A Very Interesting Meeting

 If you have been following Union Rescue Mission in the news, you know that we made the decision to abandon our EIMAGO Subsidiary, and withdraw completely from any government funded programs, due to the contracts never quite paying enough to carry out the programs, and not reimbursing us in a timely manner, as well as government funding moving completely away from the kind of Life Transforming Programs that URM carries out.  We made it very public that we are still owed $305,000 from the Winter Shelter program that ended March 15th, 2011. 

We were called to a meeting with County and City Officials at the County Hall of Administration this week.  We had submitted a proposal to the County that called for their assistance in our efforts to get all children away from the dangerous streets of Skid Row, and out to safe places like our own Hope Gardens.  We had submitted this proposal just before we made the decision to pull out of all government funded programs.  I was a bit apprehensive about the meeting, but also held out some hope that the County would want to assist us in caring out a mandate that we both hold firm, to move every precious child off of Skid Row. 

My apprehension was confirmed when a County official and Mike Arnold, the CEO of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority(LAHSA) looked me in the eye and said that URM was the problem-that as long as URM welcomed families with children, their home communities would not.  We were told, and I quote,

“You need to shut your front door to families with children, and leave them on the streets in their communities, so that the communities’ social consciousness will be elevated, and they will step up and provide services to their neighbors.” 

Though we’ve cooperated in every way, moved 450 families through to housing each year, developed Life Transforming Transitional Housing for families at Hope Gardens against all odds and even County opposition, URM was described as the bump in the road for solving family homelessness in Los Angeles! 

In effect, we were told by at least one County official, and Mike Arnold, to change our Mission statement from, “We embrace people experiencing homelessness with the compassion of Christ” to

“We shut the door on people, especially children, experiencing homelessness, and leave them on the streets of their communities to elevate the consciousness of their neighbors so that they might provide services! 

Well, we are going to continue to embrace people, especially precious children experiencing homelessness with the compassion of Christ, and we are going to leave our front doors open to all who come to us in need! 

Mike Arnold of LAHSA did offer that when a family first arrives at URM, if we called him directly, he would make sure they were provided housing elsewhere that day.  We are absolutely taking him up on that offer. All of our case managers have been instructed to call Mike the moment that new families arrive at our door, and we are going to continue to work very hard to place families elsewhere and track the results. 

We were also told that if we disappeared, that it would not make a difference in family homelessness in LA.

I’ll tell you what, as I parked in my parking place this morning, and watched proud parents, all cleaned up for work, walking their nicely dressed kids on their way to school this morning, from their temporary home here at Union Rescue Mission, I knew in my heart that we are making a difference for quite a number of families experiencing homelessness, and we will continue to do what we can, for as many as we can.

My heart won’t let me, the hearts of the Board of Directors and staff of the URM, and the heart of Jesus Christ will not let us leave precious children out on the streets of our cities waiting for the consciousness of others to elevate until they provide the much needed services.  We will continue to lead by example, as an encouragement to other communities to develop those welcoming facilities that will accommodate their neighbors experiencing homelessness in their own communities. Until that happens, it is a bad time to shut any doors. 

 Matthew 12:18-20 (ESV)
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;

4 thoughts on “A Very Interesting Meeting

  1. Kerryhmorrison on

    Andy — it sounds like it was an emotional meeting — and I certainly was not there.  I think the shred of truth I read from your account is that we do need to impress upon our communities in the broader region of Los Angeles that they must tend to their homeless neighbors.  We’ve been trying to do this in Hollywood — it takes time, but the default response used to be “send them to Skid Row.”  Now we are educating our community that people who become homeless in Hollywood are our neighbors — and should not be shipped off.  It would be interesting to know from where children and families come — and work on those communities to accept responsibility.  We need more places like Hope Gardens everywhere — Torrance, Inglewood, Hollywood, San Gabriel.  Keep the faith.  Perchance find partners across the region.  What comes to mind….Romans 8:28.

  2. I cant believe any one could say such a thing as a 23 year old who was homeless when i was younger iam gratefull for union rescue for opening its doors to children and families.for where would i be if one hadnt opened its door to me in my moment of need.(faithful volunteer)

  3. marlon on

    Union Rescue Mission does a good job at providing shelter for homeless families. They also have one of the best Men’s Ministry avalible to those who are in need of those services. It would be a shame for them to close the doors down to those that are in real need of the services. I believe that the communities are aware of what the homeless problems are, They just don’t care! We are a bunch of selfish and self-centered people who couldn’t really give a d_m about the next person, until it happens to you!

  4. As an ex-pat Brit married to a disabled American lass (we’re homeless in Burbank and struggling to keep body and soul and our two rescue cats together) I’ve been amazed at how so many communities seem to be hell-bent on criminalizing the homeless by passing local ordinances that specifically target those without a place to live.

    So much for raising the community’s social consciousness.

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