The contents of the linked article (below) will not surprise anyone who regularly worships at Grace Bible Church. (I recall, as a paramedic in downtown Portland during the mid-1980’s when mental health facilitates and state supported hospitals were shutting down, being privatized, etc., and there were soon increased numbers of those who suffered mental illnesses who ended up living on the streets. It was sudden, and noticeable, from my perspective.) I don’t have the exact answers to the problem of untreated mental illness, esp. as it effects our neighborhood–and it doesn’t appear that our city and cultural leaders do, either. But perhaps a good start to the road to finding those answers lays in simply practicing our faith as we best see fit: praying, caring for people, protecting people, and advocating for the people around us at 12th and Clay St.
Also, it seems good to start educating ourselves to this issue of mental illnesses, esp. in our context, and the relation of mental illness to homelessness, with all of its related problems and challenges. No matter what our giddy real estate market of Portland says, or our zealous, idealistic tourism industry–mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction, and public safety are critical issues in our downtown community that are increasing, daily, causing great concern to downtown residents and businesses, bringing much challenge to our church, and effecting the livability and shalom of our community (and all communities that face the issue) . . . and the issue seems a long, long way from being resolved.
The relation of homelessness, mental illness, and (I have observed) addiction is complex, frustrating, and usually heartbreaking. People who do not have homes are not dangerous, lawbreaking types that anyone should fear. In a recent bible study class at Grace, I asked, “How many of us have ever been without a home, and out on the streets?” A half dozen members raised their hands. People who live with mental illnesses are not crime-prone, or dangerous, either. Especially with the advent of quality mental health care, and amazing medications–there are amazing stories of redemption, healing, and restoration all around us–and yes, especially our church. But I feel we need to start putting more effort into understanding the complexities, as best we can, so we can best represent our dear Lord in the midst of them. For a start, here’s an article that I found very concerning, and informative related to the issue of mental health care in Oregon. Please continue to pray, to reach out, and to advocate for the health and safety of every person in our neighborhood, whether they have homes or not, share our faith, or attend our church.
Also, please remember to pray for the safety and wellness of our Police Officers. I’ve met with them regarding this issue, and am time and again impressed with their professionalism and patience . . . and also, the tremendous burden and stress they work under each day. If you would like to volunteer to help out with our Rest Stop at Grace Bible Church–which provides a safe place for officers to relax and recharge during their shifts, please get in touch with me or with Michael Glanz. And if you are interested in helping out with the many ministries in our neighborhood that serve those who do not have homes, or who are in need of food, I can introduce you to those wonderful people, too!