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Union Gospel Mission 100216

Sep 29, 2016|

AN INTERVIEW WITH BILL RUSSELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF UNION GOSPEL MISSION ABOUT THE WORK THEY DO HELPING THE HOMELESS AND THEIR NEW OUTREACH PROGRAM, SEARCH AND RESCUE.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is microscope and Entercom radio Portland public affairs program I'm during blocks and this time on the show we're gonna talk about a hot topic here in Portland. Homelessness. And how the united gospel mission as helping out and like to welcome back to the show this time Bill Russell bill is the executive director at the union gospel mission neither bill. Hey Terry good to be back. Well I thank you for coming back there now last time we talked with who which was just a few weeks ago you were in the middle of operation overcoat how to Deco. We prepared for it and it was phenomenal. We had a great weather day we had over 300 volunteers come down and help setup up. Up barbecue lunch and all sorts of clothing tents wood closed off the streets around union gospel mission that certain burn side. And over thirteen hundred people individuals came in to get help. Which I think credible I mean if you think that there are somewhere between fifteen and 2015100. In 2000 and sheltered homeless. But that's an incredible amount of people to come in again and help but it whisked. Very fast if there was there is good music and just too good feelings. People were patient. They get their coupon books so they were able to go into the clothing area and get through sport genes are coats whatever they needed. You know they got a coupon for each of the things they needed so we prevent hoarding European banking or anything like that there's plenty for everyone. It was just a great event so I'd like to thank all of the volunteers and donors who help make that possible by itself it's always the last Saturday. A September every year and it comes at a perfect time before the rains come in the cold weather comes. Yeah you probably already starting to take donations for next year. She'd better and that's probably a long way away. Yeah it's it's a year round of that it'd Serb biggest annual program. Let's also be no idea I met with a friend that day. And he drove by a drove a burns night and said you don't destroy by the union council listened and they're like oh there's a big party going on. You have and I knew I was doing. You know about that anyway it's a it is a festive things so you know somebody homeless people that experience a lot of pain and trauma and suffering pitch it's great to have that they knew where they can be at peace and urban the year one that it gas and there's that's. This must be what happened looks like because they were listening to good music can and just being able to sit and eat and be valued in value is huge. That's amazing congratulations. Yeah. Also some of the other work that the union gospel machines. Well we we have our every day. Had a gay room operation that where we beat out breakfasts we invite people in did give up their feet and how. Maybe a launcher smacked and encouragement. And then into evening hot meal in a chapel program we do we've done that since 1928. Which is pretty pretty regular we'd been. In this same building between Byrnes had two each on third avenue. Since 1938. So people know about it and we have a lot of regular people in new people come as well so it is that that's a good thanks I'm and then what were always stood is inviting people to come off the streets score out of homelessness. Into the light changed program and that's a very thorough. School trip that long term opportunity to kind of settle in and began practicing life. The way most of us know pat cash flowing working. Bearing responsibility. And and some people bent out of better have had profound trauma it takes them awhile. Japan to catch up to our responsibility driven life but that's. So we give people three or four years that they need at that some people come through and get what they need in five months. And they're off other people might be heard three or four years and get a more full training. Our regime and and they prosper from a and that's life changed. And you know so what worked what we're just starting up is something brand new call search and rescue. Where we actually sent teams out of the mission. In the late afternoon and evenings to connect to people and homeless camps and this is the most. Urgent thing we're doing because. The homeless crisis has so many and shelter homeless people spread out over the city and this is ambulatory this. Isn't just inviting everyone to come to all countered that certain burn side. This is getting help in the end and sending them out and literally searching for people who are homeless. And then providing some rescue relief. Well that's sounds like a big undertaking. It is that we heard about it Seattle seeding gospel mission has been doing that a number of years and it has since phenomenal results. Because it adjusting to the way homeless is gone I mean when I first came to the mission in 1989. Most of the homeless and most of homeless services were located in old town. Down you know even in the lower per insider Skid Row whatever your call. And then since. Homelessness because of the shortage of housing. Almost this is spread all throughout the city there are low round avenues some lesser created by government. To get in the housing and and those low round. Avenues that are created by government have waited less although I think the government's doing a phenomenal job. City county state and federal here. Some people say they need to do more than I would agree with them but they're going down the road in creating those thousand. But we still have again 15100 to 2000 and sheltered homeless. And the counties open up five shelters six shelters in the last year. That's great. There's still a lot of people who don't hit those shelters. And so we're gonna be reaching out to those people and encouraging them. 22 began tracking toward help. And I you snow and notice all over the city and and throughout the county even their tents tent cities that are popping up all over the place. Yeah I mean it's been a real conundrum ever since occupy Portland happened those C visible tent cities I think a lot of people work chanted out in the bushes but they were at hiding. One thing it happened in the cultural dynamic after. Occupy Portland in in 20112012. Is that that. That people were more bold and set up their shop. On the streets and you don't hold towns certain neighborhoods we've always had people who sleep in doorways or whatever. But this came everywhere. And then aware that came certain problems see you know their wrists health problems you know whether it was garbage work. Spent needles from the drug addicts there were crime problems because a certain percentage. Of the homeless populations. Are predators and they prey on the other homeless failed soprano in the community. And they might be a small percentage but it's it it's a horrible percentage. And so it just became unmanageable and the cities tried to deal with that in adopting SH sleep policy where he went to sleep. For one night where they can. And and that's still pretty much a loud but it if there's been neighbors or people who have a problem with that call the city. They're gonna interdict that they're gonna sweep those people out there and and that's horrible for the people who. Need stability they don't need more instability and so. It's it is kind of a vicious cycle let I I really feel for the people on the street. And we have a number of people who work in that situation over now living and thriving in life changed so what they wanted to do. Is band together and reach out to the people who are where they used to be. And and bring encouragement bring relief to bring a sense of value. And now do we have staff going with those former home most people don't we have volunteers going with those homeless people. And that whole effort is called search and rescue and we launched it in July and it is amazing. We've been going up three nights a week were were building up credibility in the homeless camps and we have safety protocols that we got from Seattle. But it's a very effective safe program and so bad now that it's up and running. October 15 were going to launch its full blown five nights a week and kind of fun. Expand it. That's pretty pretty great well. Yeah so well in the event is to is traveling around what what kind of items are you giving out. What you're not fox who we always bring food we have nothing to bring in Peter peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And and coffee in the winner hot cocoa and the winner. Water in the summer and then Latin clean socks and wanna be unfortunate realities. A people who are living in homeless camps is that the they have limited access to to keep there. Sox cleanup there under work clean and you know what happens if we keep weren't dirty socks should be given fact that. There's a lot of problems whether it's so the clean socks are always say. If value and work try to work. Collaborative we were people who have mobile washing machines or did people access to be able to wash their clothes. But it you know until we can would like give little White Sox and the we have hygiene kits we can believe it win a lot of toothbrushes. Generous donors have. Donated to expressions to and so we can give away clean in the box due to brush its. And we give away other essentials as well. Yeah I want to ask it sounds like a lot of the stuff is donated. It is you know we. Really need help with screens box and clean underwear. Not even homeless people liked to you put it used underwear and and so. There are a lot of groups and churches that'll do and I indecency or some kind of a sock drive. It in all this is really important to us because that's what the person needs but. We're not just working to meet that physical need is that tangible lead were really out that the more important thing is to establish connection. So the person can receive hope and value. And so did these things are in essence a calling card that gets us into a relationship with people but it's that relationship that we value the most. You know when asked how's how's it going out there. What kind of response are you getting. We're didn't phenomenally good response and you know there are some difficult people out there but there are some amazing people out there as well. And I think has people's fear and embarrassment comes down and we kind of get to know we build trust with people. We're going to discover exactly what the out blood that is what is he is. Debt. Put that person out on the streets that. Created this situation where. Based on their best and safest alternative is to live outside of what we call normal society. And it in as that trust his belt you know we were able to direct some people to mental health services. A were able to direct other people to substance abuse recovery. We were able to direct other people to a collaborative lead to agencies or programs. And it that'll help there and give a speech. And and that beachhead might be to live and supported housing for awhile. Eight in a place that'll create rapid re housing its so it's so it's a broad spectrum there is not. Wanda. Profile of a homeless person there are a number of different profiles. And there's not one silver bullet program so it I think. Where we want it continually position ourselves is working with as many different resources since we can't and and so for example in our day room we have a company called cure or again that comes down twice a month. And is able to give people access. Two medical insurance. To be Affordable Care Act and so. That that's eat it sleep and and healthcare. Are two huge issues. For people it's it's hard to. Function and to re enter the responsible lifestyle when your chronically in pain when your health is bad and when geared to practice sleep at those those are our basics just like. For years we've spit. Food water basics but. You know provide the basics it starts. Building a friendship that then all the elements are in place or person can actually step and help. And I note Seattle's been doing this for four years. They're bringing and men five women. Oh a month off the streets in two. Into either substance abuse recovery at permanent housing in the and that's just the notes that's one organizations. Starting to. Reduced the number of potential third homeless people and and I think we just need to keep out of it month by month. You know if you could take a 10050. People on the streets a year. And direct them throughout this system that's a great and it. We're talking to they would Bill Russell the executive director of union gospel mission and bill homelessness seems to be a hot topic right now in Portland and in throughout our area and it. Is the homeless situation getting worse. I don't it seems more visible. I it is more visible and there's been a lot of negative press about it because you don't win at this story's. That that visibly almost can't achieve C. Almost people tense catching on fire or they get swept out of an area and it takes days to clean up afterwards. Nobody in our culture who wants that we don't want anything unsafe we don't want anything unsanitary and for good reasons I mean. Public health is a huge issue. And you know there were times in in world history and and still around a group globe works if you don't. Watch public health collar to break out yeah we have a good sense about that shall we want to maintain safe society so. There's nothing wrong with feeling bad when things are working well. I do you think that there's a large coalitions. Wit that this city and county coming together. With. It's an agency combined the agency where there aren't half but this right now they're not ignoring anything. And they're taken a lot of public input and there are there are spending a lot of public money. And I think the strategies are really good itself I'm not a pessimistic about the future. I think we have to put shoulder to it I think donations need to be made to these causes. I encourage people that donate financially to us on or search and rescue project. Or two if they have and other charities it's working in this series donate to them because. We're all working and I believe we're gonna see a turnaround in the next three years in fact ferry tickets starting to turn around so. My anticipation is they'll be less. I've crises a year from now. With the collaboration that's going on. That is really good news seemed to hear coming from you because you have years of experience to. Yeah I I would content that optimistic outlook optimistic until 2009. And win the downturn in the economy. Came. There was just all of a sudden much less available how as a and and that's huge as we know that that is have a major thing. So. Dead we had a number of of government programs that close to it and that was disappointing. Particularly for women and children. And so we scrambled to open women and children's center. And it was just hard that I I really believe that there's enough focus on right now. That if if we keep you don't making progress in the right direction we're gonna see meaningful results. And then I think. The visible homeless camp will be more an exception to the rule they'll be adequate power resources to deal with people who are out there. You don't feel they've come in the end and and you know it it'll be doable I mean you know that the ancient. Scripture. The plural always be with us is true. So in this outreach is is just so important in your search and rescue program Hauck and our listeners help out with the search and. Well again they can donate socks or underwear they can come in and help make similar to is in fact. On October 15 will be worked and where it but severe enough from the wolf to do a whole that's 99 point five FM the wall. We're gonna do this Campbell it's Saturday and people are welcome to come down and outbound now we're gonna have a big which. Sandwiched making party candidate if it inaugurate the launch of our full fledged five nights a week search and rescue program. And we want Syria which is pretty much made in the house. Because we like to make sure that there all of a could quality and you know I've are pretty much trust people if they want to make America's favorites is at their house and bring them to us. You we'd look at a before we send about and it's primarily for the homeless you don't want to be sending out. Really unequal things and handing to one person a steak sandwich and then to the other person to Bologna sandwich act that created some resentment. But it's it's best for us if everyone comes in makes sandwiches together so we know they're high quality. And it and so you know I mean. It's it's the basics brings Sox committed and help make sale which as you can sign up as a volunteer to go out on a search and rescue night. Which is up it's a phenomenal opportunity. I think a lot of your listeners would really like to get up close and personal. With someone who's been homeless came up. But to do it this safe way I mean just to walk out on the trail or in the bush has been incredibly parents say. So we've been spending since July going up establishing these relationships that we are very good save protocol so people can just called the mission that. 2744483. Or go online and at each year Portland dot org. And try to be of a search and rescue volunteer or attempt brings Sox better you can do a stock car driving your business church or group to come and pick up. So there's a lot of ways to help. Now for certain definitely get involved if you can yeah police. They say you go well five nights a week or you will be doing a fundamentally equal rights of those is that when these Friday. I know it's not my district through Friday its foundation and these are real high in the day. To the homeless. And were avoiding Friday and Saturday night in part because we'd launch. From the mission that certain burn side and those are very chaotic night. In our head in the town. Where it's very hard to access. Our fans and it's hard for us to do at orientation and keep people out so we're gonna be going Sunday through Thursday night. And we turned up from the homeless there's there's a lot of options they have formed Friday and Saturday night so now we're going out at the highest times indeed Sunday through Thursday night's. OK in that makes sense is Friday and Saturday in that part of town there's a lot of any club action going on the army just. If fact they close the streets in old town and that might not translate if we're going two homeless camp in the deep south east or Oppenheim northwest throughout pays a macro work. We're out of AT&T building because they're not being fed at that saw the work. We're going out to those places but still there's a lot more activity. Been in those serious on Friday or Saturday night did the real good night and Sunday night. And Monday night and Tuesday night and we just running Sunday through Thursday. Okay bill here we are in October already so that means the holidays are coming up and in wintertime is coming up pal is union gospel mission preparing for all left. Yet this thing that didn't tell. The truth hurts doesn't it. I mean we always too we we are preparing right now for our Thanksgiving meal because we have over a thousand people come to bat in north trust natural gas sent type of big carrot in front of the mission on thinks early early elective high maintenance Thanksgiving morning. And then you know until Thanksgiving dinner but it it really starts at ten and it goes toe to sort of mid day meal. And if it had been it to great pain if it's. I I don't know what it's already fully subscribed for volunteers have anyone's interest in volunteering now would be good time to find out because that fills up fast. But always we need donations of turkeys of all the trimmings. Any giveaways we can do at that time. And then obviously cash to run and I'm in this big undertaking. And it's. It's a huge traditional Greek and it. For the homeless site I think it's the largest. Shingles sit down meal for the homeless in Portland. During the holiday season then and I'd love people to be part part of that. That happens on Thanksgiving yet best front on Thanksgiving morning. And then the follow up to Christmas what you are going on. Yeah we got we got a Christmas brunch that's here again ten to two every Christmas. We do it. We might wrap it up one that we noticed last year is that most of the people got in between ten and one. But we always neat clean up crews if you have an early Christmas afternoon and you want to come down and in turn help and that at. We we need dead donations to pay your arms. You know we put on emanate brunch on Christmas morning and then we have gift tax. So what any quality and we can give out numbers will probably have about. 700 gossip or things so anything we can give out at seven under we would do it. And it's safer if our listeners were able to donate items in May be couldn't volunteer but could Tony what are some of the most popular items that are looking. Boy do I sound like a broken record I mean it's probably the biggest thing were asked about that we have our average shortage dog is sleeping bags. But we are always in need of clean socks and clean underwear which is doable and people can go on Amazon and Taipei in the union gospel mission Portland. And air but you know if you click here donate their at that Amazon also and that's the socks and the underwear correctly. You know those are such simple. Items. Yeah they are. Here today and it's really doable and ever and not only do we appreciated the homeless there are so. Grateful one of the things it's just been overwhelming. In it and search and rescue and in the last year. Act at the mission is our gratitude to the homeless. If it's it's amazing side you know everyone's so you get an ungrateful person and you know God's good even to the Indian graves pulled but. It it. The rear thing most people just really appreciate. Your prayers I think in the last year I've been surprised as I was think people want. Food more than they want to Wear. But you know a lot of almost struggle with mental illness and prayer is very valuable to them and and I think it's profound and I think it's a real valuable service so. You know our that he usually I don't colon meant to scope a puck proper grip people can always pray for a good week you don't. When you go solution is always doing great work thanks bill. Thank you appreciate it geared. Bill Russell executive director at the union gospel listen thanks for being on the show today. To talk it look at. The microscope is an Entercom radio Portland public affairs program find your clocks. If you have a nonprofit or public affairs organization that you'd like to let others know about you can email me my email address is macro Scopes that inter com dot com. Remember enter com outskirts of the and he. And you can always go to this station's website and click on the community dealings and submit your information there. If you'd like to hear this program again you can visit our website at metro scope.