Union Gospel Mission reaches out to homeless in the cold

The search and rescue team goes all over Portland looking for those in need

The Union Gospel Mission's search and rescue team goes out to find homeless people in need. (KOIN)
The Union Gospel Mission's search and rescue team goes out to find homeless people in need. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Cold nights are setting in and the Union Gospel Mission’s search and rescue team is hitting the streets, hoping to warm people up.

A van full of volunteers and supplies makes the rounds, handing out blankets, clothes, sleeping bags and meals to people sleeping outside. The search and rescue team has been in effect for a little more than a year, making trips all over Portland.

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“They are people just like us,” volunteer Iscca Jeter said. “A lot of them just like to be acknowledged.”

Jeter said helping the homeless is a “calling from God and an opportunity to do His will.”

The volunteers also want to build relationships with people to help connect them with resources.

“We have people that aren’t necessarily able to reach downtown, to reach some of the devices,” Jeter said. “Once you get a relationship, from there, you can try to refer them to services and you can distinguish between do they want to be out there or if they want help.”

The search and rescue team is able to reach those people and provide them with necessary supplies. One of those in need is Sonya Perez, who was out in Southeast Portland with no shoes.

“It helps a lot,” Perez said. “If it wasn’t for them, a lot of us would be gone.”

Jeter said he’ll keep spending his nights offering help and letting people know they’re not alone and they haven’t been forgotten.

“To be able to touch a life, it’s something,” Jeter said. “It’s an experience that’s hard to describe.”