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Union Gospel Mission 101418

Oct 10, 2018|

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

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is metro scope and Entercom radio Portland public affairs program. Under blocks we all know that homelessness in the Portland area is a big issue and there are organizations tackling this problem and one of those he's union gospel mission. On metro go today I would like to welcome Bill Russell bill is the executive director of the union gospel mission in Portland pay their bill. Very scary hours we'll do good are you it's always complicated. Got a busy job they did it your release is complicated too I know a lot of people who are listening today. Look at homelessness they think you need supplements and I think of homelessness. In and it is a complex problem. And anyway thinks they're not it's not that I I just wanna talk to them for a little while bullets to talk about the why do people think it's not complicated and why it's called which I think I think people project upon other people. Their skills and abilities so I hear people out. What are still homeless just get a job it and I would say. Well over 70% of the people who visit the mission to pay for services. Are unable to work good job either through physical disabilities or mental illness. Or if if you're addicted to a subset like heroin. You just not going to be able to navigate a job so then you say well wide open marijuana addicts get off Carol and I think that's a great. Saying we have. Distance satisfies the getting off of Caroline and Oregon because we've reduced heroin possession from a felony to misdemeanor. But. I think when people get to that tipping point they need to. Get off heroin that's a horrible way to live they need to get off meth amphetamines it's a horrible way to live or someone. Is disabled by alcoholism they need to get off of that and that's certainly a lot of what we do. Catch incentivized people who want to get off of substance can get off of that. The mentally ill it's a little tougher because. We are near the top of the State's swing it in terms of the scope of the problem I I don't know why. The Pacific northwest and and Alaska. Has a high degree of a mental illness incidence and I'll call at about we do maybe it's the rain in the clouds I don't know. But I know that were among the top with the incidence of mental health but we're near the bottom of the states in term of any mental health delivery system. And so at and it's just tougher. To get psychotic profoundly. Mentally ill people who were on the streets off the streets they walk away from help. There's service resistant and so it's complicated it's not an easy fix. A lot of people say well the problem of homelessness what don't we just build housing and the dead there's actually a lot of people an end to release solid policy. Built around housing first. But if people walk away from that housing or they make life for the other residents about balancing. Unacceptable and unsafe there we got a problem so that's why I say. Homelessness. We all are frustrated by that it seems to be growing at a rapid pace. But it's not an easy fix. Absolutely and so it do you see it's still growing at a pretty rapid pace and win. Is there any projection when things might tend to start to turn around a bit. No I I don't see any turnaround the opiate epidemic. There's hope to end. It medically. Assisted treatment of opiates but if the demographic that's presenting the problem younger people. I continue to get addicted at a record grade. There in the problem they dissolution of the problem is when they. Get tired of being heroin addicts and or win the criminal system forces them to get tired of being an aeronautic. So that's gonna go up for a while and then probably one of the most troubling part of the homeless population. Are people over sixty. And the demographics so that the number of people in the baby boom generation scored turning 65 without. More than 101000 dollars in equity and with less than a thousand dollars and Social Security benefits. That demographic that's about 4000 people a day that's not gonna end for fifteen years and so you just multiplied. 4000 times 365. Times. Fifteen and they are quite a few people that are going to be entering homelessness and I'm able to. And deal with that housing market. And so we have that we have to be looking out more solutions span spending a quarter billion dollars to build Dora housing. Or just temporary shelters and every every one of us in this field wants to transition people out of neighborhoods out of unsafe and unsanitary homeless camps. It into a good productive life. And so we're looking to maximize the up and that's why we do. Event happening teach people as we believe if we care for people and connect of people without enabling them. Or without hurting them we can coach them to a better life. But you know did it it takes a lot to do that and I'm happy to be about that business. We're talking they would Bill Russell executive director of the union gospel recent. To know how many people does the gospel mission serve. Well I've got an operation overcome what bill which is the last Saturday September were gonna Serbs. I've somewhere between 2015100. People that day to come to us for help. But on a typical day. We will serve about 300 people who come to the mission and on a big day will serve about 500 people and then we also go out homeless camps. And reach people outside the mission by visiting them and and in trying to move them out. A satellite into a happier life than they were able to do that to some extent. What services does the mission provide. Well at the mission itself we operate. A feeding program mark first the first leg of our purpose statement. Since we were founded in 1927. Is meet that basic needs for food so our first wings beating the home. Feeding the hungry and yelling in cold Gaspar weather's keeping people alive means bringing them inside or given a warm clothing or sleeping bags. But it's pretty much providing life essentials that we do that you know tomorrow morning at. 630 will have a hot breakfast so it'll be attended by probably 25300. People. It in again on Friday and then other days we provide portable Beatles and then we have lunch and then we have dinner and then we have a whole group of people who have come on come off the streets. And they enter into responsible to be based recovery. And we call that light changes in and we have somewhere. About. Eighty men women and children who were off the streets of the living in that transformational program. And add those of that the Big Ten. There's a lot of particular needs of the homeless have liked for clean socks or new underwear. And we we do that a lot. Tell more about life change this is something that you personally started with the union gospel missionary. Yeah I mean I was I was a prosecutor back in the day back in the early eighties. And I certainly saw that carnage. That substance abuse and untreated mental illness have. And people who just don't want emerging and and be productive they want to. Earn a living. Off of your hard work and so do whatever. The presenting problem. I begin putting programs together in the seventies in Seattle and over and the rocky mountain region. There would. If this bring about transformation in the person's life. And so were always looking at that three day how do you bring a supportive spiritual community into a person's life. How do you bring it livable wages and they'll talk and how can you get them up to speed to do wet. What we're doing right now Geary will work at eleven we're making a wage or paying our bills and then the third thing is how do you get them to select. Safe livable housing not living in an environment that's gonna provoked got bad behavior or be unsafe. And so their life change works on those things send honestly that day a man comes in the life to reelect guy coming to light changes week. He's working an eight hour day today he's work on forty hour week today and you know what he's gonna feel. More productive and happier with a himself we're gonna give him the job he can do this week. Could he might be still chemically. Coming off the aftereffects of detox. There might be hard for him but he's gonna feel a whole lot better about themselves by being part of a group of men who are being productive and that's gonna start feeling. All the whole lot better than life on the streets felt and so that's where life change starts and it ends when he's working and an outside job living in quality housing. And how this they really positive influential. Group a support group around him. Congratulations to him continuous you're succeed insurgency success stories like that all the time. No question I mean I almost taken for granted that. But it it's thrilling to see someone. Come out of a homeless camp. If could be you don't miss dear friend Dave think they both came out of she implored him to come out after months after she came out they weren't boyfriend and girlfriend but they. Knew each other and misty just a rock stars skiing. Into our women slight change program she's back in touch with their wholesale inflation very productive. She's been in recovery now offer for nine months I mean it's great to see. And then she's looking ahead to all these women who have graduated. And who were doing fabulously they're working great chops. They are. It caring for their children they're paying taxes on their part. Barbara parts of churches or other support groups and it's good you know they can experience that and see it. So to encourage development intermediate. It's a whole connected latter of people who started this week or who are. Like Gloria you don't 24 years down the road. Off the streets thirty years down the road off the streets and doing great. Ton of people that need your services find you. I mean it's it is for women it's different than men men we have 00 walked up so late breakdown that the mission downtown certain burn side. If you know it's somewhat a loved one who is remote from about maybe they're out of the area that they can begin all left and contact us. On our web site which is UGM. Portland dot com so huge GM like union gospel message. Portland because there are other union gospel lesson so it's huge Shia Portland. Dot org I think at that dot com it's dot award gee we're nonprofit organizations. And so they go to our web site and on our web site. They can look at the again helped. Site on there and they can navigate. Toward men to women slight change. What women do because they're sure to demand for our women's services and clear. Word or mostly filled the guys all the time but were always filled with the women. That they have to call out to our women's center on Tuesday morning if they want to. Tried to get there and two women slight change the end. So I I feel horrible about that I would love to have unlimited space but if they called Bible 03802. 2271. On Tuesday at 10 o'clock. They didn't see and in begin giving on. The the access less. Everywhere across someone can get through. And and there are situations surgeon and if they can get in that day but a lot of times they might have to call back I know a week later. And it it's it's great to see it when it happens it's always heartbreaking. Because so many you know women are living in an unsafe. Places that I want that Pavel place for all upon to give in and find a place but. In our region you know Multnomah County had a no woman turned away policy but few years ago there and there's a police nobody was indeed we actually can't fulfill the policy. Because there aren't enough beds for all the women in need and so we need to build more. And we're working to double the size supporter of women's slight change to build a new facility that can. The conserve twice the women in the world we're working hard to do about we're probably still two and a half three years away from opening bout. Well. What keeps you do what you do. I love it I mean I I'm hopeful person. It's easy to see the problem and get cynical well I think what I was. Trial lawyer and when I was a deputy prosecutor I was really in danger of giving. Cynical about it and it but didn't you see one person turn around and you'd it gives you hope. That you could offer that turn around because someone else. In what sector becomes a pop once once people are our peer engaging and they're serving his peer mentors. To people on the street you know some of the best recruiters in the world are people who used to be on the street. And they can attest to the value of coming in as I I think people on the streets tend to be distrustful that's one of the comments. Belief is that you can't trust anyone and so it yourself when you do have certain trust. For from you and they're telling you this is a great place come on in. Either we create that more positive. Scenario and people start coming in and write a note today the reality is there. Are women senators form and shutter is pretty close to full on me we might have one bad. But that I keep the women's number for guys just go online. You can find the like the information about men like change and he did you can fill out an interest forming come down here. Or are or send an application if your loved ones out of area. And a wolf wolf communicate with people on that basis up oh about over half our people come right out of homelessness. And then for the the other people are they had been almost certain they're now out but they're kind of falling back down and they don't wanna. Full all the way back to a homeless campers that are wanna. Fall into jail and so. They got to step into our place and it's great. We'll know one thing I wanna ask you about is the you docile mission's search and rescue program tells about. Yet different a really existing program and I'll be totally honest with you we didn't. In evade this program we didn't think it up ourselves he came about up in Seattle and Seattle had a a horrible area called the jungle and they're there were a couple of of killings in their intention what are we gonna do in Seattle union gospel mission. I started sending workers out two or reach out to the people in the jungle made actually had people going around their neighborhood. To brings food in the hope two people who were maybe a little remote from are they're downtown operation. It when I heard about it thought visited I say go out into Portland will be need to that because I think he'll more about 2009. The number of people most poor homeless shifted in Portland. From being primarily in the downtown core. Particularly in old town Chinatown it shifted to where. The homeless really began in increasing number going out along the Max clients and outlawed them spring water trail. Without there's really the highest collection and I believe of a shelter to homeless people in southeast Portland. And so we thought that boy now time to get out there and to take. Care and can't action and coaching. Out to people where they really wanna see homelessness reduced. And so people in inland to people in in Bachmann and orange so would or in about Scott neighborhoods. You know you're not all of those neighborhoods the you're gonna see homeless people in it can be kind of concerning or annoyance. But there are some neighborhoods and maybe your third in one of them what do you listeners where you just overwhelmed and nobody is happy about that nobody happy. When aid pop up Portland Parker aggression Parker some park in the Portland area has. Use syringes from heroin addict and we don't want our kids playing around you syringes and and nobody happy when you see a big pilot garbage or human waste in your neighborhood kids. It can it indeed it we all feared at lower property values and or created unsafe situation. Or an unbelievable situation. So we know we got to do as much as we can to reduce homelessness. In their neighborhoods and in the most prolific homeless camps so few years ago it started going around visiting these camps I guess it was a couple years ago. And a few years ago we decided a couple of years ago we started going out regularly. And now we have to advance one when beer and goes out 592 weeks. Sunday night through Thursday night. And the other band follows up the next day. And really follows through with people we meet the need to move out of the neighborhood and helps relocate them or get them the services. And so were grown up candidates through Thursday night that another million goes out. Monday through Friday it had been there it would like its support or we could extend that to seven days a week. There are there could be more services. On the weekends. And it's a little harder for us to stage out of full count country except the streets often scorpions parked. But right now it's a great great thing whipped you know where we got ten days search and rescue going out to the most needy tips. Who's on the team of the union gospel missions search and rescue program who goes out. Well we've got. Greek coordinators to. All were hope formerly homeless. And and that we've got a really great. Greek community development minded staff and so it's a combination of staff. And our life change guys who really still have a heart for those poor our our life change women we've had a couple of light change women. Could do outreach to the women in the home asking him. And so right now it's great to see Jennifer Carroll out on those and and they do an outstanding job and then blended with staff and our life changed men or women. We have volunteers and we have agreed committed core of regular volunteers. And then we have I know we have like last night. V reporter from a journalist from Germany who's in the area and is doing some writing in looking at the Portland homelessness. And she will weather and the so you know we have. Every everyone from regular volunteers to one timers who just wanna go up and see what's going on and he's homeless camps in one less safe way to try to get up close. It did do something positive and so that's that's search and rescue. What kind of obstacles that he has run into over the last couple years into the new in this. On lap one obstacle is the perception of the neighborhood. I think some people think that if you do something kind. For a homeless person you're going to be fostering more homelessness. Or you're going to be encouraging that person tell hunkered down and stay. Active as a homeless person and a given neighborhood. We're making it easier were being encouraging. And to be truthful what we're most interest the data what most of our efforts are skipped a personality neighborhood not by force but by encouragement. So we wanna be a communicated or a more hopeful satisfying life outside the neighborhood where that person came up to. And so we we get about that we asked the question what are the hurdles for this person to get out the camp. Some of those turtles are really easy to deal with it out but I don't see in a city here. And almost that this complicated but sometimes the one or two obstacles that as a person stuck in homelessness are doable and and our outreach student can get get after that. But I think the biggest hurdle is. The perception by the neighborhood then that this is going to encourage homelessness which is not. And and sometimes the perception or the false beliefs of the homeless person. I can't make get outside. This area. So both of those are kind of psychological believed that I think can be overcome. And I think you don't wanna tell the neighbors we're here to help not hurt we're here did to offer solutions on homelessness. Not to facilitate the continuation of almost as. And to those who were listening who feel defeated and like I can't elevate. I'm a constant victim I wanted to introduce shoot two scores of people insult the people on the search and rescue vet who themselves have come out of homeless camps and our living satisfied successful lights. In that's got to be a big one is to try to convince. Somebody in that situation that there is a future. Yeah I a you know it's going to be harder for me Geary to convince them. Because people look at me and say well you're a trial lawyer and you know you've never been out on the streets like this. And they're all I could try to start to defend that and say well I had a alcohol problem did you know it just doesn't translate. But when someone who they know or whose story is familiar to them lived out on the streets in the aid from personal experience can take. A year ago I was out here Lechler we have at that. At the mission Mike Miller who was one of them. Founders of our search and rescue program and he's now working in a different job. But when he started with that he could look at guys in the face and say I was stuck for five or six years out in in a ditch and homeless camp. And I was deeply distrustful but you know I've I've learned that these people mean what they say they really do care and they're really is a hopeful future. And I'm kind of glad period that that might smooth start he's working in a good job and and he's not forever shop called to the homeless camps. Then about a minute or so your Millon wanna know what do you see in the future for search and rescue what's come up on the horizon. Well how I would love to develop to be. A model program all we can go in depth in one neighborhood. And take an accurate complete sense of all beyond shelter to homeless people in that one neighbor but it. Do we get rallied together all the resources in the neighborhood whether it's businesses or churches or volunteers are groups. The week can come up with a unified approach. How that. Health can that neighborhood agreed that we can. Provide better alternatives. Homeless camps in this neighborhood and that might mean that the neighborhood itself sites. A small shelter that might been that the neighborhood itself wants to put a single room occupancy complex and there or support a permanent supportive housing. Program or welcomes. I really. Motivated people who are experts in this area. To come and help helped it move people out of a sheltered illegal and sanitary homeless camps into a positives supported. A hopeful and an empowering place. If those people listening out there and I certainly hope there are there won't get involved and help out the union gospel mission what is the best way for them to get cold feet. I think big easiest way to go to our web site UGM Portland got the word G. Huge GM union gospel mission Portland auto RG. Because everything's gone there if you wanna get help that's on there if you wanna give him ball is a volunteer atomic and of course if you wanna give it's on there. And search and rescue. Always needs support because there are hard caution queuing up that they weren't paying the staff. That they you know getting gaps in the band in terms of their and they are going out to. To get homelessness on the decrease in your neighborhood we sure appreciate your export. Well the union gospel mission was in the union gospel mission is always doing great work thank you. Thank you your I really appreciate. Your mind tends to. We've been talking today when Bill Russell executive director of the union gospel mission thanks again to. Metro scope is an Entercom radio Portland public affairs program. I'm Gary blocks and if you're involved with a non profit for public affairs organization or if you have an idea for an upcoming show I'd like to hear from you. This is microscope PDX dot com and submit your ideas you can also go to the station's website and some richer information there thanks for listening to metals gold and enjoy the rest of your weekend.