Portland's Homeless Crisis: An Update from Bill Russell, Executive Director

Dear Friends, If you have been following the news regarding homelessness in Portland, you have probably heard Union Gospel Mission mentioned in The Oregonian (click here to read) and in other news stories as well.

Portland is facing a homeless crisis. We need both short term and long term compassionate solutions. Union Gospel Mission has been serving the homeless in Portland for nearly 90 years. In facing this crisis, we know we need to work together to create a solution for our community.

We have been listening to Portland real estate developer Homer Williams and his vision for the Oregon Trail of Hope Center, based on a successful model in San Antonio, Texas. We have been listening to community homeless advocates, like Ibrahim Mubarak, and hearing how we might compassionately care for those who are homeless.

On Wednesday, August 10, the City Council approved the use of a warehouse at 2400 NW Front Avenue, which could potentially house 400 people in temporary shelter.

During this process, we have looked at how Union Gospel Mission could collaborate in this effort and bring our knowledge and ability to care for people on the margins to contribute to a solution. We are talking with Homer Williams and others to formulate and agree to what type of involvement Union Gospel Mission can make a commitment to carrying out.

Any time you tackle a difficult situation there is controversy and many competing priorities at work. Our priority at Union Gospel Mission remains this: meeting basic needs and caring for those on the margins, who are homeless, hungry, and hopeless.

“ For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” Matthew 25:35. This scripture remains a guide star to our work at Union Gospel Mission.

If you have questions, thoughts or feedback, please email them to Union Gospel Mission’s general email at info@ugmportland.org.

Blessings, Bill Russell




Bill Russell is executive director at Union Gospel Mission. He is the co-founder of the LifeChange recovery program and has been a leader at Union Gospel Mission since 1989.