That's exactly what some folks in Portland, Oregon wanted to do. A local performer, Jeffrey Darling, was getting ready to organize the city's fourth annual Queer Christmas Holiday Bash, and reached out to the Portland Rescue Mission to see if they might be interested in sponsoring a coat-and-sweater drive at the event. The response Darling got from Portland Rescue Mission staffer Brian Merrell?
Sorry, we don't work with queers to fight poverty or homelessness.
Darling told the Portland Mercury that the folks at the Portland Rescue Mission were worried that their donors, many of whom are religious, would stop giving to the Mission if they found out that LGBT people were involved.
"[The Mission is a] faith-based organization and there was some concern with how it might come across to some of our donors," Merrell told Darling via a voicemail.
So to keep track. The Portland Rescue Mission, which has a mission statement including "a tireless commitment to breaking the cycle of homelessness," does not want to work in partnership with LGBT festivals or organizations to break the cycle of homelessness. So fighting poverty and homelessness has now become a battle only straight people can wage?
To their credit, the Portland Rescue Mission has accepted an offer put forward by a local activist, Rev. Chuck Currie, to have a sit down meeting with Basic Rights Oregon, to discuss why their decision "might be hurtful to the gay and lesbian community." That's a start to rectifying this situation, which from all sides is pretty tragic.
The holiday season is about giving. That's exactly what the Queer Christmas Holiday Bash was hoping to do by reaching out to the Portland Rescue Mission. It's a shame they were refused the opportunity to help. Homelessness and poverty are something we should all be interested in alleviating. If we can't find common ground and work together in this space, what does that say about how committed organizations like the Portland Rescue Mission are to really living out their mission to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty?