A Surprise Ending
Living on the streets makes life hard but even harder under the streets! From riverbank to wharf level, so goods could be rolled straight onto ships, this has reflected the history of Portland since the building of Old Town. A true underworld existed under the wharves and streets laced with Shanghai tunnels. By the time I arrived in Portland in 1989, Shanghai kidnapping in the high seas had ceased, but lives shanghaied by the underworld of heroin raged.
A heroin haven took place under the Burnside Bridge until Mercy Corps and the University of Oregon's downtown campus reclaimed it.
After walking away from parole in California and relapsing back into drug abuse in 1990, Larry dove into life with the rest of the trolls under the Burnside Bridge. We would expect the story to end with an arrest with extradition, or overdose and death.
However, God writes surprise endings! Larry came to Union Gospel Mission for a meal and found a gold mine. He stumbled into a treasure far more valuable than a shipment of dope.
Larry found a new family, forgiveness and friends. He found hope.
I remember calling his parole officer, Ken. I actually had logic in my call and not just a plea for leniency. Why bring a guy back to California to face drug charges when he wanted into a fresh recovery group in Oregon? Why charge California taxpayers travel when Jesus could do the job here? Why lock him up when he was willing to lock himself in at the Mission? The logic apparently compelled because Ken said, “Yes,” and Larry stayed.
UGM Street Stories are by Executive Director at Union Gospel Mission, Bill Russell. Bill has been a leader at Union Gospel Mission for 25 years. He is the co-founder of Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange recovery program. LifeChange helps men, women and children escape abuse, addiction and homelessness to transform their lives.
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