National News

Portland man working to make a difference in lives of homeless

Posted November 6, 2017 1:02 p.m. EST

— The change of season can pose some serious challenges for local homeless people. As the days get darker and the temperatures get colder, one Portland man is working to make life a little brighter for those in need.

Nestled underneath the Hawthorne Bridge in downtown Portland every Sunday, hundreds gather to share a meal. Many are good friends, and some perfect strangers.

Bruce Arnold is one of the leaders of Home PDX, and even though he's a pastor, he says it's not about church. It's about relationship. and his goal is to make a difference in the city he loves.

"Yes, people need food. Yes, they need shelter. But as far as I'm concerned, the number one need is someone to say, 'You're worth something.' My goal is to go around to people face-to-face and treat them just like family," Arnold said.

Arnold spends his week getting to know his PDX family, many of which live on the streets.

"Tuesday, we have burritos at Pioneer Square, Wednesday morning is the coffee run, and there's no spiel, no strings attached, just 'good morning,'" he said.

When they're not serving food, they help with whatever is needed – from helping someone get an ID, to helping them find a hot shower and clean clothes.

Arnold says sometimes you see the biggest impact from the smallest gestures.

"We had a girl with us, a retired sex worker, a prostitute that got too old for the system … I looked her right in the eyes and said, 'You are worth so much more than that,'" Arnold said. "Nine months later, right here under this bridge, this businesswoman showed up in high heels and a dress. I didn't recognize her at first. She said, 'I came back to say thank you.' That one comment started a switch in her, she got housing and she got a job."

As the group prepares to head into its 12th winter in Portland, Arnold knows he's not the solution to the city's homeless crisis. But he knows he can help a homeless person in crisis have a better day, with a hot meal and so much more.

"It's not so much thank you for the food, but thank you for treating me like a human being," he said.

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