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Burnside Shelter

Portland Rescue Mission throws a ‘Birthday Party for the Homeless,’ and it’s a blast

With Shari’s Pies aplenty, karaoke music blaring, friendly conversation bubbling and a whole lot of fun and camaraderie, Portland Rescue Mission threw a “Birthday Party for the Homeless” at our Burnside Shelter. And by all accounts, it was a resounding success.

For far too many people in Portland and the surrounding areas, homelessness is a cruel and unfortunate reality. Whether through job loss and underemployment, or because of deep-seeded grief and/or utter despair, there are many reasons men and women end up in a destructive cycle of homelessness and addiction. (Find out more about what some of the leading causes are here: PortlandRescuemission.org/Learn/). And it’s for these reasons and more that we take this opportunity each year to give them hope and make their “birthday” extra special. Our birthday party may have been one of the first times in years they’ve been remembered and celebrated. 

James was thrilled to be a part of it. “I loved the pie, the people here, the fun and conversation. Everything today makes me happy and brings me joy,” he explained. “It’s so nice to be able to get off the streets and be recognized. You guys went out of your way to make the people here feel special.”

For CeeCee, on top of just the rare opportunity to celebrate her birthday, the party gave her a chance to reflect on something even greater. She talked about her three birthday wishes—something that brought with it a wave of emotions.

“I’ve already seen most of them come true … God watching over my family, God’s grace on my life and God’s guidance for the future of me and my son. I feel pretty blessed.”

Immersed in a beautiful art project for much of the party, Ben took a break to share his three wishes too. He prefaced it by pausing for a moment and then saying, “You know, I’m going to be ok.” He continued and gave his three birthday wishes. “I want to find work I am passionate about, I want to stay plugged into my Bible and keep growing in my faith, and I want to maximize the potential that God gave me, and do something I’m good at for Him.”

The festivities kicked off at 2 p.m., when the Guest Care Center normally opens up for showers. All throughout the Burnside Shelter, music filled the air before Mt. Olivet Baptist Church brought the roof down and closed out the party with some Gospel music before dinner.

homeless veteran, burnside shelter, portland rescue mission

Kirk poses for a photo reading “War and Peace.”

Kirk, a veteran experiencing homelessness, said he’s spent time in Louisiana, Texas, Oregon and Washington. He was impressed and grateful for Portland Rescue Mission. “I’ve never seen a Mission or shelter that’s thrown such a nice party. I took an interesting and unique photo of me reading ‘War and Peace’ (I’m on page 1100) with my stuff to give the Mission for their scrapbook as a thank you.”

John, another birthday guest, and one of the regulars in the karaoke rotation said it was the “best party I’ve been to all year long.”

And thanks to you and your hearts for giving hope, not only were we able to throw a party for all the men, women and children, but we were able to give every single guest at dinner a card from someone thinking about them on their “birthday” this year. Join us again next year when we get the privilege of celebrating the lives of the people we serve.


If you have a heart for men, women and children suffering from homelessness and addiction, make sure to fill out an application to volunteer and serve at the Mission or check out our current job openings. You can also donate financially to the Mission to help us fund our New Life Ministry at The Harbor (for men) and Shepherd’s Door (for women and children) and/or our Hope Ministries at the Burnside Shelter.