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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Portland (OR) Rescue Mission Wants Your Winter Coats and Sweaters ... Unless You're Gay

By Michael A. Jones -

It's the holiday season, which means the spirit of gift giving is in the air. What better way to spread some good cheer than giving back to an organization fighting homelessness?
That's exactly what some folks in Portland, Oregon wanted to do. A local performer, Jeffrey Darling, was getting ready to organize the city's fourth annual Queer Christmas Holiday Bash, and reached out to the Portland Rescue Mission to see if they might be interested in sponsoring a coat-and-sweater drive at the event. The response Darling got from Portland Rescue Mission staffer Brian Merrell?
Sorry, we don't work with queers to fight poverty or homelessness.
Darling told the Portland Mercury that the folks at the Portland Rescue Mission were worried that their donors, many of whom are religious, would stop giving to the Mission if they found out that LGBT people were involved.
"[The Mission is a] faith-based organization and there was some concern with how it might come across to some of our donors," Merrell told Darling via a voicemail.
So to keep track. The Portland Rescue Mission, which has a mission statement including "a tireless commitment to breaking the cycle of homelessness," does not want to work in partnership with LGBT festivals or organizations to break the cycle of homelessness. So fighting poverty and homelessness has now become a battle only straight people can wage?
To their credit, the Portland Rescue Mission has accepted an offer put forward by a local activist, Rev. Chuck Currie, to have a sit down meeting with Basic Rights Oregon, to discuss why their decision "might be hurtful to the gay and lesbian community." That's a start to rectifying this situation, which from all sides is pretty tragic.
The holiday season is about giving. That's exactly what the Queer Christmas Holiday Bash was hoping to do by reaching out to the Portland Rescue Mission. It's a shame they were refused the opportunity to help. Homelessness and poverty are something we should all be interested in alleviating. If we can't find common ground and work together in this space, what does that say about how committed organizations like the Portland Rescue Mission are to really living out their mission to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty?

 petition text -
Please work with LGBT organizations to fight homelessness

Dear Portland Rescue Mission,

I recently became aware that your organization decided to not work with a gay-themed holiday festival to hold a sweater-and-coat drive to fight homelessness and poverty. What a sad message this sends, not only to those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but also to those who are homeless or struggling with poverty.

We all, gay and straight alike, should be in the fight to combat poverty and homelessness. I understand that you are an organization with religious values, but those values should not prohibit you from working with others of different faiths, creeds, sexual orientations, gender identities or races.

Please reconsider this decision. During this holiday season, we should all be in the spirit of giving, and working to stave off homelessness.

Thank you for your time.

[Your name here]


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts regarding Portland Rescue Mission's decision to not sponsor the Queer Quistmas event coming up in a few weeks.

    Please note that this was a sponsorship decision, not a decision to decline the much-needed and useful contribution of blankets and winter outerwear. We were willing to accept the donations, but the organizer has chosen to direct the gifts elsewhere. Fortunately, they will still benefit the homeless people of the Portland community who we serve every day at Portland Rescue Mission.

    Our decision to decline the sponsorship was primarily based on the urgency of a decision (the event is Dec. 20) and our inability to provide all the benefits that the organizer/event would require. Unfortunately, the organizer took this to the media and it understandably took on a life of its own.

    We regret the confusion that this issue has created in our local community and the greater community of LGBT concerns. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.