Weathering the Storm

It is hard for me to describe how proud I am of the URM team and the honor I feel in working alongside them. This year we have faced overwhelming odds. Our numbers of single guests are up significantly, at least 25%. Our number of meals served has grown from around 750,000 last year to an incredible number of more than 1,000,000 meals for the 1st time in URM 118 year history! We now have 59 families with 111 children at our downtown URM facility, with another 32 families and 62 children at URM’s Hope Gardens Family Center in Sylmar. We have already had an astounding 113 families in the first two months of our Winter Shelter Program compared to 35 families in the entire 3 ½ months of last year’s Winter Shelter Season. Yet our staff is not only holding up, but exceeding the need of people who are coming through our doors, desperate for help. Our staff has even adjusted to the new challenge of housing families in EDAR units (see in our chapel, and we are expecting many more families to do so.

I am honored because our staff is doing this with less resources, less food donations, and during a time when the economy has forced us to freeze hiring, freeze wage increases and suspend the employer matching portion of their 401-K retirement plans. I’ve also had to alert them to a potential 5% pay cut across the board, and still they carry on with joy. Challenged to become a Hero of Hope this morning in our weekly Chapel service, more than a dozen employees immediately marched to the Human Resources office and signed up to have a donation automatically given to the Mission from their paychecks every payday in the future. All this, despite the possible impending wage cuts. I have to tell you, that I am amazed!

Partly amazed because I see many National, State, County, and City officials stunned, stymied, almost paralyzed by the gravity of the emergency situation as we face a Tsunami of families facing homelessness. I am thankful for URM and agencies and ministries stepping up to meet the need, and I am honored to be part of this team.