Saturday, December 4, 2010

Roman Catholics and "Sisters"

Today started like every other day I’ve slept in the Portland Rescue Mission’s Winter Shelter. Wake up at 5:25, pull all my things together, put on my coat, and make my way outside. 39 degrees is startling so early in the morning, but let’s face it, I’ve felt much worse. I walk down the stairs to the Skidmore Fountain train stop; under the Burnside Bridge. Making sure that no trains are coming soon, I walk a few blocks to an area hidden by bridges and trees for a morning urination, (I could stand in line at the Mission, but I usually have to go pretty bad, and opt out) and back to the bridge to catch a train to downtown. Portland’s free rail zone stretches from 10th and Yamhill to the Lloyd Center, a mall. It spans a few miles, usually taking about 20 minutes to get from one side to the other. I ride it back and forth until 6:45 when I get off back at Skidmore fountain and climb the same stairs back to the Portland Rescue Mission, or PRM as I’ve come to call it.

The only difference is that today is the last time I’ll follow this morning routine in Portland, OR. It is with excitement for the future and some sorrow that I move on. I’ve been in Portland for 31 days, which is the longest I’ve stayed in any one place since leaving Mankato, Minnesota on September 11th. It is one of the most comfortable places to be homeless in America. There are plenty of services to help those in need. Places that give more than just a meal and a bed.

At the downtown Roman Catholic Church, also known as Red Door, there is a plethora of services for the impoverished. Once a month, you are able to go to their basement clothing “store”. Nice donated clothing lines the walls of a room where you are able to go and sort through and pick out the clothing that best suits your needs. On the second floor, toiletries, winter hats, gloves, scarves, and socks are available for those who are in need of those things. They also have snacks, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, games, guitars and newspapers. They have a lot of other services there, too. During the first full week of December they have photographers come in to take professional pictures of anyone who would like them. Every Friday afternoon they play a movie. They are in the middle of a Harry Potter marathon that will end with a trip to the theater to see the latest movie.
There are many other things they do there ranging from foot care to hair cuts, but my personal favorite is the art room. Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning their art room is open for anyone who needs a creative outlet. As a result I have a pair of pants that are littered with different colors of paint, not to mention the hand print of a friend.

On Northwest Sixth Avenue and Davis Street there is a little café just for the homeless and otherwise poor people of Portland called “Sisters of the Road”. It is a place that I heard a lot about on the streets but never visited until very recently. “Sisters” has a very strict respect rule. Respect everyone no matter your differences. They have three things on the menu every day. Every day they serve beans and rice with a big piece of corn bread. It’s actually really good and, as you can imagine, really filling. They also serve another entre, which is different everyday, and along with that, the same thing without meat for any vegetarians.

The first time you visit “Sisters” your meal is free. Every time after your first, it costs $1.25 for your entre and $.25 for a drink. The drinks include lemonade, milk, orange juice, coffee, tea, and, of course, water. Water is free. They also accept food stamps to pay for this meal. If you don’t have any money, don’t write off “Sisters”, they will be more than happy to have you bus tables as payment for a meal.

They also have a message board there. It consists of a few bulletin boards. If you’re trying to find someone or need to get a message to anyone, you can write a note and leave it on the board with the persons name on it. This is an awesome idea. Although much of the homeless people in America have a cell phone, there are some that don’t. This is a great way to get a message to someone you think or know will find their way to “Sisters of the Road”.

Although I’m very excited to move on with my journey and get out of the rain, Portland will always have a special place in my heart.

San Francisco, I’m on my way!


  1. Hi Sean -

    As a staff person here at Sisters, I want to say thank you for your kind words about Sisters - and that I'm so glad you found hospitality, community, and good food here! One thing I wanted to share with you: we are a secular, not Catholic organization. Many folks have been confused by our name, which comes from an old hobo term - a "sister of the road" was the term for a hobo who was a woman. I wish you luck on your journeys, and please come visit us again if you're ever back in Portland.
    - Heather Dorfman

  2. Glad you could stay with us at Portland Rescue Mission. God bless you on your journey. You're always welcome here.

  3. Sean,
    Out staff at the Downtown Chapel enjoyed meeting you... best of luck on your journey.

    "We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend."
    — Robert Louis Stevenson