On June 15th, the Precious Dreams Foundation blessed Union Rescue Mission Youth with a surprise visit from two NFL greats: Eric Dickerson and Ryan Grant.
This awesome gift of meeting, speaking and engaging with Eric and Ryan was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all present. The kids loved receiving the Precious Dreams Foundation gift bags as well as having the chance to get autographs from these two football legends. Our children and staff were grateful and humbled by such a gift of love.
Eric Dickerson played for the Rams, Colts, Raiders and Falcons, winning 6 Pro Bowls among a myriad of other highlights and awards. Ryan Grant played for the Giants, Packers and Redskins, winning the Super Bowl in 2011 with the Green Bay Packers.
We were thrilled when Los Angeles recognized the State of Emergency of Skid Row and prioritized the issue of homelessness. It is absolutely an epidemic right now. The time is past due to allocate resources to the problem.
Unfortunately, the money just hasn’t shown up. I know it makes us feel great that we’re talking about a plan, or proposing a budget, but that doesn’t help the people dying on the street tonight. This emergency was declared six months ago and we’re still talking about what we’re going to do next year or over the next five years.
We’ve gone from 44,000 people experiencing homelessness to 47,000 people, an increase of almost 6%. Of that 3,000 more people, 40% are single women. Now, more than ever, we need to find a place to shelter these vulnerable people, yet more and more shelters are closing their doors. We lost over 2,000 shelter and transitional beds county-wide.
Since last year, the numbers on the streets have increased and over 40% of that growth is single women. We are going backwards.
At Union Rescue Mission, women and children outnumber men for the first time ever and we’re sheltering over 1,000 people each night. Since 2013, there has been a 55% increase in women experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. We need more options now so women are not stuck on mean streets of Skid Row or anywhere in our city. My heart won’t rest as long as women and children are on the streets. We, Union Rescue Mission, will not rest as long as women and children are on the streets. With your help, while others talk we will continue to step up.
Please consider giving a gift during our Matching Gift Challenge and make an impact on the lives of those experiencing homelessness that have come to Union Rescue Mission. Any gift you give will be matched 100% by our anonymous donors.
11RESCUE those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?
Some Missions are dropping the word Rescue from their title. A marketing executive recently suggested that Union Rescue Mission consider the same. He felt the term painted a picture of an old school mission providing only 3 hots and a cot along with a Gospel message. A former associate viewed the term as paternalistic and archaic, but I dare to disagree.
Union Rescue Mission will keep the important word Rescue in our name. No mission has proven to be more innovative, guest affirming and non paternalistic over the years than URM.
Over 29 years ago I joined a mission in Des Moines, Iowa and one of the first things I did was to make the chapel voluntary after the meal rather than compulsory before the meal. Attendance not only held steady but those in attendance were no longer physically hungry and had an increased appetite for spiritual food. History shows that happening at about the same time at URM in LA.
URM refers to all who live here as guests.
URM invites guests to reside at the mission 24/7/365-to be in guest area, or rest in their bunks-no coming in at night, leaving after breakfast and wandering the streets all day.
Guests keep their bed until they find a more permanent home-no 30 or 60 day revolving door. In fact, we are on pace to have 824 guests move into permanent housing this year. This number does not include our recovery programs, which would put the number closer to 1000.
We affirm our guests dignity by inviting them to stay free for 15 days then choose recovery or join Gateway program and pay a part of their own way, set up a personal savings plan, keep their valuables in a locked storage area under their bunks, volunteer throughout URM, maintain sobriety and participate in our clinics and jobs program. We have great respect and high expectations of our guests.
Our hope for everyone is a life transformed, followed by a job, followed by a permanent home. That is the focus of our intense recovery programs. However, we’ve set up sober permanent housing options for single men and women and soon families just in case a return to a job and complete independence is not possible.
URM is Christ and guest centered; each day we strive to listen to Our Lord and our guests and to do even better.
I know Rescue sounds like there is one rescuer and one to be rescued, which may sound paternalistic and there is a need for humility on the part of the rescued.
But humility isn’t a bad thing. It may save your life.
Awhile back, I was body boarding at Newport Beach in big waves. I didn’t realize at the time, but I guess a riptide was carrying me out to sea. A bright yellow life guard boat pulled up and told me to get in the boat. I declined. “I’ve got this. I’m a strong swimmer.”
Lifeguard, “No you don’t, you’re heading out to sea. You have no chance unless you had swim fins on. Get in the boat.”
I humbly(humiliated) climbed in the boat.
When I got back to the beach, my wife and kids were laughing at me, reliving the moment when they realized it was their big tough dad being rescued by the handsome young life guard. I was indeed, humiliated, but I was alive, and from then on, wore a pair of swim fins. :)
It is difficult to walk in the doors of a rescue mission. It is a place of last resort. It is difficult to ask for or accept help. It absolutely requires a level of humility, brokenness, to be rescued, to be restored, to get your swim fins, so to speak, for life’s big waves. It definitely helps when the rescuer is also humble, understands your predicament and welcomes you while affirming your dignity. There is no shame and there should be no shame in asking for help.
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 RESCUE the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
-Psalms 82:3 – 4
Six years ago, we at Union Rescue Mission put together 10 Steps To Address Homelessness in LA. We hoped to start a movement called Youarethemission.com to spur our friends to action. As I read these steps today I realize they may be more timely now than ever, especially in Los Angeles.
Here is the 1st step, although today I might say & write; Change the heart of LA by changing the way we speak about people experiencing homelessness.
Step 1: Change the way we think and talk about people experiencing homelessness.
Too often we describe or label people as “the homeless” or “addicts” or “transients.” These are precious people, made in the image of God, who are currently experiencing homelessness. People should never be defined or labeled exclusively by their current condition. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. When we label people, we don’t see their potential and the possibilities within them. When we look the other way and ignore people, we dehumanize them and diminish their value. We need to look into our own hearts, change our thinking, and learn to recognize that “there, but for the grace of God, go I,” then ask, “What can I do?”Only then can we make a difference.
I am so honored, we are so honored our friends at our marketing agency, Grizzard, have put this idea & words into a powerful video.
We believe this change of heart, change of words, will spur us to take action, not only in LA, but throughout our country. I’ll be revisiting the 10 steps in my next few blogs. You can check them out now at youarethemission.com
For me, family is everything. It’s how I grew up. My parents, my brothers and sisters, we were close. It’s the kind of family I wanted when I could one day have a family of my own.
I was a teenager when I fell in love with the mother of my kids. We had two children together and everything seemed on track — until we got addicted to crystal meth.
After our relationship ended a few years later, I was devastated. I not only lost my relationship with her, I lost my kids. I lost my lifelong dream of a loving family. I’d failed — and it hurt. It hurt so bad I had to numb myself with more meth and alcohol. It’s the only way I could forget. For the next 15 years, I worked and partied. I never got close to a woman again. It was just too painful.
That all changed in March 2013.
I met a woman, a meth addict like me, but we fell in love almost overnight. And like me, she wanted to get off the merry-go- round of meth. Unfortunately, neither of us knew how.
Worse, I was unemployed. And by summer, we were homeless on the streets of San Bernardino, living in a tent by a riverbed. Everything we owned was stuffed in shopping carts.
It was crazy out there, and dangerous. But at least we had each other, 24/7. And we did whatever we had to do to survive. We both knew it had to end, though. One day I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I left her to find a recovery program to get off drugs. When I couldn’t find one in San Bernardino, I almost gave up. But that’s when a friend told me about Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles.
I came the next day. Within two days, I felt connected to God in a way I never had before. That completely changed my life. Then I found out my girlfriend also got into a drug program in Long Beach! Since then, everything’s coming together. I’m not only sober, I’ve reconnected with my kids again and I’m determined to be a good father to them. All the anger and guilt I felt just washed away. I also entered school to become a chef. And now my girlfriend and I are talking about getting married and starting a family. Thanks to caring people like you who support Union Rescue Mission, maybe I’ll get to experience the family I always wanted after all.
Notes From Andy
It’s Not Ok.
SKID ROW’S filthy, dangerous sidewalks and back-alleys are home to as many as 3,400 men, women, and children, struggling to survive in a world of predators and prostitutes, murderers and molesters, victims and victimizers.
They arrive here from every city and region in Los Angeles County and beyond. Some come seeking services and much-needed help. Others are sent here from communities that don’t want them anymore — but they’re not sending them here to get help. They’re sending them here to live and die.
There are so many hurting people on these streets we can no longer meet the demand. Every shelter is filled to capacity. Yet more keep coming every day.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed — and as a supporter of Union Rescue Mission, I know you are, too. As Steve Lopez recently wrote in the L.A. Times, “You keep waiting for someone to show up and say wait a minute, this is not OK.”
Well, I’m saying it now. It’s not OK. And it has to stop.
Holly’s father was an alcoholic. Her mother didn’t want to raise children and spent increasing amounts of time away from the family. So from the age of 8, Holly was left in charge of her five other siblings.
“I remember telling Mom I just wanted to be a kid,” says Holly, a 39-year-old single mother at Hope Gardens. Holly says she never remembers being kissed or hugged by her mother — and she never heard the words “I love you.”
“I was so hungry for affection,” Holly recalls, “I started looking for a boyfriend when I was 11. I wanted a boyfriend who would love me.”
By the age of 13, Holly started running away from home, staying with friends’ families or living in vacant buildings. Then she discovered alcohol. “Drinking made me feel invincible and like I had it together. Like I could conquer the world. That I was attractive to men,” she says. Unfortunately, the men she attracted were mostly abusive. And alcoholics like herself. “You accept the love you think you deserve,” she says. “And I didn’t feel like I deserved more.”
By the time she was 36, Holly had six kids — all taken away from her and placed in foster care. In 2010, however, she tired of the abuse and alcohol. And she turned to God.
She got sober, got her kids back, and tried to rebuild her life. But in 2012, she and her kids were homeless.
A case worker persuaded her to go to Hope Gardens.
“Hope Gardens was this beautiful, green, healing oasis that sheltered me and my family after this horrible storm of my life,” she says. “For the first time, I felt like me and my family were safe. The staff here were so loving. It felt like family. What family is supposed to feel like.”
Through counseling and various classes that provided her with parenting and financial- management skills; through mentors and caseworkers that kept her on track; through chaplains and Bible studies that kept her focused on God — Holly says she got the parenting and nurturing she never got as a child.
Today, Holly says she’s becoming the “godly woman” she’s meant to be. She’s been sober for three years, she’s working, and her family is now preparing to move into their own apartment again.
“I’m so grateful God brought me to Hope Gardens,” she says. “I have a new apartment, but Hope Gardens will always be home.”
You Give Families Hope Today
by Zach Stratton
The transformation of Holly and her family is truly inspiring. But as a donor to Hope Gardens and Union Rescue Mission, you should know that your support transforms hundreds of families just like Holly’s every year. And that’s a powerful thing.
It’s also vitally important. The growth of family homelessness in Los Angeles is tragic. Thousands of young mothers and children face overwhelming barriers that prevent them from a better life — domestic violence, mental-health issues, addictions, emotional and sexual abuse, lack of education, joblessness, and many more.
Many times they’ve spent months or years moving from couch to couch, shelter to shelter, even living out of cars. These young mothers are so stressed keeping their families going day to day, they have no energy to think about tomorrow.
By the time these families come to Hope Gardens, they’re exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many times they arrive without hope. They need more than shelter and three meals a day. They need a chance to rest, so they can begin to heal and rebuild their families.
And that’s what you give them. You also provide them with classes in financial management, healthy relationships, and parenting. Counseling and therapy to heal past traumas. Education and job training. Case workers like me, who help them find jobs, and housing, and create a long-term plan for their lives. Finally, you give them the chance to reconnect with God and grow spiritually through chapel, Christian discipleship classes, and prayer.
Right now, your gifts are helping to support approximately 60 mothers and more than 100 children. And over the past year, you’ve helped transform the lives of as many as 200 mothers and over 400 children.
They say it takes a village to raise a child — or a family. And Hope Gardens is a kind of village — a village of precious families, a village of caring caseworkers, chaplains and staff, and a village of compassionate people like you. There is no “us and them” in this village. There is only us. Mothers, children, me, and you. And it’s a village that doesn’t exist apart from your support.
Zach Stratton is a case manager at Hope Gardens Family Center. For more information about Hope Gardens, please call 213.347. 6300 ext. 7101 or visit our website at urm.org/services/hope-gardens.
Because of You
I struggled with a drug addiction for most of my life. By 2011, it got so bad I was on the streets. When I came to Union Rescue Mission, they helped me get closer to God and taught me how to follow His instructions in the Bible to live a better life.
I’ve learned that I need to stay disciplined in all areas of my life. One discipline that helped me is running. I ran my first L.A. Marathon in 2012 and I’ve run in every one since. Today, everything is going better for me and my family. I am grateful to God there is a place like Union Rescue Mission.
Notes From Andy
Transforming Families Today — and Tomorrow
My heart just breaks. The number of children experiencing homelessness in the United States is at an all-time high. In fact, at least 10,000 families are struggling here in Los Angeles alone.
Probably 70% of these precious moms, like Holly, are victims of divorce and domestic abuse. Others struggle with inadequate educational or work skills, and long-term unemployment. Regardless
of the reasons, however, many of these beautiful young mothers are now tragically living with their children in cars, garages, sheds — or worse.
But everything changes when they come to Hope Gardens. Hope Gardens not only provides them with safety, food, and shelter, it gives them the necessary skills they need to thrive. It helps them with relationship issues, provides educational opportunities, offers mental-health care, and trains them to become better mothers to their children.
As a donor, your gifts provide resources for completely transforming mothers and children so they will never again experience homelessness in their lifetime. You give them everything they need to take care of their families today, so for the first time they can begin to dream about tomorrow. I pray God will bless you for it!
I am writing to you today with a heavy heart.
As many of you may be aware and many of you have seen in the news, a resident on the streets of Skid Row was recently shot and killed in a struggle with the LAPD right in front of our building. It was a difficult day on Skid Row and we are still feeling the effects of this tragedy as we continue to do everything we can to be a light of God’s love in this nearly impossible and heart wrenching environment.
It may be easy to pass judgment when something like this happens – it raises a lot of questions, but before anyone starts pointing fingers at the LAPD or this man who perished, let’s ask ourselves a question:
Why have we as the people of LA let this situation on Skid Row exist for so long?
Really this tragic event is more of a reflection that we have a Skid Row, an untenable living situation, and police are trying to maintain peace in an impossible environment. Too often we sit back and only act when there is tragedy. The truth is, we all have a part in this and the time to act is now.
There is a proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is today”. We can’t change the last 20 years of Skid Row, nor the last 120, but we can change it starting today. I am asking you to join us in prayer. There is exciting momentum in the direction to regionalize services throughout LA County and decentralize Skid Row. This will be done by encouraging and assisting local communities, churches, and cities to help their neighbors, brothers, and sisters experiencing homelessness in their own communities.
The streets of Skid Row are no place to live and any continuance of this practice demands too much from the city’s law enforcement. My question remains – why have we let the situation exist for so long?
It is time for the people of faith to lead the way in reversing this curse on our cities most vulnerable.
Join us as we continue to pray together and strive to make a difference in this city. We have faith in the Hope that comes from Christ and together we will see that Hope come alive.
Some traumas can hurt a life for a season — others take a lifetime to heal. When Michael was 5, he fell into a river and almost drowned. He recovered physically, but from that day forward, he could no longer speak without stuttering.
“That made my school years very difficult,” says Michael, now 68. “I was terrified of being asked a question in class or to read something out loud.” And the older he got, the more he isolated himself. “I always made sure I worked in jobs where I didn’t have to directly deal with anyone. I never personally answered phone calls or made small talk, other than to say, ‘Good morning.’” The only remedy he found to ease his discomfort was alcohol. “I started drinking when I was 21,” he recalls. “Alcohol made me open up a bit more. And it was fun for a while. But alcohol affected everything that’s happened in my life since.” Like his relationships.
He married at the age of 23 and was divorced five years later because of his drinking — and didn’t see his daughter again for almost 40 years. Other friends avoided him for the same reason. So he isolated himself more and more. “I knew I had a problem. It was just easier to sit at home, crank my music up, and drink,” he says.
Over his lifetime, Michael went through various treatment programs to overcome his drinking. Nothing worked. Not even when, he says, God miraculously cured his stuttering in 2011. But finally, in July 2012, he was out of money, out of work, and out of his apartment. He came to Union Rescue Mission to try to get sober one more time.
“The Mission has given me the structure I need to stay sober,” he says. “I’m also finding that their 12-step principles, based on Alcoholics Anonymous, combined with Christian principles and the Lord Jesus Christ, have made a real difference. I pray every day and my faith is getting stronger. I even bought my first cell phone,” he says with a smile.
But perhaps most rewarding, Union Rescue Mission has helped him reconnect with his daughter after almost 40 years. “Now we connect at least once or twice a week,” he says. “That’s made a big difference for me and her.
“I have so much to be grateful for,” he says. “I was a little slow on the uptake, but I have a higher power to draw on now.
Union Rescue Mission serves over 2,000 meals per day and shelters 800 men, women, and children every night. But most need more than food and shelter. They need new life — and you can give it to them.
Your gift today of $15, $25, or more will not only provide meals and shelter, it will give hurting people access to counseling, mentoring, classes, medical care, and spiritual nurture — all of which can transform someone’s life. Not only for today, but for eternity.
So please do more than save a life today. Help change someone’s life. Don’t wait. Please send the most generous gift you can. Thank you! To put your gift to work even faster,
go to urm.org/NewLife.
Because of You
Before coming to URM, I was on drugs and alcohol and I was homeless. I was full of fear. I did not know what to do. I was headed to prison or someone was going to hurt me or I was going to hurt someone else. So I came here because I’d heard they could help me have a better life. And they did. They changed me mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Today, I’m working, I have my own place, I’ve restored my relationships with family, and I have a woman I love. I’m grateful for everything God and Union Rescue Mission has done for me.
Notes From Andy
Your Life-Changing Work
Homelessness devastates people, and so do the wounds that lead them into homelessness. By the time most men and women come to Union Rescue Mission, their bodies, hearts, and souls are crippled with guilt and shame. They need more than food and shelter.
They need new life.
That’s why everything we do here — from our overnight guests, to our men’s program, to the young moms at Hope Gardens — is designed to transform lives. Because if we don’t address the issues that led to their homelessness, they will just end up homeless again.
Yes, we serve over 2,000 meals a day to hungry people and shelter 800 people every night, and that’s critical. In the end, however, Union Rescue Mission is here to transform lives — not just physically and emotionally, but spiritually, as well, through the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
But it’s your gifts that make it all possible. Your generosity is not only saving lives, you’re changing lives — today for eternity. Thanks to you, lives are saved and rebuilt, families are restored, and God is glorified. Thank you for giving to this life-changing work.
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
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.
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 urm.org/SafeShelter
Notes From Andy
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.