Tigard day center aims to help local homeless community.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Nick Luttrell, a Tigard homeless man, looks through coats and blankets at the new day center at Tigard Fourquare Church, on Pacific Highway. The day center is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.On Thursday morning, Nick Luttrell stood outside of Gino’s Deli off Southwest Hall Boulevard, bracing against the wind.

The snow and ice that had blanketed the area earlier in the week were gone, but the air is still crisp and cold. As a former Alaska fisherman, it wasn't the chill air that bothered Luttrell, but his situation.

This wasn’t the type of area Luttrell wanted to be spending much time in, but as a homeless man living in Tigard, there aren’t many places for him to spend his time, he said.

“It’s acceptable for homeless people to be standing there,” he said.

But Luttrell and other Tigard area homeless now have a place to go one day a week, with the opening of Tigard’s first homeless day center on Pacific Highway.

The center is run by Just Compassion, a coalition of Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood churches, local governments and nonprofits, which has been working to address homelessness issues in Eastern Washington County.

“It’s nice to be able to go somewhere and not get kicked out,” said Luttrell. “It’s better than standing next to a bar on a bad corner, that’s for sure.”

The new day center, run out of Tigard Foursquare Church, 13720 S.W. Pacific Highway, offers homeless people with no place to go during the day a respite from the cold. It’s the only day center in Eastern Washington County. The nearest shelter is located 30 miles away, Luttrell said, in Forest Grove.

“If you're homeless, you’re taking TriMet, and if you’re not there by noon you won’t get a shower or get your clothes washed,” he said. “You might get a meal, but that’s a two-hour journey to get out there and it’s a waste.”

Want to get involved?

What: Homeless day center

Where: Tigard Foursquare Church, 13720 S.W. Pacific Highway

When: Thursdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

How to get involved: Volunteers are needed for a variety of roles. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Day center in works for years

Luttrell has been homeless for two years. He said that there are few options for homeless people to go to get off the street for a few hours.

“There is nothing more humbling than going into a library or a store as a homeless person,” said Luttrell, wearing two winter hats on his head and carrying a blanket and several new pairs of folded socks donated by volunteers. “You’re carrying three or four bags of all your stuff and you smell like crap. I might as well just walk up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Homeless Nick.’ It’s so uncomfortable.”

For years, the men and women of Just Compassion have wanted to build a day center for the Tigard area’s homeless population.

“We talked about it for years,” said Carol Herron, a Just Compassion member who runs the St. Anthony severe weather shelter, which offers local homeless a place to sleep on freezing cold nights. “We finally said, ‘Well, if we’re serious about it, let’s do it.’”

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Sue Stephens, who runs the Just Compassion day center at Tigard Foursquare Church, says the center will one day be open seven days a week.For now, the shelter is only open on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but Sue Stephens, who runs the center, said she’s continuing to look for a permanent home, which would be open every day.

Inside the day center, a box of games, and a few mattress on the floor give guests the chance to unwind for a few hours. It's not much, Stephens admits, but organizers say they plan to add several amenities over the next few months, including Wi-Fi and laptop computers for guests.

“It’s baby steps,” Stephens said. “We’re just getting started.”

Stephens envisions the day center as a one-stop spot for the area’s homeless community. A place with computers to apply for jobs, mailboxes so people can have a permanent address to send mail. It would have beds to catch a quick nap as well as showers, laundry machines and other essentials.

It's little things like that which can mean all the difference, Luttrell said.

"If you don’t get a shower every day — and I’ve missed a few days now — you start to smell kind of ripe,” said Luttrell. “My clothes have been out in the rain for days, they don’t smell too great either."

Those additions are still a just dream, but Stephens said that the Foursquare Church day center is a start.

If the center proves popular, Stephens said the church could extend the hours beyond Thursdays, adding an additional day to the schedule.

Volunteers are needed to run the center. Stephens estimates that between five and 10 volunteers could be used at the center each Thursday.

For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Just Compassion vice-chair Donna Krauthoefer looks over several donated lunch items. The day center offers a meal and a place to rest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Thursdays.

An invisible problem

Stephens estimates that about 100 people are living on the streets each night across Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood.

Only a fraction of those receive help from local churches, which organize free severe weather shelters several nights a week, offering a place for men and women to get off the streets when the weather dips below freezing. Most of those shelters are only open a few nights a week, and space is limited.

The Rev. Sherilyn Wilson, senior pastor at Tigard Foursquare, said it’s important for local congregations to do what they can to help their community.

“It’s good to not just be stuck in our own place,” Wilson said. “As a pastor, I must preach the Gospel from the pulpit, but it’s crucial to live it out in our daily lives as well. There are tangible ways we can be reaching out, like providing food and clothing and a warm dry space for a couple hours. Those are tangible ways to tell people that they are cared for, and that they are noticed.”

Wilson said that her church likely wouldn’t have been able to start a day center if they had been working alone.

“It feels defeating sometimes to try to address some needs because there’s so much need in our community and in the world,” she said. “But instead of giving up and not trying, which is the easy to do, it’s a chance for us to pull together. Churches and organizations can share resources and volunteers to do so much more. In isolation we can do really great things, but, man, we have the potential to do amazing things if we pull together and work together.”

Wilson said the day center is already making an impact in people’s lives.

“The people were so thankful and full of gratitude and so kind and warm and friendly,” she said. “One thing that I’ll never forget were two guys who stayed after and helped us clean for 45 minutes. When I said thank you to them they totally turned it back. They thanked me for providing this for them. To me, that really showed that sense of community. We are all in this together.”

By Geoff Pursinger
Assistant Editor, The Times
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