Union Rescue Mission partnered with the Hearts for Hope Committee on March 8th to hold our 5th Annual Hearts for Hope Gala. Held at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, this year’s event was a rousing success raising almost $400,000 for our Hope Gardens Family Center.
Honored as “Hearts for Service” honorees were Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the Guggenheim Partners and the Graduate School of Education and Psychology Mental Health Clinic of Pepperdine; all who are long-time supporters of URM.
The evening of entertainment featured recording artist Joy Enriquez, wife of Grammy Award winning producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. Also gracing the audience with her “Calipopicana” sound was Malibu singer-songwriter Kylie Hughes and one of Hollywood’s top warm-up comic, Robert G. Lee. Some of the notable guests on hand was daughter of legend Muhammad Ali - and Champion boxer in her own right - Laila Ali, New England Patriot Andre Carter and his wife Bethany, and Aeriel Miranda currently on ABC’s Pretty Little Liars and the CW’s Tomorrow People, along with a host of individuals and special guests all with a profound heart for helping those who are experiencing homelessness.
In some ways, the 1980s were a great time for me. I was young, popular, intelligent, and a good Christian boy in my Baptist church in North Carolina. I dressed in suits and ties, I dyed my hair several different colors, and I danced to Prince, Madonna, and Boy George. And I dreamed of being stinking rich
But there was another side to me. I discovered pot, alcohol, cigarettes — and sex. In fact, sex was my “drug” of choice. I not only loved sex, the more the better, I needed sex to fill the emptiness I felt and numb my terror of being alone. And as this other side to me grew larger, so did the conflict with my family, my church, and my North Carolina community.
So I rejected them all and left home to pursue my new chosen lifestyle. But instead of fulfillment, I just experienced more depression, isolation, and rejection. Then I fell into a new addiction to cocaine and often ended up prostituting myself to make ends meet. My life just continued to unravel until I was diagnosed HIV positive in 1997.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, hoping to start over. But I just ended up in and out of jail and rehab centers — until I came to Union Rescue Mission in 2012.
I arrived depressed, weak, frustrated, and irritated at life. I came expecting to find even more rejection and judgment. Instead, I found myself surrounded by forgiveness, mercy, love, and God’s grace. The chaplains and staff here embraced me and refused to give up on me. No one ever showed me that kind of grace before. Not ever.
I began opening my heart to God again and stepping out in faith. The hole and emptiness I felt my entire life began to fill with new hope, which continues to grow even today. I can’t say it was Union Rescue Mission that filled the hole — but they pointed me to the God who could.
As I approach this coming Easter, I can say I’m a new creation. I’m home.
Partner with us to help men like Christopher back on their feet! ►http://ow.ly/sCCYJ
I understand that the Housing 1st push to provide Permanent Supportive Housing along with The Harm Reduction Model (allowing drug use in the privacy of one's unit within Permanent Supportive Housing) is being touted From Washington D.C. to Los Angeles as the latest silver bullet to end homelessness, but has anyone considered housing options for those who want to remain sober and reside in a sober and safe environment?