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Union Gospel Mission 111217

Nov 7, 2017|

AN INTERVIEW WITH BILL RUSSELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF UNION GOSPEL MISSION PORTLAND ABOUT THE WORK THEY DO WITH HOMELESSNESS AND THEIR HOLIDAY OFFERINGS AT THE MISSION.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is a microscope and Entercom radio Portland public affairs program and your blocks and Thanksgiving is just around the corner and on the show this time we let you know how you can help out the homeless and our community this season. I would like to welcome to the show this time Bill Russell bill is the executive director at union gospel mission Portland pay their bill. Yeah you don't carry it beyond now and it's have you back on we seem to get to talk every move every few months Nelson especially. This time both the the year. You know I think get so busy in the in the fall. In the you know we have operation overcoat at the end of September and then we steam into work Thanksgiving in October it's like I mean in November and reflect its. Wow. Where you can putt but it doesn't slowdown are especially well when asked how did operational program that was just a little over a month for. Yet it went fabulously I mean it was that we did weatherman threat grains but we got good weather and there were about to a little over thirteen hundred people that came in and got a free. Barbecue lunch and the AM. Closing venue where we give away a winner clothes and anticipation the winner. It was just pac ten and we do we have so many items of clothing but it was it was another Greek successful. Pretty peaceful day. That's awesome. And there are some other services we provide an operation radical right like some dental service. Yeah with a panel of analysts was full medical teams comes down with the dental van and it that's that's always very popular guy you know a lot of people on the streets have been signed up four Oregon health plan. But you know there's no really comparable dental plan and so were always looking for replacing. People with a emergency dental needs and where is that the great tendency to volunteer their services in the area. That is so great. So what is up next for union gospel. Well we got we got Thanksgiving this month and it is that is a huge event it's a very traditional. And you know Thanksgiving morning otter know how many are coming to your house or your listeners palace but. We know that over 800 people will come dar Al and so. What we do this week we don't have enough room for 800 people that are dining room. So we closed down the street with the help but Northwest Natural Gas they committed setup a 120 foot on parent. And we make out warm and welcoming it and it's on Thanksgiving Day those 800 guests sit down and we Serbs that they don't. Stand up and walk through food line. We have volunteers to bring them their coffee and then bring them their salad and bring them a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with everything and it. It that you would they have on your table. And then at the end Brigham upon him more coffee in it it's very popular. That's pretty great you can set that up outside because and we all know that November can be not the best month weather wise here. Yeah with natural gas coming their way of proceeding that's saying what they're with their portable gas cnet's. But every once in awhile we get a very windy day and that's always a little spice because she attempts can kind of pickup is in Brooklyn and if the winds get over 3035. We've had actually speaks them and today it into the apple got that allows the big deal. About these people you know we we usually get over 800 people every once while it gets up over a thousand but you know. We expect. He 200. Gestured to want a hot meal in and hopefully get hectic and so little extra pockets. Of people are up against did not eight you know we do whether dirty cold. And that's just a warm good day where people can be together and not be alone on and on gathering time. And the answer it's a really important event. But we also by the wave for Thanksgiving. Hammer paper Turkey campaign and so. That's 600 food boxes that go out to the most needy families. So that they can be home cooking their dinner teeing off gavel home. We want to be able to say it to cook a Thanksgiving dinner there so. We do our paper turkeys where we felt the box with everything except the Turkey and then put in. A certificate good for Turkey and so people can go out and get Scott. Either fresh or frozen themselves and it makes it more deliverable. That is that is fantastic. Down here are our paper Turk he's been been around for a number of years and it's it's always fun to watch that. Ter com later this Terkel meter wants that's what it is but you know worked around 200. Turkeys on her way to 600 and and as we get kind of into the final approach for Thanksgiving. People jump on line in the pet EGM Portland dot org and day. They buy a Turkey for someone which I think is great. So that's the way do you just go online to Eugene and Portland dot org yeah you buy it there and you make your donation right there. Absolutely and it goes directly to a gift certificate we don't take any piece out of that you know that the money goes right into. Right into it Turkey's certificate it's good for 25 dollars to people might have to shop around if they'd. If they go to one of the more expensive stores and get a cage free free roaming range free whatever they're gonna pay a little more foreign but without our. Our certificates covered 25 dollars of. Well of the league at least you Juba who started on Turkey yeah that's what so no Tony about the union gospel mission about how we've been important in Morgan didn't tell come from. Yeah it came there was a guy who ran those that you gospel mission and in Minneapolis who came on a train in 1927. And the guy he ran into a Union Station and airport on what the guy who had turned his life for around. In their Minneapolis. And had been living a long successful. Alcohol free you know back then. People call them white nose or whatever. It was a different era in this case turned his life around and he saw. This Kenny said you've got to come here and start a union gospel mission Arab Portland. So he did that later that year and in 192790. Years ago. Do you need gospel mission was formed. And it you know it it spared itself the burn type we've been. At the corner of third and burned sides since 1938. So. You know right out of the gate you GM had to deal with the depression. Inundated these successfully dealt with that are marked kind of forebears. And anyway it's just rolled ever since then and I came in 1989. So. And around ninety years but I've been around you you can't and I have seen in those shoes you know we've had to adjust from serving mostly. Older alcoholic man is serving. Younger people who are drug addicted gore and now more recently just people who through the housing crisis. Can't find a place to rent and you know that's kind of I knew were phenomenon where. Lot of people that we meet now are too you know that they're not aspects. They're just people who are trying to get by and in the course we all want rapid re housing for those people on their services queuing up to do that. But we also wanna make sure that the chronically homeless don't get forgotten. Forgotten and that crash so. In and so are our kind of sweet side hurt our act our special sauce is being able to go out and connect. Wit the chronically homeless and so in the last year we started. The search and rescue program which will actually come out to your neighborhood. Because when I came here in 1989. The only sport in your neighborhood and help him pretty much whatever neighborhood you live in. There in that neighborhood and we wanna move the needle and thing and help people. In those neighborhoods. So that homelessness is not unsafe for unsanitary. End in the various neighborhoods where it's popping up. Tell us more about that the search and rescue again what is all about. Closer to rescue goes out to five nights a week and we go to two. We knew we looked up find actually the places where the homeless are queuing up and that's a moving target but and partly because you know the sitters. Cindy's gonna interdict that and try to keep people move it. But it when there's no place to go if it. The homelessness and the kind of circle around. In an area so we find them and our goal is to provide some care for them. And then to be able to coach them. As as we built a trusting relationship with a so that we get encouraged them to better services and you know some people just don't know. They're either new word homeless Serb or they're not. Up on what's he merging in terms of the opportunities they might have to find housing and to get off the street and in output. That's what our neighbors want we have you know people want people to move into a better lifestyle and camping out there neighborhood. Homelessness seems to be extremely visible right now and it's insect case all along the West Coast. It is you know if you look at it and not only visible but but it growing. Yet that that conditions are ripe. It's somewhat through the opiate addiction you know lights. I said we seem ward newly homeless not addicted people but they're still people who are becoming addicted. Through the the opium opiate crisis and then there are people who are becoming homeless through housing and it's all along the West Coast so. Be our our goal is to keep up with that and to be able to jump in front of that. And I'll again hopefully to come up with coaching solutions for the people who were out there. I mean there there are. You know well over a thousand people. And and that's the most I've seen it I don't know about you that I have never seen this many homeless people. And it'll you know again a lot of that's because thousand so that's for other reasons but we got to keep getting ahead of that. And not just say well there's nothing you can do about it there is stuff we can do. How important is it to have the union gospel mission centered in downtown Portland. You know it is important because it it is. Still. A place where people com for help if it still let not not just to traditional place. But it's a place we have to have down here. That being said it it's equally important that we get out. To the places where the homeless are camped out outside the downtown. Eric be able to mobilize to them as well sell it it's still important beat down here it's still. If if you look at the demographic. Division and it downtown. There's there's still hot the highest cluster. In northwest Portland. But that being said you know we need to get help all the way around outside the downtown as well. It seems like in Portland and probably another major cities there's lots of services like the union gospel mission. But it seems like there's a lot more homelessness why why why isn't that solving the problem. Well it. It imparts its not so we're solving the problem because it outgrowing. Their solutions that work work coming up wet. And then it. I think the other thing is we are we're operating. In a model of helping the homeless. Bet. Is designed on a smaller number of people. And so we need to Intel housing catches up and and that's the big out fire. I mean who thought you know. 1012 years ago that we will be seeing this high the increase in housing prices there are a lot of people who have never struggled to find housing. We're struggling right now on a financing. Our kids are living near record numbers end in our homes and so you know it's it's no I think that's the biggest part. Of the increase. But it even beyond that we have to do come up with short term solutions that. Our old system a delivery just isn't designed to take it to do. And so we need safe spaces that. You know it ideally we all want people and permanent support of politics but permanent supportive housing is very costly to build. And a lot of times. The people who get. Permanent supportive housing first aren't the chronically homelessness. We see in our neighborhood there's been national steady. That suggests only about 10% of the people who give end. Two permanent supportive housing. Are part of the chronically homeless we've seen in our neighborhoods cut it is that tall order once we did it there's nothing easy about it and I think we have to get. Flexible we have to come up with. New solutions. You know that newspapers full of some acrimony about what those new solution should be every week. But the newspapers also say in Portland it its citizenry is getting tired. Just the fabled approach. Two a rapidly evolving and lack a safety net homeless camps in neighborhoods create. And we wanna get added now we want to see you see service places. I come into existence so that there's a place to go for those people in the neighborhood rather than the city just. Make making them pick up a move and they moved 3510. Blocks away but how can it keep working and who we've got to come up with other solutions to. It seems like in Portland practically every square into anything that used to be available space has a built a new building going on at and a lot of it is apartments and condominiums. But it's not affordable right. Yes there's no question. You know it's so we've upscale we have a lot of new people moving account. I think that's good news you know on the long run for the economy. But in the short or it create. Extreme competition. And and studies have come out shall we caught Seattle you know unfortunately. As one of the highest. Price places to live in the United States that's how we don't wanna catch other cities and but we. And that's where were out. That's definitely very expensive around here oh question. So our turn today when Bill Russell the executive director union gospel mission Borland and you have a great program going home life changed tells the life change. So life changed works without part of homeless population or addicted population. That is ready for change they can command it immediately. Start going through the metrics to change you know we bundle but eight. Each key ingredients together in the long term program that's not just gonna move people. It short term out of homelessness it's going to allow them to become productive taxpaying citizens the number one indicator that we use for success in life changed is that when people graduate. They get employed and they stay employed because and in order to. Get and stay employed. A lot of good stuff have to happen TU. Along the way and so we say you know there are other indicators of success but that's our key indicator of success so. We you know we we have moved they have virtually a 100% employment rate for graduates. And you know sometimes we employ people short term in the house. To begin them on the track of building a really productive. To work record. And that's important but you know most of our graduates. Go out right away and and you don't most of their employers tell us. Then send us more people like Alan not guys great they're now woman's grade in and so you know we're about to. Graduated another batch of women who came in some his victims of domestic violence to our senator out Beaverton. Others too who struggle with addiction. And did you know it's so exciting to see them. Graduate. And then move in to their own housing. And then be in the job market and and just. In choice that panel life so we wanna see everybody live which is productive and happy. And not really you know where you're really need you're trying to survive and and so it it's a complicated process. When I first started there at I come out of being a prosecutor. And I thought that in ninety deep program was needed it and you know it is now just twenty years later. It takes about two and a half years to get people to really thrive. And to turn around at that statistics. National statistics show that about 70% of people who come in to treatment or recovery. Our had a relapse are gonna go back to there. Original a situation. It fairly quickly and get our statistics show that whether our programming which bundled. I work therapy in in mental health and addiction recovery in domestic violence recovered all spoke gamut. That we turned it around and close to eighty sometimes over 80% of our graduates. Succeed and stay sober and productive and you know that's what our donors that's what our supporters want they want people to get out of that situation and live happy lives here. There's nothing mean about given a person a way out. That is fantastic you know that kind of success rate. Yeah it it it's it's very arduous and and I think that the biggest challenge and it is getting people through the process because we do have a health effects separate. Not everyone who comes into our process is gonna stay through the end even though that's our deepest desire it's concede them thrive but did you know it is that takes a lot of hard work and so when we graduate. Three or four women five or six women there which you do. Every trimester. Out in Beaverton I know that each of those women put in a ton of work to get this through did change process changing you know Bieber better you know changes part of that that it's harder than that. He's always it's one thing to start it it's another thing to finish it and then another thing to maintain it. But at our all of our programming is geared toward long term maintenance of other success. And that's actually make slight change a little bit different hasn't traditionally we think of of a gospel mission is where is working with men in place seem to work with men and women. Yeah I knew we still have our our core men but yeah you know the conditions have been such where. Women have increased and homelessness and almost related issues. And it and it's been the fastest growing. Portion of the population and so you know we used to have a a few setters and tenement and we worked with that the roughness of the rough downtown. Of the women but you know over the years we saw we have the starter on senator because there simply aren't enough beds for women. In this system and even now the number of domestic violence calls that at this that he crisis client receives. Well out paces. Safe places for them to go and get out of those abusive situations so. We're looking to expand evil what we have and what we have is is that huge expansion over what we used to have so. You know what it's like anything else you have to keep moving. In the direction of the need that's that's what their donors count on I've been able to get ahead of the neat and I wish we were farther and that indeed with homelessness but that's been a very fast moving problem very complicated and it's solved but we know we can help women and so we're we're gonna do our best fit. To expand as fast as we can't. They say it is a very fast moving. Homelessness is very quickly moving. To duke. Could you give us some misconceptions about the homeless. Well I think I think people look at the homeless and and think they're lazier went it went up they just get off the streets. And are all tell you. A big number that there is a portion of people who are just down on the street when you look at them you say that person can change why don't they change. Most of the people I see today in front of the mission. Are they ever have great difficulty changing just it's it's more difficult if you're struggling with mental illness. To just stop doing what you're doing it's it's tougher. Ed and so I think if people say you know they're just lazy or you know I hear people say that war. If you feed them at our neighborhood. You're just encouraging them to grow. You know people don't move into your neighborhoods because were taken ham which out there. There are ready in your neighborhood were coming out then. Out there to help them moved out your neighborhood connected better resource is. But you know I I hear that wants to wants a little bit frustrating I but I understand that people are frustrated. With the current situation and so I ask myself the questions I quit -- wind really moves the needle. And more positively. Impact. The homeless and our community and I you know I think. We just we didn't need to get after that we we economy won't work on solutions. Today this week. And so you know expanding what we're doing. Is it is one thing. And then giving people understand this gonna take commitment. This is not a quick fix. If you come up with a simple solution. To a complex problem most likely your solution. Is not gonna work. It's a full solution side you know I I don't think there any any just real easy answers to and I think I think we we need to be. A little more pop on how we approach it. And it is very complicated don't care. How can know our listeners get involved and help out. I mean you know at this holiday season. If he even though you know we're not gonna end homelessness the way we know what this holiday fees that we can. Make a positive impact on the homeless by providing them a meal and again continually building trust with them so that we can come to mark the streets. And so you can help us do that meal. By an helping by paper turkeys or supporting our. Our. Effort to two feet 800 people and have an excellent. Actually the event on an unknown at Thanksgiving Day. The so it is happening of downtown on Thanksgiving Day. It is now up unfortunately some people call and say can we help volunteer. That's. The busiest volunteered de we have and people were already fully subscribed for volunteers to disagree that people can call and a volunteer for other events are upcoming Christmas is that we also are are going to be doing and a a telethon on the radio we need volunteer help on that but after this about what we need is people who would give. Turkey's give food or give giving cash to run him. And the best way that you knew that the news. I you GO Portland dot org gee that's our web site if you do wanna bring in some food. We're at third and burns tried to pull up out front and we'll try to get someone out there real quick. You could call us at 27503. 274. Give that's 2744483. And the reception also if you're due to be parked at the curb will send someone out to pick up a food donation her clothing donations by the way Gary right now we need to we we've had a real run with this cold snap. On blankets and winter coats and so people come also help by getting. Blankets and winter coats. And you just drop those off right at the mission yet they can't absolutely. Well it's going to be a very festive Thanksgiving right there at the union gospel mission in downtown Portland. I always look forward picked Gary edit stop by sometime absolutely in to be grateful that upon conversation yeah. Thanks bill always get talked via. We have been talking today when Bill Russell executive director Ed union gospel mission Borland. 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 and submit your information there. Thanks for listening Demitra scope and enjoy the rest of your weekend.