Portland park rangers build bridges to the homeless

Portland park rangers build bridges to the homeless

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by Tracy Barry, KGW.com

kgw.com

Posted on May 10, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Updated Saturday, May 11 at 4:09 PM

PORTLAND -- When you hear the term Park Ranger, you probably think of someone patrolling trails and keeping an eye on campfires. But there are also rangers right in the city-- Portland Park Rangers like Katie Gribbons.

Some people think Katie’s job is just a walk in the park, and to a degree they are right. She and her partners do a lot of walking. According to Katie it’s the best job in the world.

Katie and her partner Josh Larsen make the rounds at Waterfront Park. They check to make sure that no one is drinking or camping, or breaking any of the rules.

But Katie says there is more to the job.

“We are kind of the enforcement, but we are also education and ambassadors for the city,” she said.

For Katie, that means part of the job is taking the time to ask people who are homeless how they are and if they need anything.

There are often requests for backpacks and sleeping bags; requests that Katie does her best to fulfill with the help of something called Night Strike.

Night Strike is a weekly event put on by Bridgetown Inc. under the Burnside Bridge. People can get a free hot meal, a haircut and some of the basic necessities for life on the streets.

It was Katie that encouraged other Portland Park Rangers to join her there. On Thursday night, Katie handed out gloves.

“Get those hands warm and get the scarf on and keep warm okay?” She tells one of the regulars.

Katie says it gives the rangers a chance to interact with the homeless as people not problems.

ellow ranger Josh Larsen has noticed the difference.

“They are like everybody else,” he says.” Everyone wants a little respect in life and if you give them that respect, they give it back.”

Back on the job, it is not always so easy. A woman in the park rages and curses at the rangers when they approach her. But Katie doesn’t quit. She leaves behind a resource book with her name on it and the message that somebody cares.

“Maybe tomorrow she will be having a better day,” says Katie. “And we can talk to her a little more then.”

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