Burnside Shelter improvements underway, including wheelchair ramp

If there is one thing that is abundantly clear at the Burnside Shelter, it is this: we strive to help people who are hurting by meeting them at their point of need. It’s the ethos of Hope Ministries. It’s also the very essence behind all of the improvements currently being made at the Burnside Shelter.

One of the most significant of those recent improvements is the addition of a brand new, ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp that goes from the cafeteria to the Guest Care Center. Thanks to the generosity of a grant from the Safeco Insurance Foundation, Portland Rescue Mission secured the funds to add two ramps to the facility. Due to the age and limits of the Burnside Shelter as a building, though, it has taken some time for the project to come to fruition.

“I’m really excited to have more opportunities for people with a wheelchair or other walking mobility issues to come in here, be a part of what we’re doing and feel welcome without having to be fearful,” Guest Services Manager Tim Desper said. “In the past, even with escorts to provide a safe passage, going down [the previous steep] ramp could cause fear for some of our guests.”

As Tim referenced, over the years, while millions of people have gone up and down the ramps, it has caused the staff to put in some additional safeguards. Besides the reinforcement of the railings, during the wintertime, the staff has also had to use safety grip tape as well as individually escorting the guests when needed.

wheelchair ramp, ada compliant

Portland Rescue Mission’s new wheelchair ramp has arrived at the Burnside Shelter.

“Before, getting people into the building, period, was hard,” said Sean, one of the Service residents, who work down at the Burnside Shelter. “Guests would have to go out of their way to get to some of the places in our building they needed to be. It could be difficult at times.

“We don’t want our guests to feel like they are discriminated against in anyway.”

Another one of the more recent upgrades at the Burnside Shelter is the lobby area. For nearly 24 hours a day, the lobby is open to our homeless guests and serves as a safe place to use the restroom, access hygiene items and the sinks or just sit back and get some reprieve from being on the streets. It’s arguably the highest-trafficked area in the entire facility. The lobby floor, as a result, was one of the oldest, most well used sections of the facility. It was in dire need of being replaced.

“We’re really proud of our lobby and far it has come,” Tim said. “We’ve got a brand new floor in the lobby. There is new paint on the walls. There’s beautiful worship and other Christian music playing all day long – commercial free. It is just a better place for people to come.

“And the more welcoming and easier it is for people to come here, the easier it is for us to help them out and facilitate those relationships and friendships we have with the people we serve.”

Outside of those improvements, the staff is also in the process of adding 10 more referral beds for women coupled with additional showers and bathrooms. The showers will be available to the female public during the day, and the referral beds will be available to women anywhere from one to six weeks, depending on the situation.

“Like with anything we’re doing at the facility, this just expands the potential of our building so we can continue to find new ways to serve vulnerable people,” Tim said. “It also provides a space for the women who are participating in Connect to give back and serve other women in the same way our men serve in the Guest Care Center, the kitchen or other places for their community of men.”

The women in Connect will be responsible for making sure beds are made, laundry is being done and any cleaning is being taken care of along with other vital tasks.

Connect is part of our Pathway Ministries, and serves up to 36 men and 16 women at the Burnside Shelter.