CanStock Photo ##
CanStock Photo ##

Central mission is helping homeless help themselves


There has been a great deal of discussion about homelessness in McMinnville arising at city council meetings and spreading into the pages of this publication. But little has been said about my agency, the Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission, which is on the front lines.

Guest Writer

Kaye Sawyer grew up in McMinnville and launched a career in emergency services dispatching. Prior to her retirement, she and a couple of co-workers saw an unmet need for emergency housing in McMinnville and set out to provide it — with God’s help. The result was the Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission, where she now serves as executive director. Outside work hours, she pursues another passion — training and showing dogs.

In a way that’s surprising, as we have been providing free food and shelter for our homeless neighbors for 14 years now. Last year alone, we provided 27,719 meals and 10,000 overnight stays for the homeless. And thanks to generous contributions from our community, that will increase this year.

I want to share with you some of the services we offer and some of the things we have learned in helping the local homeless. But first, I want to tell you about Jackie.

Fleeing sexual abuse and a stalker who lived next door, Jackie came to the mission from another state. She quickly found employment and housing, enabling her to make it on her own.

Then, one morning last year, she awoke to find she was paralyzed. Doctors could not figure out why, but it rendered her unable to work and she lost her home.

Gradually, with a lot of physical therapy, the paralysis subsided. Eager to re-establish her independence, she once again called on the mission for help.

Jackie immediately began searching for employment. She took additional training, then took the steps necessary to land a job with an organization she really wanted to work for.

With mission support, her life has really blossomed. She is now sharing a place with a friend.

Not every story is as promising as Jackie’s. But by providing people with a safe place to live, holding them to reasonable standards and helping them get back on their feet, we have had many, many success stories.

So how does it work?

There is no cost to anyone to stay at any of our facilities. We provide food, showers, laundry service, recovery meetings and job training free of charge.  

We allow guests to bring companion animals as long as they are not aggressive toward others. If they aren’t up to date on their shots, we help with that. We provide a crate for the animal in the meantime.

I’ve always jokingly referred to us as a no-kill shelter!

We maintain separate men’s and women’s facilities that are drug and alcohol free. The men’s facility was just completed earlier this year.

Operating year-round, they can each accommodate 17. We offer an initial 30-day stay that can be extended for individuals making a real effort to move forward.

We expect our guests to search for work and housing, with our help.

We love our guests and understand the very difficult challenges they face. But playing an enabling role does not teach them how to move forward.

We also operate an overnight shelter capable of accommodating 35. We offer two- or three-day emergency stays there for people seeking to transition to a stable environment — a limitation established by the city.

During good weather, it’s limited to clean and sober guests. Guests unaware of our clean and sober policy, or facing urgent need, are allowed one night under the influence. But they must agree to cease using in order to extend their stay.

When weather becomes a health hazard, typically as a result of freezing temperatures experienced from December through March, we relax our clean and sober policy as long as the hazard persists.

Living drug and alcohol free is our most important rule.

Why? Because that represents the first step to recovery, making it possible for our guests to put in the effort required to secure employment and housing.

We also bar predatory sex offenders, people under conditions preventing them from being around certain segments of the population, and people engaging in violence, harassment or disruptive behavior. In addition, we ask guests not to panhandle while receiving our support. That’s it.

We are a Christian outreach organization. As a result, we are often asked if we require guests to attend Bible study sessions or religious services.

The short answer is, no. We don’t require participation in Bible study, attendance at religious services or even a belief in God in order to stay at the mission.

However, it’s important to understand why we do this work.

In an age when it is commonly assumed the sole issue to homelessness is lack of a home, rapid re-housing is considered the most effective solution. In my experience, though, this is not the primary need for a majority of the homeless population.

When you look under the surface of homelessness, you often find things that cannot be addressed by handing someone the keys to an apartment — things like pain, addiction, abuse, physical illness, mental illness, history of sex trafficking and lack of resources and skills.

At the core of homelessness, at its heart, we believe there is brokenness that can only be addressed by restoration through Jesus Christ. We have seen many come to our door broken, but leave with hope, goals and a better understanding of who they are as an outgrowth of faith.

This is the heart of the mission — reconciling souls with God. So we offer our guests the opportunity to participate in Bible study and understand the healing that’s possible through Jesus.

But there is no requirement, just an opportunity.

The mission would not be able to provide a safe, healing, supportive place to stay without the donation of thousands of hours and a steady stream of food, supplies, furniture, landscaping, financial support and such.

The service of our benefactors is a gift to us as well as the homeless in our community. I am so grateful for them.

If you need our help, please call 503-472-9766 for a pre-intake interview. If you someone who needs our help, please urge them to call.




The County has given huge checks to this organization (house in a neighborhood opporating under a CUP - conditional use permit). In December a huge check and a month later the County Tax Payers via Mary Starrett gifted a very cute one bedroom house on a large lot on 14th.

However "Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission" couldn't accept the house legally so counsel changed their name/status October, 2018, with the State, changing their name slightly (removing the word gospel) and then naming them a "public benefit Corporation"

My question to the author of this article: what is the purpose of accepting the cute one bedroom home on 14th and why is it now tax exempt?

As a tax payer I fail to see the "Public Benefit" as the gifted property does not have a CUP to operate as anything other than a home and no longer contributes to our tax base. Also it's just a one bedroom.... what's your plan for this property?


Wonderful that you require sober living and provide the opportunity for those willing to turn their lives around.


This is amazing and thank you for your very hard work. The only question I have is do you allow sex offenders to stay in your shelter?


The Mission has been looking for a way to extend our services for folks that need more time to get on their feet and receive the recovery they need in order to handle issues that they have been struggling with for a long time. This house will be used for that purpose. I shared the program with Mary Starrett to have up to 5 individuals (after adding more bedrooms and making repairs) living there while participating in a 1-2 year program. This is a voluntary faith based program that consists of life skill and recovery training to help with coping skills and maintaining a life of sobriety and self-sufficiency. At this time, the Mission has been helping many people on a 30 day or longer stay to get on their feet and into lengthier stable housing but has not had a program that will help them tackle those things that have brought them back to the Mission several times. The Portland and Salem area have several similar programs which the Mission has been utilizing if the guest is willing to go. Many times, they are reluctant due to ties to the local community.

The Commissioners wanted to see the house used for the homeless in some capacity and this type of program is a valuable step to help those that need the extra time and training to overcome their obstacles. The Public Benefit Corporation was created to comply with the requirements for receiving the house and the Mission subsequently paid off the taxes that had accumulated over the years. The house is tax exempt because it will be used for charitable purposes.


In regards to your question about the house contributing to the tax base, the community is already helping to pay those costs when donating toward our programs. The Mission takes on a huge amount of expenses to house and help these folks with 24 hour staffing. Many in the community have been partnering with us to make this possible and I would think having the tax exempt status would be considered a reprieve (cutting down on costs) for those in the community that are supporting the Mission.

The Conditional Use Permit (CUP) that the Mission has relates to what is allowed based on the zone. We are in a residential neighborhood and due to the number of guests we have there is a requirement to apply for a conditional use. The city has an allowance for up to 5 individuals living in a home located in residential neighborhoods. I am not aware of any additional requirements that would require a CUP at this house we received but will certainly check with the City prior to implementing the program.


There are different levels of Sex offenders and the Mission allows non-violent, low level offenders to come if they need a bed. Everyone that comes to the Mission is told there may be a sex offender living on site and is given the option to utilize the overnight stay building or chose not to stay. Any sex offender that is predatory or could be a threat, is not allowed to stay.


i would assume a business running a homeless shelter would need a Cup and I would assume a County couldn't donate a house for that purpose without one.... but what do I know. The house closed just shy of 6 months ago... what's your start date and do you think neighbors should be made aware of your plans?

Thanks for answering. I know you received a check to cover the $10,000 purchase price in December from the County and the BO for the house transfer January 24th and it closed March 1. I didn't realize it would be tax exempt.... seems like the price should have included future lost tax revenue. Also seems strange to not have this located in a business district vs a neighborhood and such a cute/very small home seems very impractical IMO



A facility housing 5 or less people is not required to have a conditional use permit (CUP). A facility providing the services we provide that houses more than 5 people must have a CUP in every McMinnville zone, including those located in a business district. However, if you are aware of an available house downtown that could be donated to the Mission, please let me know. I am not aware of one.

This house on 14th St has been sitting vacant since we moved in across the street in 2007. By adding rooms to sleep 5 people, it can rehabilitate 5 folks every 1-2 years. I would call that practical.

We have already put a new roof on the house and will need to remodel and add rooms to it as soon as we finish rennovating the current facility and finishing the landscaping & courtyard for the buildings we are using.

Your statement regarding the County sending a check to cover the purchase price is inaccurate. The Mission paid the owed tax out of funds donated by the community through a local nonprofit foundation. The County should be able to verify that the funds came by check from the Mission. You're also welcome to come meet with me and I'd be happy to answer any other questions you may have about how the Mission is operated.


I stand by impractical. Didn't the mission request another $250,000 recently that was turned down?

If a property is Tax Exempt shouldn't it have a CUP to be Tax Exempt or in the correct zone to be Tax Exempt?


There is no requirement for property to have a CUP if it is exempt. You may want to reach out to the Planning Department and they can explain how they designate zones, CUP's, etc.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable