Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Portland Rescue Mission

Each night before dinner at the Portland Rescue Mission a lottery takes place. Not a lottery to win any obscene amount of money, but a lottery to win a bed for the night. Before you can be eligible for this lottery you need to have a Tuberculosis test done. To get this test done you can go across the street to the Salvation Army. They do the tests on Tuesdays and Fridays between 1:15 and 3:15 in the afternoon. I went in last Friday and got the shot. Then, on Tuesday afternoon I went to have it checked.

Once you are diagnosed Tuberculosis free, you are given a TB card. Armed with proof that you are in fact free from Tuberculosis you can enter the lottery. Each person who would like to stay at the mission is given a number. Last night my number was 38. Every night there is a different lottery and so, every night you get a different number.

Then, the winning numbers are randomly selected by a computer and posted for the world to see. Last night I was among the 50 lucky people to get a bed. For those who don't win there is an additional way to be inside at the Portland Rescue Mission in the winter months. They have 75 mats that they lay out in the chapel, and so there is a second lottery for those at 8:30.

At about 8PM you are able to check in with your winning lottery number. At check in you show your slip with the winning number on it and, unless they already know you, your TB card so they can get your name. You are then assigned a bed numbered 1-50 and sent down stairs.

Once you're on the bottom floor you are able to take a shower, get a change of clothes, or just get ready for bed. I was assigned to bed 41. On each bed there is a pillow and a milk crate containing a blanket, a sheet, and a pillow case. I promptly made my bed and spent about 40 minutes reading one of my favorite books, My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black. At about 9PM it's lights out.

I fell asleep pretty quickly, although, I didn't stay that way. The beds are small and close together, so every time someone coughed, I woke up. I had a cotton blanket that was crocheted. It was like sleeping under a doily.

The Portland Rescue Mission works entirely off of donations and they do the very best they can with what they have. I don't want anyone to think I'm ungrateful or complaining about anything they do. In truth I see them among the top of all the shelters in Portland, a city that is among the leaders of cities that are friendly to the under privileged.

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