Operation Nightwatch is a non-sectarian ministry that has been offering hospitality, hope, and healing to Portland’s street population since 1981. Whereas other agencies exist to address the physical needs of the homeless, ONW recognizes that they also suffer from social isolation, and has as its simple ideal to offer respect, dignity, and friendship. We currently operate four different hospitality centers throughout Portland, including the North and Southeast Portland neighborhoods. On a given night, we serve anywhere between 100 and 250 guests at our centers.
All four of these centers share a common yet dire need: blankets.
When you are living outside, having a blanket is a necessity, but in no way a solution to the problem. In that sense, giving our guests a blanket to keep them warm is a band-aid solution. However, what happens when we don’t even have blankets to hand out? When all we have to offer is a stocking hat and a garbage bag so that our guests can hopefully get some sort of flimsy protection from the weather? This is like using a band-aid on an arm that just got mauled off by a bear. Although we may have the best of intentions in offering said band-aid, it simply won’t cut it.
We’d like to share one man’s story in particular. The gentleman of whom we speak is a regular guest at our Southeast Center. He is soft-spoken and gentle. Most nights he quietly keeps to himself, and the conversations we have had with him previously have been nothing less than pleasant. One Saturday, this kind man came to our center hunched over and literally crying. He was soaked to the bone, and kept repeating how cold he was. “Please, I need something to wrap up in. I’m so cold. I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t do it. Please tell me you have something.” It broke our hearts to tell him that we didn’t. We made this man some tea, and managed to find some dry clothes that were lying around, but all he could manage to do was to sit in a chair and curl up in a ball. Still, this man was freezing. We gave him a hat and a scarf, which he instantly put on and continued to sit at the table, defeated. In desperation to provide some sort of comfort to this guest, we poured some rice into a sock and microwaved it to create a make-shift heat pack. This, too, he placed around the crook of his neck and attempted to warm up.
This guest came to us with dire need, and all we had to offer were less-than-band-aid solutions. For far too long now, we have been out of blankets to give our guests. Especially in the winter months, blankets can literally mean life or death for some people.
With your help, we can change this reality. A donation of even $10 will allow us to buy a blanket to give to a guest who needs it. Donate to Operation Nightwatch, and you can sustain a larger mission of providing hospitality for those who experience very little. You can provide comfort and warmth for those who need shelter. You can extend a supportive hand to those who rarely get as much as a glance on the street.
Thank you for your commitment to hospitality! Welcome to the Operation Nightwatch community!