A guest post by Alexa Mason*
Tears flowed as Don read the words written on his notebook over and over again. He was preparing to share about Emma, his wife of 14 years.
Hunched over in his seat, with his head in his hands, it was easy to see the pain Don felt. And he wasn’t alone. Throughout the room were somber, tear-stained faces as the reality of Emma’s death sunk in.
I met Emma through Portland Rescue Mission’s women’s ministry. Every Wednesday, the Mission hosts an evening of tender care for homeless women. We wash and massage their feet, offer coffee, cookies and conversation. It’s an opportunity to share the Gospel and listen to the needs of our guests as we pray for each other. Emma was a regular visitor who always greeted us with a big smile that brightened up the entire room. She struggled with homelessness, addiction and mental illness; yet in the midst of suffering, she sought the hope of Christ and displayed an infectious joy that will be missed.
Recently, Emma’s condition worsened. Several weeks ago, Emma, 45, was found unresponsive after overdosing on pills mixed with her medication. She is survived by her husband, two adult children, and a community that loved her.
A memorial service was held at Portland Rescue Mission’s Burnside Shelter where Mission staff, homeless guests and others from the community joined together to celebrate Emma’s life. Through tears and laughter, attendees shared their favorite stories of Emma. Together, we fondly remembered how Emma blessed so many through her generosity and thoughtfulness. From giving her last dollar to a stranger in need to serving as a protective mother to other homeless women, Emma always lifted the spirits of those around her.
Emma’s life and unfortunate passing is a powerful reminder of the dangers of homelessness and addiction.
Every day, nearly two thousand people, just like Emma, experience homelessness in our community. The need is great, and for many people, it is life threatening. According to Multnomah County’s Domicile Unknown Report, at least one person died every week while living on the streets in 2012, sobering evidence that no person is safe from the dangers of living on the streets.
But there is hope. Thanks to the compassionate support of community members like you, Portland Rescue Mission offers a wide variety of services ranging from meals and shelter to robust addiction recovery that leads to total life transformation. Your partnership helps break the cycle of homelessness, and together we can end homelessness and addiction – one person at a time.
*Alexa works as Portland Rescue Mission’s Public Relations Specialist