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Union Gospel Mission 091717

Sep 13, 2017|

AN INTERVIEW WITH BILL RUSSELL WITH THE UNION GOSPEL MISSION ABOUT THE WORK THEY DO WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE AND THEIR OPERATION OVERCOAT EVENT COMING SEPTEMBER 30.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is met Crisco and Entercom radio Portland public affairs program and your blocks. As fall approaches we'd like to give you some tips today on how you can help homeless and our community on the program this time I would like to welcome Bill Russell mills with the union gospel mission hitter bill. Hey I don't carry on doing well her youth. It is a big east season but that's a good thing busy in what way tell me about it. Well I mean homelessness is but all so our our volunteer level the response for the Portland community and meet. Over this is our big deal and yet they do community astounds me at their generosity in interest and vigor and willingness to volunteer. If you it's going on you know it in the U when there's a fire in the region people there therefore it is so warped there's a lot of fire in the region notes with homelessness you know just trouble in every neighborhood it seems but I think Portland is a two. Yeah we certainly see a lot of giving coming up of people yeah the desert community you know all over the nation leaving you know with everything that's going on in me in the self yeah good heavens yep absolutely. So load tell me a little bit about something you've got coming up its so called operation overcoat. Yeah operation overcoat started seventeen years ago actually the founder of northwest medical teams Ron Pollack had an ideal for us in the sense let's do a street fair for the homeless. And it's become our hallmark event here at union gospel mission. It's big if not bigger than our annual Thanksgiving dinner and so what we do as we close off the streets on northwest third avenue and part of northwest's Gucci. Journal tell Portland and we set up. Tent full of clothing and hygiene items and sheets and blankets. And we have people coming with the big grill and do a free barbecue meal. And we offer live music on a speech it's really a fun atmosphere and people come from you know did some years we've got. So many is 4200. I think it's usually helping about a thousand people depending on the weather. Wow that's it's only agree events yet it's a blast. So. How the people find out about this. Well word of mouth on this it is is very strong and we didn't do it the first seventeen years. So the homeless find out about it through fliers posters and just word of mouth and they come. And then volunteers find out about it through. Things they see if they're connected to us and and maybe some people have heard about it. But it's it's an opportunity be coming in give. We particularly need sleeping bags boots new socks and new underwear. And and when people hear about it again we have been very generous community and and they respond pretty well. So you're still taking donations at this point. Yeah we were we always need donations is sleeping bag boots new socks and underwear those those things people unfortunately burned through on the street. So we there's an ongoing need for those folks. If people are are able to make a donation to how can they do that to come do you. Yet they can have make a donation to us right here at northwest third burn side they can pull up. It's probably best they called first so someone's looking for them more they have itself. Didn't call from out front and say Haiti. We pulled up on the street here in front of them union gospel mission we have a donation for operational code similar amount grabbed it donation will give them a receipt. Something a little. Bit more accessible for those in the southwest area is we have a thrift store. Two. Pacifica at least found just down the street from Fred Meyer and tiger on and I win 99. And they can drop it off the air. Beyond that and so yeah I'd drop off sir great. And so this is kind of setting yourself up to get ahead of most some. Inclement weather which is probably on ancillary. Yeah hi guys that homeless guy today in any shape you know me and he should where and deal was smoke and heat. Today but I know right around the quorum and a big deal in west wind and rain and then right after that'll be below snowing ice and I said. Future cheery this morning it's a reality. Israel yeah and so I think I know I was a little tongue in cheek and he laughed my the truth is tonight I am divisive people wanted to come to operational work couldn't get to Twitter stuff. Because there's only so much homeless people can carry. In most of them don't carry winners stuff all through this summer it's it's just not feasible to do. And they don't have access to storage so it's time got pressure up. Now he's still looking for volunteers to help out. Yeah we have a few volunteers spots and an operation overcoat. If anyone who wants to donate timer funds. If you go to Debbie Debbie Debbie you GM Portland at dot OR GQ GM Portland D'Amato RRG. There's a place where you can. Help and you can either come to a volunteer encounter or you can. Get the linked to operation overcoat and there you know we have a pretty fluid volunteer sign up process. And so right now there are a lot of volunteers who have signed up up but there's still a few that we need. The what is the date fur operation overcoat it's the last Saturday of September so it's this year it's Saturday September 20. And it's always there sorry thirtieth it's and it's always the last Saturday of September. How we always took the last Saturday September that tense. I mean the first part of October can be nice to bets. We again we wanna get ahead of the inclement weather and anti lock it in on that date we've been good at that. Last Saturday September 1 seventeen years or the sorry can't hear. Bill tell me about the union gospel mission how long he has been doing work in and in that location in particular. Yeah we've been important since 1927. And it was it was really remarkable it was found about forty different churches and I mean there were different denominations have back then that was cabinet and it's an extraordinary thing. And we were in Portland ten years operating write down an old town and then we found property where we are now at certain birds side. And moved in there in 1938. So. Next girl BR eightieth anniversary at three to fifteen northwest third and that's an that's an interest things gory. Burn site was widened its. In 1926. Only up to northwest third avenue and then it narrowed back down. But in 1930. Burns side I was why didn't. And it all the way up going up toward Broadway. And some property became available right at certain birds Sidon to the admissions board bought it back then and we've occupied it ever percent. Well how important how important is it to how the union gospel mission bees centrally located in downtown Portland. If it is important. In that people know us and trust us and I think when you deal with homeless. Individuals. Trust is a huge factor if you want to be able. Burn the credibility to guide them. And so again the fact that we've been around ninety years we have a secret sauce so I trust building. It'll allows I can't it be able to influence people out of I'm not happy lifestyle and toward happy lifestyle. I'm in it serves as a base. In the last year we've we've began. Outreach to homeless. Encampments and people who are homeless. Our round the Portland metro area through our search and rescue. Program but it's amazing we might go out into. Far northwest Portland out by the airport we might go down to southeast Portland and aid if you don't go to ruining Kampman and start talking to people. Everyone knows this because we've been downtown and old pal work over the home almost burned ninety years so it it'll allows us to go farther faster and building trust. And having influence. And the downtown location that the union gospel mission you're working mainly with men is that correct. I we are I mean we have our future program that you need gospel mission is called life change we invite those who want to get out of homeless not. And make a commitment to that come and live with us and learn the skills necessary to permanently escape homelessness. And so our male residents. Somewhere around fifty of them at a time live in our downtown third and burns had locations. Then we have another location out in Beaverton for women and their children pretty much everyone wants women and their children. Out of you know the downtown out of harm's way and then they're really nice therapeutic area. For the guys do very well downtown here. Tell me about them homeless problem right now to Eisenhower things look at. It you know at that point in time count showed a slight increase in homeless in homelessness. Did Tony and Haiti down here have done yeoman work in having shelter beds there about 600 bent down in the last year and and they've moved you know 45000. People. Into permanent supportive housing but the problem is that the demographics. That create homelessness particularly. Timed out baby boomers who don't have equity and loose employment. And the heroin epidemic is generating numerous homeless people every day it's it is. Truly sad so. We are. Seeing increases in I think. Studies that I'm looking out predicted. Epic game and increases and homelessness so. We're trying to in them we are getting ahead of that and coming up with a model. Of expanding effective solutions to homelessness. So that as you know I I think that again the government still what attempt to provide government funding for shelters. And browsing. But the problems simply act too much for them to pick up. And so we want to be able to move people out of unsafe and unsanitary encampments in neighborhoods. Into. Seek legal places where they can beat until they can attract Puerto different situation. And I think from and from the outside it does seem very visual who have seems like you're seeing and all the time right now. Yeah and I think it's a concern to people it's a concern if any part of the homeless. Segment that they you know population. Makes a park a place where kids won't can't safely play. Or if you're running along this spring water trailer another. Running trail and women running their feel unsafe or vulnerable it's it's not a good situation. And and the ways that the government is responding to it. Moves the sheltered homeless around town that they don't have anyplace to go to shelters are full there's no safe legal place for them. To do well and so we really need to think a bit in terms of where can we create space that is safe and legal for them to keep up or be very an Arby's. Until we can come up with a supply side of housing to provides space for everyone. Do you have any sense of out other areas in the United States is Portland about average for homelessness or how to. Yeah I mean yeah we've actually done better we track mostly West Coast cities because there's a certain cultural dynamic along the West Coast. There are urban growth boundaries it's creating. Really high housing costs along the West Coast so if you look at. Seattle Portland Oakland San Francisco. Los Angeles and San Diego duplicate those six cities homelessness is up about 22%. In those six cities over the last. Two years that's the point in time count. Important actually done a little better now are horror of homeless growth is smaller than the West Coast average. But we're also looking for solutions a lot of books and Portland have visited San Antonio which is created a 22 acre place. Where homeless people can go and those were ready for transforming a program can go right into it. Those who wore kinky about and it's got an acre parcel called the courtyard. And it allows San Antonio to direct. All of the island shelter homeless to a place that is amenable to them and that taking culturally adapter. So somebody finds himself homeless and in need of help from the mission how old bill how do you help them out. I mean if people call in and want to get into a life change. Another word they say and I've got a life controlling issue. And I need help I need to get out of this situation. One of our intake coordinators or talked to them the men caller regular number 5032744483. Until wanna apply for life change and in our intake coordinator will talk to them. Are women call out to our women's center and they can get it. To the women's center through our switch port here. And they do intake on Tuesday morning there's vastly more competition. For women's. For equality women's program. And so that that's a question of calling on Tuesday morning in and try to get in when their vacancies but. That's how those people can help the homeless. Come to our daily room in and you know some of our first programs. Are at 6:30 in the morning with breakfast. In our last program is are hot meal. At about. 730 yet but I hate the doors open for chapel programmer around 715. And there's a quick. Program and then a deal together. And so you know words were doing things that certain currency it virtually all day long on and off. And some of those guys that are helping you won't do the work and have burned side of the burns a location downtown they have been through the programs aren't. Yeah or they're currently in the program that's one of best important things in our recipe is to blend. Our staff which are relatively few. Where our life change presidents and their there's more of them live about. Fifty staff went about. Somewhere between eighty and under might change presidents and then we have about a thousand volunteers so. I'll put the light changed residents are all read in working with almost one. They get it empathize or sympathize they've just come out of parts situations. They have a story to tell. In two days they have a lot of compassion for people who are where they've been and so they're very good they get very skilled. Kept providing safe and secure environment for volunteers to work and and handling the tough tougher parts if there's someone who's maybe mentally affected and volatile. Like it is very good omen that person down and allowing the volunteers to function in a safe way. And so it's it's really a good combination and then the life changer residents are learning together I think most people who come to us. As addicts or alcoholics. Have fallen into it taking mode because. They're trying to survive they're trying to fuel they're diction and when they get so over we know indeed did go the other direction that teach a dramatic dip into in the rest of us and being community minded generous. Can you tell us some of the causes of of homelessness. Yeah I mean there are. The one of the major. Causes of homelessness right now is the lack of affordable housing and and that's creating newly homeless I mentioned early substance abuse. The opiate epidemic. When people go from abusing painkillers. To dread shopping and then if they become heroin addict. As frequently it's is so such an unmanageable. And non viable lifestyle they will become homeless. And and that's true of other kind of a drug users are alcoholics. And then a lot of people who are homeless simply have mental health issues that creates profound mental illness. And indeed maybe psychotic they might walk away from. Good programming and family. And there is something about very frequent type of psychosis. Where people want to have other people around them but they don't want anything demanded of them and they don't want to be responsible. They don't want pressure. And so there are a lot of people just kind of float around downtown where they can feel like it's. Their belongings but they don't get asked without having to do anything and and there are a lot of homeless people and not situation. There are. The women that have been a growing portion of the homeless population. It's very difficult to count that women escaping domestic violence or who can't afford housing. Might be living in cars or living in relatively unsafe situations. And that's been it Basque growing percent of the homeless popped populations and so we're happy to wanna be expanding our. Our programming for women and children like stage for a limited children is very effective. Yup sounds like a really positive. Thing to be happening in their life is finally. Yeah we have what a wonderful place for them not be returned it's very therapeutic. We bland. Spiritual transformation. Without quality professional mental health counseling. And then a variety of education and life skills training. And it it really works out well. We're talking they would Bill Russell with the union gospel mission in bill I have to ask you how do you do this. Well how do you do this every day. You know I ate it ET here this term calling. We're gifting and and I feel that's true. I used to be a prosecutor. When I sit in court. Every day at wanna get up and go help the person I was prosecuting. End and I thought you know if they're a number of quality attorneys who could step into my role as a deputy prosecuting attorney. There don't seem to be at least back in the early eighties enough people who were going full time to develop. Special skills and and really a comprehensive strategy. To help the people on the other side the people who are under served the people who are. Ironically getting into trouble most of the people ice on court. Were bad people they were remorse that people I mean they had broken the law. But they work that they were more property and you know. Drug abuse. People that's what I saw a lion's share of and it about 85% of people in the criminal justice system a system struggle with the substance abuse issue and so. I just started tracking that way. LA I feel like I can't connected better at that level and I've been doing that since I'm more in that region since 1982. And I left. Full time. Law practice and I I don't know what else to say other than I love it. It's it is so encouraging. To see people turn their lives around. And it is so encouraging wanna see the enormous goodwill of the community to both. They give donations and donate their time to help people turn their lights were off I just think it's. It's up for a rose to the best thing that's happening in town so we turned it around and say why wouldn't I wanna be doing that asks. That well that's a great but to agree that it didn't. So. So you have been like you say you've been doing this for very long time in with the union gospel listens and discuss the late eighties yeah. 1989 I came here and kind of worked my way up I became executive director in 1998. End. It's you know it again it's just this stunning view from where I sit. At the goodness of people and the toughness of life but how a top players can be. Turned around. So you with all that time you must have some pretty great success stories is there anything stand out in your mind. Oh yeah we have we have ongoing success stories but I I think Puerto stories I think god is a a woman. Who. Her baby had been. Murdered and it it was a horrible story and she would devastated. And she. Heard drug she became a drug addict and drug abuse is bad. Bless her parole officer and she's gotten into trouble through drugs her parole officers said you know this woman is redeemable. Q right now is sort of the worst criminals and Oregon but she could turn around. And this parole officer got hurt in two women slightest change. And it's been spending I think she's on her seventeenth. Anniversaries so she came into life she's the first year we did them operation overcoat. And so it deep it's been remarkable. Just see her reconnect to her son and she applies 'cause the and then that developing a a career. Be it taxpaying. Noncallable. Sober you church going woman it is stunning and and you multiply that. Over a hundred people I've seen do that. That intensely. It's just like wow we're going to start that. She's amazing. And there every on her silver anniversary every year she's had a reminder with a picture of what you look like back then of and it's just like it always makes me smile and it it always generates a lot of FaceBook posts when she does that. The look so great congratulations to her. Yeah I know what a courageous. Amazing woman and all the people then it really does take a village. Concede that predator results in actresses like it is it is great. So we have a couple of minutes here I want to tell us again all about operation over co which is coming very soon. Okay last Saturday at the this month September 30 and we're going to be blocking off the street and setting up a huge barbecue and tents where people can get clothing toiletries. Everything they need everything homeless person these for the winner. Will be there medical teams go have a digital band down there it's very festive. And so usually come home by dropped off so a sleeping bag or some boots or some clean underwear and socks so we can get away. You were on site up for of that last few volunteer positions. That will help I set up a break down or something like that. Really kind of desist a street party. Yet there's that it is a very festive I always. I can spend all they just talking to people and now that it kept I've known out of the streets for years there were on the streets and our off. Probably to seal unfamiliar faces on the defense no question that I just like it had a picture there. And it talked about how well and you know and I bet they like to see YouTube user help them change the lives. It's they were friends side I would say that I I see so many people who play the real catalyst. In change and they could be coming don't walk alongside a person I'm just more like a local Billy I fit. And to my friends and give my hugs and and I love it. That's great full best of luck and great successful operation or caught the end of September last Saturday right. Yep the last Saturday thanks so much here. They knew that we've been hurt today when Bill Russell with the union gospel listen thanks Gambill. Mitchell's bill is an Entercom radio Portland public affairs program I'm Gary blocks of if you're involved with a nonprofit or public affairs organization or do you have an idea for an upcoming show I'd like to hear from you. Visit microscope PDX dot com and submit your ideas you can also go to the station's website handsome richer information there. Thanks for listening to microscope can enjoy the rest of your weekend.