Local church shelters those in need
Ten years ago, Teri Helser and her husband came up with a plan for how to use the extra space in the basement of the church they attended, First Baptist Church of Gresham.
The couple had been attending community meetings that examined potential solutions for supporting the homeless and spent afternoons helping the campers who were living nearby. They decided they could do more for the most vulnerable in the community, so they opened a homeless shelter.
"It was an easy decision, because we always had the heart for this kind of work," Helser said.
Now the shelter has grown from serving eight individuals to almost 70 each week. Open every Monday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the shelter, at 224 West Powell Blvd., offers a space to seek warmth, snacks and drinks, dinner, showers, Bingo with giveaways, clothing and much more.
"I see a lot of kids who went to school with mine come through here," Helser said. "If we weren't here, where would they go?"
About 15 volunteers assist at the shelter. They also get help cleaning the space from homeless people who want to give back. The shelter is winding down for the season, closing on March 26. It will reopen again in November as the weather turns.
"Any organization that can do something to help is appreciated," Helser noted.
The organizers of the First Baptist shelter are the first to point out they are not the only group in the community working to support the homeless. They work together with many other churches in the city, and receive donations and support from the city.
"We are not just one church. We couldn't have opened this without other people," Helser said. "All of this is a big community push that I think is unique to Gresham."