Not a lot of people get a brick as a gift when they're ordained into ministry. But that is just what my friends Erik Sten and Bob Durston got me. The brick was taken from the rubble of Baloney Joe's after it was demolished while I was in St. Louis. Baloney Joe's was perhaps one of most famous agencies in Portland history. For many years it was the last refuge for the "least of these" in Portland. Over 150 men slept there each night and the shelter provided a medical clinic, jobs program and counseling. This was the first shelter that I ever worked at (I was on the board). But Baloney Joe's was much more than just another social service agency. We served as the neighborhood association for the Burnside / Old Town area, engaged in community organizing and those that worked and lived there served as steadfast advocates for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in our city. Baloney Joe's closed in the early 1990s after we tried to move the shelter into Old Town and business developers objected. Controversy over our leadership erupted. Those who lived in Portland will remember what we endured. The building sat empty for many years afterwards on the east end of the Burnside Bridge. I walked away from my four years there - a place I sometimes call the University of Baloney Joe's - with great friends who are still with me today and with the belief that no matter the odds we can still change the world - even if it is sometimes only one life at a time.
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