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Stories from Staff

A Step Toward Trust

From Jan, a staff member of Portland Rescue Mission:

We now have a short history with Audrey. She has been a regular visitor at our Monday evening outreach meetings for homeless women. We always know she’s coming as we hear her chattering voice before we see her.

Though Audry is young, she is a veteran to the streets. But she hasn’t lost her engaging personality. She’s made the streets her home and seems happy with that decision, though she would say otherwise. Audrey talks about entering a long term program, but giving up smoking would be too much of a sacrifice.

How can a homeless woman afford cigarettes? Audrey finds a way to get free smokes. It’s called “snipe hunting”, a common practice among homeless smokers. They find cigarette butts, empty the left over tobacco into a bag, then roll their own when enough has been collected. This takes time, patience and skill.

At a recent all-day event for homeless women, Audrey showed up, had lunch, got clean dry clothes, then headed downstairs for a shower, haircut and foot massage. She scoped the room as if in search of something. Her eyes fell on me.

“Jan,” she said, “hold this for me while I take a shower.” It was her bag of tobacco and wraps. Hold contraband? Hold cigarettes? How could she ask you to do that?

Actually it wasn’t about cigarettes. It was about relationship. I was elated! She asked me to hold her treasure. Audrey trusted me. I held onto it for dear life (and her shower took forever) as I sat there with tobacco and wraps in my lap.

It’s the small tokens of friendship that are earned by having a consistent presence on the streets of Portland. Every Monday night, our team shows up to massage feet and just listen.

These women are lonely as they survive the dark cold nights or walk miles during the days. Lonely for others who care and who can be trusted to do comforting, safe and pure touch.

After weeks they begin to call out our names or ask for us when they have a need. Sometimes they even ask us to hold their treasures.

What an honor to build relationship with those who have been deemed unlovely by society. Society has no idea how incredibly gifted and loving they can be. God knows and cares. We stand on His behalf to these whom He has deemed His treasure.