We had quite a time over the last weekend when we received two big storm fronts and 5.8 inches of rain downtown. Not only was Union Rescue Mission fully occupied with precious souls, but this year we also took part in providing Winter Shelter in Burbank, Culver City, and West LA. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority contracted with our EIMAGO, public benefits entity, to provide winter shelter to an additional 570 individuals from Dec. 1 to March 15th, through the colder, rainy season.
We did a quick count of the numbers we had been getting at each of our Winter Shelters when we saw the weather forecast and stepped into action. We readied 150 cots in the Burbank armory, 150 each at the Culver City and West LA’s armories, along with 198 added cots to our downtown shelter facility. When the first storm hit we were overwhelmed with folks trying to get in from the cold, so we added an additional 100 cots in our Downtown facility’s gym! All told, when the second drencher came we had, if we included the women and children at Hope Gardens Family Center, 1,600 of our homeless friends out of the rain. We even received permission from the State Office of Emergency Services and the County of Los Angeles, to keep the Armories open 24 hours per day throughout the weekend. We added bus runs, more security guards, more cots, and 3 meals per day. This was great news to my friend Henry at the Burbank Shelter. “Could you see if you could keep it open for a few more days? It is too cold to go out there!”
I know this is just a drop in the bucket, so to speak, compared to the many homeless in our County, but I also know that I rested a bit better knowing that our team had done all that it could to get as many people out of the cold and the rain as possible. I have never been more proud of our hard working team!
I was pretty pleased with our work, ready to take a ‘breather’, and then I received an email from a friend in Ontario, California, just 30 miles away:
I’m trying to get a message to your president and CEO, Pastor Andy Bales. I remember reading about him when he was associate pastor of a church in Pasadena, where I used to work. The Lord moved me to Ontario a little more than two years ago and we need your help out here!
Here’s the situation: I’ve been preaching to the homeless in Pomona the past three years. Before that, we used to go out once a month to Skid Row and once a month to Pomona to take people food and pray with them. I remember leading a gentleman to The Lord right outside URM in the summer of ’04 just before he had to go in for the night. But The Lord moved me in Pomona, where I’ve been ministering weekly for about three years now.
But after He moved my work to Ontario, He also began moving me here. I started feeding and preaching Saturday mornings from a little spot near a train station and a small museum here (Ontario). About 25-30 homeless would gather there. Before long, the city moved people there, and about 25-30 people were living in tents by the railroad tracks.
Then the first week of July last year, the city came on a Thursday and said, “You have to leave by tomorrow. Here’s where you have to go.” So they led them to empty lots in the middle of nowhere – land that Ontario Airport’s owner actually owns (the company, which also owns LAX, was none too happy as the city did it without their knowledge!). Long story short: Now more than 200 people live in that area, aka “Tent City.” The people who’ve ministered to the homeless for many years in Ontario can’t support all the people who’ve moved in from out of town. In Pomona, the National Guard Armory opens up from December-March, so the people with whom I work over there can at least spend the night out of the elements. In Ontario, however, they just get wet, cold, and put upon.
As The Lord leads you, I would ask that you consider helping! Please! I’ll be out there this Saturday morning taking water and whatever blankets, coats, etc., that people donate. Whereas I used to bring coffee, doughnuts and water to attract people so they would hear The Word (either I or a friend would preach), now it is just about loving them and letting them know God loves them.
I’ve been to Skid Row. I’ve volunteered at URM (though that was >5 years ago). I’ve dragged people from the Fred Jordan Mission down here to help in the past. The situation has grown beyond the ability of one or two churches or parachurch ministries to handle it. We need to pull together The Body of Christ and allow Him to lead us. The fields here are ripe for the harvest. We need some laborers! Would you please help???
The next day another gentleman stopped by my office seeking assistance. He is opening up a Rescue Mission in the High Desert, as the existing shelter there, doing its best, is beyond full capacity and turning away an estimated 50 people each night.
Pray for us as we struggle to keep up with the needs of precious people around us. Thank you, Andy B.
If you were in our position, what would you do?
Are things going to get better in our society, or are the numbers of people living without a permanent home going to increase?
What can you do in your own area to help meet the need?