State of Emergency – Update

We need your help. I need your help.

20140930_0300We have 500 more precious souls under our roofs at Union Rescue Mission than we did last year at this time. Incredibly, almost all of that increase has been single women and women with children.

For the first time in our 125 year history, women and children outnumber men in our building by more than 200! There are twice as many single women at Union Rescue Mission as last year. We have more families than during the Great Recession when our resources were pushed to the limit.

We made a choice long ago to never turn away a family from our doors nor ever leave a woman on the mean streets of Skid Row. Homelessness devastates children. What happens to women on the streets is horrendous. My heart won’t let me. Our hearts won’t let us.

20140930_0303Union Rescue Mission is now the only Mission that welcomes families with children.

Not only are we the only downtown shelter for families with children, we are also the only shelter for single women. Because of this commitment to families, community and government agencies from throughout Los Angeles County are referring them here. Union Rescue Mission has become Los Angeles’ emergency response to homelessness.

Our commitment to embrace all with the compassion of Christ has called us to welcome 1,300 guests under our roofs each night. Tonight, more than 260 children will go to sleep at Union Rescue Mission.

img_8055We are now at capacity as a Mission.

To properly care for 1,300 men, women and children, we need to add $580,000 to our budget. This would allow us to increase our staff and expand our resources. Without these additional funds, we will need to exit our guest men to make room for the women and children.

I do not want that to happen. I know you don’t want that to happen, either.

Please make a donation today to make a way for Union Rescue Mission to continue welcoming all who come to our doors.

Skid Row’s State of Emergency

We were thrilled when Los Angeles recognized the State of Emergency of Skid Row and prioritized the issue of homelessness. It is absolutely an epidemic right now. The time is past due to allocate resources to the problem.

Unfortunately, the money just hasn’t shown up. I know it makes us feel great that we’re talking about a plan, or proposing a budget, but that doesn’t help the people dying on the street tonight. This emergency was declared six months ago and we’re still talking about what we’re going to do next year or over the next five years.

We’ve gone from 44,000 people experiencing homelessness to 47,000 people, an increase of almost 6%. Of that 3,000 more people, 40% are single women. Now, more than ever, we need to find a place to shelter these vulnerable people, yet more and more shelters are closing their doors. We lost over 2,000 shelter and transitional beds county-wide.

Since last year, the numbers on the streets have increased and over 40% of that growth is single women. We are going backwards.

At Union Rescue Mission, women and children outnumber men for the first time ever and we’re sheltering over 1,000 people each night. Since 2013, there has been a 55% increase in women experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. We need more options now so women are not stuck on mean streets of Skid Row or anywhere in our city. My heart won’t rest as long as women and children are on the streets. We, Union Rescue Mission, will not rest as long as women and children are on the streets. With your help, while others talk we will continue to step up.

Please consider giving a gift during our Matching Gift Challenge and make an impact on the lives of those experiencing homelessness that have come to Union Rescue Mission. Any gift you give will be matched 100% by our anonymous donors.

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The Power of Resurrection

7As we wrap up the Easter Season, I find myself reflecting back on our celebration of Easter, better known as Resurrection Sunday, at Union Rescue Mission. On March 27th I was asked once again to deliver the annual message at our Sunrise service on the Union Rescue Mission rooftop. The message-He is Risen-He is Risen indeed.

It was quite an honor to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on our rooftop, but to tell you the truth, we celebrate the power of the resurrection every day at Union Rescue Mission. It is celebrated through scripture on our walls, through songs and messages in our chapels and bible studies. Most importantly, we celebrate the power of resurrection through the transformed lives of our precious guests.

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I eagerly get out of bed every morning and battle Los Angeles traffic to get to Union Rescue Mission as quickly as I can in order to participate in and see the life saving and life changing work that occurs inside the walls of this amazing place. I feel I have the best job in town.

Little ones saved from hunger and the streets break into the biggest smiles and hand me Hearts of Love they have drawn and colored in.

Join us today and help more people experience the power of resurrection, escape poverty and find their way home again. image1

God bless you,

 andysig

 

Rev. Andy Bales

Union Rescue Mission needs you to finish 2015 well!!

We are about to enter into our 125th year of serving people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

This year will be a very special one, as we are moving ahead in adding 13 units at Hope Gardens to assist 13 more moms & their children in overcoming homelessness. These 13 units will serve a special role as they will be a safety net for children of moms’ who may take a bit longer or may not ever overcome the obstacles keeping them without a home of their own.

Other plans for Hope Gardens include paying off the $3.6 million dollar mortgage, making the elevators operational in all buildings & we may build small homes on vacant land & more units for our Senior Ladies.

At Union Rescue Mission we are ready to retrofit all 3 elevators & make other needed capital improvements.

Next year’s plans also call for a URM satellite out of Skid Row as we continue our strategic plan to multiply hope, regionalize services, & bring an end to the tragedy that is Skid Row.

We are off to a good start on all of these new plans but none can proceed without a good finish to 2015.

This good finish is complicated by El Niño & the now cold weather that has come early & the expected cold & wet storms predicted in our near future.

We’ve added 140 cots downtown & these cots have been utilized for 223 days in a row.  With the worst of the storms on the way, we may need to add 250 more cots or even find a satellite location now rather than later to get everyone out of harms way. These are added costs not planned in our budget & that is why we need your help.

We need to not only meet our budget of $3.7 million in December alone, but we need to surpass the budget to keep up with the added costs of serving our precious guests in our cold & wet weather cots. Welcoming them at this critical moment could quite possibly put them on the path home to a transformed life.

Take a moment to give a life saving life changing gift of any amount at urm.org by December 31st to help URM finish 2015 strong & roll into 2016 with great momentum.

Every gift given by midnight December 31st will be matched/doubled.

Thank you, Andy B

Why I still believe in Rescue

11RESCUE those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

12If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?

Proverbs 24:11-12

Some Missions are dropping the word Rescue from their title. A marketing executive recently suggested that Union Rescue Mission consider the same. He felt the term painted a picture of an old school mission providing only 3 hots and a cot along with a Gospel message. A former associate viewed the term as paternalistic and archaic, but I dare to disagree.

Union Rescue Mission will keep the important word Rescue in our name. No mission has proven to be more innovative, guest affirming and non paternalistic over the years than URM.

Over 29 years ago I joined a mission in Des Moines, Iowa and one of the first things I did was to make the chapel voluntary after the meal rather than compulsory before the meal. Attendance not only held steady but those in attendance were no longer physically hungry and had an increased appetite for spiritual food. History shows that happening at about the same time at URM in LA.

URM refers to all who live here as guests.

URM invites guests to reside at the mission 24/7/365-to be in guest area, or rest in their bunks-no coming in at night, leaving after breakfast and wandering the streets all day.

Guests keep their bed until they find a more permanent home-no 30 or 60 day revolving door. In fact, we are on pace to have 824 guests move into permanent housing this year. This number does not include our recovery programs, which would put the number closer to 1000.

We affirm our guests dignity by inviting them to stay free for 15 days then choose recovery or join Gateway program and pay a part of their own way, set up a personal savings plan, keep their valuables in a locked storage area under their bunks, volunteer throughout URM, maintain sobriety and participate in our clinics and jobs program. We have great respect and high expectations of our guests.

Our hope for everyone is a life transformed, followed by a job, followed by a permanent home. That is the focus of our intense recovery programs. However, we’ve set up sober permanent housing options for single men and women and soon families just in case a return to a job and complete independence is not possible.

URM is Christ and guest centered; each day we strive to listen to Our Lord and our guests and to do even better.

I know Rescue sounds like there is one rescuer and one to be rescued, which may sound paternalistic and there is a need for humility on the part of the rescued.

But humility isn’t a bad thing. It may save your life.

Awhile back, I was body boarding at Newport Beach in big waves. I didn’t realize at the time, but I guess a riptide was carrying me out to sea. A bright yellow life guard boat pulled up and told me to get in the boat. I declined. “I’ve got this. I’m a strong swimmer.”

Lifeguard, “No you don’t, you’re heading out to sea. You have no chance unless you had swim fins on. Get in the boat.”

I humbly(humiliated) climbed in the boat.

When I got back to the beach, my wife and kids were laughing at me, reliving the moment when they realized it was their big tough dad being rescued by the handsome young life guard. I was indeed, humiliated, but I was alive, and from then on, wore a pair of swim fins. :)

It is difficult to walk in the doors of a rescue mission. It is a place of last resort. It is difficult to ask for or accept help. It absolutely requires a level of humility, brokenness, to be rescued, to be restored, to get your swim fins, so to speak, for life’s big waves. It definitely helps when the rescuer is also humble, understands your predicament and welcomes you while affirming your dignity. There is no shame and there should be no shame in asking for help.

3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

4 RESCUE the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

-Psalms 82:3 – 4

Homeless No More…

Six years ago, we at Union Rescue Mission put together 10 Steps To Address Homelessness in LA. We hoped to start a movement called Youarethemission.com to spur our friends to action. As I read these steps today I realize they may be more timely now than ever, especially in Los Angeles.

Here is the 1st step, although today I might say & write; Change the heart of LA by changing the way we speak about people experiencing homelessness.

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Step 1: Change the way we think and talk about people experiencing homelessness.

Too often we describe or label people as “the homeless” or “addicts” or “transients.” These are precious people, made in the image of God, who are currently experiencing homelessness. People should never be defined or labeled exclusively by their current condition. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. When we label people, we don’t see their potential and the possibilities within them. When we look the other way and ignore people, we dehumanize them and diminish their value. We need to look into our own hearts, change our thinking, and learn to recognize that “there, but for the grace of God, go I,” then ask, “What can I do?”Only then can we make a difference.

I am so honored, we are so honored our friends at our marketing agency, Grizzard, have put this idea & words into a powerful video.

We believe this change of heart, change of words, will spur us to take action, not only in LA, but throughout our country. I’ll be revisiting the 10 steps in my next few blogs. You can check them out now at youarethemission.com

Kenneth Chancey, Overcoming All Odds

_MG_5180 Just as The Great Recession became apparent through the exploding numbers of two parent & single father & increased single mom families, Union Rescue Mission made the decision to be guided by our history & The Lord & step up to meet the need.

We opened up a 5th floor wing to make a place for this throng of families.

Among the families, was a single dad, with a son & a daughter, he had recently been reunited with & rescued from foster care.

We knew right away there was something very special about the 15 year old son, Kenneth Chancy.

Despite, living in a van, going hungry, suffering the devastation of homelessness, experiencing the challenges of foster care, Kenneth was a straight A student, Student Body President, & the starting Fullback on the Varsity Football Team.

Immediately, due to to Great Recession, the media descended on URM. When they came, they were very interested in this remarkable young man. ABC, CNN & many more interviewed this young man who had his sights set Harvard & becoming a brain surgeon.

Kenneth was grabbed up by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, flew to CNN in Atlanta, & assisted with a brain surgery. He no longer desired to be a brain surgeon.

He was introduced to NFL Star Nambdi Asomuogh, & was mentored by Nambdi & along with several other bright students taken on a tour of colleges all over the U.S.

Along Kenneth’s journey, he befriended Mayor Antonio Villagarosa, Congresswoman Karen Bass, TV News personality Lou Parker, & many more.

One day, Kenneth Found himself sitting with the Duke & Duchess of Tour, Now Prince William & Princess Katherine.

URM’s own Kitty Davis-Walker, VP of Public Relations, served as an “Auntie” to Kenneth all along the way. Always looking out for him & connecting him with the opportunities mentioned above. I had opportunity to be his firm & loving Uncle at times.

Two weeks ago, Kenneth’s journey continued as he graduated from Loyola Marymount University & his story was told around the world, including The Huffington Post & ABC World News Tonight.

Kenneth was honored by Andre Ethier & The LA Dodgers on Memorial Day & we at Union Rescue Mission are honored to continue with Kenneth on his amazing ride.

Kenneth

Heartbreak on Skid Row

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I am writing to you today with a heavy heart.

As many of you may be aware and many of you have seen in the news, a resident on the streets of Skid Row was recently shot and killed in a struggle with the LAPD right in front of our building. It was a difficult day on Skid Row and we are still feeling the effects of this tragedy as we continue to do everything we can to be a light of God’s love in this nearly impossible and heart wrenching environment.

It may be easy to pass judgment when something like this happens – it raises a lot of questions, but before anyone starts pointing fingers at the LAPD or this man who perished, let’s ask ourselves a question:

Why have we as the people of LA let this situation on Skid Row exist for so long?

Really this tragic event is more of a reflection that we have a Skid Row, an untenable living situation, and police are trying to maintain peace in an impossible environment. Too often we sit back and only act when there is tragedy. The truth is, we all have a part in this and the time to act is now.

There is a proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is today”. We can’t change the last 20 years of Skid Row, nor the last 120, but we can change it starting today. I am asking you to join us in prayer. There is exciting momentum in the direction to regionalize services throughout LA County and decentralize Skid Row. This will be done by encouraging and assisting local communities, churches, and cities to help their neighbors, brothers, and sisters experiencing homelessness in their own communities.

The streets of Skid Row are no place to live and any continuance of this practice demands too much from the city’s law enforcement. My question remains – why have we let the situation exist for so long?

It is time for the people of faith to lead the way in reversing this curse on our cities most vulnerable.

Join us as we continue to pray together and strive to make a difference in this city. We have faith in the Hope that comes from Christ and together we will see that Hope come alive.

Blessings,

andysig

A New Perspective!

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I returned home 6 months ago from biking across Iowa then circling Lake Tahoe on our tandem on a charity ride and despite a wound boot was probably in the best biking shape I’ve been in the last 30 years.

Then three flesh eating bacteria (likely from the streets of Skid Row) infiltrated my foot and nearly destroyed my foot and more.

Well, I’ve ended up with lots of treatments and most importantly ended up learning patience and more by spending the last 6 months in a wheel chair.

My first day in the chair while going to a meeting on Skid Row I was carrying a folder full of important papers in my lap. As I crossed the intersection, I hit a bump and dropped all the papers. As I tried to pick them up, the light turned yellow then red and a troop of fast cars and angry drivers began honking.

Within an instant I became that guy in a wheel chair on Skid Row stopping traffic and hollering at cars!

I’ve discovered ramps that were out of code, even at high end buildings. I’ve encountered many heavy, nearly impossible to open doors that are supposedly handicap accessible. There were plenty of bumps and cracks in the sidewalk and on the streets that will absolutely throw you out of your chair and onto the pavement.

I’ve had a hard time making eye contact and getting service at restaurant counters and the other night at a local event, found it impossible to network with other folks who were standing around tables and talking. When the ball room doors opened, I found no way to pass by the tables and chairs in order to find a chair so I sat back by the entrance and felt invisible as I waved my hand when an award I was supposed to pick up for a friend was announced.

Yet, the wheel chair had also become a bit of a secret weapon. I am able to approach people experiencing homelessness, especially if they happen to be in a chair, much more ably even than I could before.

The other night as I was struggling up the sidewalk to get to a meeting, I passed hundreds of people and the only one who said “Hi, I’ll pay for your foot, sir”, was a man who was homeless and sitting next to a fence. On the way back from the meeting I was heading for a big hill to my car and a young man appeared from Pershing Square and asked if could push me up the hill to my car. His name was Will and he said he sleeps on the bench in the park. I handed him my card and some cash and invited him to URM.

Just before a cold spell, I went out on the sidewalk in front of URM to invite folks into our emergency cots. A young man was peering through the windows to our cafeteria. I asked him if he had a place to stay and he said, “Yes, but I’m hungry.”

When I returned with 2 sack lunches, he said, “I didn’t tell the truth. I have nowhere to stay.”

He followed me into the Mission, received a cot, then later joined our recovery program.

I had foot surgery a couple of weeks ago and I’m hopeful of being upright again, at least in a wound boot or orthopedic shoes.

But I am thankful for the experience. Many of our precious guests experiencing homelessness are disabled and face the obstacles I’ve described above every day.

My weakness is my secret weapon.

“9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Blessings,

andysig

Dream with URM this Upcoming Year!

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We’ve just completed fiscal year 2013/2014 at Union Rescue Mission and when I say “we”, I mean you and all of our partners, providing the resources, lifting us up in prayer, joining our volunteer team, and spreading the word of the excellent life changing work happening here on the streets of Skid Row as well as out at our Hope Gardens Family Center in the Valley.

These are some of the accomplishments your gifts made possible this past year:

• Grew and strengthened our Jobs program for graduates & guests at URM
• Established a Thrift Store (opening soon) as the first of several social enterprises we will use to train grads, hire grads, and provide a sustainable income for URM
• Installed Air Conditioning for URM guests for 1st time in 20 years in new building
• Doubled Return on Investment for URM fundraising events
• Completed renovation and opened up Concord building at Hope Gardens Family Center which significantly increased our capacity to help families in need
• Substantially increased URM Cash Reserves
• Hired two instructors for our Learning Center and obtained a grant from The LA Dodgers to upgrade computers and “Dodgerize” this important area of our program

These accomplishments, along with our everyday work of housing nearly 800 precious souls and serving over 2000 meals per day, would not be possible without your active involvement, participation, and sacrificial financial gifts. Thank you!

This is what makes me excited about the future, knowing you and Our Lord stand with us as we take on what seems to be an impossible task. The task of caring for and reaching many whom the world has cast off. One of our chaplains, John Russell, preached in chapel recently that the kingdom of God is like a shade tree, a big shade tree that invites people forgotten by the rest of the world into the shade. I realized as he shared that this is URM, a big shade tree that invites the least and the lost of this world back into the shade, into a loving environment, into a life changing environment. Thanks for making this work possible!

After 123 years of faithful service, we are not finished providing that shade, in fact, we are just beginning! Our overarching goal for the next 3 to 5 years is to: Decentralize Skid Row by expanding our services in outlying communities while measuring and sharing the outcomes of our life transforming work.

Specific plans for the coming year include:

• Strengthen our team by providing appropriate staff pay increases for the 1st time since the Great Recession.
• In an effort to decentralize services we hope to reach a capacity of 80% downtown, while reaching a capacity of 95% at Hope Gardens Family Center.
• In an effort to look after children until they graduate from high school and move to college, we are investigating long-term restorative housing for families who after graduating Hope Gardens do not have the means to move on their own.
• We will partner with Biola Professors to better measure and improve life transformation among our program participants.
• In an effort to further strengthen recovery we are investigating an offsite men’s and women’s recovery program. I believe we will soon have the means to make this a reality, possibly in fiscal year 2015/2016.
• We will continue to build our network by adding at least 1 key partner, like the incredible partnership with Pacific Coast Church of San Clemente, which mentors our men in recovery and holds Iron Man Conferences here at URM. We may enter into a local partnership with PCC helping them and another church establish a shelter in Dana Point in the future.
• We will establish partnerships with churches/agencies to engage neighborhoods which are producing most of our guests and the people on Skid Row. We want to strengthen young people and families, help them develop resilience to homelessness, to stem the flow into Skid Row.
• We will open our 1st URM Thrift Store in Covina in 6 weeks to train and hire graduates and provide a sustaining income for URM. We are hoping to find adjacent housing for our URM and Hope Gardens graduates who will be employed at The Thrift Store
• We will launch a race/walk to raise awareness and funds to alleviate homelessness.
• We will build reserves to 3 months of operating, and begin Phase 1 of a Capital Campaign to make improvements, i.e. new elevators downtown, and pay off mortgage of Hope Gardens. Though we plan to just begin this in fiscal year 2014/1015, my hope and belief is that this may be accomplished by fiscal year end 2015, and no later than fiscal year end 2016.

These are some planned bold steps, as we maintain our vital work on the streets of Skid Row while branching out into uncharted territory, but we know our God is faithful, and we know you will continue to stand with us as a vital partner.

We know none of our work could be accomplished without our Lord’s blessing and your generous gifts of love. Could you give your stamp of approval and your willingness to be part of the team that makes this happen by providing a generous financial gift today?

Bless you,

andysig