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Union Gospel Mission 11.2.14

Oct 28, 2014|

AN INTERVIEW WITH BILL RUSSELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR WITH UNION GOSPEL MISSION, ABOUT THE WORK THEY DO FEEDING THE HOMELESS IN PORTLAND AND THEIR THANKSGIVING PLANS AT THE MISSION.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is metro scope and ever come radio Portland public affairs program. I'm Gary blossomed in the holiday season is upon us in this hemisphere while we spend time with family and friends it's also a great time of year to lend a helping hand. Can help those less fortunate. And that's exactly what do you mean gospel mission is doing I'd like to welcome Bill Russell executive director at the union gospel mission to metro scope either built their good to be on the greats. How much access I think most of our audience most everybody in Portland this heard about the union gospel mission but how about a quick history and how do you gun vault. Yeah I mean these emissions. Out out it's a lot older than I am it was started in 1927. I came along the years later in 89 but that's 25 years ago. And I'd been a prosecutor. And had to. Look for alternatives to incarcerating people people were down and out a lot of the people you see in court. Have substance abuse problems or chess need training and a new start. And eventually going to do it prison chaplain C and that led me to union gospel mission. And so I became staff here in June of 89 and eventually became executive director I absolutely love it no regrets at all. So you've been there quite along time must be very. Very reported. Yeah I think it's challenging I think the difference between being a prosecutor where you have sap paid. Witnesses. And and work in the mission date yet the same people we have imprisoned. Only here maybe they have a weapon and they might be intoxicated and you know it is that you don't have guards around the world. Guys you really do learn to value people and showed dignity to them. And and he's the best in what is oftentimes are deeply broken life. What does the union gospel mission to here in Portland. Well the first thing we've always been and is feed the hungry we do an average of about 625. Meals for the day. And then on special events including Thanksgiving Christmas we have. A huge meal at Thanksgiving. Alone will do about 15100 meals we sit up by a 120 foot tapped. Out on the street and it's the largest Thanksgiving Day meal for the poor single seeding in Portland. That's a significant amount of people. Yeah ideas and you know the way we do that is they don't go through a line everybody gets served their drink and served there appetizer and served their dinner. Because again you have a lot of people who. Are are really. Looking for what dignity they have in this life and and we want to add to not at all minimize. The fact that kind of creates everybody and their worthy of a celebration and a time for giving things just like we are. North of the people that to help come from are they there are they generally local people are. They are. There is there a few trips here and spent. A lot of them don't wanna stay in Portland when it's. Rainy and cold they'll both take off for warmer climates. Spent most of the people I've talked to 125 years I've been here grew up from Portland or in this area. And we we never wanna hear kids are loved ones in this situation where. They need help with a free meal but life happens and a lot of people. Who'd never thought they'd be here he's been through economic two rats or. Different medical problems or maybe they haven't substance abuse problem and up on the streets and and they need the help we provide. Are you finding that the new new gospel mission as helping more people these things. Yes since 2009. We saw big spike I mean there are a number of us who had hoped that there would be a ten year plan and end homelessness funded by the government that would. Alleviated I actually never thought it would end homelessness does he could greatly reduce that and if for the short term it did that but. The metrics of this economy eventually caught up with south plan in the and there are more homeless people on the streets now than ever. We do kind of see the economy turning around here for some people in yeah. Yes and I I think the homeless segment is the last two benefits from that. They're the least flexible they don't have a real flexible skilled. In in slow economy. And so you know while we hope for the best that we do a lot of job readiness training we have work program here and in our life changed that is outstanding we are very high unemployment rate post graduation. But it takes awhile to get there and again. Someone needs to make a heroic efforts to. To ready themselves to. Thrive in this kind of economy. The trickle down happens but it takes a long time ally and I think I think our our people are about the last two experiences. So until saluted the outlook Sue Williams had planned for the Thanksgiving holiday. Again we're gonna get up early Thanksgiving morning and we're gonna blocked the street from the mission and will lower rule out that there attempt and we'll all have about 200 volunteers. Who will be either preparing. Or setting horse serving. A wonderful meal and it's just with all the trimmings and and so again when I against enters into the and that it's warm there's music. Its task is and it's volunteers greet them in and bring them up every region and appetizers and then. Eventually they'll get there. Full Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. And enjoy good music scene in good company and it'll be an estate. Loving kind of take it to sit down and hopefully to give god thanks for the life we we have. It's really sounds very nice. Yeah all right you don't. Showing gratitude ended that they are the extreme I'll liars most of the people. Who come in in into this Thanksgiving meal our creek fault tell law a warm. C drive placed a community enjoy Thanksgiving. If our listeners alike to help out puck in the volunteer. They can go online ad and it W Debbie Debbie you'd she killed in Portland that you union gospel racing you'd she can come up Portland dot ORG. Or they can call us at 503274. Give 5032744483. To give compute time doubt that's Thanksgiving often builds up in terms of volunteer help. I think this 600 people are probably already signed up and here we are afraid early in in the in November. But. There are other times in the holiday season that we definitely need help pull we'd love to have people come down and it help out our our daily room right now needs volunteers. And again that that's operational. You know and I do every weekday. In and so we always need people to come down and help but without. And I think it's is it better for people to donate donate food or to donate money or what's what's kind of donations. It's both I mean we thrive on both the bit that there are things. We have to be hated they eat and we have. We have to have some. I gas for our trucks we get a lot of food donations. While they generous people but there are cash cost. But then again oh work and indeed turkeys this thing Thanksgiving sees it and number of people come in every year. And really reduce our need disband cast by bringing us. A Turkey. They can do it really easily this year by going on our web site we have a paper Turkey campaign. That makes it easy for people to. Actually bias that Turkey and who will be good shopping bit. They'll make it possible for that Turkey to beat your Thanksgiving Day. The web telling about the paper Turkey campaign. It's. It it's one that when you go online you see. The wait to buy a Turkey online. And it's it's black community who did do. And we're looking for 500 people who will. Come on line with us and buy a paper Turkey. I'm looking into it there right now this is a dollar 92 over by the Thanksgiving meal for someone in need this holiday season. That's. Good now. Affection you know we do dat year after year by. I just. Having. Our food service coordinator Lorrie and and she's. Person who knows sort of like to be out on the street she I came in office for years and years ago and she's. Fabulous at being an economical. And blending donated food whipped up volunteer labor. To keep those costs that if bare bones rocked by everywhere else Kenya can you provide hot nutritious meal for a dollar and 92 so. Leah do you think about it I don't know that I can feed myself for dole in 92. Yeah how well he could to get enough donated food labored. That will reopen the that. It does seem like a very affordable price it. You know as I mean it's a bargain and saw I'd never ashamed I don't ever like go you know hesitate and giving people the opportunity. To sponsor me LA it's just a wonderful opportunity. The bill beyond the holidays what are the services does the union gospel mission provide. Well I mentioned before we have a half. A recovery community cup life changed hands. We call it a community because it's more than just eight program. You know programming implies that a provider is going to help you with that. A special set of skills that will. In this sense get you. Some kind of skill or education or curriculum that you need to an end programs are great candidate. To some extent a little bit what we do is is in the program mode. But we are. The life change community is it is you need to. Opportunity. For people to commit to work together. Every one who comes in the life change its society job right away and so again we don't start their time giving back on their feet in a classroom. They blatant spiritual formation. Where it had not made education. But a big part of it is pulling together and learning how to help one another because when when they. Are done with the community and they go back into. Independent Libyan aircraft and ought to make good choices. And the people are gonna have to know how to. And now with the right people that's that's a big part of it choices. And so well we just start that right away and say come on. Two in the community learning how to work as a team. And and it but in doing so they differ the cost of their recovery. And they learned skills that are absolutely essential so I put the light changed together. Programs together with with. Davos shell and Clint Sampson smother people over the years and I'm really happy. With how it's working it's it's I think it's amazing but then again I'm not found yourself so you know why wouldn't I think it's made it of course it's amazing. Do you see a lot of the Dixon come through the mission. We do I would say that he you know may be a third of the people that come to us for help conduit for help because they're struggling with mental illness. And there is a portion of people who come to position for help who. Art just packed culturally. Loners sun and they don't sit and regular society and end you know the daily. In depth bouncing around on the streets but a good number of people and it's sad. Have had like controlling addictions since they were very young I think the average age of starting substance abuse among our. Recovery residence is about. Twelve or thirteen years old then and so. Most people can't imagine. You know drinking at such a young new Ager you know we have a guy who is using methamphetamine. To weigh about. I case record of Hamlet goes back to California and and he was he was only thirteen years old when he started use of heavy drugs and and that that prevents you from growing up normally. And it prevents normal development and in its twilight change has to be expensive. We ask most of the residents in the life change community to live with us for two or three years so they can change all their core beliefs and they're Abbott loop and and work on spiritual formation so we know they're fully forgiven and they have a total fresh start lives and that's where works I mean fresh start Serb Greek thing. Absolutely. Absolutely. Beside the addictions what are some of the other causes of homelessness. I think you know a gale we we referred to. The current economic crisis. We'll probably see more more people who since 2009. Just fell through the cracks they may have had a a medical emergency. And with certain catastrophic illnesses if you don't have enough insurance. You can end up losing everything. And there we had those people it's it's really heartbreaking but it's real and we also have people who were in the Foster care system early on and they have attachment disorder they've never really bonded. To anyone before and so will pick him up maybe get 3035. Years of agents and kind of going back over the basic and that's human relationships and how to trust another person and again how to work as a team and but you know that the big presenting problems for them was a bearded man. And then most everyone we meet at some point whether it's be ended minutes or. Early the substance abuse underlying cause is. A personal life trauma and so you know world word. PT SB is a good post traumatic stress disorders is a big issue for us and them part of of what we. Have learned to deal west wing as individuals who come to us. We've heard lots of stories of people that never imagined that they could they themselves to be homeless and and then they find themselves in that situation. It's true you know we've had. We've we've had our hands and other professionals. We had for years a man live here at the mission and who is a lawyer in New York City and under stress. He had an emotional breakdown and and he would be great and such a valuable asset really a bright guy. And then other days he really didn't only to us and so you help the mental illness maybe to some extent I've come to believe that with myself and everybody. We all have some breaking point bigger issue where we can beat folk reckoned to be afraid of things that. Maybe other people would consider abnormal about it. You know there there there are things in life that consent. Even the most solid looking people on on a particularly those who don't have a strong feeling in a safety net there. They can end up going farther downhill than they ever dreamed. So how about some success stories canyon canyon relates in sync is success stories and that's. Oh yeah you know one of one of my favorite stories is a story about a kid named Dan and he was pretty scholarships student at university is in a Barbara. And on college. He was it Dennis partnered most of the flyers and there's some science nerds listening out there who know what I mean I didn't he never really party nice school whose only go about getting good grades can get this scholarship. When he got on college campus he started experimenting with drugs and it. Just took him down. The rabbit hole he went wave for him to. Methamphetamine step out of a Los Angeles area. Ended up been in jail. And there was a kid in the jail. Who had spent a short time with the disappearance and left way before he completed the community protocol. And he ended up until them and he said boy Sid did that big big kid. This chair Barbara. Scholarship kids. He received in the mail I get it to my laugher on the other kids to go up to Portland to a life change. And he came up to his dad was actually a prosecutor because I'd been a prosecutor so we got along real well. But he came up here and he did so outstanding on our program he's married. You know he went from from just a train wreck Goliath stories raising kids. Worked at a job and just do an outstanding. And he you'll have to see that you know you love to see people who are basic. Clear drain on society become a tremendous asset. And society I love it I don't know about anybody else but I is that's what gets me up in the morning. Absolutely must make you who didn't love your job. Absolutely. We have another woman. And she. I had a boyfriend who murdered her son I can and most of us can't even imagine anything like that I mean she did that so unthinkable. But our response to that worst to. Self medicate yourself with substance abuse. And at DT register guard wrote an article about her calling her the worst criminal in Oregon and write it again. I can't imagine what it would be like to be identified. On the front page of that from day. Paper you know probably the second largest paper in Oregon. Being called the worst criminal but her. Are there she got up here are her parole officers say you know this woman's got a ton of potential. And senator up to us and we took her pitch he. Is doing fabulously should got a great job she's out she's been an asset to. Her church and in people in the community and you know she's got whether and I love that I loved that story considers hope. And their parents were listening to microscope today who may be wonder if there's any hope for their kids there is hope. It's a long battle but you know the sooner they start to get help the quicker people can get help and that's why I'm glad the mission's been here. In it you go in Portland since 1927. We've been at this same location on third avenue since 1938. So people know where to get help and we're just pleased to have them come down to join us and get that help. Because it helps all of us when they get help. Yeah for sure to make society a better place. Yeah yeah they offer a whole lot less help pay the cleanup of helping people who are you know all down and out is is extreme magically. And then government Italy it's just if it's extreme we pay a lot to avert taught to our hospitals. In our reach to cover up for the people who go in there and and take emergency services in the ER he campaigned on it. And that's still hasn't changed as of yet. But hopefully it'll be changed since well what if 11 can only hope. Did you have some people they you've helped outcome Mac can help you do they were convention. Yeah about a third of our staff have come through gone out gotten other jobs. Rush silver went down to hurricane Katrina and worked and in that relief and then came back it was a property manager. And then he got the potential we could actually come back to be a counselor. And he would he came off the street I didn't know he's gonna make it using guided it it just was just so far gone I thought boy. I don't know what they're doing an intake anymore and now. He's through the whole process and he's a fabulous counselor and a great assets so. That that's good to see people and then. We we have some of the people. That have been through the process come back and volunteer. And I love that you know I just love to see an impeachment clocks. Or passion on to those who have gone through the process of a you'd find in their lives again to help out. You know just come back and and help out so well. Pay enough forward that's that's great yeah yeah. Absolutely something you mostly work with men is that true. No we have women and children that are out in Beaverton we have eighteen families send their right now and data is phenomenal work its. It's a bit or attempts. You know. I think it is if you have men and come off the street you can cobble them together into a program. And they become a band of Brothers and start working together real quickly and it it it's really good. And it's not all that complicated. But you know you can't women with kids and all of a sudden he got those kids and you got to look at they're needs. And if it's that becomes a lot more complicated a lot quicker if you know what I mean and so. We need extra staffing out our weapons that are Beaverton. Eight I wouldn't. Any change we opened that chatter about a year ago. Because some other places that helped women with kids has closed in Portland. We did it in an emergency. And because that's how or wired up and we're just wired to get help to where it's needed. It's been a tremendous sacrifice but I have absolutely no regrets doing that I mean it's been one of the most rewarding things to go in there concede those kids every time I go out there executed. Whose senate seat healing environments where he had been in or she had been in a pretty dangerous situation. So I don't know what could be more rewarding and and so I love it. New findings some success in breaking that cycle. Yeah absolutely. You know there are a lot of people were highly motivated if you give them a chance. Two move off the streets and into a new life and those are the people we just don't understand it can't. Do everything you can't help. The trade bull before we wrap up here to tell us again about the Thanksgiving goings on a few new gospel mission. Q once again we're doing a huge meal we're talking about 15100 people come in here imagine 15100 people come to be your son thinks Gibson. So ladies what we do what we'd love for you to do. Is to go on online and two. Dual paper Turkey by Turkey for a Circor sponsors some meals. War. You can in this Thanksgiving season we will lead the room volunteers. And helpers. To get us through the winner. If you wanna come and help out on not that would be great. That the best place to start really is to either caller on line. Because all of our our needs are catalog there and in a part of the leaders are so generous I don't have any doubt that wolf will. Get there and do really well but we're Gannett you know to get there we need help so. Debbie Debbie Debbie died you'd GM Portland dot ORG. Or call 503274. To give. That's 5032744483. That sounds great and they really hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving thank you so much appreciated. Bill Russell executive director union gospel mission thanks for being America's cup experience are it is. Yeah microscopes and Entercom communications public affairs program my name's Gary and if you have a nonprofit or public affairs organization that you'd like let others know about. You can email me at macro Scopes @entercom.com. Remember inter com starts with a B four you can go directly to the station's website click on the community link and submit your information there. Also we like to hear this program again you can visit our podcast page at microscope PDX dot com. Thanks for listening to microscopes and enjoy your weekend.