“I was trafficked as a prostitute for almost half my life,” says Ryan, 33. “By the end, I didn’t even know what hope was anymore. It wasn’t until I came to Hope Gardens that I felt that again. To me, that’s what this place is all about.”
“I grew up kind of rebellious,” Ryan says. “Mom was in her own addiction, and when I was 14, I started partying, too.”
When she turned 16, Ryan fell in love with a man who sold her a dream that she could have everything she ever wanted. “At the end of the day, though, I was just one more victim of human trafficking,” she says. “I was just one more prostitute, trapped in a hotel room I couldn’t escape.”
For the next 13 years, Ryan was a prisoner in a world of pimps, predators, strip clubs, beatings, and rape. Her only hope was to escape. “My self-esteem was trashed. After a while, you start to think this is the only way anybody would ever want you,” she recalls.
Ryan was 29 when she ended up pregnant. A few months later, held hostage in yet another hotel room, she was secretly able to get hold of a cell phone and texted a friend for help. Police soon rescued her, and shortly after, Ryan gave birth to her daughter, Brandi.
“When Brandi was born, something clicked. I knew I had to change my life for her,” Ryan says. “I went to a shelter for victims of human trafficking, and then I went to Hope Gardens with my daughter.”
“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” —Psalm 9:9-10
The day she arrived, she knew exactly why she was there. “I never knew anything about God before,” she says. “This was my chance to have a relationship with Him.”
Ryan devoted herself to the classes and opened herself to God with complete faith. God then used her counselors and case workers to help her grow, heal, and learn how to love herself again.
“Hope Gardens became like the family I never had,” she says. “They helped me grow up. They gave me the tools I needed to live a better life.”
Today, Ryan is working a real job for the first time and supporting her now 3-year-old daughter.
“I’m looking forward to 2021,” she says. “I hope that someday I can help other victims of human trafficking, to let them know there’s a way out. Because that’s what Hope Gardens donors did for me. They gave me a way out.”
Show victims of trafficking and abuse the way to hope, healing, and dramatic life-change!
2020 YEAR IN REVIEW
They Thought They Had No One. Thankfully, They Had YOU.
Friends like you turned out to be the shining silver lining in 2020. In a devastating year marked by a pandemic and economic distress, the outpouring of support from caring people literally saved the day for so many of our hurting neighbors. Thank you!
Your generosity empowered a fast response to urgent needs throughout the year. Here is an overview of what you helped accomplish:
School Continues for Kids
With school shutdowns across our region, vulnerable children are most at risk for lasting educational damage as their parents may not have the resources to homeschool effectively. Thanks to friends like you, children at URM and Hope Gardens have received the educational support they need to thrive, including new high-speed Internet access at Hope Gardens to facilitate distance learning.
Empowering URM to Adapt to COVID-19
When COVID-19 first began to spread, some voices in our community wanted to shut URM down. However, your support empowered URM to invest in extensive safety procedures and modifications to our facility, allowing us to become a medical center and a model for other rescue missions to follow in responding to COVID-19.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for Helping So Many in 2020!
More Places for Moms and Kids at Hope Gardens
You and other friends have made it possible to add 15 more housing units to Hope Gardens, our beautiful home for women and children located in a garden-like setting in Sylmar. As economic pressures continue throughout our region, these new housing units have provided shelter and hope to mothers and their children who have lost their homes. Thanks to you, families are able to spend Christmas together in a safe warm place.
Meals, Shelter, and Care Continue Uninterrupted
In the early days of the pandemic, no one knew what would happen. But we thank God—and you—that URM and Hope Gardens have continued to operate without interruption. Yes, things are different, with social distancing and masking up. Yet every day, hungry people are fed, those without a home have a place to rest in safety, and all experience God’s love and the opportunity for a fresh start.
Our neighbors devastated by homelessness are desperate for hope as they face unimaginable trials. Be there for them again in the coming year!
What Is Human Trafficking?
“Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud, or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened, or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal, or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.” —National Human Trafficking Hotline
Human Trafficking in a City of Angels
Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2018 (the most recent complete year of data), there were 174,827 reported cases involving human trafficking in the City of Los Angeles. In nearly 3% of these cases, children 17 and under were the victims. These are, of course, only the cases that are reported. The Human Trafficking Hotline reports that as shocking as these numbers are, they are likely a tiny fraction of the actual problem.
See how your gifts have helped transform the life of Dariel, a URM program graduate, at urm.org/stories.
How Your Compassionate Generosity Can Double to SAVE MORE LIVES
With 2020 drawing to a close, you have a special opportunity to double your help for people devastated by homelessness in our community.
Some generous friends of Union Rescue Mission have offered to match every gift we receive by December 31, up to $500,000. This means any gift you send will be doubled—automatically—to provide twice as much help for men, women, and children fighting to escape from homelessness. Your gift will also qualify as a 2020 tax deduction if you itemize. Please help save more lives today.
DECEMBER 31 DEADLINE!
Every $1 = $2 to provide twice the lifesaving care!
Give now so the Match can take your gift TWICE as far! Provide more meals and shelter, along with a way home for the holidays.
Prayer Requests for Christmas and Beyond
For children devastated by homelessness, pray that this Christmas will be a joyful experience here at URM or Hope Gardens, and the beginning of a new life for them.
Ask God to comfort those who have lost everything this year and are experiencing a Christmas unlike any they’ve experienced before.
Pray for special strength for men and women seeking to overcome addictions and other destructive habits.
Ask God to keep everyone at URM—our guests, staff, and volunteers—safe from the COVID-19 virus.
Pray for many lives to be rescued from homelessness and transformed in 2021!
Thank you for all you do!
NOTES FROM ANDY
This Christmas, Jesus Shows Us the Way
On that first Christmas, the world was much like our own in 2020—a world filled with fear, social upheaval, violence, deadly disease, hunger, and homelessness.
Jesus came into that world, offering comfort, hope, and healing to all those who needed it most. He never questioned anyone’s worth or turned anyone away. He simply opened His arms and said, “Let me help.”
Throughout this year, I’ve sought the Lord on how to best serve our neighbors devastated by homelessness. This Christmas, I’m reminded that Jesus has already shown us the way. When the lives of precious men, women, and children are at stake, Jesus inspires us to never turn away, but just open our arms and say, “Let us help.”
Like Jesus, you inspire me too. All year, people like you have truly shown me that we’re all in this together. You have sacrificed and supported us in ways that overwhelm me with gratitude and awe. You have shown me the heart of Jesus, and like the Star of Bethlehem, you have been a bright light in a very dark time. This holiday season, may you experience peace on earth and Christmas joy. Thank you!