The Ice Cream and the Backpack

I want to talk briefly about the relief work we do, that is “the work we do that allows people to make it through the day”. Someday I hope we might be in a place where we are able to offer more in the way offer more opportunities (be it access to sustainable employment, affordable housing, etc) and ideally creating spaces where our friends can creatively develop their own solutions to their own problems (places like Dignity Village, Right2DreamToo and Opportunity Village are all really great examples of spaces where this has happened and hopefully will continue to happen). In a later post I’m hoping to talk more about these ideas and particularly about how they are dealt with in Andrew Heben’s amazing book Tent City Urbanism…but that’ll have to wait for another post.

But for right now I want to talk about how I about two interactions I had today and point out that these kinds of things happen because of our many generous donors, the fact is I don’t have the cash readily available to make this kind of stuff happen week-in, week-out on my own.


This afternoon got hot and muggy and I had a buy one get one coupon for a local boutique ice cream shop and I was looking for someone to take. I ran into a friend on his way into the library that commented on the weather. This particular friend is fairly new to our gatherings and I had yet to really get to know him. Hanging out and getting ice cream sandwiches allowed me an opportunity to hear his story. I try and make these kinds outings a regular thing. A movie at the cheap theatre here, a game of bowling with a coupon there, take someone out to lunch at a place that doesn’t have a dollar menu.

My new friend said how much he appreciated just feeling normal for a moment, like everything didn’t (it most often is) have to be the cheapest option. I could have gotten klondike bars, the fact that I didn’t seemed to speak to him.
“We wish we could do these sorts of things with everyone more often” I said, “but we try and spread them around”
“You and Bruce already do so much. We all really appreciate it.”

Later I texted a friend who’s in need of a backpack. When I asked her “Could we meet at Burgerville? I’m paying.” I got a call back a minute later with her holding back tears. She’s been camping near a Burgerville for a couple years “But we’ve never been able to afford to go.” I’m able to be generous because folks like you gave me Chinook Book coupons and got us gift cards during their “buy $20 of gift card, get $5 free” promotion last winter, the backpack came from a local store where I had a 30% used hiking gear coupon – which, again, I got from a generous donor!

If you saw this as a plea to join us in finically supporting the work we do at HOMEpdx you’d be (at least partly) right. We lost our single biggest donor this month and though much of what we do is done on a shoestring, we still need the shoestring! We need the $10 here and the $20 a month there to keep doing what we’re doing, and I hope you’ll consider joining us in that. But the real reason I started writing this post was because I couldn’t just keep those two interactions to myself. Today the world is a little better for these two (and the dozens of other folks we crossed paths with today) because people gave of their time, money, encouragement, verbal support, the spare sleeping bag in their garage, etc. Thanks for being a part of that.