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Now Father’s Heart serves about 70 people a day, offering two hot meals, sack lunches to go, a clothing swap, showers, haircuts, computers and a place to watch TV or nap. Not long after Father’s Heart opened, the Oregon City Police Department began reporting a higher number of complaints about the kind of minor crimes and neighborhood nuisances associated with a large homeless population.On especially cold nights, the day center turns into an overnight shelter zoned to sleep 49. “It’s people defecating on lawns, scaring children, leaving their trash in obvious places, climbing over fences, sleeping in doorways and driveways,” said David Frasher, Oregon City’s city manager.“One of my biggest problems is trying to explain who we serve. “They have a hard time understanding when I say, ‘No, I’m in Tigard.
In Oregon City, the spread of poverty has prompted a chicken-or-the-egg type debate: Which came first, the homeless people or the homeless shelter?
“I was driving into downtown Portland every day, but I saw more and more people on the way. Portland was just my training ground.” Gant, a short, wiry woman with spiky silver hair, established her first day center for homeless men and women in a Clackamas business park a decade ago.
In 2012, she moved the ministry five miles south to a former government office building on the fringe of downtown Oregon City and the Mc Loughlin Historic Conservation District.
“We want to understand what brought them here,” said Sgt. “So yes, we sometimes ask whether they’re here for Father’s Heart.” Gant, whose devotion to Christ comes coupled with a no-nonsense nature, sees a different motive behind that question.
“They’re trying to make us the scapegoat for something that is much larger than just one organization,” she said.