“I hated my life and I believed God hated me, too,” says Alan, 59. “I was miserable, and God wanted it that way.” Or so he thought.
Alan was born in Massachusetts. His father died when he was just 18 months old. From that point on, he says, “My mother despised me. For 13 years, she beat me with a belt so bad, I thought she’d kill me.”
He escaped the abuse when he left home at 15. But the damage was done. “I felt worthless,” he recalls. “I never felt I was good enough for anything — or anyone.”
He tried to stay emotionally distant from people, and he says he didn’t have a real friend for more than 45 years. Although he’s been married three times, and fathered three children, he admits he traded love for alcohol and every drug he could get his hands on.
“I should have been happy. I had my own business, remodeling homes and building cabinets,” Alan says.
“I loved the work. I was good at it and I made a lot of money. But I was miserable with myself from the second I woke up until the second I went to sleep.”
His Cross Country Journey to Kill Himself
Finally, one day in the summer of 2014, he left home with a plan to kill himself. He drove all the way across the country, to Los Angeles, where he tried to follow through on his plan, downing a lethal combination of drugs and tequila. But hours later, he woke up.
Frustrated and dead broke, he came to Union Rescue Mission looking for a shower, a meal, and a bed. But once here, he started listening to some of the other guests as they quoted Scripture and talked of hope.
He stayed longer and went to classes that slowly softened his heart.
“The Greatest Thing I Ever Heard”
Then Alan recalls the day a chaplain told him that God loves him — unconditionally and forever. When Alan scoffed, the chaplain looked him in the eyes and repeated, “God loves you.”
“No one ever told me that before. I don’t know why, but I believed it,” Alan says. “It was the greatest thing I ever heard. And everything changed right there and then. It was just that simple.”
Over the following months, God continued to overwhelm Alan with love every day. As misery fell away, love and friendships grew. “I have friends for the first time in my life. Not drinking buddies, but friends. They love me, and I would die for these guys.
“But even if no one loved me, I know God does,” he says. “Here I am, living on Skid Row, 3,000 miles from home, and I have never been happier.”
Then Alan opens his Bible to Psalm 40, and with tears welling in his eyes, he begins to read: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth — praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.”
Watch why Jon’s second time in our Men’s Program made all the difference! urm.org/stories
No child should have to celebrate a birthday in a homeless shelter. But 4-year-old Nancy Lee didn’t seem to mind. There weren’t many presents, but she was surrounded by her loving family and caring employees at Union Rescue Mission. Dressed in red, and with a red ribbon in her hair, she was the center of attention.
Her family were farm laborers near Bakersfield. But when the work ran out, so did their meager savings. They had just enough money for bus fare to Los Angeles. Exhausted, hungry, and broke, they made their way to Union Rescue Mission, where they found shelter, nutritious food, and long-term care.
On Nancy Lee’s birthday, everyone bowed their heads and gave thanks for the help they had received. Afterward, despite their difficult circumstances, Nancy started to sing at the top her voice: “Happy birthday to me!” And for one day, everyone really was happy.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” — Luke 18:16
For 125 years, Union Rescue Mission has been at the forefront of helping our neighbors experiencing homelessness and transforming the lives of countless hurting men, women, and children on Skid Row and throughout Los Angeles — all thanks to caring and generous people like you.
But today, the number of people experiencing homelessness is so staggering, the City of Los Angeles has declared a state of emergency. Tens of thousands of these precious individuals are living in cars and garages, in parks and alleys, in tents, under bridges, and even on sidewalks. They desperately need help. YOUR help.
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 make the most generous gift you can today at urm.org/LA-Emergency. Thank you!
Notes from Andy
It’s Our Anniversary – But It’s Your Story
Whenever I see all the hunger, poverty, homelessness, and unimaginable human suffering here on Skid Row, my heart just breaks. But I never lose hope.
That’s because I know there are thousands of people like you in Los Angeles who are heartbroken too — heartbroken enough to care and compassionate enough to do something about it.
A History of Helping Hands
It’s been that way for 125 years, since the day Lyman Stewart, president of Union Oil Company, founded Union Rescue Mission and sent gospel wagons to offer food, clothing, and salvation to lost souls — and invited caring folks like you to support this work through their time and financial support. It was a singular vision to love and welcome struggling people on the streets, and to never give up on anyone until they get back on their feet. And that vision has never changed.
That vision did not falter during the Great Depression, when overwhelming numbers of hungry people needed food, and caring people helped us feed them.
It continued into the 1980s and 1990s, when the numbers of homeless women and children exploded, and you helped us build a shelter for up to 1,000 people a night — and later, to open Hope Gardens Family Center, where up to 55 mothers and 110 children can
get back on their feet. The vision caused us to step up during the Great Recession, when a tsunami of hurting people stretched our resources to the breaking point — and once again, you stepped up when others wouldn’t.
Today’s Crisis Needs Your Care
So it’s because of you I have hope. And I need it more than ever, because homelessness on Skid Row is one of the worst human disasters in the United States today. At least 57,000 people in Los Angeles have no place to call home every night. Half of them are women and children. Nearly 13,000 people a month fall into homelessness because they can’t afford housing. Thousands more stream out of county jails, foster homes, hospitals, and state prisons with no place to go. And now nearly 4,000 people are living — and dying — on the sidewalks of Skid Row.
People come to Union Rescue Mission seeking help for addictions. They need mental health care to recover from past abuse and crippling trauma. Medical and dental treatment. Education and help finding jobs. And they need time and support to find affordable housing. They need to know they’re loved and that they still matter. They need to know that God, and that you and I, really do care, and that a second chance is still possible.
Celebrating YOU in 2016
The crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles is staggering, complicated, and challenging. But it’s not hopeless. In 2016, we will celebrate Union Rescue Mission’s 125th anniversary. It’s not to celebrate history or an institution. It is to celebrate caring people like you, who have risen to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles since 1891. It is to celebrate the hope that together, with God’s help, we will once more rise up to offer a helping hand to precious men and women experiencing homelessness — and to never give up until every one of them gets back on their feet.
Please join team Union Rescue Mission at the Los Angeles Marathon’s “LA Big 5K” event to raise awareness and financial support that will support men, women, and children experiencing homelessness. Whether you are a novice or an experienced runner, we’ll provide all you need to get started and finish strong. Together, we can help end homelessness in Los Angeles!
For more information or to join the team (spots are limited), contact Alex Cornejo at (213) 673-4860 or firstname.lastname@example.org!