CEO Andy Bales interviewed by CNN for AC360

Dave Schechter, CNN Senior National Editor, interviewed Union Rescue Mission’s CEO Andy Bales about the work being done by the mission to assist the increasing number of individuals who are homeless.

Most of the families living at the Los Angeles shelter are homeless for the first time in their lives. They’re coming from everywhere around Southern California, an epicenter of the nation’s mortgage meltdown and foreclosure crisis.

“These are not people who have been in the cycle of poverty,” Bales tells me. They are working people who have lost jobs, who juggled expenses for food, utilities, clothing, health care and housing until they no longer could keep a roof over their heads.

As a result, the number families at the shelter is up 300 percent in a year and the number of individuals up 25 percent. The number of meals served is up 40 percent — to more than 1 million in a year.

Click here to read the article.

“Homeless deaths on skid row have decreased” – LA Times

Union Rescue Mission was glad to read the latest article from Andrew Blankstein and Cara Mia DiMassa of the Los Angeles Times about the decrease in deaths on skid row.

The number of people who died on downtown L.A.’s skid row has declined by 36% in the last four years, according to city records, the latest sign of major changes on what for decades has been the city’s epicenter of homelessness and drug-dealing. 

Excluding murders and suicides, 60 people died in the skid row area in 2008, according to Los Angeles Police Department statistics. In 2005, there were 94 such deaths. 

60 deaths is still far too many, 1 is too many, and we won’t slow down our efforts until the day when no deaths are reported and we live up to our title as the City of Angels with no human being having to live on the mean streets and sidewalks of Skid Row. 

At Union Rescue Mission we have taken several steps to assist in this effort.  During the summer heat in LA we deliver over 1500 bottles of cold water each day that the temperatures rise to 85 degrees or higher.  You can see a documented case on video of a man whose life was saved through URM’s efforts by watching the video below.  URM has also played a major role in slowing the dumping, or improper dropoffs of patients on Skid Row by area hospitals.  We’ve worked hard to make URM more welcoming and added  210 beds to help move people from the streets and supported the Los Angles Police Department with their Safer Cities Initiative.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Hope Gardens Family Center Update

Hope Gardens Family Center

Hope Gardens Family Center, a ministry of Union Rescue Mission, is a transitional housing and residential facility in Sylmar, California that helps women and children move out of homelessness and build better lives.  The Campaign for Hope Gardens is a multi-year effort to fund the purchase and renovation of the center and expand programs promoting empowerment and self-sufficiency to this underserved community.

Please watch for our new web pages coming in February.  For information regarding Hope Gardens Family Center, please contact Ginger Morris, Associate Director, The Campaign for Hope Gardens at:  213-316-2760 or gmorris@urm.org

URM welcomes Hope Worldwide

Union Rescue Mission welcomes Hope Worldwide, a national volunteer organization, on Monday, January 19, 2009.  As the nation takes a “day off’ on this national holiday, Hope Worldwide Los Angeles has organized a “day on” in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and vision for a beloved community.  The organization will be represented by national dignitaries and about 300-400 volunteers to clean, beautify, and revive areas in and around the URM facility.

Volunteers will be dispatched to all 6 levels throughout the facility painting and deep cleaning residential dorms, restrooms, hallways, office doors, windows, and even lending hands in the laundry department.  Volunteer work projects will go on all day from 7:00am to 4:00pm.

 “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” 
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Stories from Skid Row

Over the last year, Union Rescue Mission has produced a series of short documentaries titled Stories from Skid Row.  These short films are a behind the scenes look at the lives of individuals who are being served, as well as the staff and volunteers at URM.  Stories from Skid Row provide a glimpse into the issues surrounding homelessness and the work being done to combat this serious problem in Los Angeles.

We will continue to produce the series throughout 2009.  Please share these with your friends and family. There are several way for people to view the films and keep up with the latest stories.  Click on the logo below for information.

LAPD and ACLU reach settlement on skid row searches – LA Times

Cara Mia DiMassa and Richard Winton of the LA Times write about the recent settlement between the ACLU and the LAPD.  

Los Angeles police officers face significant restrictions on when they can search people under a agreement announced Thursday that settles a landmark homeless right case.

The agreement comes 18 months after a federal judge found that the LAPD was unconstitutionally searching homeless people in the skid row area as part of Chief William J. Bratton’s crackdown on downtown crime.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Los Angeles County shelters brim with families – LA Times

Jessica Garrison of the LA Times writes about the increase in families who are homeless this season.  Several individuals from Union Rescue Mission were interviewed.

The economic crisis and cold weather have created a larger than usual influx of families to shelters in Los Angeles County this year, according to shelter officials and other service providers.
On Wednesday, officials at the Union Rescue Mission, which runs the county’s cold-weather shelters, held an emergency meeting to figure out what to do when they run out of hotel vouchers for families, which could happen this month. The numbers, said Chief Executive Andy Bales, are sobering: The region’s winter shelters and the skid row mission have seen 86 families in the last three weeks.

By comparison, last year the agency took in 20 families at its emergency shelters over the entire cold weather season from Dec. 1 to March 15, with 15 to 20 more at its downtown mission. Two weeks ago, the mission downtown opened up its fifth floor to two-parent families and single fathers with children, something it has never had to do before. It may also convert its chapel to sleeping quarters.

Click here to read the article.

“Bed shortage forces L.A. County mental health staff to rely on police” – LA Times

Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the LA Times writes about the effect current laws have on the ability of Mental Health workers to effectively assist the mentally ill. 

Alarmed by reports that Los Angeles County mental health staff — hobbled by a countywide shortage of beds for the mentally ill — are increasingly forwarding emergency calls to police, commissioners overseeing the department on Thursday asked that a plan to end the practice be presented by early next month.

Department of Mental Health workers have turned to law enforcement officials because hospitals are required by law to take emergency mental health patients transported by police. If a county mental health worker brings a person in for treatment, facilities are not compelled to accept them.

URM’s Andy Bales talks about the importance of utilizing Mental Health professionals in dealing with patients on skid row.

Advocates for the mentally ill and the homeless say that there are not enough hybrid teams to go around and that police who respond alone can aggravate emergencies.

“Folks who are trained to deal with people who are having mental health issues have the experience to calm things down,” said the Rev. Andrew Bales, chief executive ofUnion Rescue Mission on skid row. “Somebody who’s distressed is probably going to panic when they see the police. I’ve been in that situation where I’ve been trying to help someone and they became upset when the police arrived.”

Click here to read the article.

“Homeless in America” – LA Times Series

LA Times has written a number of great articles on homelessness and skid row.  Here are just a few of the articles:

There are a number of great up-to-date articles on the issue of homelessness. Click Here to visit the web page.

“Finding L.A.’s hidden homeless” – LA Times

Check out this great article written by Jessica Garrison of the Los Angeles Times.

“To most people, it’s just trash: A scrap of dirty blanket visible under some stairs. A glimpse of blue tarp peeking out of a bush. A bag of recyclables parked discreetly behind a concrete column.

But Courtney Kanagi, an outreach worker, has learned how to decode bits of urban detritus that most people ignore. She knows what these signs mean: the crawl space beneath the stairs was someone’s home.”

The article will give you good information on how many of our homeless friends live each day of their life. Click here to read the article.