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
Lost Angels Children’s Project founder Aaron Valencia is at it again! This year he is building a 1936 Ford Coupe to giveaway at the 13th annualVentura Nationals Custom Cars & Motorcycle Show on Saturday, September 5th.
Last year, the Lost Angels Children’s Project car build giveaway raised money to off-set the cost of the build plus donate $17,110 each to the youth department of Union Rescue Mission and Grace Resource Center.
This generous donation from Lost Angels Children’s project was used to buy washers and dryers for the families currently living at URM, recreational and fun activities, “Horses in the Hood” camp, afterschool supplies, school supplies, and other essential needs for our children, youth, and families!
This year, Aaron and his dedicated team are working even harder to raise more money and double what they raised last year! This can only happen with your help. Purchase a beautifully designed poster for $20 and you will automatically get free ticket to enter a chance to win the custom made 1936 Ford Coupe. There is NO limit on how many posters you can purchase.
The more you buy, the more chances you have to win the car and the more money raised for children who are experiencing homelessness.
To purchase your entry to win please contact Christine at (213) 347-6342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To anyone else, it was just a silly child’s necklace, a worthless souvenir from Disneyland.
But for William, it was the last remaining memento of his 12-year-old son, whom he hadn’t seen in eight years. After a lifetime of broken relationships and abandonment, William felt alone and hopeless. First it was his mother, a troubled alcoholic who preferred the streets over her children. His grandmother was in and out of his life. He never knew his father, and after he married the woman of his dreams, she tragically died less than a year later.
“I was so depressed, I went into a tailspin and started drinking more and more. I really struggled,” William recalls. “Then I got married again, way too soon. I never dealt with my grief. And because of my drinking, I burned that relationship out in five years. But a wonderful thing came out of that marriage. My son, Judah.”
But two years after the marriage ended, William’s ex-wife disappeared with his son. “I lost all hope,” William says. “I started drinking all day, every day, and I ended up homeless. Over the next four years, I lost everything, all the reminders of my son.”
Everything but a necklace. William knew he needed help.
So in January 2013, he came to Union Rescue Mission. Over the next year, he poured himself into weekly counseling sessions with Chaplain Mike McIntire, 12-step classes, Bible studies, and prayer. As he got closer to God and his burdens slowly lifted, William began to see the same hurt he had felt in the eyes of the other men at the Mission. So he began loving and ministering to them. Before long, he no longer felt alone.
Yet he never stopped praying to see his son again. “Then one day, out of the blue, my son found me on Facebook,” William says. “I finally got my son back.”
In fact, on Easter Sunday 2015, Judah, now 12, visited William at Union Rescue Mission. At the sunrise service, as they celebrated Christ’s resurrection and new life in Him, William turned to Judah and gave him the necklace he’d carried for eight years.
“This necklace means the world to me, son,” he said. “This is what kept me going, even in the midst of my addiction and all my running away from God, from all my relationships, and even from myself. It’s all I had left of you. Take care of this for the rest of your life.”
It was just a child’s necklace. But it saved a father’s life.
I love William’s story. As a chaplain at Union Rescue Mission, I see men like him everyday — men wounded from broken relationships with friends, family, and with God. Sometimes those wounds are consequences of bad choices they’ve made. Other times, the broken relationships are suffered from no fault of their own.
But one thing is clear: People don’t end up on Skid Row because of drugs and alcohol. They end up here because of some kind of relationship trauma they’ve never recovered from. In fact, the single biggest common denominator I see among addicted and homeless men and women is the overwhelming grief they feel at being completely alone.
But you and I know they’re NOT alone. They’re not alone because there’s a God who loves them. They’re not alone because we surround them with unconditional love and friendship. They’re not alone because compassionate people like YOU care.
If men and women come here wounded by broken relationships, they heal through loving ones. And thanks to your giving hearts, hurting and broken people who come to Union Rescue Mission have the time and space they need to build new relationships and reconcile old ones — especially in families.
Everyone who comes here is someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter. So every time you invest in someone here, you do far more than help to restore a life. You help heal and restore entire families — healing that will offer hope for generations to come.
Notes From Andy
Loved and Accepted
I bet if you were to survey 100 people here on the streets of Skid Row about what led them here, 93% would say a broken relationship. Whether that relational trauma led to some kind of mental health issues or led to their addiction issues, they’ve never healed from the grief and pain. So by the time they come to Union Rescue Mission, they have nowhere left to go and no one else to turn to.
But that’s where you come in. With your support, we encourage them to trust again and risk building new relationships. We teach them how to overcome grief and loss, how to overcome anger, how to overcome addiction, and how to turn to the Lord for help. And that’s most important, because when they have a relationship with their Lord, they are embraced by the only perfect Father.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people go through our program and return home to start over as healthy parents, sons or daughters, brothers or sisters. We all need to be loved and accepted. There is no greater joy than seeing that happen. But it happens here, because caring people like you make it happen.
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.
Just as The Great Recession became apparent through the exploding numbers of two parent & single father & increased single mom families, Union Rescue Mission made the decision to be guided by our history & The Lord & step up to meet the need.
We opened up a 5th floor wing to make a place for this throng of families.
Among the families, was a single dad, with a son & a daughter, he had recently been reunited with & rescued from foster care.
We knew right away there was something very special about the 15 year old son, Kenneth Chancy.
Despite, living in a van, going hungry, suffering the devastation of homelessness, experiencing the challenges of foster care, Kenneth was a straight A student, Student Body President, & the starting Fullback on the Varsity Football Team.
Immediately, due to to Great Recession, the media descended on URM. When they came, they were very interested in this remarkable young man. ABC, CNN & many more interviewed this young man who had his sights set Harvard & becoming a brain surgeon.
Kenneth was grabbed up by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, flew to CNN in Atlanta, & assisted with a brain surgery. He no longer desired to be a brain surgeon.
He was introduced to NFL Star Nambdi Asomuogh, & was mentored by Nambdi & along with several other bright students taken on a tour of colleges all over the U.S.
Along Kenneth’s journey, he befriended Mayor Antonio Villagarosa, Congresswoman Karen Bass, TV News personality Lou Parker, & many more.
One day, Kenneth Found himself sitting with the Duke & Duchess of Tour, Now Prince William & Princess Katherine.
URM’s own Kitty Davis-Walker, VP of Public Relations, served as an “Auntie” to Kenneth all along the way. Always looking out for him & connecting him with the opportunities mentioned above. I had opportunity to be his firm & loving Uncle at times.
Two weeks ago, Kenneth’s journey continued as he graduated from Loyola Marymount University & his story was told around the world, including The Huffington Post & ABC World News Tonight.
Kenneth was honored by Andre Ethier & The LA Dodgers on Memorial Day & we at Union Rescue Mission are honored to continue with Kenneth on his amazing ride.
All my life, I was looking for a sense of family that I didn’t get growing up. My parents were real strict and never showed us any love.
So at the age of 14, I rebelled against all of that and found a different “family” — in a gang. And I totally embraced that culture. But while it gave me something I needed, it also meant I got involved in a lot of crime and hurt a lot of people. I did some things that were really hard to live with.
Then I found heroin. Heroin helped numb me out so I could live with myself. But it wasn’t long before it was out of control. I needed heroin just to feel normal. It controlled every aspect of my life and slowly destroyed me. And by the summer of 2013, I was living on the streets.
I needed help.
Then I remembered a radio program that talked about Union Rescue Mission. When I came here in October 2013, I not only had to get off heroin, I was still looking for that sense of “family” — for someone who cared about me, someone who could look me in the eye and say they loved me.
From day one, a lot of people here showed me they cared. But then in March 2014, I got hooked up with a mentor named Clint from Pacific Coast Church. We went to ball games together, went out to dinner, talked over the phone, chatted over email. We talked about stuff we’re wrestling with. He even invited me over to spend the night with his family. That was huge. This guy let me into his most personal space.
In a lot of ways, Clint’s life has been completely different from mine. But learning from him, watching him, I see now that we have even more in common in Christ. Clint has shown me what it means to be a man of God. He loves me, and I know it. And when he looks me in the eye, I see Jesus.
Thanks to Clint — and people like you — I found what I was always looking for.
For almost three years, Pastor Dan Anderson and nearly 60 men from Pacific Coast Church (PCC) in San Clemente have built relationships, mentored, and along with your generous support have helped transform the lives of more than 100 guests at Union Rescue Mission. It’s a ministry URM hopes more people — especially people like you — will consider.
It all started in 2011, when Pastor Dan led a group of men from his church to tour Skid Row and URM. “We were blown away. You don’t see that kind of brokenness in San Clemente,” Dan recalls. They were also struck by how many men had lost connections to family, friends, and resources that could change their lives.
Soon Dan proposed starting a mentoring program that would involve building relationships — and friendships — between the men of his church and the men overcoming addictions and homelessness at URM.
They launched the new program with a weekend-long “Iron Man” conference, named after Proverbs 27:17 . . . “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The conference brought together 40 men from PCC and 40 men from URM who worshipped, studied, ate, played, and shared their personal stories with one another. “That weekend not only transformed their guys, it transformed our guys,” Dan says.
After the conference, the mentors continued to meet face-to-face with their mentees at least once a month, and contact one another once a week via phone or email to talk about life, offer advice, hold one another accountable, to cry or laugh together, to encourage one another, and to point one another to God.
“Our guys would say that this is one of the best things they’ve ever done,” Dan says. “It’s not hard. God didn’t ask us to be anyone’s savior. He just asked us to show up. The rest is up to Him.”
Please consider whether God is asking you to “just show up” today!
Notes from Andy
The Power of Relationships
One of the biggest problems facing people experiencing homelessness is isolation
— from family, friends, and their community. Too often they’re treated like some kind of contagious disease that must be avoided at all costs.
But they’re not a disease. They’re fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. And if we could just learn to treat them that way, maybe we could make a real difference. But to do that takes getting personally involved. It takes building relationships with them — relationships that offer hope, affirm dignity, and restore hope.
I truly believe if we could get every man, woman, and child experiencing homelessness hooked up with someone who really loved and cared for them, one on one — like the men from Pacific Coast Church are doing — we could begin to turn our homelessness problem around.
I like what Pastor Dan said in the article on the previous page. When you meet folks experiencing homelessness here at Union Rescue Mission, you fall in love with them. You begin to see them just as Jesus does. And when you begin to see them that way, you also get a glimpse of how Jesus sees you.
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.