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Chemeketa students offer help to those in need

Chemeketa students gather to help the homeless through the Night Strike organization.
Photo by Jerry Clark.

One Thursday each month, students from Chemeketa travel to Portland to volunteer their time with Night Strike, an organization that serves the needs of the homeless. Night Strike, an outreach group managed by the humanitarian organization Bridge Town Inc., gathers each week under the Burnside Bridge along with hundreds of people including volunteers and many of Portland’s local homeless community.

Jerry Clark, a Chemeketa student and president of the CRU club, organizes the groups of students who participate in Night Strike. Once a month, he drives a college van with an average of 9-12 students up to Portland for the evening. The evening begins at 7 p.m. with an orientation on safety issues and how to serve and interact with the homeless people they will be helping.

Students help provide different services such as cutting hair, giving manicures, repairing backpacks and coats, serving food, handing out dog and cat food, and washing feet. Clark said the importance of washing feet is that many of the homeless people are walking most of the day, wearing the same socks for days at a time and leave their shoes on at night for fear of them being stolen. This can cause them to develop diseases which make walking difficult or even impossible.

Night Strike has a goal of developing relationships with the homeless. Clark recalled a man who he’s become familiar with during his time volunteering, who lights up with a big smile when he sees Clark. “This man, he sees me and arms go wide and we embrace. It’s good to see him and he’s glad to see me too,” Clark said.

According to Clark, students have preconceived ideas about homeless people: that the’re lazy or just don’t care. His hope when taking students up to Night Strike is that they sit down with the people they’re serving and get to know them. “For me, I like to break those stereotypes that people have of the homeless; get [students] face to face with them to change their perspective,” he said.

The most common thing Clark hears from students after a night of volunteering is that it was a life-changing experience that they would definitely do again. “Going to Night Strike most likely will have an impact on your life that strikes the chords of compassion that will change you, possibly for the rest of your life,” he said.

For more information about Night Strike, visit the office of Student Retention and College Life in Bldg. 2. The next Chemeketa Night Strike event is scheduled for Dec. 7.