The day is etched forever in Phillip’s mind. The wound will never go away.
Phillip grew up in the projects near downtown Los Angeles. One day when Phillip returned home in the afternoon, the house was empty.
“Your family’s gone. They got evicted,” a neighbor said. “They’re not coming back.” He was abandoned — and he was only 8 years old.
“My mom left me,” Phillip, 53, recalls. “That hurt so much. I wanted to close my eyes and never wake up. I was so upset, but I didn’t know how to ask anyone for help. I never had a home after that.”
At first, Phillip slept in stairwells or outside a local school. His only warmth came from the sweater he wore. Sometimes authorities would take him to juvenile hall or place him in foster homes, but he never stayed long. He preferred the streets, sleeping in abandoned cars, in a laundromat, or in storage rooms . . .
But the lack of parental guidance took a toll.
“No one ever gave me direction,” he recalls. “So when the light turned red, I just kept going. When the iron was hot, I touched it. I played with fire and got burned. I didn’t know any better.” As he grew older, he took to living in alleys, on dead-end streets, under bridges, or in the doorway of the Los Angeles Times building. He remembers the security guard there who would wake him each morning with 40 cents to get a cup of coffee. “I loved that guy,” he says. “He treated me like a human being. He was my only friend.”
To cover his emotional wounds, and to numb his anger and fear, he drank, devoured downers, and finally turned to heroin. “Heroin became my life,” he says. “At first, it covered me like a blanket. But it turned into a blanket of misery. My whole life was lonely and ugly.”
Two years ago, after more than 40 years on the streets, Phillip admitted he needed help and came to Union Rescue Mission, because “I got tired of myself.”
Over the past two years, Phillip has received the guidance and love he never got. He regularly sees a therapist and chaplains led him to Jesus Christ. “The word for me right now is ‘change.’ ‘Healing’ and ‘change.’ Every day, I ask God to help me let go of my past and to heal my body and mind,” he says.
“Everyone asks me, ‘Phil, you’re the happiest guy on earth. Why?’ Well, I found God. And I never had a home or a family before. Now I do. The chaplains say I can stay as long as I need. I think I will.”
Because of You
I was homeless and addicted to drugs for years after I lost a son, a wife, my home, job, and car, all within a month’s time. I just couldn’t bounce back.
Then I came to Union Rescue Mission in February 2009 and God miraculously intervened in my life. I ended up going to college to study graphic arts and was later hired to work as the Mission’s graphic designer. Last year, I was hired by my church, and today I have a beautiful apartment, a puppy, and I’m taking care of my disabled mom. I’m also engaged to be married — and I’ve never been so happy or excited.
I will never be able to repay Union Rescue Mission or their donors for everything they’ve given to me.
Tonight, more than 58,000 people here in Los Angeles will have no place to call home. Many of them will bed down in alleys, under bridges or a bush in a park, or on a sidewalk. It’s been said that people don’t live on the streets of Los Angeles — they die on them.
Your gift will provide safe shelter and warm beds. It costs just $24.84 to give a hurting man, woman, or child a safe, warm night of shelter. Your gift to Union Rescue Mission today, however, will help provide even more — you will give them access to life transforming programs and other necessary resources. So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
To put your gift to work even faster, go to urm.org/SafeShelter
Notes From Andy
Right outside our front door today there’s a small, makeshift memorial, with flowers, candles, and a handwritten message that reads “Rest in Peace, Ray.” He died last night on that very spot of the sidewalk. I don’t know how he died, but I can’t help but wonder if he’d be alive today if he’d found safe shelter here at Union Rescue Mission.
There are more than 1,900 women and men, like Ray, trying to survive on the streets of skid row, and that number is growing. Right now, our guest program is completely full every night — and for the first time in my history here, we’re referring people to other agencies because we’ve run out of space. It just breaks my heart.
But we’re not giving up. We’re already looking at different solutions that would enable us to offer safe shelter and beds to all those who need them. We simply have to find a way. These are precious people made in the image of God. They need our love. And it’s our love for God that compels us to do this.
Thank you for sharing this great love and work with us.