In March of 1995 Steve and Diane Kimes asked Edgar, a homeless man just out of the hospital, into their home for something to eat. It was late, and they were getting on the bus for church, but they recommended that he come over the next evening for dinner. He agreed. At two in the morning they received a phone call from a bartender who found their phone number in Edgar’s pocket and asked if he could sent the heavily inebriated man to their apartment. They agreed. Their relatively safe life was over with that decision.
Soon they were feeding people every night in their SE Portland apartment. Occasionally they would have someone stay in their living room. They would listen to the stories of the homeless, learn the unique culture of the drunks, drug addicts, mentally ill and those who just don’t measure up to societal standards.
Eventually, they expanded this ministry within their church’s walls, but their apartment was always a center for help, assistance and housing. They would care for wounds, allow people to rest, get some food and a few could stay overnight. The church they were attending was unwilling to continue to allow the homeless to use their facilities, so Steve and Diane decided to begin their own church, a church made up of the homeless and mentally ill. A church where people could interrupt, take smoke breaks and can openly talk about their poverty and addictions. A church were absolutely anyone, especially the destitute, addicted and socially unacceptable could meet. This is the beginning of Anawim.
Their church services were not limited to just worship. A group of the homeless and outcast prepared and served a meal, new faces were greeted and stories were heard, and a community was being encouraged to form. This day shelter was only one days a week. In 2009, Steve organized a number of churches in the Gresham area to form a day shelter network so the homeless and those who had nowhere to go could have a church to rest in, out of the elements and unwelcome stares of the police and neighbors. Now there are four churches providing day shelters six days a week in Gresham.
Steve and Diane were forced to move out of their apartment, which allowed an opportunity for a generous giver to grant them a house in North Portland. This house now keeps the Kimes family as well as up to 10 other homeless folks.
Right now, Anawim has a three acre facility they are renting, which the homeless are planting with gardens. There is a Red Barn which is being used as a makeshift warehouse to store bedding and clothing donations for the winter. And there is a church building which is used for day shelters 3 to 4 days a week.
Most of churches providing day shelter also have wished to provide overnight shelter, especially during the winter. The Gresham Fire Marshal barred any shelter to be granted in churches unless under emergency conditions, which usually meant under 25 degrees. Anawim and a network of churches approached the city and slowly they are allowing more facilities to meet the criteria and they are allowing the definition of “emergency” to be met, under certain conditions, to up to 32 degrees.
In the past, Anawim has provided meals, shelter and worship for the homeless and mentally ill in various parts of Portland. Right now, a formerly homeless couple from Anawim is beginning to open up a new branch in St. Johns where there are currently no services specifically for the homeless. Food, clothes, companionship and worship is provided for the homeless who live there. There is a possibility of providing showers and some limited shelter in SE Portland as well.