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Oregon churches respond to escalating homelessness, drug crises

By Jim Hinch

Episcopal News Service

Since the pandemic, the state of Oregon has experienced one of the nation’s sharpest rises in homelessness and drug use.

Tents are set up around the Saints Peter & Paul campus in southeast Portland. Photo: Ellen Clarke via ENS

Churches in the state are taking extraordinary measures to meet a relentless surge in need for food, housing and mental healthcare. They are partnering with public agencies and local non-profits, expanding feeding ministries, engaging in community development efforts, building their own affordable housing projects and even going to court to defend against community opposition to their ministries.

“The pressure has been enormous,” Oregon Bishop Diana Akiyama told Episcopal News Service. “The desire to serve is so strong and the need has been intensified.”

One church is going even further. Saints Peter & Paul Episcopal Church on Portland’s southeast side plans to bulldoze its entire campus and replace it with a four-story supportive housing and social service complex. The Rev. Sara Fischer, the parish’s rector, said she is “75% certain” the new building will include a consecrated Episcopal worship space, though plans are still being finalized.

“I’m focused on Jesus and what Jesus would do with our space,” Fischer said. “The way to be the church is to engage in Christian service.”

To read the rest of this story, click here.

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