BRIAN BRANIGAN JOINS NIGHTWATCH BOARD
Welcome to our newest Board member, Brian Branigan!
But while Brian may be new to the Board, he is no stranger to Nightwatch. Brian began volunteering with Nightwatch six years ago, and in that time has assisted in SE and been a driver of our Mobile Hospitality Center. His presence has been most apparent at our Downtown Hospitality Center, however, where he not only volunteered, but came aboard staff and Program Assistant, and when we were faced with vacancies in the position, as our interim downtown Program Coordinator.
Brian therefore has close working knowledge of most of Nightwatch’s operations, a perspective that will be valued as he now assumes the Board mantle.
THE BIG NEWS ABOUT BLANKETS AND SOCKS
The two items that perpetually dominate the top of our Wish List are blankets and socks. That’s because among our guests they are always in high demand and we give out a lot of them.
But for the first time that anyone can remember, blankets have disappeared from our Wish List. Why? Because we became a beneficiary of 3000 of them from the US government.
There is a little-known law that dictates disaster-relief agencies are eligible for blankets stockpiled for the Defense Department. Homeless organizations are classified as disaster-relief agencies. Thus, with the support of City Commissioner Nick Fish, we applied for 3000 blankets and within weeks they were shipped our way.
Three thousand blankets is a mountain of blankets! We there therefore had to buy two shipping containers to store them, and gained the agreement of Resurrection Lutheran Church to host the containers on its property. Then when the shipment arrived, we had to recruit a crew to help us unload all the blankets into the shipping containers, which we did in short order.
So now we have enough blankets to last us a good while. And we also have a source for an endless supply of blankets when we’ll need more after this shipment is gone.
As for socks, we last ordered a shipment of 1440 pairs in May for about $1000. By the first week in August, they were gone. Also, our fund to buy socks was exhausted so it looked like we were going to be experiencing a “socks drought” for quite some time. But two donors stepped up so we could buy another 1440 pairs to address the needs of our guests. It was a fantastic gift, indeed!
But we’re going to keep socks on our Wish List, for the likelihood is that in another two- to three-months, the new supply will be depleted as well. It would be nice to see the socks supply be continually replenished so we would never have to face a “socks drought” again. Anyone can help, either by directly donating socks, or by making a donation designated to the “Blankets/Socks Fund.”
FROM THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
As some of you may know, the Springwater Corridor has been talk of the town for a number of weeks. Growing unrest between housed individuals and those 500+ individuals living on the trail has resulted in the City calling for a sweep of the entire corridor, scheduled for September 1st.
While the City is rallying outreach workers and attempting to open shelter spaces for folks the reality is that many of the people living on the trail will be faced with no other alternatives than to move into urban neighborhoods in the area. It is worth noting that shelter space is not a viable option for many of our guests- some do not feel safe separating from their partners or pets, others have been victimized by others while in shelters, and others cannot leave their belongings.
While the sweep will placate the housed neighbors it will put many others in even worse positions than they were before (not to mention anger the housed people of the neighborhoods they are pushed into!). Current efforts are being made to obtain land where campers can create an organized, self-policed camp but this is still in the works.
If you interact with folks living on the Springwater, feel free to direct them to the Clackamas Service Center at 8800 SE 80th Ave for housing and other services. Also, feel free to refer them to any of our Hospitality Centers if they are in need of blankets.
WELCOME TO OUR NEW STAFF MEMBERS
We were happy to welcome aboard this summer two new staff members.
Over the past year, we have been seeking to be more responsive to the mental health needs of our guests the Nightwatch Mental Health Initiative, and the hiring of Kolin Busby is the culmination of it. Kolin now serves as our mental health specialist, on duty to respond to our guests’ needs at our downtown Hospitality Center every evening it is open. Kolin received his MSW from Portland State University in 2011, and enjoys working with diverse populations as a peer social worker. Born and raised in Portland, he loves reading, hiking, and hanging out with his mischievous feline friends in his garden.
Christina Ruggiano is our new Downtown Program Coordinator. Christina grew up in Syracuse, New York, and obtained her undergraduate degree in psychology from LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school. She moved to the West Coast out of her love for Portland and beautiful escapes in nature it offers. Christina’s lifestyle is characterized by service, as her mission is to help others through acts of kindness and compassion.
FROM THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
Sometimes it takes a true loss to find out who your friends are. The guests we serve probably understand this concept more than you or I. We recently lost a regular guest who has been frequenting our SE Hospitality Centers for years he was beloved and will be missed by many. He is survived by his wife, who is deaf. When I first heard the news, I was worried about her future. Who will be there for her? Who will make sure that she is safe in a world where hearing can be so im- portant, especially when living on the streets? How will she cope with the loss of her husband?
Guests told me that the week after his passing, she could be found wailing and pounding bongos on the bike path as she grieved. One guest said that she witnessed multiple folks riding or walking by her and laughing at the sight. As she is deaf, she was unaware of the mockery, but many guests told me that they watched over her and scorned those who laughed at her pain. Every single guest I talked to about his passing echoed the same message“We all loved him, and we all love her. She is part of our family, and we’re gonna take care of her.” I heard this message over and over again that eventually, I stopped worrying so much. It has now been over a month since his passing, and I have seen his wife multiple times since then. Alt- hough she is undoubtedly still hurting, she is safe and surrounded by those who love her. Every day I’m thankful for the guests that we serve, and for the life lessons they have to offerlessons about friendship, and lessons about humanity. Thanks for the reminder of what it means to be a true friend.