Marsha was once one of many single mothers experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. Today, she’s come full circle.
Her name is Marsha, but everyone on Skid Row called her “Mama.” It’s more than a label or role. “Mama” is a medal of honor covering a scarred heart that beats rivers of compassion for people who live here — especially women. When Mama would walk down these streets, people set aside their pipes and needles, laid down their cigarettes, and stood. Because Mama was walking by.
“I’m a fourth-generation military brat,” she said proudly. “I always knew I was going to be a soldier. I spent 10 years in the Air Force. It was my passion and my profession. In one way or another, I’ve been a woman of service all my life,’’ she added.
The Bottom Drops Out
After leaving the military, Marsha got married and raised two children. She became a teacher, and started her own school for underprivileged children in Las Vegas.
Then the bottom dropped out.
“I spent several turbulent years married to an alcoholic who emotionally and physically abused me,” she said. “When the economy went belly-up in 2010, I lost my school, my home, and all my savings. I lost my footing. I had to get my 10-year-old daughter away from everything. So, one night while my husband was sleeping, we slipped out a window and ran for our lives,’’ she said.
They took the bus to Los Angeles. After two sleepless nights in the Greyhound Station near Skid Row, they were led to Union Rescue Mission. At the age of 53, Marsha had to start over.
Over the next several months, Union Rescue Mission provided Marsha and her daughter with more than safe shelter and hot meals. Her daughter was connected to a program for gifted children. Marsha got much-needed counseling for post-traumatic stress. In time, Union Rescue Mission helped her find transitional housing. And before long, Marsha was back on her feet and running.
But Marsha found a new way to serve. Today, she helps provide employment services to veterans like her. Every day, she also mentors and helps serve other women experiencing homelessness downtown. “I love broken people,” she said. “I love these women, and I love helping them rebuild a brand-new life.” Her strength helps people stand up. Her love makes them believe. Her faith moves mountains and levels valleys where they can walk farther than they ever thought possible. That’s why she’s Mama.
Marsha said, “Donors who support Union Rescue Mission gave me my life back. I wouldn’t have made it without them.”
FAMILIES GET BACK ON THEIR FEET — THANKS TO YOU!
Etta Jenkins is a Case Manager for Family Emergency Services at Union Rescue Mission and helped Marsha when she first came to URM.
She had some serious challenges at first. As a single mother, over 50, experiencing homelessness, there were a lot of doors closed to her. I’m sure she got discouraged, but she never let it show. Her discipline as a former soldier gave her a go-get-’em attitude that served her well. She became a real mentor, and even kind of a mother figure, to the younger women here. Despite the challenges, Marsha found her way out of homelessness. But she’s still mentoring women here trying to get off the streets. I really admire her for that.
I wish there were more like her. Family homelessness is an epidemic in Los Angeles right now. We’ve never seen this many families at Union Rescue Mission before. One of the things I’m most proud of here is that we never turn a family away. We’re still the only Mission in Los Angeles that will take in single moms with kids, single dads with kids, intact families, even families with teenage boys. We’re running out of space for them all, but we still won’t turn anyone away. We’ll find space.
Thanks to you, we provide them with clothing, meals, safe shelter, medical and dental care, counseling, life-skills training, educational help, and we connect them with employment and housing services. Our goal is always to get them back on their feet as quickly as possible.
Please help more women, like Marsha, escape the streets and find firm footing to rebuild their lives.
YOUR SUPPORT TODAY IS MORE CRUCIAL THAN EVER
More hurting men, women, and children are experiencing homelessness — and seeking our help — than ever before. Your generosity spares many of them, especially women and children, the tragedy of spending even one night on these cold, dangerous streets. Thank you!
But their numbers are growing fast and we’re running out of space and resources to care for them. If we’re to meet the growing need, your continued support is vital.
Your gift today will help us provide safe shelter, warm meals, and the chance for men and women, mothers and fathers, to start over and rebuild their broken lives. Your gift means hope.
So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
Facing a Crisis of Women Experiencing Homelessness
Homelessness in Los Angeles has already exceeded epidemic numbers. But the population suffering most is single women. Skyrocketing rents, domestic abuse, unemployment, breakup of families, mental illness, addictions — these have all lead to a nearly 60% increase in women experiencing homelessness here since 2013.
As a last resort, those who can, come to Union Rescue Mission seeking our help because they know we will never, ever turn a woman away. We simply refuse to let vulnerable women become victims on the dangerous streets.
But we’re running out of room. Right now, we’re averaging 390 single women every night. There are no more beds. We’re forced to set up mattresses and cots wherever we can. That’s why we’re setting up a tent in our back parking lot, to provide shelter for up to 200 additional ladies this winter.
Frankly, the financial challenges are huge. It seems impossible to raise the kind of funds necessary to meet the overwhelming need. And we wouldn’t even try, except for one reason: You. The Lord has worked miracles through your caring generosity before. I pray you will stand with us again at this critical time. God bless you!