From Darsey, a staff member of Portland Rescue Mission:
I walked out the front door of Burnside Shelter to a clear, bright evening. I volunteer with some women to wash the feet of homeless women on Monday nights at Liberation Street Church, just across the street from the Mission, and we were heading over.
As I got outside, I saw Evarardo standing at our door, waiting to come in for dinner.
“Evarardo! Did you get your pictures?” I asked, excited.
I waved the other women on so that I could talk to him. I’d taken Evarardo’s picture sometime last year. Since he’s only at the Mission sporadically, I hadn’t been able to get prints to him, so eventually I just mailed his prints to his sister in Beaverton.
“Yeah, yeah, my sister, she got them,” Evarardo confirmed, smiling and nodding shyly. “She got them at her house. See? I have one in my wallet.” He pulled out a crumpled photo of himself that he’d obviously carried around a while. “Thank you for sending them.”
“Well I’m glad you got them,” I finished. “Sorry I took so long.”
Evarardo did a half jump, as if something leapt in his stomach. “I was on TV,” he explained, “for the Mission.” He pointed to our logo at the front door of the shelter.
“You were? Recently?” I gulped, offered a smile, and tried to read his expression.
It’s a tough thing, taking a photo of a street guest at our Mission with the possibility of using the image for our fundraising. While it’s those pictures—the honest faces, the tired spirits, the dirty clothes—that connect our donors to the heartbeat of homelessness, I know I’m asking a lot of someone when I take a picture of them in such a low state. On the street with Evarardo, I feign positivity while I desperately hope he’s not upset about being on TV.
“Oh yeah,” I confirm, recalling our recent TV efforts. “We used you on some Spanish TV commercials. Was that it?”
“Yes,” he confirmed, “for the Mission.”
He paused. “My family saw it. And they found me.”
“In Beaverton?” I asked, assuming the rest of his family is near his sister, where I sent his pictures.
I couldn’t read his mood. Happy? Sad? Frustrated? Embarrassed? I had no idea, but I couldn’t fake my positivity any more. We’ve had a few guests get upset over using their image in the past, some even asking for compensation, and I had to know that my relationship with Evarardo wouldn’t be spoiled by that.
“So, that’s a good thing?” I asked, sheepishly.
“Yeah!” he laughed. “It’s good! They found me, and now I get to go home.”
“You’re going to live with them in Beaverton?” I clarified.
“Yeah, they came to the Mission and picked me up, and now I get to go home.”
Evarardo didn’t explain more about his family, or why he was at our shelter still that night, but I could tell he was genuinely happy to reconnect to his community.
“And I got my Green Card!” he continued. He pointed over the Burnside Bridge behind me. “Someone took me to an office over the bridge to get my Green Card back!” He pulled out his temporary Green Card from his wallet. “They’ll mail the real one to me soon.”
“You got your Green Card?” I confirmed. “That’s great!”
“Yes! That’s why I was on the streets in the first place! Now I got it back! So thank you,” Evarardo repeated.
“And you know,” he looked at me. “You can take my picture any time, because good things happened when you did.”
I laughed and thank Evarardo for sharing his story.
It’s funny—we work so hard at the Mission to get people back on their feet, and more importantly, to offer them the love of Christ so that they can move forward with a hope and a joy that no other human can provide. As hard as we try, some people never seem to internalize the message. Some fervently resist it.
But every now and then, we hardly even have to do anything. God just does His work. He can use one small thing – a photo – that can turn a life back in a better direction.