Connect men give back to community, clean up Old Town Chinatown

While Portland Rescue Mission is in the “business” of giving hope and restoring life, a common theme of the people we serve is giving back. And for the 36 men currently participating in Connect at the Burnside Shelter, that is exactly what they recently spent their Saturday doing.

Twice a year, the Old Town Chinatown Community Association spends a Saturday cleaning up the neighborhood streets. Whether through weeding, cleaning up the tree wells, laying down new bark or simply picking up litter and other garbage in the area, volunteers pitch in to increase the quality of life for everyone who lives and works in the area.

“The Old Town Chinatown neighborhood really wants this area to be a safe and beautiful place for the people here,” said Guest Services Manager Timothy Desper at our Burnside Shelter. “This is a time we can come together as a community, put some gloves on, get the shovels out and clean up our neighborhood.

“If you were to walk down Old Town Chinatown today, you would see some really beautiful sidewalks where the trees look healthy and vibrant.”

For the men in Connect, helping clean up Old Town Chinatown is also another proactive way they can say thank you for the help and support they are receiving in Portland Rescue Mission’s Pathway Ministries.

A Connect participant helps clean up the sidewalks in Old Town Chinatown.

A Connect participant helps clean up the sidewalks in Old Town Chinatown.

Connect is a three to four month program where men and women can gain stability as they transition off a lifestyle of living on the streets. It gives participants stability and relational support as they look for permanent housing, seek employment and pursue outpatient recovery and/or mental health counseling.

“For many years, I was a hardcore alcoholic,” said Ken, a Connect participant. “I found myself just taking, taking and taking from the system. So by me donating my time like that, it was a way I could give back to the system and this community. I really enjoyed being a part of that.”

It also helped Ken solidify the relationships he’s been building with his fellow residents.

“I really enjoyed the communication that took place between those of us who were working together,” he explained. “And along with the citizens who were walking by us and saying thank you for the work we were doing for the community, it made me feel good.”

For Douglas, another Connect participant, he too found the neighborhood cleanup to be a gratifying experience. “I was so happy to give back to the neighborhood that has embraced me. It was very fulfilling,” he reiterated.

For men and women in Connect, service is part of their regular rhythm. Not only do they participate with the bi-annual neighborhood cleanups, they also help keep the Burnside Shelter running on a daily basis. From the kitchen to building maintenance, the Connect men and women are an integral part of Portland Rescue Mission. It’s also a great encouragement for Tim as the Guest Services Manager.

“It shows the relationship we’re able to build with the men and women while they’re in Connect. It means so much to them, and they love giving back,” he said. “They want to do what they can, even in the smallest of ways, to give back to those who have given so much to them.

“It is a great testimony to the men who are in our program. … It’s very important, and it allows for us to stand as proud members of this community.”

Connect serves up to 36 men and 16 women at the Burnside Shelter. Portland Rescue Mission is also in the process of adding 10 more referral beds for women.