By Amy Sutton /// Staff Writer
According to the 2013 Point-in-Time count, there were 3,000 homeless people living in Portland last year. Of 3,000, nearly 2,000 were unsheltered, sleeping in cars, abandoned buildings or on the streets. Furthermore, less than 1,000 were actually able to find a bed in an emergency shelter.
Portland is known for its large homeless population. People can be seen lining up every evening outside the mission on the West side of the Burnside Bridge, in hopes of finding a place to sleep. However, not all of them are successful. Operation Nightwatch works to assist those who don’t make it into a shelter.
Operation Nightwatch is a non-profit organization that works with students from Lewis & Clark to provide comfort to Portland’s homeless population. It isn’t a shelter, but a place for homeless people to go in the evenings for a warm cup of coffee and emotional support. In addition, they also provide food, clothing and medical care for those who need it. Currently, they are raising money to provide beds as well.
“It isn’t a shelter, but a place for homeless people to go in the evenings for a warm cup of coffee and emotional support.”
On Jan. 21, Operation Nightwatch distributed 68 beds to homeless people around the city, and is now aiming to do it again. The organization has set a goal to raise $5,000 dollars by March 31 to buy fifty Backpack Beds. So far, they have raised $1,660, and been able to buy sixteen $110 beds.
Backpack Beds were created by the Australian com- pany Swags for Homeless, and are essentially exactly what they sound like––a bed and backpack in one. The beds roll out of the packs to form a protective tent for sleeping at night, and collapse during the day into a bag which can be used to store belongings. This allows the user to sleep in peace, knowing that both they themselves, as well as their belongings, are safe.
The creators of Backpack Beds, Tony and Lisa Clark, hoped their sheltered beds could allow the homeless to retain some of the dignity they lose from sleeping on the streets. Operation Nightwatch began as a street ministry in 1981, and eventually opened a hospital- ity center. They are a member of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and while they run through a coalition of churches, their mission is not an evange- listic one; they simply want to provide comfort. In addition to medical care and clothing, Operation Nightwatch hosts monthly birthday parties and game nights for the homeless.
The organization is expanding, too. Their original hospitality center was downtown, but in December of 2011 they opened a second center in Southeast Portland, and in January they opened a third center in North Portland. Not only that, but they also have a Mobile Hospitality Center that travels around the city to places where the homeless gather.
“Every dollar counts, and not only provides the promise of sweet, but also safe dreams.”
Operation Nightwatch depends on volunteers and donations to make a difference in the well-being of Portland’s homeless. They aim to provide both physical and spiritual com- fort to the people who need
it the most. They have $3,340 more to raise and just over two weeks to meet their goal. Every dollar counts, and promises not only sweet, but also safe dreams.