People need to know that we are here!

Sandra, 76 years old, bright, funny and warm…a joy to be around. She laughs and playfully teases as the Union Gospel Mission’s Search + Rescue daytime outreach buys her a replacement walker. Her previous walker’s wheels are worn out and broken from overuse. As Sandra talks with us, she sits in a 20-year-old Volvo station wagon, the car is well kept, but full of her belongings. Sandra has been living in her car for over a year.

She explains that she worked at an adult care facility, but after time her own disabilities prevented her from performing her job. Sandra also rented a room at the facility where she worked, so when she lost her job, she also lost her home. Her resources were drained, she soon resorted to sleeping in her car.


Mekeda, UGM’s Search + Rescue coordinator has been making regular visits to help Sandra with her everyday needs. Today she is helping her get a new walker and wash a load of laundry. At 76 years old, Sandra has a long list of ailments, she’s legally disabled.

Unfortunately, Sandra’s story is not an uncommon one here in Portland. We see the tents on the streets and in the fields, but there are many we don’t see. The homeless like Sandra that live in cars or in green spaces or even couch surfing, these are the people that Search + Rescue tries to reach. I ask Sandra if there is something she wants to tell people, and she wept as she said “People need to know that we are here!”


According to the 2019 Point-in-Time Count for Multnomah County From 2017 to 2019 there has been a 70% increase in homelessness in people age 70 and above. Higher medical, housing and food costs are driving some of our most vulnerable neighbors into homelessness.

Union Gospel Mission provides more than 250,000 meals a year to people in need. In addition to meals, the Mission provides food boxes, a day room with coffee and snacks, clothing, hygiene items, referral services and emergency cold weather shelter to people experiencing homelessness.


Union Gospel Mission is also home to the LifeChange program, a Christ-centered recovery community. Its purpose is to transform lives and break people free from addiction and destructive life patterns.

If you know of someone battling addiction or homelessness and they have had enough and are interested in a LifeChange, contact our Intake Coordinator at or 503-274-4483.

Keith Feher2 Comments