Craig was 15 when he learned the man he called “Dad” wasn’t his real father. Feeling betrayed, he turned to cocaine for love. Until it turned on him.
I thought he was my dad. He raised me. He gave me everything I needed. He encouraged me to be a good student, he gave me a work ethic, and he shaped my character. No one ever told me he wasn’t my real father.
But when I was 15, my birth dad showed up in my life. I felt like my whole life was a lie. It seemed like my entire family had betrayed me — and I was going to make them pay. Especially my stepdad.
Up until then, I had dreams of playing football at UCLA, to make my family proud. But I turned my back on all that and started running with gangs, hanging out late, fighting, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol. When my stepdad tried to correct me, I told him to his face, “You’re not my real dad. You can’t tell me what to do.”
Then I met cocaine. It was love at first hit, the only thing that mattered anymore, and I would do anything to get it. I went to prison for three years for robbery. But when I got out, my one true love was waiting for me. For a long time, no matter how bad my life got, cocaine “fixed” everything. But that’s the thing about cocaine: Eventually it turns on you.
My stepdad tried to help me, but I said no. By the age of 40, however, I was such an ugly human being, my parents wanted nothing to do with me. I was alone and needed help, so I came to Union Rescue Mission. I got clean and sober, and I stayed that way for 14 years. I even reconciled with my mom and stepdad.
But then they both died. It was too much, and I relapsed for six months. But I knew where to go: Union Rescue Mission again. But this time, I didn’t just want to stop using cocaine, I wanted to change. Over the past two years, I’ve learned that the key is to stop focusing on myself and to focus on others. I’m a child of God, and the men still out there using are my brothers. I want to show them the same love I’ve received from God and everyone here at URM.
So that’s my New Year’s wish. In 2017, I want to go back to college to become a drug and alcohol counselor, so I can help as many of my brothers as possible. Like my stepdad tried to help me.
Maria is one of more than 1,300 men, women, and children experiencing homelessness that Union Rescue Mission is sheltering today. Thanks to you, we’re able to provide them emergency services like beds, meals, medical and dental care, legal aid, counseling, and much more.
Many of our Skid Row neighbors have little hope that their lives will be different in the coming year. But right now, generous friends of Union Rescue Mission have offered to match every gift we receive before December 31 — up to $500,000!
That means any gift you send will be doubled — automatically — to provide twice as much help for hurting men, women, and children at Union Rescue Mission as they rebuild their lives in 2017. That is TWICE the safe shelter, warm clothing, hot meals, and even hope — but you must send your gift before December 31!
So I urge you, please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
Thanks to your generosity in 2016, Union Rescue Mission is giving men, women, and even families experiencing homelessness the chance to hope and dream for a better 2017. In this issue of The Mission, we celebrate some of those men and women and their dreams for a better life in the year ahead!
"I want to drive for Uber . . ."
I was an alcoholic and meth addict for more than 20 years. It got so bad, my daughter’s mother kicked me out, and my mom said she didn’t want to be my mom anymore. Today, thanks to Union Rescue Mission, I’m clean and sober. I believe God put me on this earth to drive. In 2017, my New Year’s Wish is to get a job driving for Uber, so I can support my daughter and her mom. — Jason,URM Christian Life Discipleship Program
"I plan to study drug and alcohol counseling . . ."
When I was 10, I was raped repeatedly by two men I trusted. Later, I smoked crack for more than 22 years to cover up the pain. I finally came to Hope Gardens to change. After I graduated, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Today, I’m still recovering. In 2017, I’m ready for the next phase God has to offer me. I plan on going to school to study drug and alcohol counseling. — Myra,Hope Gardens Family Center
"In 2017, I want to get higher grades . . ."
I’m a high school student living at Hope Gardens with my mom. In 2017, I look forward to helping my mom find another place. Also, I already get good grades, but I want to get higher grades so I can go to the college I want to attend, which is UCLA. And I want to get out of my comfort zone and get to know more people. — Camryn,Hope Gardens Family Center
URM Gospel Wagon To Appear in 2017 Rose Parade
In honor of Union Rescue Mission’s 125th anniversary, a replica of URM’s original Gospel Wagon will appear in the upcoming Rose Parade. In those early days, after Lyman Stewart, president of Union Oil Company, founded Union Rescue Mission, gospel wagons traveled the streets to offer food, clothing, and salvation to lost souls. 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.
Notes from Andy
When I look back at 2016, one thing comes to mind: In the year we commemorated Union Rescue Mission’s 125th anniversary, we’re also facing one of the greatest challenges in our history. More women and children experiencing homelessness are seeking shelter here than ever before. So many of them need our help, we have hit capacity — and, tragically, we’ve even had to turn men away to make sure we never have to turn a woman or child back to the streets.
Our resources were already stretched. But now we’re serving more than 2,300 meals per day, and we’ve had to hire three more people to help manage the crisis.
Yet despite this, I’m looking ahead to 2017, because right now, despite the financial challenges, we’re making plans to create satellites — mini-URMs — throughout Los Angeles County to meet people where they are. In fact, we soon hope to break ground on our first location in either South Central or Venice.
So what’s my New Year’s wish? Just this: That caring people all over Los Angeles — people just like you — will rise up with the resources necessary to help us meet this challenge head-on, so we never have to turn anyone away again.