Union Gospel Mission - Helping People In Need For Over 90 Years

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Union Gospel Mission - Helping People In Need For Over 90 Years
by Jack Kerfoot

Union Gospel Mission has been helping the homeless in Portland, since 1927. Bill Russell, Executive Director of the Mission was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to help me gain more insight into Portland's homeless crisis.


The original Union Gospel Mission was located at 15 NW Third Avenue. In 2007, the original facilities were expanded to include the current "Life Change Center." In 2013, the Mission opened the "Life Change Center for Women and Their Children" in Beaverton.


The Union Gospel Mission provides over 250,000 meals a year to the homeless and people in need in the Portland metropolitan area. The Life Change programs provide a Christ-centered recovery community that is designed to transform lives and break people free from addiction and destructive life patterns.


As Bill guided me through the Mission, he explained that their Life Change program can only take a maximum of 50 men. The Life Change program is designed around the specific needs of each person. It takes at least one and up to three years for a person to successfully complete the program.


Work and sense of purpose are an essential component of the Life Change program. Everyone in the program does meaningful work in the Mission and are provided a bed, food and medical care. In Bill's opinion, addiction and mental illness are the primary reasons for the current homeless crisis in Portland.


Bill told me that one of the most successful homeless programs in the United States is "Haven for Hope" in San Antonio, Texas. This program is on a 22-acre campus and helps people rebuild their lives from destructive life patterns, transition into a job and finally into their own apartment off campus .


Once a person completes the Life Change program at the Mission, they move out, away from their support network. The loss of the support network increases the risk of the person falling back into old, destructive life patterns.


Bill explained that there are many advocates in Portland for a homeless facility, like Haven for Hope. Unfortunately, the Portland City Council believes that the high cost of housing is the primary reason for our city's homeless crisis. Bill explained that the homeless who are suffering from addiction or mental illness are not ready to move into independent housing, because affordable housing will not help them change their destructive behavior.


In the private sector, collaboration and effective coordination are essential for a successful operation. If Haven for Hope is recognized as one of the best homeless programs in the United States, why shouldn't Portland employ a similar model? Our City Council should seek to collaborate with the private sector, nonprofits and religious organizations to address our homeless crisis.


This article was reprinted with permission from Jack Kerfoot. Jack is a candidate for Portland Commissioner.


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