Sometimes out on the street it’s hard to see the little glimmers of hope shining through the cracks of the suffering. It’s easy to see the people either comatose or crazy from smoking spice, it’s impossible not to share the pain of loss when yet another member of the community dies from overdose, and it’s difficult to miss the morning self-medicating that allows people to get through another day. Sometimes you have to squint a bit to see the silver lining.
Thankfully, there are other days when hope gets all in your face like a puddle splash from a passing
dumptruck on a busy street. This gaudy, audacious kind of hope surfaced last month when the young
people at the Eastpoint Church summer bible camp had a contest to see who could bring in the most
socks for the homeless (with the winning group deciding the color their youth pastor would dye his
Not only did the kids donate 1,000 pairs of socks to Grace-Street, but their now green-bearded pastor
told me stories of kids driving through Portland, pointing out the window and saying “I bet that guy has
a nice pair of socks. I’m so glad we could help him. It must be hard to be homeless”. Or perhaps the
most touching was the story of young girl who had lost a tooth and informed her parents that “now that
I’ll have some money from the tooth fairy, I can buy more socks for homeless people”.
Like I said, the miracles are sometimes subtle. And sometimes there as loud as a brass band, as bright as
a shooting star and as full of hope as a new dawn.
Heartfelt thanks to all who help.
September 26, 2016
July 14, 2016
July 2016 Blog Update
Mid-Summer! and so far it’s on again/off again between Congress and Oxford streets and down Preble and all the side streets where Grace-Street Ministry works. First hot and humid is on then off, then dark and dank, then bright and clear.
When you’re comfortably housed and well transported, you just turn the ac on or off and it’s another good Maine summer of work and play and family, and maybe there’s a week at the beach in view. When you’re homeless and your transport is by foot, daytime you sweat, shiver, and pray for more depending on whether it’s hot and humid, dark and dank, or bright and clear. Nighttime you sleep in a crowded shelter or outdoors under a bridge or a doorway, in a park or an alley, or in the woods.
If you’ve chosen the wrong friends, there is one substance or another to numb your senses and suspend the despair you feel mounting inside you. If you’ve chosen well, you’ve at least got each other’s backs. Against what? against having everything you carry stolen, your wallet or purse and all your money and id and prescriptions; against assault, physical, sexual, psychological; against aloneness and vulnerability.
What do you have when you are homeless then? Nothing? Well no, not entirely. You have the hope and the fortitude, the faith and the friends you can muster. You have the multiple services offered by Preble Street: the Resource Center and Soup Kitchen; the men’s, women’s, families, and teen shelters; the allied Health centers; and the Amistad day shelter and lunchroom.
And you have three pastors from Grace-Street Ministry working a 52-week Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday schedule, and each of them sooner or later is going to say Hello? Need a pair of socks? Everything okay? Then they’re going to listen and, depending, ask something like Where’d you get that bruise? What’s your shoe size? Got a case worker? Great you got that job, bus pass help? 15$ cover the rental app? Want us to call the landlord? Can you cover that prescription? What about getting a GED? When’s your appointment at Mercy? How are you planning on getting back to North Carolina? Would a prayer help? A food card?
So yes, it’s hard, really hard when you’re homeless in America. But in Portland you are not alone. You have Preble Street and Grace-Street Ministry. Sincerest thanks to our individual supporters and church partners. We can do this.
July 13, 2016
Pastor Jeff Logan will be preaching on the work of Grace-Street Ministry on Sunday 7/31/16 at 9:30 am at the First Congregational Church on 3 Gray Road in North Yarmouth, Maine. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by.
June 15, 2016
When we started this ministry, to be with the homeless in Portland, ten years ago, we did not really understand the educational component involved. It has evolved though as a very important aspect of our work. Sharing the stories and educating the housed on the reality of poverty and homelessness is a big part of what we do. It does not just lessen the barriers between people, it also allows those who are more fortunate to share more closely in the circumstances of others.
I believe at our core we are compassionate beings. Much can get in the way of that potential of caring and sharing. Many of us become numb to the pain around us and or feel impotent to make any positive difference. The Church on the Cape, Cape Porpoise are not an apathetic crowd. They put their compassion into action as demonstrated this past winter- supplying our ministry and therefore hundreds of homeless with winter socks all through the winter and recently they have come forth again , spearheaded by one member BeverlyBangs, with a supply of hundreds of white socks for the summer.
This may seem like a small change in someones life, a pair of clean socks but think about your feet, wet and blistered as many are and having the small comfort at the end of the weary day of warm, dry socks.
Compassionate hearts touching hurting feet -no small thing.
April 19, 2016
Way back in March of 2006, Rev. Mair Honan and a colleague began to explore the idea of being a pastoral presence among the homeless of Portland, Maine. They began walking the streets of Portland to assess if there was a need for this kind of ministry among those on the very edges of society. Although it took some time to gain the trust of the people on the street, the need was definitely there, and in March of this year, Grace-Street Ministry celebrated its 10th Anniversary of providing presence, prayer and advocacy for the homeless in the shelters and on the streets of Portland.
And although all of us here at Grace-Street long for a day when homelessness is eliminated and we’re no longer needed, that is certainly not the case right now. The twin scourges of a critical lack of affordable housing, combined with the opioid epidemic, are putting greater and greater numbers of people in need of our services. And lately, there has been a new problem added into the mix, the synthetic cannabinoid called Spice. Although it is supposed to be synthetic marijuana, it’s side effects can be startling, ranging from paranoia and anxiety all the way up to full blown psychosis. It can also induce an almost catatonic state where a user will be standing, bent over at the waist, leaning their head against a wall, motionless and unresponsive.
And so the three pastors of Grace-Street continue to walk the streets of Portland and visit the various shelters, where they listen to the stories, hold the pain and help to bring the hope that comes from a relationship with the sacred to the people that so much of society has simply discarded.
It is truly a privilege to do this work.