From Portland Oregon
Our Peaceful Place: Family spoken here
By Mike Lujan, Contributing columnist
Like a mother who lovingly attends to the welfare of one of her sick children, Barb Lescher, Director of Services at Our Peaceful Place, stays awake all night to make sure everyone is safe and needs are met. Talking with Barb at Our Peaceful Place's new location (since March 2006), I couldn't help but feel the warmth, kindness, and camaraderie Our Peaceful Place stands for, enveloping me as Barb prepared the meal for the evening — spaghetti, perfectly seasoned with lots of garlic and just enough spices, steaming garlic bread, and salad.
When coming to Our Peaceful Place, Barb likes to help everyone feel like they're going to grandma’s. But Our Peaceful Place is much more than an outreach to obtain a hearty meal; it's sanctuary for the homeless — a place to call home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. It’s a place of refuge in the darkest hours of the night for anyone, yes, anyone, who is looking for safety from loneliness, hurt, despair, fear, or just wanting to share some companionship with others or to have other social interaction and activity. It's a place anyone can count on, contributing to the overflow of existing shelters and other family-care programs.
Our Peaceful Place is now located in the basement of the Calvary Christian Center Ministries building at 126 NE Alberta. It's the brick church that sits right on the corner of Alberta and Mallory, two blocks west of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The entrance is the white door just west of the church's main doors. A large sitting room, with chairs, sofas, and a television is available. Additionally, an open eating/coffee area, game room, quiet room, and bathroom (no shower, though) are provided. Considered a drop-in center, people can nap, but the center is not equipped with beds or cots. Barb says, “We're all about family; you know, sharing the camaraderie of times like just before everyone sits down to the evening meal — the magic of laughter, giddy conversation, the clanking and clattering of dishes and glasses and utensils being taken from the cupboards and out of the drawers and placed on the table of plenty, the wonderful smells of good food almost ready, and the excitement, stomach growling, when one hears those words, 'dinner's ready!'”
“No one goes hungry,” says Barb.
The spirit of Our Peaceful Place is one of a family at holiday, where everyone comes home, there's dinner, lots of activity, everyone in the kitchen, others playing cards — the pulse of family life.
“We are not easily accessible by the homeless from the downtown area during the day, which is why we changed our time of outreach to the evening,” Barb said. “Although we are limited to 20 hours per week of availability, we are open at 10-hour intervals, from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
At 6:30 a.m., Barb and other volunteers start waking those who have stayed through the night.
“This schedule has been revised from Our Peaceful Place's previous schedule, daily, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.,” Barb says, “because many of the homeless are taking care of matters, for example, looking for work, hoping to be 'labor-ready' during the day, and would realize more benefit from an outreach with evening hours.”
After 1 a.m., the policy is exit only; however, if notified (through a phone call or an agency), people can enter the facility later that night.
In the earlier days of Our Peaceful Place, downtown, access was easier. However, public transportation can place one almost right at the doorstep. It's easy to get to by bus: Take number six bus down MLK or the number 40 bus down Vancouver Avenue — two blocks from main arteries — off of Alberta. Also, the MAX is free from downtown to the Convention Center, and the rest of the journey is approximately a 2.5-mile walk north from the Convention Center.
When the organization first relocated to the new location in March of this year, it received an average of 15 people per day. That has increased to nearly 40 people per day, sometimes more. Operating expenses are approximately $3,500 per month, covering overhead and utilities. Included in this is a monthly lease. Expenses are covered mostly by donations from individuals. So far, the neighborhood accepts the outreach — nothing negative has been directed toward Our Peaceful Place, according to Barb. Some interaction with the immediate neighborhood has been done, and Barb believes that increased agency awareness will make Our Peaceful Place more effective. Barb said she plans to increase interactions with neighborhood association meetings. People appreciate Our Peaceful Place, knowing that it is there to help them get through the days when they don't have help — as many have shared with Barb. One person said, “Knowing that I can come here on Thursday helps me get through the weekend, till next Tuesday.”
Children are welcome and just need to show proof of family or legal guardian to be able to stay overnight. Currently, four volunteers stay all night; three other volunteers come in and stay until around 2-3 a.m. Smoking, alcohol, or drugs are not allowed. But Barb says that has never has been a problem. “People have a great respect for Our Peaceful Place.”
Recently, Bruce Glass, previously a volunteer, was welcomed back to the team. “Bruce has managed both of our moves, is very organized, and is always willing to roll up his sleeves,” Barb said. Bruce grew up in the community where the new site is located and is a familiar face to many. Barb describes Bruce as “indispensable.”
“We are looking forward to building a reputation of warmth and welcome in this new neighborhood,” Barb said. “We hope for the opportunity to minister to old friends and look forward to being a blessing to those we have yet to meet.
“We invite you, our friends, partners, and supporters to continue to minister with us by equipping us with the day-to-day materials we need to do the work,” Barb says with open arms. “We also invite you to come visit us. Come see where we are, meet our staff and see what your support is allowing us to do.
Come see if this is the place where you would like to spend time serving the poor.”
Thanks for all you do Barb and everyone who helps with Our Peaceful Place
~ Joe Anybody & Ben Waiting