions, and ready for our guests.
“We wish to always meet the needs of our community,” said Andrew. “Our desire is to feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are cold and house those who are without. … We are proud to keep 200 people off the streets every night.”
Since our expanded winter shelter opened up on November 1, we have been operating at full capacity. This means all 90 mats we lay down in our Guest Care Center throughout the winter months have been occupied every single night. Because of your donations, our guests find warmth and the hope that comes with having a place to lay their head.
For Stewart, the importance of this cannot be overstated. Prior to joining our Connect Program he recalled, “I often found myself wondering whether or not I would even be safe on the streets each night. This place has made all the difference in me. I wouldn’t even be in the state of mind I am today without a bed, clean clothes and a toilet. You just can’t underestimate those little things you come to appreciate so much.”
When winter is at its coldest, and conditions are at their worst, we promise to be here with our doors open. Portland Rescue Mission will continue to serve as a beacon of hope for the men, women and children in Portland who are the most vulnerable. Thank you for giving warmth and hope, for helping us save lives. We couldn’t do this without you.