Bone Cold and Less Than a Man
All my life, I wanted to design and construct buildings. Growing up, my heroes were men like Frank Lloyd Wright. But that dream never seemed very realistic for a kid raised in a gang bangin’ neighborhood like mine.
So, I pursued boxing instead — and at one time, I was one of the best amateur boxers in the country. But even that dream got derailed, thanks to drugs, gangs, and violence. After both my closest friends were murdered in the early 90s, my life fell apart. In fact, I later ended up going to prison for manslaughter myself.
After I was released in 2005, I got married and tried to turn my life around. But I still had issues I didn’t want to deal with. I ended up going back to prison, my wife divorced me, and after I left prison in 2010, I ended up living on the streets, eating out of dumpsters.
After a year, I knew I couldn’t survive another winter outside. In the fall of 2011, I went to the library, logged on to the internet, and I typed in “homelessness.” The first site I opened was for Union Rescue Mission. I studied the site and saw all the services they offered to help men like me. But I was skeptical.
A couple of months later, I was talking to an uncle about wanting to change my life. He said, “You have to go to Union Rescue Mission.” My mouth fell open. He explained that years before, URM had transformed his life and they could do the same for me. Three days later, he brought me here.
I’ve been here over a year now, and from the first moment, I knew the people here cared about me. There’s so much love in the air, and it never stops. That love, along with counseling, medical treatment, and spiritual mentoring, changed my life — the way I dress, talk, think, everything. All my life, I’d mimicked guys on the street to survive. Now, I learned to mimic Jesus Christ.
Today, I’m enrolled at Los Angeles Community College and the Pepperdine Business Entrepreneur Program. I’m going to fulfill my lifelong dream. I’m going to be an architect.
I will never be able to repay what Union Rescue Mission and people like you have done for me. I’ve never experienced this kind of love. I know Union Rescue Mission isn’t “home” — but it’s going to get me there.
Remember Our Hope
This Lenten and Easter season, we invite you to join us for a few moments each day to reflect on our real hope for healing and new life.
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Todd’s story, which I hope you read in this issue of The Mission, is extraordinary in so many ways. His life was never easy, but then he spent more than a heartbreaking year trying to survive the streets.
I’ve seen these streets break hard, tough men like him. And many times, no matter how much healing they experience, the cruelty of the streets scars them for life. I’m sure Todd feels those scars — but you’d never know it. Every time I see him, his face lights up with joy and hope. There’s a bounce in his step, a lightness in his soul, and a determination to make his second chance at life mean something special.
And it’s all because of the love and care he experienced at Union Rescue Mission. It’s because he learned a new way of living, modeled after Jesus Christ. And it’s because of the dignity he rediscovered here.
Love, care, dignity, and Jesus. These make up the foundation that changes the lives of hurting and broken men and women. And, this foundation is only possible thanks to you and your support. Thank you.
Rev. Andy Bales, CEO