“When you’re an addict, living on a sidewalk, Thanksgiving’s just another day to get high,” says Willie, who called the streets home for almost 25 years. “Skid Row is horrible, like a nightmare. Crowds of people smoking crack, shooting heroin, drinking. Rape. Prostitutes. I‘ve seen folks get their heads busted in for $2. I saw one guy crawl into a dumpster and get eaten up by rats. I completely wasted my life out there.” Skid Row is a long way from his middle-class childhood, when his life felt stable, when Thanksgivings were spent with family, good food, warm feelings, and laughter. Before the pain and confusion of his parents’ divorce sent him into an emotional tailspin, and he started hanging with the wrong friends. At 22, Willie discovered crack, and his life spiraled completely out of control. Drugs cost him his savings and his job. Then his home. He ended up in and out of jail too many times to count. When he was free, he ate, and sometimes slept, at the Missions on Skid Row, including Union Rescue Mission. “Crack and alcohol finally sent me to my knees, crying out for help,” he recalls. “I knew if I stayed out there much longer, I was going to die. I had people who cared about me — sisters, my mom, nieces and nephews. I needed help, so I came to Union Rescue Mission on November 11, 2013.”
Willie took advantage of everything Union Rescue Mission offers: Bible studies, chapel service, physical fitness, work therapy, counseling with his chaplains, health care — he even got new teeth through the Mission’s dental clinic. But one of the highlights was Thanksgiving, he says. “I was here the past two Thanksgivings,” he recalls. “You can’t believe the number of people who come here to serve folks like me. Those folks really care, and they make a whole lot of people on these streets happy.
In fact, last Thanksgiving I got to help serve, too. “When you start ministering to someone else, all of a sudden, all your problems don’t seem so big. So now, whenever I can help someone else out, I’m going to do it. “God and my chaplains helped me through the whole program,” he continues. “This is the longest I’ve been sober in over 25 years. I’m healthy. I got my family back. I’m engaged to be married. And I feel so good about myself. I’m thankful God never gave up on me.”
Thanksgiving Meals and a Way Home — With Your Help Today
All year-round at Union Rescue Mission, your gifts offer precious men, women, and children experiencing homelessness with safe shelter, nutritious meals, long-term care — and even the help they need to find their way home. Thank you! But right now, due to California’s ongoing drought and a severe drop in food donations, we’re facing a severe crisis this holiday season — our busiest time of year. We desperately need your help! Your gift of $33.74 will provide 14 holiday meals!
It still costs just $2.41 to provide a holiday meal to a hungry man, woman, or child. This season, we expect to serve more than 180,000 meals. Your gift of $33.74 will help feed 14 people, $67.48 will help feed 28 people, or any amount you can send will help. So please give generously. Thank you!
To put your gift to work even faster, go to urm.org/ThxFamily
On November 14, URM will hand out 3,000 special kits to all neighbors on Skid Row. These kits are filled with shampoo, soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, razors, socks, and a special invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving with us at Union Rescue Mission. For just $3, you can provide one of these special kits to one of our Skid Row neighbors — and add a personalized blessing signed by YOU! Please check the special $3 box on your remit form, then sign the Blessing Card with your first name only. It’s a wonderful way to love your neighbor this holiday season!
I grew up in East L.A. I never thought I’d end up on the streets of Skid Row. But I got hooked on alcohol. I lost a good job. I lost my marriage. My drinking got so bad, my own family didn’t want me around. So I ended up homeless here. By October 2013, I was broken down, sick, crying, and defeated by life. Then I came to Union Rescue Mission. Thanks to this place, I opened my life to God. I found what I’d been missing all my life. I found the life God has for me. My family has welcomed me back and I’m even going back to school!
Notes from Andy
People are pouring into Skid Row like never before. The sidewalks outside Union Rescue Mission are crowded and I’ve never seen so much desperation. It’s just chaos out there. But every Thanksgiving — thanks to your generous support — we take these precious folks away from their desperation for a day of joy. With music playing on the sidewalks, dancing in the streets, and the smoke of fried turkeys wafting down the streets, we make sure our guests enjoy the most splendid Thanksgiving ever — and maybe a reminder of how loved they really are. And when that happens, some will take the courageous step to leave the streets behind and transform their lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving at Union Rescue Mission gives us the chance to show our gratitude for all God has given to us by giving ourselves to those who have nothing at all. How well you and I pull this off is a true reflection of how grateful we really are. So I invite you to join with us again this year, offering your time and your financial support to display to the world our thankfulness and our love for others.