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.

Economic Challenges and Union Rescue Mission (URM)

I recently received this information through’s publication, Street Smart, on how a Mission can survive the economic challenge that we are currently in. I appreciated the advice, but also wanted to share what specific steps URM is taking to both step up and meet the needs while cutting expenses to survive the challenging times. I hope they are helpful to someone.


Take action to survive a tough economy
With money tight and donations trending down, Rescue magazine columnist and administrative consultant Ron Mattocks offers these 10 actions steps to weather the economic downturn:
1. Reduce charitable gift revenue expectations.
2. Reduce expenses. Do not let increased demand drive you to deficit spending.
3. Do not accept anything less than a balanced budget.
4. Develop and maintain a 12-month rolling cash-flow projection.
5. If you borrow short-term funds or draw down on a line of credit, develop a backup plan, assuming that access to credit may be reduced.
6. Initiate an aggressive debt-reduction plan.
7. Defer major expenses/delay new construction.
8. Initiate a hiring freeze.
9. Pay special attention to donor-restricted funds; do not borrow against them.
10. Watch the receivables. Do not accept risk, and do not let them age.

Union Rescue Mission’s Approach:

This season the numbers of families showing up at our door desperate, having lost their homes is up 100% and the number of individuals seeking housing is up 25%. This dire situation has taxed our resources to such an extent that we converted an entire floor formerly used for volunteers to house two parent families and single dads with children. Additionally, meals served per day are up from 2,100 to 2,800 per day, a 30 % increase.

It is also hard to believe this next statistic (I personally found it astounding), but in the first 3 days after opening up our Winter Shelters on December 1st in Burbank, West LA, Culver City and our downtown facility, the same number of families arrived homeless, needing assistance as did in all 3 and ½ months of operating Winter Shelters during the entire Winter Season last year! This is a daunting sign of things to come.

Operationally, this has greatly challenged our financial resources, as it has for many people, but our donations are down over $600,000 this year and our capital campaign to fund our new Hope Gardens Family Center Row for single women with children outside of the mean streets of Skid Row is off by $700,000.

We have taken drastic steps to reduce our costs, while still step up to meet the growing need. URM has frozen hiring, put a freeze on wages, and URM has put a hold on paying the matching portion of our employees 401 K plans. We’ve taken these steps so that we do not add to the ranks of the unemployed and struggling and so that we can keep the necessary staff to care for our guests and live up to URM’s history of stepping up to meet the need as we did during the Great Depression, when we fed 42% of the hungry in the City of Los Angeles. We are praying and planning on what our next steps may be. I hope that you will pray with us. Andy B.