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See what Night Strike is all about! [VIDEO]

Just thought you might like to see what Night Strike looks like on any given Thursday night.

Check this video out:

(Helios is the son of the God of Heaven

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Causes of Homelessness

clothing station“Why are people homeless?”

My friend Adam asked me this question on Facebook last week.

Portland Rescue Mission, a non-profit Bridgetown Inc. partners with, has a list of “10 Causes of Homelessness.”  Here is what they have to say:

1. Addiction
Probably the most common stereotype of chronically homeless people is that they are drug and alcohol addicts — with good reason. 68% of U.S. cities report that addiction is a their single largest cause of homelessness.  “Housing First” initiatives are well intentioned, but can be short-sighted. A formerly homeless addict is likely to return to homelessness unless they deal with the addiction. Treatment programs are needed that treat the root causes of addiction and help men and women find a way back home.

I totally agree with this statement.  From my experience, most of our guests under the Bridge struggle with addictions to alcohol, meth and black-tar heroin.  While this seems like a daunting issue, there is hope.  Bridgetown has partnerships with multiple different recovery agencies here in Portland making it easier for guest to get into treatment every night under the Bridge.

2. Domestic Violence
Nationally, 50% of homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.  When a woman is abused, she faces a crisis of safety. If she stays in the home, she’ll be beaten again. If she leaves, she’ll have little means of support. Either choice is a tremendous risk. Choosing homelessness over abuse is both a brave and frightening decision.

Again, I don’t see the women and children who stay at home and live with abuse.  But I do see the women who show up under the Bridge, spending their first night on the streets because staying at home is too risky.  Being able to direct them to women’s shelters around Portland is key before these women end up being abused on the streets.

3. Mental Illness
6% of the American population suffers from mental illness. In the homeless population, that number jumps to 20-25%.* Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self care and household management. Without assistance, these men and women have little chance of gaining stability.

Honestly, I would probably rate this as the number two issue for homelessness in Portland.  I think this statistic feeds into the fear that the homeless community is a dangerous one.  However, helping guests get treatment, see doctors and counselors is a great way to combat this issue.  Being able to invest in someone’s life and routinely check in with them helps keeps people healthy.

4. Job Loss and Underemployment
The current downtown in the economy has many Americans barely getting by financially. Many are underemployed at wages that can’t sustain them. Layoffs and job cuts leave individuals and families in desperate circumstances. Unemployment benefits and savings run out, leaving people homeless who never thought it could happen to them.

Add the fact that a Guest has just gotten out of prison or an addiction recovery program makes it even harder for a person to find employment.  I just learned this: there are over 600 collateral consequences in the state of Oregon for fellons, making it even harder for them to gain employment.

5. Foreclosure
Even people who have jobs are finding themselves upside down with their mortgages. From 2008 to 2009, foreclosures jumped by 32%. A 2009 survey estimates that as many as 10% of people seeking help from homeless organizations do so due to foreclosure.

I didn’t start volunteering under the Bridge until 2011.  But I do talk to a bunch of people who have lost their homes.  If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, a big medical bill or job loss can definitely be the cause of ending up on the streets.

6. Post-Traumatic Stress
One any given night, as many as 200,000 military veterans sleep on the street.  The percentage of veterans with post-traumatic stress is growing among those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Adapting to “normal life” back in the U.S. is proving to be extremely difficult for the men and women who have served us. Unable to cope, some choose to leave homes, loved ones and jobs behind for homelessness and/or addiction.

This is a sad, but true statement.  There are a bunch of Veterans under the Bridge.  Personally, I think it’s really unacceptable that people who have fought so hard for our freedom end up as outcasts on the street.

7. Throw Away Teens
Homeless teens often become so due to family conflicts. They’re kicked out or choose to run away over issues of drug/alcohol addiction, physical abuse, sexual orientation or teen pregnancy. Mental illness can play a significant role in teen homelessness just as it does in adults. Teens in foster care often end up on the street after they “age-out” of the system at age 18, a sad situation in which many feel alone or abandoned.

This is another statement that just breaks my heart.  Foster children age out and end up on the streets.  Teens choosing to leave abusive families end up on the streets.  Such a hard way to start life, on the streets and underage.

8. Relational Brokenness
A homeless person is most often a deeply hurting person. By the time they come to a homelessness organization for help, they’ve burned through every supportive relationship possible. Friends and family are no longer able or willing to help, leaving the homeless man or woman very much alone. What relationships they have are usually predatory. In a sense, their situation is less about homelessness and more about unwantedness. A significant barrier to recovery often lies in the ability to restore trust and maintain healthy relationships.

I can’t stress this enough.  This is exactly why Night Strike is so successful.  We are faithful in showing up and loving people regardless of their circumstances, week after week after week.  Repairing and rebuilding relationships is what we do best.

9. Grief
It’s not uncommon to discover that the men and women in the Portland Rescue Mission recovery program are burdened by grief. Unable to deal with the death of a loved one or other significant trauma, they numb their pain in addiction. Addiction and apathy lead to the loss of job and home. They simply stop caring if they live or die. Grief becomes a roadblock to living.

This statement is so true.  Lots of our guests stories start with an overwhelming sense of grief.  A loss family member, the end of a relationship or a situation of physical, emotional, mental or sexual abuse that makes it almost impossible for that person to move on in life.  Providing a place to sit and talk through these issues, get addicts into recovery, victims into counseling is key in regaining hope again.

10. Despair
“Once you get down this low, it’s hard to get back up,” we often hear homeless men and women say. The longer they are homeless, the more difficult it becomes to combat the lies they hear in their heads. They believe there’s no way out. They don’t deserve another chance. They’ll never break free from addiction. They’ll always be a failure. More than anything, these men and women need hope.

Amen!  It’s amazing what respect, eye contact, a listening ear and a smile can do to someone’s self-esteem.  I see you.  I hear who you are.  I care about you and think your amazing.  Regardless of your junk, your addictions, your past.  You deserve more than to be ignored on the streets.

How you can help?

1.  Come volunteer at Night Strike!  Provide a listening ear and have the opportunity to speak truth into some’s live.  You can combat relational brokenness, grief and despair by just being present.

2.  Consider hiring an ex-addict or fellon.  There are great programs to invest in people.  For example, M25 Ventures.

3.  Donate to help fund a mobile medical clinic here in Portland.  We’ll be able to help more people get into treatment, see doctors and get counseling with it.

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Open Letter for Support

Dear friends and family,

As many of you know, I’ve been volunteering with a homeless outreach mission for almost two years now. While Portland, Oregon is still “home” to the largest per capita homeless population in the United States , I’ve found tangible ways to make a difference. Night Strike is an opportunity for members of Portland’s homeless community to receive relief, dignity, and transformation through loving relationships.  It has gotten me into the business of transforming lives.  I see beauty in the broken and hope for the hopeless.

Gary and I

Gary and I

People like Los, who was released from prison and showed up under the bridge because he had no place to go. He is now working full time.  Or Gary, who is celebrating 100+ days of sobriety. He went from being homeless to participating in a rehab program, and then got a job and has now bought a car.  He’s no longer homeless but he still comes to Night Strike to check on his friends, say “hi”, and continue to spread hope.

I’d like to invite you to be part of this hope as well.  After a decade of working within the city, Night Strike has seen a need to provide medical care for the homeless population.  To meet this need, we’re building a mobile medical clinic that would provide services including medical, dental, veterinarian, ID procurement as well as training for volunteers to walk with our guests through the process of personal transformation.  I’m on a mission to make this happen.  $27,000 by August 27, 2013.  Want to join me on this mission?

I am asking for your support in making a tangible difference in the homeless community in Portland.  You can help in following ways to make this mobile medical clinic happen:
·      Tax-deductible donations
·      In-kind donations
·      Prayers
Just click on any of the links within this email and select “Beyond the Bridge” as the purpose of the gift.

If you live in Portland or are coming to visit, I’d love to have you come volunteer with me under the bridge.  This is an open invitation.  I’m also blogging about this experience at BeyondtheBridgePDX.org and strongly encourage you to check it out and share with your friends and family.

Night Strike Boys Team

Night Strike Boys Team

Thanks in advance for your thoughtfulness and generosity!  If you have any additional questions, feel free to reply to this email, and I’d love to answer them as best I can.

With an overflowing heart,

Jenna Forstrom

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