The Mission – January 2015



The day is etched forever in Phillip’s mind. The wound will never go away.

Phillip grew up in the projects near downtown Los Angeles. One day when Phillip returned home in the afternoon, the house was empty.

“Your family’s gone. They got evicted,” a neighbor said. “They’re not coming back.” He was abandoned — and he was only 8 years old.

“My mom left me,” Phillip, 53, recalls. “That hurt so much. I wanted to close my eyes and never wake up. I was so upset, but I didn’t know how to ask anyone for help. I never had a home after that.”

At first, Phillip slept in stairwells or outside a local school. His only warmth came from the sweater he wore. Sometimes authorities would take him to juvenile hall or place him in foster homes, but he never stayed long. He preferred the streets, sleeping in abandoned cars, in a laundromat, or in storage rooms . . .

But the lack of parental guidance took a toll.

“No one ever gave me direction,” he recalls. “So when the light turned red, I just kept going. When the iron was hot, I touched it. I played with fire and got burned. I didn’t know any better.” As he grew older, he took to living in alleys, on dead-end streets, under bridges, or in the doorway of the Los Angeles Times building. He remembers the security guard there who would wake him each morning with 40 cents to get a cup of coffee. “I loved that guy,” he says. “He treated me like a human being. He was my only friend.”

To cover his emotional wounds, and to numb his anger and fear, he drank, devoured downers, and finally turned to heroin. “Heroin became my life,” he says. “At first, it covered me like a blanket. But it turned into a blanket of misery. My whole life was lonely and ugly.”

Two years ago, after more than 40 years on the streets, Phillip admitted he needed help and came to Union Rescue Mission, because “I got tired of myself.”

Over the past two years, Phillip has received the guidance and love he never got. He regularly sees a therapist and chaplains led him to Jesus Christ. “The word for me right now is ‘change.’ ‘Healing’ and ‘change.’ Every day, I ask God to help me let go of my past and to heal my body and mind,” he says.

“Everyone asks me, ‘Phil, you’re the happiest guy on earth. Why?’ Well, I found God. And I never had a home or a family before. Now I do. The chaplains say I can stay as long as I need. I think I will.”


Because of You

Brian Mitchell

I was homeless and addicted to drugs for years after I lost a son, a wife, my home, job, and car, all within a month’s time. I just couldn’t bounce back.

Then I came to Union Rescue Mission in February 2009 and God miraculously intervened in my life. I ended up going to college to study graphic arts and was later hired to work as the Mission’s graphic designer. Last year, I was hired by my church, and today I have a beautiful apartment, a puppy, and I’m taking care of my disabled mom. I’m also engaged to be married — and I’ve never been so happy or excited.

I will never be able to repay Union Rescue Mission or their donors for everything they’ve given to me.


URM 2015.01 URM January Newsletter (15URM01N)_Pkg.indd

Tonight, more than 58,000 people here in Los Angeles will have no place to call home. Many of them will bed down in alleys, under bridges or a bush in a park, or on a sidewalk. It’s been said that people don’t live on the streets of Los Angeles — they die on them.

Your gift will provide safe shelter and warm beds. It costs just $24.84 to give a hurting man, woman, or child a safe, warm night of shelter. Your gift to Union Rescue Mission today, however, will help provide even more — you will give them access to life transforming programs and other necessary resources. So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!

To put your gift to work even faster, go to



Notes From Andy

Shelter Shortage

Right outside our front door today there’s a small, makeshift memorial, with flowers, candles, and a handwritten message that reads “Rest in Peace, Ray.” He died last night on that very spot of the sidewalk. I don’t know how he died, but I can’t help but wonder if he’d be alive today if he’d found safe shelter here at Union Rescue Mission.

There are more than 1,900 women and men, like Ray, trying to survive on the streets of skid row, and that number is growing. Right now, our guest program is completely full every night — and for the first time in my history here, we’re referring people to other agencies because we’ve run out of space. It just breaks my heart.

But we’re not giving up. We’re already looking at different solutions that would enable us to offer safe shelter and beds to all those who need them. We simply have to find a way. These are precious people made in the image of God. They need our love. And it’s our love for God that compels us to do this.

Thank you for sharing this great love and work with us.



Exit Through the Thrift Shop

Union Rescue Mission Thrift Store

Many of you have been crucial partners in our work to fight homelessness in Skid Row, and have heard the many stories of Life Transformation that have written within these walls. But most of our guests today need more than a transformed life to escape homelessness — they also need a job.

With the opening of our new Thrift store in Covina, we are trying to help our program participants take the next step. We believe by getting them a job that they can truly exit Skid Row through the Thrift Shop.


How Can You Help?

1. Donate

When you donate your new and gently used goods to Union Rescue Mission Thrift Store, you know it is going to have a positive, long lasting impact. In fact, it is going to transform lives. Your donations, big and small, all add up to hope for men, women and children experiencing homelessness. 

We are now accepting clothing, accessories, furniture, furnishings, household/kitchen items, jewelry, art, and many other new and lightly used items!

To schedule a pick-up, call 626-915-3417
Donation drop-off at URM Thrift Store From 9:00am until 4:00pm (Monday – Saturday)

2. Shop

Every item you purchase from the URM Thrift Store goes directly back into the lives of the people who are struggling with homelessness. From the man who walks into the Mission deciding it is the final time he will quit a life of drugs, to the mother and child who are running away from years of domestic abuse, your purchase will go a long way to see that they are all embraced by the love of Christ.

Early Bird Special
Every Tuesday receive a 25% Discount from 9:00am until 12:00pm.

URM Thrift Store 
280 E. Arrow Hwy
Covina 91722
Phone: 626-915-3417

Hours of Operation:
Monday – Saturday 9:00 to 6:00
Closed Sundays


Victory In The Midst Of Challenge

Dear Friends,

Earlier this month we began what will be a year long celebration of Union Rescue Mission’s 120th birthday!  You’ll hear more about our plans in the coming months but as 2011 comes to end, I thought you would appreciate this quote from our history library:

“At a time when bread was only a nickel a loaf, thousands of men, women and children went without. Union Rescue Mission was there for them. In 1910 we served 5,693 meals and helped 875 men find jobs”.

Some might read this and be discouraged.  After all, bread costs a lot more than a nickel and men, women and children are still going without.  But for me, this passage from our history is encouraging reminder of God’s affirmation of our work and His love for people experiencing homelessness.  He has faithfully sustained this ministry for 120 years through wonderful people like you.  I’m humbled and blessed to work alongside you.

Our work here is far from complete.  According to the latest counts, the number of precious people living on Skid Row has doubled since last year.   By years end, URM will have served over 1 million meals.  Thankfully, we have 120 years of victory in the midst of challenge under our belt. We will continue to embrace people experiencing homelessness with the compassion of Christ – giving hope and healing for a changed life – helping them find their way home.

Union Rescue Mission needs to raise $3.5 million by the end of the year to meet the needs of the men, women and children we currently serve; move forward with the expansion of our Women’s Life Transformation Program; and implement a robust Job Training, Job Development and Job Placement Program!

As you consider your final year-end contribution to Union Rescue Mission, I have some exciting news to share with you.  One of our faithful, generous friends has offered to match every gift we receive between now and December 31st up to $200,000.  This means any amount you share will go twice as far. Thank you in advance for giving generously.

May God bless you!

Rev. Andy Bales

Economic Crunch Hits Downtown Non-profits – LA Downtown

Richard Guzman writes about the drop in donations to organizations working on Skid Row.

Andy Bales has seen a lot of hard times during his years as CEO of the Union Rescue Mission. But now, the organization that for more than a century has helped those down on their luck is in need of desperate help of its own.

“We’re down about 25% over our normal donations, so we’re barely hanging in there,” Bales said. “I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Click here to read the full article.

Non-Profits Fret About Their Benefactors – LA Business Journal

Howard Fine of the Los Angeles Business Journal writes about how the economic slowdown is effecting charities like Union Rescue Mission.

Union Rescue Mission on L.A.’s Skid Row provides food, clothing and shelter to more than 1,000 people a day. But thanks to this month’s Wall Street meltdown, some of those people may have to make do with less help.

“We were already off 17 percent in our donations before the latest Wall Street crisis hit two weeks ago and since then, the drop has been even more pronounced,” said Chief Executive Andy Bales. “Everyone is a bit panicked and concerned and holding on to their money. We’re looking at where we can cut, where we can make savings.”

Click here to read the full article.