The Mission’s big mission

March, 3, 2017

Two keys to reducing homelessness: Mental health services and housing

Six thousand homeless people pass through the Eugene Mission each year, and Executive Director Jack Tripp says he has never seen a miraculous healing. The healings he has seen are achieved through work, patience, respect and love. As Lane County grapples with a seemingly intractable homelessness problem, Tripp’s experience is instructive: There will be no easy victories, but sustained efforts will yield successes.

The Eugene Mission shelters 400 people on any given night, and that many again come each day for meals, showers and other essentials. It operates on a budget of about $2.5 million — all in private donations; as an explicitly Christian organization the Mission receives no government funds — and about the same amount in in-kind donations of food, clothing and other goods. Services are provided by a paid staff of 42, supported by several hundred volunteers.

These numbers obscure the real work of the Mission, which is not to provide shelter and food but to promote wellness. Under Tripp, four years ago the Mission raised its sights and resolved to focus on helping people with the problems that caused them to be homeless in the first place. Every person who stays at the Mission for more than two weeks is assigned a case manager who provides counseling and referral to housing, employment, medical and other services. Twenty to 60 people are enrolled in an 18-month residential program that involves education, life skills and recovery from substance abuse.

People aren’t allowed to stay at the Mission if they’re on drugs or alcohol, which Tripp says is essential to creating a safe environment where wellness can be nurtured. Yet about 50 percent of the people at the Mission are struggling with an addiction. Tripp estimates that 90 percent of his guests have some type of mental health problem, often severe. And Denise Jubber, the Mission’s director of supportive services, says nearly all the guests have trauma in their background — an abusive childhood, unresolved stress from military combat or a cause for inconsolable guilt, such as having killed a friend while driving drunk.

If you would like to read the full Register Guard Opinion story you can find it here!

If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.