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We have only one-third the number of outings scheduled for 2015 than we have had in previous years. Two things have motivated that. One is rising expenses. We were trying to keep our outings budget at the same level it was a dozen years ago, which of course was impossible. Donations to outings were not meeting expenses, and we were seeing red ink. If we set realistic budgets, some potential sponsors might find the costs out of their league, but if we had fewer outings, maybe some sponsors could team up to make them quality experiences.

The other reason for the cutback is that outings among our guests are just not as popular as they used to be. When we started outings in the 1990s, they proved a great diversion from the hard life of the streets. Today, our guests have other diversions—specifically going online at the library—that an outing has be interesting, much more than simply “being there.”

So we’ve scheduled four outings for 2015. They are among the most popular. We are offering a realistic budget for each of them. By encouraging co-sponsors for them, we hope all costs will be covered.

Please consider a co-sponsoring contribution for one of them!






Al Bowen


Spiritual Retreat ($1750)



Beach ($250)



Silver Falls State Park ($175)


CHAPLAIN’S NOTES: “At What Cost, and To Whom?” (from “Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979)

The area pastor asked about Operation Nightwatch and said, “Thank you for doing that. How we could get our middle class people involved? Could we send our youth group?” I replied that we could find a way for the youth to volunteer. “But honestly,” I said, “if you send anyone, send us your adult leaders. They have the most power to change the community.”

I get this pastor’s question a lot when I talk with folks from other churches. It assumes that young people, not adults, are sheltered and need exposure to the wider community. In fact, the opposite may be true. We adults have chosen where to live, usually among folks very much like ourselves. I’d venture that kids in school today experience far more diversity than their parents do. I often find volunteers in their late teens and 20’s much more willing to engage in conversation with our Nightwatch guests than folks over the age of 40. So who’s sheltered?

Oregon Department of Education data reveal that we now have about 20,000 homeless students in our schools—twice the number we had 10 years ago. That’s a Keystone XL pipeline of poverty and homeless adults a few short years from now. The full page story in the November 7 edition of the Street Roots newspaper also reveals that my home church in outer NE Portland is sandwiched between the two districts having the highest percentages of homeless students in the state: Reynolds and Parkrose. One church cannot solve this problem alone, but through cooperative efforts of ministries like Operation Nightwatch and New City Initiative we could make a difference, one person, one family at a time.  

Equally important, our ministry with one family or one volunteer opportunity at a time makes a difference in us. Followers of Christ, called to love our neighbors as ourselves, cannot love those whom we do not know. Costly ministry in Christ’s name offers the priceless payback of ending our isolation and learning to know our neighbors--perhaps finding our own faith footings for the first time in the process.

The most costly ministry of all is ministry undone, whether it be hunger, addiction, poverty, untreated physical or mental illness, unhoused adults or homeless students. Blessings as you scan the human landscape of our area and ponder this: “at what cost, and to whom?”

   --Pastor Roger


My name is Marie Harp, and I’m the intern here at Operation Nightwatch. Sometimes, I think it’s hard to describe what interning here entails. In the last three months, I have passed out clothing, cooked spaghetti,marie harp postage stamp done fundraising research, fought with the office’s ancient computers (the computers won), dug through huge bins in a desperate hunt for socks, done security checks, made gallons of coffee, and listened to guests talk for hours at a time. I’ve learned how to defuse an argument and how to break a chokehold should diffusion fail (thankfully, this is not a skill I’ve needed to use). Above all, I have learned so much about people and how frustrating and wonderful they can be.

Though many guests—and volunteers—have given me a hard time, I still feel privileged to have met them. Out at the mobile center, where people cluster around heaters in the winter and enjoy the block-party atmosphere in the summer, there is a feeling of relaxation I have never found anywhere else. At the end of many nights, I leave with a grin plastered on my face. Though it’s hardly all fun—try scrubbing down a full-sized RV sometime—it is still the best work I have ever done.

I may be a glorified errand girl, but I’m a glorified errand girl working for a great organization with a group of incredible people, and that makes it more than worthwhile.


The seasons have definitely changed since the last newsletter, and we are feeling it at Nightwatch. Requests forKatherine postage stamp blankets and coats have turned into pleas, and as night creeps up earlier on our watch it makes sense to dread winter and the burdens it brings to our guests. Yet even when the cold damp hangs heaviest over the crowded downtown center, there are moments of joy that are surprising, sometimes strange, and always powerful. I would like to share a few of them:

  • While I stood outside to greet guests on a chilly evening, J--- paused on his way in, patted me on the head, and told me I need to get a hat so I can stay warm.
  • When our weekly Creative Writing Group used imagery in describing their mornings, they could have focused on the bitter wind, but instead they each expressed gratitude for the sun and for the coming day.
  • Thanks to outstanding volunteer emcee Ciara and a variety of talented performances, Open Mic night was a hit. The songs and dancing were a lot of fun, but the whole room hushed when one guest read aloud a poem she had written and memorized by the sea many years before.
  • Superstar veteran volunteer Sonnie brought me a surprise Peppermint Mocha on a night I needed the extra fuel.
  • Many of our guests were (understandably) more irritable after the recent cold snap left them shivering outside. But the winter weather caused a different reaction in one jolly older man, who spoke the whole night of snow angels, sledding, and singing by the fire.

These moments and many more have brightened my first season at Nightwatch, and for that I give thanks for you, the volunteers and supporters who make it all possible.

                                                            --- Katherine


While we may be well aware of the inadequacy of the services in a city like Portland to meet all the needs of the homeless, have you ever thought of what the availability of such services might be in a small community such as Woodburn?

A shocking fact: Woodburn has NO services for the homeless. The closest shelter is in Mt. Angel, 8 woodburn signmiles away.

One of our former volunteers, currently a Woodburn resident, has seen the homeless in her community and has asked if we could help establish a Nightwatch-like outreach in her town. We’ve begun conversations to get something going, and have received a grant from the Anne & Eli Shapira Charitable Foundation to help with that exploration.

Already our exposure to the Woodburn experience has opened our eyes to the need for services in similarly-sized communities. Therefore, we’ve adopted a broader goal in our work with those in Woodburn. We hope to develop from a it a model that can be packaged for other communities with like-needs so they may be able to create their own outreach programs. In theory, through our production of manuals and training videos, we would have something communities around the country could use.

We’ll keep you posted on how things develop.