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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 21, 2008 11:41 AM. The previous post in this blog was Up from the plains. The next post in this blog is He did it again. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Monday, January 21, 2008

No day like today

A reader writes:

Due to the very cold weather, the Red Cross has set up a warming center at the Four Square Church at SE 14th & Ash for the past two nights, and are planning to be open every night this week. The warming center gives the outdoor poor a warm place to sleep and coffee and soup.

I stopped by last night and they are very low on some items. While they have plenty of coffee, they could really use hot chocolate packets, tea bags, instant oatmeal, instant soups- stuff like that. It would really be great if we could bring some of the needed items to the center. If you happen to be doing some grocery shopping today, perhaps you could toss something for the warming center into your basket. Donations can be dropped off at The Red Cross (if you need a receipt for taxes) or directly at the warming center.

This would be a great time to look through your closets and see if you have any unwanted or extra hats, gloves, scarves, blankets. These could also be given out at the center.

I was out last night giving away those foil emergency blankets to homeless campers, and it was brutally cold. The blankets are also something helpful you can buy as they weigh nothing and really keep body heat in. They are available at Andy & Bax for about $1.50. If you buy ten or more, there is a 10% discount. Andy & Bax also carry emergency sleeping bags with hoods, made from the same material, for $3.99. The emergency blankets are also available at Fred Meyer in the camping department.

UPDATE, 3:43 p.m.: The reader sends this update:

I just had a conversation with Mike Fish of the Red Cross today and they do not usually accept "spontaneous" donations at the site. They want to have the same items at each center for "continuity's sake". However, I have had such a huge positive response from people wanting to help, that we have come up with a plan.

What we have worked out is that I will be at the warming center at Four Square Church tonight from 7pm-9pm to accept donations and distribute them to people as they come in. I will also be out distributing space blankets, and hopefully hot drinks on my Foot Patrol route early tonight and maybe the next few nights. There are quite a lot of people still camping outside, and it's horribly cold. I can always use help on the Foot Patrol, * * * even for one night. It's really an eye-opener to be out there and talk to these people. They are so grateful for any help that it's a humbling experience (and a reality check for me!).

* * * * *

You can make a donation to the Red Cross directly, or sign up to volunteer (you will need to do a quick free on-line background check).

The volunteer shifts are:

Shift 1: 7pm-10:30pm (set up equipment, serve food/coffee, guests enter
at 8pm, lights out at 10pm)

Shift 2: 10pm-5:30am (monitor events through the night)

Shift 3: 5am-8:30am (wake up at 6am, serve more food/coffee, guests
leave by 7am, clean up facility)

The facilities are the Estate Hotel (225 NW Couch St), Cavalry Christian Church (126 NE Alberta), and the Foursquare Church (1303 SE Ankeny St.) They still need volunteers from Tuesday through Friday nights.

You can also contact Transition Projects (www.tprojects.org) for a list of places that can really use your donations.

Thanks so much for all of your positive input. I had just sent the "send" button on my computer and within a minute had a call from someone who is donating money to buy space blankets. Plus I've had lots and lots of emails with offers of food, etc. I'm so proud of your compassion and generosity -- showing once again that Buckman is a great neighborhood filled with great people!

Comments (15)

Thanks for the reminder. I'm going to go do this today. I've got a few old jackets and gloves that might do some good.

Now, not to be an ass, but those foil emergency blankets aren't worth 10 cents in the cold because they don't weigh enough to drape and lie still and retain heat. They're better for reflecting the sun in a desert. If you have any old jackets and heavy blankets that would be far better.

Before collecting and dropping off at a Red Cross center, be sure to check with them. Generally Red Cross does not distribute used items and homemade foods. They do good work but for quality and sanitation control have to meet certain regulations. Other agency's are equipped to handle those kind of donations.

Thanks to Jack and to the original writer who shared his/her thoughts on our emergency warming centers. Even though it's a new program, we've met with considerable success already, proving a warm, safe place for more than 150 guests last night. We anticipate surpassing that this evening.

Due to demand, we do sometimes run low on food at a given location, but we have ample stock in our warehouses and can always make a "Costco run" if needed. Likewise, we have plenty of blankets, cots and mats. While the idea of donating clothes and blankets is a very generous one, as dman said, the cleaning and storage of individually donated items is more than we can manage. There are plenty of other agencies that would greatly benefit from these donations.

Instead, we hope that people will consider offering their time as a volunteer. On MLK Day, this is the perfect time to think about equality, fair treatment for all and giving back to your community. If you're interested in volunteering at the warming centers, please feel free to call Mike Fish at 503-528-5699 or e-mail fishm@redcross-pdx.org.

Lise Harwin
Communications Director
Oregon Trail Chapter
American Red Cross

For a contrarians opinion:

I work outside in the same weather every day. Yesterday, I watched 60 guys doing their physical job at Green Bay for a couple of hours in short sleeves @ -3 degrees and a wind chill of -20.

The operable word here is WORK.

If people supplied any other items that made it easier to drop out of society, they would be called an enabler.

I too, used to donate sleeping bags and warm clothing...until I saw the disrepect most of our maladjusted have for goods and services they never worked for. Any bets on how long most of these recepients can be expected to care for these donated items?

It may sound harsh, but most of Portland's homeless would benefit from less free stuff, and more tough love.

Of course that would mean they would have to spend their panhandling money on food, clothing and shelter leaving precious little for cigarettes, beer and drugs.

Programs that get people OFF the street are worthy. Those that make it easier to drift aimlessly in an mind altered haze are worse than doing nothing.

You know JD, I used to feel more like you do. But I have lived in Buckman for over ten years and I see these people every day. There are ALL different types of people living on the streets, for all sorts of reasons. Last Saturday my friend who owns Maiden in the Mist found a man sleeping on her bench. He used to be a pharmacist, became a drug addict, lost everything. He's clean and sober now, but still homeless. She asked what she could do to help him and he asked her to just call his 82 year old mother in Florida and let her now he was okay. You NEVER know who is out there.
While I never give out money, I do little things on an individual level when I can.
I originally went out last night just to walk around the hood and let campers know about the warming center. I scrapped up enough money for 10 of those blankets and gave them out. You don't have to spend lot of money, as there is always something you can do to help someone and the smallest things can make a big difference in someone's life. I'm pretty poor myself, and could easily envision a scenario where I might become homeless. Lots of people are just one paycheck away from the street.

Shame on you. What a curmudgeon you are.

And I'll sign my name to my post.

Right after I read this original post I pulled together a few bags of hats, scarfs, jackets, oatmeal etc. all of the above mentioned items in need...I drove across town to donate and they accepted the items with a 'ok, put them over there in the corner' but now that I'm back and reading this I wonder if these items will be of any use at all...so very disappointing to read that my things may get tossed I could have given them to good will or eaten them myself!

Well, I am glad to hear there are many others willing to help...it's freezing out there.

Where did you leave the stuff -- at Four Square Church? I can contact our reader, who will make sure that the items go to good use. Just let me know where they were left. You can e-mail me here.

Just wanted to add one point of clarification, though it's probably unnecessary.

If you want to volunteer at the centers (which will likely be open more nights this week than just tonight), PLEASE call Mike at the number above for instructions and scheduling.

We need to make sure we have ample, but not unnecessary, staffing in all of the locations at all of the times. And there's a quick background check required of all volunteers as well.

Just wanted to make sure that people don't simply show up at the sites and bypass the volunteer process we've tried to put into place to make things effective and efficient!

- Lise

P.S. A quick observation -- many of the guests we served last night currently have jobs, just not homes. And the emergency warming shelters are not about getting people off the streets permanently -- they're simply about saving lives for those at risk of hypothermia, frostbite and even death.

It may sound harsh, but most of Portland's homeless would benefit from less free stuff, and more tough love.

Of course that would mean they would have to spend their panhandling money on food, clothing and shelter leaving precious little for cigarettes, beer and drugs.

Programs that get people OFF the street are worthy. Those that make it easier to drift aimlessly in an mind altered haze are worse than doing nothing.

At least City Council candidate has something to say today about poor schmucks freezing on the street:

http://amandafritzforcitycouncil.com/node/94


I wish the issue of homelessness were more of an issue in the city/county council races. It's shocking and saddening to see how many people are sleeping in stoops and pushing shopping carts around the city. I've traveled a lot in the US and abroad and am told that there are worse cities like LA, SF and Seattle, but frankly the problem in Portland is worse than any city I've seen. I don't know the answers, but it's obvious that something is terribly broken in our society that so many people can end up like this.

Lily, you make JD's point. This guy was a Pharmacist who became a drug addict and is now cured but still homeless! Give us all a break. I don't believe one word this guy told your friend. How about I used to be a doctor of proctology but I lost my pen during an exam and became so distressed I became homeless. Now I want you to give me free meals and a sleeping bag that I will sell to buy a new pen.

Actually Richard, he showed her his pharmacy ID card, and other ID because he didn't think she would believe him. He checked out. When you live around St. Francis you get pretty used to hearing all sorts of stories.

Both you and JD had better hope that if your worlds ever fall apart, the people you go to for help are a bit nicer and more understanding than you or JD. Wouldn't that be a great comeuppance, though?!

And, do you have any idea how expensive it has become to get an apartment in Portland? You need thousands of dollars just to move into most places.

Just a quick update. The Red Cross brought in a number of bags of things tonight that were brought to them today (I suspect from readers of this blog). Someone had gone to Target and bought 3 bags of hats and gloves! Everything was given out and is much appreciated. Thanks so much.

He used to be a pharmacist, became a drug addict, lost everything.

You know, your motive is noble. Good for you. But I have to ask, how does one "become" a drug addict? Its not spontaneous. Its not something you are born with. You make a decision to take those drugs. And being a pharmacist, knowing the drugs and what they can do, even less sympathy is deserved.
Im all for not letting people freeze. But lets be honest, when the weather isnt the problem, most of these people dont want help.
I get asked for money every day, and I dont give it either. I have offered coffee, a hamburger, bus ticket, etc. Only once has someone taken anything from me. They usually get all pissed and walk away.

But my favorite was one of the "homeless youth" downtown wearing a t-shirt that said "Will not work for anything."

Pretty much covers it.

I thought I had something to say to JD, but it really doesn't matter a hoot what he/she thinks about homeless or poor people. It does matter what we do about the problem. Wife and I have worked our whole lives at the same, really pretty good jobs, but reality is that the middle class is now extinct, and almost everyone we know is one payday from disaster.
Get out there and give aid to the poor. Period.
Try The Potluck In The Park program. They always need help.
Hit the bricks.
Talk is cheap.


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