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'We give people hope': Volunteers in recovery help addicts off the street

A Portland ministry is helping people experiencing homelessness and addiction get on the path to recovery.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Every Friday night for the last three years, volunteers with PDX Saints deliver homemade meals, warm blankets and clothing to those camping along the Springwater Trail in Southeast Portland. They also listen to their stories.

“We link arms with them and try to start a new life,” said PDX Saints Director Kristle Delihanty. 

She said volunteers also try to help meet immediate needs. 

“We have a man here who's campsite burned down. So, we're going to bring him some gear in a little bit,” said Delihanty.

PDX Saints is based out of The Bridge Church in the Lents neighborhood. Besides meals and clothing, the ministry offers sponsorships to pay for recovery housing for those ready to try something new. Delihanty said it starts with acknowledging their humanity.

“Every single person out there has a trauma and a story that got them there,” she said. “If you pause long enough to listen, it empowers them to change."

Those words run deep for Delihanty. She's eight years into recovery from homelessness; 20 years of addiction and crime. A district attorney gave her a chance to start over—a moment of grace that she's never forgotten.

“When my life was redeemed, I felt like it was absolutely my opportunity to come out and share that hope with others, that redemption is possible," she said.

Those on the receiving end of that hope include Heather Theroux and Joshua Woodell. About a year ago, the couple was homeless and fighting their own battle with addiction. Then they met Delihanty.

“My desire to get clean started there for me,” said Theroux.

“There's hope and God moves through people,” added Woodell.

The couple is now housed through Sober Housing Oregon and are following a new life path. But every Friday night, they return to the Springwater Corridor.

“I know the hopelessness that is out there,” said Theroux. “I know what it's like when it's cold and it's wet and you are just glossed over just like a piece of trash on the street.”

The couple still knows people who live on the trail and hope to offer them a real-life example of what their future could be like.

“Just last year, I overdosed on heroin on the bike trail,” said Woodell. “Every week, I get to see the same people that I camped with and lived with and I get to tell them there's a better way. They believe me because they saw me at my worst and they see me now. It's not an easy road but it gets better. I really like it because we give people hope.”

Their hope on this Friday is that someone receiving a hot meal and blanket will soon be the one handing them out. They just don't know it yet.

“I pray every single Friday on my way here that God opens a door for one opportunity of impact,” said Delihanty. “That it's just one opportunity of change.”

The PDX Saints team is always looking for warm clothes, sleeping bags, socks and blankets that they can take out to those living along the trail. They accept donations at the church, located at 8747 SE Foster Rd., every Friday around 5 p.m. and every Sunday between 9 a.m. and noon. You can also donate online to support the ministry.