Anawim Christian Community

3733 N Williams Ave
Portland, OR 97227
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  1. The Cause of Homelessness

    abstract archipellagoMarie lived with him for years.  Sometimes he would get angry and lash out, but it was only occasional.  The yelling wasn’t too bad.  And the bruises and scars would heal up.  The worst part was the embarrassment when her friends would ask about him.  She would deny his abuse every time, even if it didn’t make sense, like when a handprint showed up on her face.

    It was different when their daughter was old enough to be his target.  Three years old.  Marie would defend her, even pick Rose up at times to prevent him from harming her.  Marie warned him.  She told him that if he put a hand on her, then she would leave him.  He finally did.  So she left.  She wouldn’t allow her daughter to be exposed to the trauma that she endured.  Yes, now she saw it as trauma.  She felt the fear that she had never felt for herself.  So she walked out.

    She knew better than to call his family for support.  In their eyes, Jack was perfect, a wonderful son.  So she called her mother.  “Marie, you need to submit to your husband,” she was told.  She called some friends.  “Don’t you have some money set aside?”  “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any place here.”  She called the Women’s Crisis Line, and was told that there was a waiting list for all the domestic violence shelters.  Probably the soonest she could get in is in three months.  She had nowhere to go.

    After two days on the street, she contacted a social worker with Adult and Family Services.  He was skeptical about her story, but agreed to give her a motel room for a week.  After six days, she has contacted everyone she knows, everyone in the book they gave her.  She called a service network, but the lines are always busy.  She has one more night.

    There are many reasons why people become homeless.  Domestic abuse is the number one reason for women with children.  Some people live on the street or in their cars because they lost their job or received a “no cause” eviction.  Only 9 percent of people become homeless because of addiction issues.  Only eleven percent become homeless due to mental illness.

    The one cause of homelessness, for every person who ends up on the street, is a lack of a support network.  Many people lose their housing because they lost their jobs or other reasons, but they don’t become homeless.  That’s because they have family or friends who support them enough to give them a place to stay until they can get on their feet.  Most people who have severe mental illness don’t become homeless, because there is a foster care system, and because many family members care for their own.

    There are a few homeless who are on the street because their criminal behavior make it impossible for them to live with.  But the majority of homeless are there because they have no one to turn to, no one to give them a place to live, even for a while.   This is the only real cause of homelessness.

  2. Who Wants to be Homeless?

    Mercy1In our worship, people are allowed to speak up in the middle of the sermons.  I had just made a statement, “As opposed to the misconceptions of many who are housed, homeless people do not choose homelessness as a lifestyle.”

    As is typical, Theo speaks up, “I did.”

    “Really?  Because if you did, you’d be one of the few.”

    Jeff, another homeless man spoke up, “You mean that you sat down one day and thought, ‘You know what?  I’d really like to be homeless.”

    Theo laughed, “Well, not exactly in those words.  I raised fifteen kids for twenty years.  All those years I worked, paid rent and paid bills.  Frankly, I was tired of it.  I’m happy with my life right now.”

    Jeff replied, “But didn’t you tell me that you were forced to be homeless after being released from jail?  That you had lost your place and your job and you couldn’t get them back, even if you tried?”

    “Well, that’s true.”

    I chimed in again.  After all, it was supposed to be my sermon.  “So did you really want to be homeless?  Or did you find homelessness to be the best option after the other options were exhausted?”

    “I didn’t start thinking that being homeless was a great idea, if that’s what you mean.  But I came to that, eventually. And I’m happy. With how things turned out.”

    Most people, when they make the statement, “Most of the homeless want to be homeless,” haven’t actually spoken to many homeless people, or checked in depth what they actually want.  It is true that there is a percentage of homeless people who are content with their life and they don’t want to give it up.  There is another group that find the idea of an apartment confining, or even triggers anxiety being locked in a box, surrounded by other people they don’t know.

    But that is different than saying that homeless people chose homelessness.  When a person begins their journey in homelessness, they are frightened, and it is the last choice they would want to make.  Most homeless folks admit that they never thought they would be homeless.  Some even feel that homelessness was a judgment on them because they looked down on the poorest themselves.  Being homeless themselves was the last thing on their mind.

    Although there may be a few exceptions, it can be said that no one chose homelessness, at least at first. It isn’t a lifestyle that anyone desires, especially women, although some grow used to it and learn to appreciate the freedom it gives.

  3. What is Homelessness?

    Springwater garden3Mark is an organized, clean young man.  He also happens to be houseless. He created a large tent area with a BBQ grill, a separate space for friends to stay over, and decorated his area with flowers and ribbons.  Really nice.  Until someone burned it down.

    He saw the smoke from a distance and as he got closer he realized that it was his camp.  He called 911 and the fire department immediately came over.  When they saw the distance it was from the road, the fire department turned around and left Mark to watch his living space and all his possessions go up in flames.  In the next few days, he combed through the space and found pretty much nothing to preserve.

    He got another tent from a local pastor and a sleeping bag.  Then he began working on his space.

    He cleaned it off, created space for a new tent.  He built a legal campfire.  And once all the basics were in place, he created a home.  A garden came together from the ashes, hidden from the world, a secret space for Mark and his friends.  One of the most beautiful camps I’ve ever seen.

    Is Mark homeless?  Not at all.  He cared for his space so much that he cleaned it and preserved it and beautified it.  When he leaves a place, he tells us that he’s “going home.”  He has a home, a space that he loves and is loved.

    Is he houseless?  Not exactly.  He has a tent he calls his house and he has some comforts.  He isn’t contained in a box, but he has as much a home as any Bedouin as lived in a tent.

    But Mark is still vulnerable.  The property is not owned by him.  As soon as a city council member with a desire to move homeless out gets a whim, Matt will have to move and he will have twenty-four hours.   When we speak of “homeless folks” or “houseless people”, we are not speaking of people who lack the comforts we call home.  They lack the security that they can remain.

    Every couch surfer called “homeless” might lose their piece of fabric at any moment.

    Every person who lives in an RV on the street is homeless because they are not permitted to park overnight anywhere.

    Every teenager who is thrown out of his house by his parents and can’t go home is vulnerable in this way.

    Every woman and her children who are on the run from domestic abuse and has nowhere to stay is the same.

    Every person who has to park in front of a friend’s garage because they were evicted from their apartment are the same way.

    Most people haven’t been homeless as long as Mark.  But they all are in the same category.  They are all threatened.

  4. Bad News

    idea and Abby

    This teen and this baby are two of the hundreds of people who get helped from the funds given!

    I’m afraid I have some bad news.

    Yes, that’s right—this is a fundraising letter.


    But it’s important.  See, every year around this time we need extra funds just to make it.  We have to meet needs in the summer, but people like to give in the colder months.  I get it.  But we’re kinda desperate.

    You see, our funds have gone down this year, but expenses have gone up.  Bills are higher (water alone is twice as much as we paid three years ago).  We are meeting the needs of more people (we easily distribute almost two tons of food every week now).  And the issues surrounding homelessness have gotten more complicated, so we are trying to meet different kinds of needs.  There is more travel, more organization, more struggles.

    So many people have generously given food and tents and supplies and work and transportation, even a beautiful mobile shower unit!  It is amazing how much gets done from all this.  The tough part to keep up on is rent and bills and repairs.

    Have you been helped by Anawim?

    I especially want to ask help from some of you who are not the wealthiest folks.  All of you who have gotten a temporary place to stay at Anawim or Red Barn.  If you have ever been able to sleep there.  If you have eaten there when you had nowhere else to get food at.  If you have ever received one of our free trainings.

    If you have been helped by Anawim/RedBarn, we were happy to do it, for nothing.  We are about saving lives and giving help to those who desperately need it.  If you are doing better now, we ask that you help us now.

    We know that you may not have much.  But if you could just give us a few dollars, we could use your help.

    puppy power

    Here’s Steve being licked by a cute puppy! Doesn’t that make you want to give to Anawim?

    Have you been reading us?

    We know a lot of people have been reading our stories and thoughts regularly on our website, our Facebook pages and via email. Some of you have printed out our training manuals and many of you have taken our trainings. If you appreciate the writing, encouragement and practical stuff to help the homeless, please keep us going by providing a donation.

    How much do we need?

    To keep us going this month, we will need 5000 dollars.  To function well until winter, we will need to raise 10,000.

    If you can help us, please do.   You can give to Anawim directly, to our address or to our Paypal account.  More information on

  5. Everybody Needs a Little Help…


    Another camp for abused women we helped to establish

    This year has been amazing, so far.  Really, I’ve never seen anything like it.

    It really started when Portland’s mayor declared homelessness an emergency crisis, and the mayor started making radical changes in his homeless policies.  He made a camp official, and declared that he would make more official.

    I visited the camp and quickly saw that there was something wrong.  Twenty five people could stay, but the other 60 people were going to be pushed out, almost all of them without an opportunity to fit into the community.  So I decided to do something about it.  I got some leaders of the rejected people together to organize them and to create an official camp.  We chose another property, and established an organized move with other advocates before the date for them to move in January.   That camp is called Forgotten Realms and it is being declared another official camp in city literature.

    In March, the city of Gresham decided to amp up their efforts pushing the homeless all over the city.  After a month of police harassment, they succeeded in their efforts to push most of the homeless out of Gresham.  Some activists and I heard that Gresham was doing a final vote to fence off 60 acres of property where the homeless were recently living to take away the largest area of property where the homeless lived in the city.  About 20 of us went to city council to object and to stop the vote, if necessary, not to stop it, but so the homeless could be fairly heard.  Seven people, including myself, was arrested for chanting and interrupting the vote.  Our trial will be in the fall.

    Gresham mugshot 2

    My mugshot

    Meanwhile, in Portland, more homeless camps were being formed, wanting to know how to be official. A number of us started to meet to try to establish an organization to form and guide official homeless camps.

    In the next month, homeless folks and activists met together at Anawim to form a civil rights homeless camp to affirm the state law which says that a homeless person cannot be prosecuted for camping.  So Mary Maguire and others got together to establish a camp on city property with no trash, no late night noise and no illegal activity.  The police tried to harass and move them on, but they held their ground.  Now they are an established camp in Gresham.

    All this year, on top of my regular Anawim activities, my partners and I have been trying to help the homeless communicate with the local cities, to have better relations with their neighbors, and to affirm their rights.  We’ve been helping the homeless survive, to be good neighbors and be outspoken citizens.  We are not doing this in opposition to the cities (although the governments sometimes feel like that), but to help them listen to their poorest citizens and to help them.

    I know I haven’t written as much, but I’ve been busy.  Busy trying to offer just a little bit of help to our homeless partners.  They’ve been helping too, keeping our church running.  We’ve been collecting and distributing 3500 pounds of food a week to the poor in our community.  We’ve been organizing deliveries of food and meals to camps.  Really active, just trying to help.


    And we could use your help.  Honestly, we’ve been so busy spearheading efforts to help that we’ve been struggling to keep up with our ongoing expenses.  Some folks have been helping us with immediate needs, but we are heading toward a financial crisis.

    In our hour of need, if you can help, we’d really appreciate it.  Keep us fighting for the rights of the homeless.  Keep us pushing forward for everyone to have a safe place to sleep, to help more homeless people interact with their neighbors to make better cities.

    If you want to help, please look at our donation page:

  6. God’s Listening

    IMG_0454I am sitting in a waiting area waiting for my number to be called in a Ford dealership’s Parts Department.

    A little girl of about 5 years old asked if she can sit next to me on the bench. Without waiting for answer climbs up.

    A few minutes pass and she tells me her name is Angela. “That’s a pretty name,” I said.

    Then Angela takes my hand looks me straight in the eye and says in a matter of fact voice, “My mom is in jail for selling and doing drugs. My dad is dead. He died in some war in the Middle East I live with my Grandma but my Grandpa is dead. Grandma is really old and is sick, if she dies I will have no one, would you be my daddy?”

    About that time a woman on a scooter with oxygen tanks rolls up. In a gruff almost angry voice asked if she has been bothering me?

    “Nope not at all.”  She gives the little girl a nasty grimace “You see I am a Pastor, and she was just sharing a prayer request for the desire of her heart. And I am going to have a little chat with God and see if we can’t make her prayer come true.”

    Grandma scrunches up her face and spits out her words, saying, “I don’t believe in God.”

    “Well that’s too bad, but ya know what? Your unbelief doesn’t count, this is between Angela and Me and God.”

    Angela’s face was grinning ear to ear and I got a hug. Then Granny croaked, “Come, it is time to leave.” And with a wink and a wave they left.

    At that time my number was called and the service manager comes up and says, “You really a Pastor?”

    “Yup,” I said.

    “Think God was listening?”

    “He was standing in the room taking notes the whole time.”

    The service manager chuckles and says, “So how can I help you?”

  7. Moving Day

    mitten7This post was written on May 27.  Jeff and Yvan leave for Coos Bay permanently today.  They have been our friends, co-workers and supporters for almost a decade.  They have helped some of the most needy in society.  They have been accomplished artists, both visually and verbally on this website and elsewhere.  When I really needed someone to unburden on, they were always there.  We will miss them deeply.  -Pastor Steve

    Down to 76 hours. Tomorrow we transport the last of the studio to Coos Bay and leave the the truck at the R V Park……sigh,

    First time I left friends and family was when I entered into the Military. But there was the thought of coming back. The second time was when I was going to war and the thought of Never coming back was on my front burners always, BUT I did come back.

    Then the family moved to Oregon and I was left behind. Now I back to leaving friends and family again, and starting over in a town and part of the state that I know no one, have no contacts, no one to reach out to except the Lord.

    Once upon a time I was in a jail cell with Randy Alcorn and Ron Rohman and about 15 other men. A jailer walked into the cell and says,”Awk! a bunch of Christians! Too bad they won’t let us take them out and just shoot them.” I looked at Randy and said, “Well, the apostles have nothing on us.” And we laughed and then burst into song of praise. I share that because this is how the brothers and sisters of the first church were thinking and feeling, being forced to move to a place where they only have each other, and have to start over again. It is also how the refugees must feel.

    I find it amazing how the Lord is teaching Yvan and I things we may never had thought about……We need your prayers more than ever now……..

    And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8:1



  8. Still Waiting for a Miracle

    Father Forgive Them by AstridThis afternoon we were at a rest stop. There was a mother and two well behaved children flying a large sign asking for a “Miracle”.

    A woman driving a brand new $54,000 Truck walks up and drops a few coins into a container and walks over to her truck which is decorated with the cross and shadows kneeling before it, gets in drives away.

    She is followed by a man wearing a large silver cross and he drops a few coins into the woman’s can and walked over to a 2016 Mercedes Roadster, with a big Christian Gold Fish that had the word “Pastor” in the middle, gets in drives off.

    Several others come read the sign and walk away.

    I was so ashamed and I got out reached for the billed fold pulled out some bills and put her in her hand……….

    And we wonder why the nation is under judgment.

  9. Visions

    IMG_0477A vision is a seeing of the future, powerful enough to help create that future. Envision what could be with me that we might re-create what is.

    I see a city that would welcome the homeless as neighbors and equal citizens

    I see a city that would create space for everyone to live, without harassment, without fear.

    I see a time when parents would no longer use the poor as a warning against laziness, but use their teaching time to spread compassion.

    I see green spaces where the poor may sleep and the housed move freely among them, without fear, without anger.

    I see a place where those who cannot be hired can work and be paid in a balance between their ability an their liability.

    I see a time when no one is measured by the size of their paycheck, or the value they give an employer, but by the beauty they create and the depth of compassion they show.

    I see a county that places people before property, that puts need before power, equality before class prejudice.

    I envision a place that will first ask, “what do you need?” before, “This is what we will do.”  An elected body who has lived with the poorest so that they might truly represent all the citizens and not just a select group.

    I envision a law enforcement that stirs respect and not fear. Officers who will only respond to crimes, not whines concerning people they refuse to understand.

    I see a city where the highways are used to bring food to the hungry, warmth for the cold, shelter for the wet, bathrooms and showers for those who lack hygiene.  I see a government who will freely provide this, because their citizens are in need, and for no other reason.

    I speak into being a community that loves, that provides, that does not hold to an arbitrary distinction of “deserving” and “undeserving” but is generous because they want to be known to the world as a place of giving and grace.

  10. Disability

    GodzillaYou have a work history, but something went terribly wrong. Perhaps it’s nothing physical, but you are no longer able to function. You do all you can to fix it, but you end up on the street anyway. You hear from someone to apply for disability. You apply. You are denied.

    Then someone tells you that everyone is denied disability at first, so you appeal. You get a lawyer– if they take your case it’s likely you will win your appeal. They put you through a psych evaluation, they gather up witnesses, the look at your work history. After three years, you get your day in court.

    The judge is kind, but he has his business to do. He listens to your supporters, perhaps a friend or two. They all say the same thing: “Can’t function” “Can’t work with others” “Can’t be on time”… Failure, failure, failure. You hold your head high, not listening, not believing, because you can’t accept that this is you.

    But the judge believes the reports, the testimony. He approves your disability. After the trial, when you are alone, you weep, because now it is legally proved what you had heard from those who never believed in you: you are worthless.

    After a number of months you get the money. You get an apartment. You escape some of the dreadful, deadening stress. And you realize you can do something with your life. You volunteer, you do something positive in your life. You spend the rest of your life disproving what was spoken about in that room.

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