The Mission – August 2016


“I never wanted nothin’ to do with God,” says Donald, a 60-year-old guest at Union Rescue Mission. “Growing up in South Central, my parents made me go to church, whether I wanted to go or not. But away from church, my stepdad would beat me with whatever he could get his hands on. I kept thinking, if God’s so loving, why do I got all these welts on my back?”

So Donald rebelled — stealing, “drugging,” and determined to do whatever he wanted to do, no matter who got hurt. And people did get hurt. When he was 19, he and some friends tried to “jack a dope house.” When a young girl startled him, he shot and killed her before he knew what was happening. He went to prison for almost 10 years.


Hopeless on Skid Row

“After I got out,” Donald recalls, “I went right back to dope and drinking. I robbed homes and even churches to support my drug habit. I was in and out of prison for the next 30 years.”

When he wasn’t in prison, he called an alley near Skid Row home. “You don’t want to know what life is like out there,” he says. “Skid Row is where you go when you got no more hope. This is where folks come when they give up. Then these streets put you in the grave. People get killed all the time here. Just yesterday, I saw a dude get stabbed four times in the chest.

“Now that I’m sober, it hurts seeing all this stuff. Man, there’s gotta be a better life.”

“I Can’t Do This Anymore”

Donald finally decided to pursue that “better life” in April 2015. “I was straight-out tired,” he explains. “My cousin invited me to go to Union Rescue Mission. When I got here, I told God, ‘I can’t do this anymore. Help me.’ It was God’s way or no way.”

The change was drastic. “All the fighting, cussing, and stealing, I gave it up and let God do what He does. He died for me. He forgave me. I felt like the whole world lifted off me.”

Today, Donald works in URM’s hygiene area, where people come off the streets to take a shower and get cleaned up. “It feels good to help people who are just like I was,” he says. “But it’s not easy. One guy spit in my face. There was a time I would have killed him. And I wanted to. But I looked him in the eye and I said, ‘God loves you, man.’”



Please Help Suffering People on Skid Row This Summer


Summer heat, rising crime, and hopelessness are creating unimaginable suffering for men and women experiencing homelessness on Skid Row. They desperately need help. But every summer, much-needed donations to Union Rescue Mission drop way off, threatening our ability to meet their needs.


Your gift today will provide cold water, cool shelter, nutritious meals, and hope to precious people who need your help the most this summer. So please give the most generous gift you can today.




OfficerJosephLives Change Here Because of YOU!

by L.A.P.D. Officer Deon Joseph

A few years ago as I was patrolling Skid Row, I found a man rummaging through a trash can. His skin was covered with scabies, and his hair was matted and filled with lice. He was wanted, and when I arrested him, he cursed me and called me every horrible name imaginable.

As a police officer, I wasn’t supposed to do this: I gave him a poem called “You Are Not a Failure” and another one called “A Supernatural Life.” I later learned that, after he left jail, he got into a program like Union Rescue Mission’s and completely transformed his life. Today, he’s got a successful career and family.

The Inhumanity of Skid Row

I didn’t always believe that lives could change on Skid Row. And when you look at these streets today, it’s still hard to be optimistic. Skid Row is now the largest homeless encampment in America. Gangsters, loan sharks, hustlers, and predators prey on the people here, especially women, who now make up almost 45% of the population. In some parts of Skid Row, rapes have increased almost 200%. But everyone’s life is in danger. Aggravated assaults and street robberies are rapidly increasing. Life is worse than I’ve ever seen here — it’s tragic and inhumane to let it continue.

You Really Do Make a Difference

That’s why I’m so grateful for places like Union Rescue Mission and people like you who support them. As I said, I once didn’t believe that lives could change. But the first time I toured Union Rescue Mission, I saw dozens of people I had arrested, now clean, sober, filled with new life, and completely transformed. I determined that day I would do everything I can to support places like Union Rescue Mission, and to encourage everyone in  Los Angeles to support them, too.

Not everyone’s life will change here. But many will. We just can’t give up. As people of faith, who believe in a caring God, we must keep trying. I never want to see another rape victim in a tent or dead man on the sidewalk. With your support of Union Rescue Mission, maybe I won’t have to.





BecauseofYouJack’s Story, 1941

Jack was young and attractive, with a successful career and loving wife — until he lost it all because of alcohol. Ashamed, he left home, leaving his wife a note that simply said he would return when he straightened up.

“Desperate, I wandered into Union Rescue Mission one night,” he recalls. “That evening, I heard a man testify how the grace of God, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, had transformed his life and restored his courage, hope, and self-respect. He said that if I repented, I could experience the same thing.

“That was my first ray of hope. I went forward to the altar, asked for God’s forgiveness and for His help to throw off the curse of drink and to send me back to my wife.”

God honored Jack’s prayer. In time, with newfound courage and self-respect, Jack returned to his former job, earned the respect of his employers, and went back home to his wife, who marveled at the change she saw in him.


Notes from Andy07102013_0382

Lives Change When We Work Together

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles today is overwhelming. The latest study says almost 47,000 men, women, and children have no home — though I believe it’s far higher. The number of single women on the streets has increased 55%, and family homelessness is exploding, with thousands of them living in tents, cars, and RVs.

Yet despite the increase, thousands of shelter beds have disappeared in Los Angeles over the past few years. So now, Union Rescue Mission is sheltering a record number of 1,050 people a night — and for the first time in our history, more than half of them are women and children. But we are still determined to never turn a woman or a family away.

In the face of so much tragedy, it would be easy to get discouraged. But I’m not. And neither should you be. Why? People like Donald whose story began this newsletter. You helped transform his life. We see similar stories repeated every day. Thousands of people experiencing homelessness have new life today because of the faithfulness of folks like you. When you and I both do our parts, lives change. Thanks be to God.





The Mission – May 2015


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.



The Mission – August 2014

Aug 2014 CoverAugust 2014 Sidebar

I was a single mom with four young kids, and I desperately needed a job. But I had been a drug addict for more than 10 years. I had been arrested several times for shoplifting. And I had just left prison. I wanted a second chance, but who would hire me?

It was my fault. Since the age of 18, I’d been on my own and I wanted to party, drink, and smoke weed. But I wasn’t irresponsible. I held good jobs. But then someone introduced me to “primos” — weed mixed with crack cocaine. It was love at first cough. Nothing else mattered.

Before long, I was smoking every day, all day. It got so bad, I couldn’t hold on to a job, so I started shoplifting. I hated myself for it, but I just couldn’t stop smoking. By the time I was 30, I had four kids and I knew they deserved better.

So when I went to prison in August 2004 for shoplifting, I turned my life over to God and determined that I would change my life. When I got out in May of 2005, I knew I needed a job to support my kids. But what hope did I have?

That’s when God led me to Union Rescue Mission. URM was more than just a shelter. They taught me how to write a resume, how to interview, and how to dress appropriately. They made me believe in second chances and even helped connect me to potential employers willing to give people like me a new start.

But little did I know it would be Union Rescue Mission who would hire me, and I’ve been here ever since! Today, I work in our Gifts in Kind department, helping the Mission secure everything we need — cleaning supplies, hygiene products, food and kitchen utensils, clothing, baby products, blankets, gym equipment, and so much more. And now I’m also helping find everything we need to stock URM’s new thrift store in Covina, which I know will help even more people like me.

Union Rescue Mission gave me confidence when I didn’t have any left. They gave me a second chance when I didn’t deserve one. They believed in me, supported me, and equipped me to live a brand-new life. And that means everything.

URM Thrift Store

A Thrifty New Venture

by Jeri Little, Vice President, Micro Enterprise

Caring people like you have been transforming the lives of hurting people at Union Rescue Mission for more than 120 years. But most of our guests today need more than a transformed life to escape homelessness — they also need a job.

With that in mind, URM is opening a new thrift store in Covina, which promises to provide jobs for some of our guests, and offer many other benefits, as well. Beyond this new thrift store, however, your gifts enable us to do much more to equip our guests to find employment. Thanks to you, our guests learn how to write resumes, get connected to job training opportunities, learn how to present themselves in interviews, and are even able to connect with valuable mentors and potential employers.

For more information about URM’s new thrift store in Covina, please contact Troy West at 626-915-3417.

August 2014 URM

The streets of Skid Row are harsh any time of year. But when temperatures rise above 90 degrees, life here becomes even more cruel. Right now, outside our doors, people are already suffering from life-threatening, heat-related illnesses. They desperately need your help.

Yet every summer, donations to Union Rescue Mission drop way off, and right now this lack of funding, coupled with increasing food costs, is threatening our ability to meet the needs of precious souls who need our help this summer.

You can make a huge difference right now. Your gift today will provide not just water, but also cool shelter, nutritious meals, and another day of hope — in Jesus’ name — to these precious people who need your help the most this summer. So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!


Notes from Andy

The Way Home Is Through a Job

Everything we do at Union Rescue Mission is designed to enable people experiencing
homelessness to leave here prepared to live a successful life. And a key part of
that mission involves preparing people for a job. You can transform someone’s life
and find them a place to live, but if they can’t pay for it, they’ll end up right back
on the streets.

That’s one of the reasons we’re opening a new thrift store in Covina, which I hope
is just the first of many we open all over LA County. Other nonprofit organizations
like ours, nationwide, have proven time and again how thrift stores can provide
valuable work skills, jobs, and a sustainable income for people once
considered largely unemployable.

And that’s where you come in. Your financial gifts to URM do far more than provide meals and shelter. Your gifts help transform lives and help prepare men and women experiencing homelessness with job-preparedness training, work skills, and even job opportunities with employers all over Los Angeles.

A life transformed, followed by a job, followed by a home. That’s our strategy. But you’re the one who makes it happen. You are the Mission.



The Mission – June 2014



“All my life, i wanted to be part of something, to feel like I fit in somewhere,” says Ruthie, a 57-year-old former crack addict who spent 16 years living out of a tent on Skid Row.

Death and alcoholism decimated her family when Ruthie was young, so she spent much of her youth in foster care back in her native North Carolina. “The trouble started when I was 15, when I started drinking, smoking marijuana, and popping pills,” she recalls.

She managed to get married at age 23, but tragedy struck again a week later, when her husband was brutally murdered. She tried moving to Los Angeles to start over. Instead, she fell into a life of more alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. In the mid 1980s, with three small children, she moved back to North Carolina, where she got married and had one more child.

But on March 7, 1992, Ruthie watched helplessly as her husband and three of her children died in a house fire.

“I heard them screaming,” she says. “That was the worst thingI ever witnessed. The second worst was when they put dirt on them in their graves. From then on, every night I could see it and smell it all over again.”

Unable to cope with the trauma, Ruthie left her surviving child behind and ran back to Los Angeles, where she spent the next 16 years living in a tent on Skid Row and smoking crack. “Crack made me forget about everything. I didn’t have to hurt no more or cry no more,” she says. But the drugs and the streets took a toll on Ruthie’s health, and in 2009, she’d had enough. She joined a drug program and got clean and sober. Two years later, as part of a work therapy program, Ruthie returned to Union Rescue Mission, where she would live as a guest and work in the kitchen.

“That first day I walked through the door here at the Mission, I saw a sign that said, ‘The Way Home,’” she recalls, with a light in her eye. “I knew right then I found what I’d been looking for my whole life. Working and living here at the Mission, I’m surrounded by people who know my name. They look me in the eye and it’s like they’re saying, ‘You matter, Ruthie. I love you.’ The first time someone said that to me, I almost cried. I belong here.

“Union Rescue Mission has changed my life, and with God in my back pocket, I can’t lose. I found my way home.”



Skid Row Through Ruthie’s Eyes

I moved to Skid Row in 1993, when there were tents everywhere. These streets can be rough on a woman. But I was lucky. I quickly found a man and stuck close to him for protection. A woman needs that out here to survive. We got us a tent and spent 16 years down here. It was wild. Every day, we had to step over human waste. There were people walking around naked, people having sex right there in broad daylight. I saw people get beat, stabbed, or cut up over a nickel. I saw women get raped or beat up and left bleeding on the sidewalk.

For a long time, we never saw any cops down here. It was every man for himself. There were no rules except watch where you step and mind your own business. I learned how to wash my clothes in a bucket and take showers wherever I could. And I learned that as soon as it got dark to get in my tent and stay there. For 16 years, I did whatever I had to do to survive. But I survived.


After years of decline, the number of people on Skid Row has tragically skyrocketed over the past few years. Today, as many as 2,000 precious men and women — made in the image of God — now call these dangerous sidewalks and back alleys “home.” For the past 122 years, thanks to thousands of caring people just like you, Union Rescue Mission has transformed the lives of countless hurting souls on these streets, leading them back to health and wholeness — and home.

It doesn’t take a lot to help a hurting man or woman escape Skid Row and get back on their feet. But today, thanks to an extraordinary matching grant, your generous gift of $25, $35, or more will help provide TWICE the food and shelter, and a fresh start at life for people experiencing homelessness.

So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you! For more information or to put your gift to work even faster, go to


Notes From Andy

Act Today — and Make a Difference

Remember these lyrics from a popular 1980s TV show? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name . . . you want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name.” That song always reminds me of Ruthie, here at Union Rescue Mission. Here she found home and people who care about her. Now her infectious joy lights up our Mission with hope. The streets of Skid Row inflict horrific damage on the men and women, like Ruthie, who live here.

Loneliness. Despair. Defeat. Depression.

And apart from true life transformation, most will never recover.

But life transformation takes more than offering people food, shelter, and safety. The folks on Skid Row need those things, of course. But more than that, they need to know they belong somewhere. They need community and family. They need love and friendship, and to know they matter . . . to be where everybody knows their name. That’s where life transformation happens. And, thanks to caring people like you, that’s what Union Rescue Mission is all about.



The Mission – May 2014

Frank Sontag is the host of “The Frank Sontag Show,” the largest Christian talk program in the U.S. The program airs 4:00pm-6:00pm, Sunday-Friday, on KKLA radio. Rev. Andy Bales is a frequent guest on “The Frank Sontag Show.” KKLA is also home to Union Rescue Mission’s “Amazing Stories from Skid Row.”

As a talk-show radio host for more than 25 years, Frank Sontag has interviewed countless numbers of individuals in all walks of life — many of them are celebrities and those who are rich, powerful, successful or influential. But his heart beats for Jesus and the “invisible,” precious people on Skid Row.

“I visited Andy Bales at Union Rescue Mission yesterday,” Sontag says. “When I left and walked back to my car, I looked at the hundreds of people living on these streets and I felt the very powerful presence of Jesus. I see Jesus on these streets. There is so much potential to serve the people here and to love them in the name of Jesus Christ.” As a child, Sontag says he was “raised in a difficult area of Cleveland.  So I know . . . poverty and violence.” Maybe that’s why he’s always had a heart for those who are underprivileged, struggling, and experiencing homelessness.

Sontag has frequently volunteered to serve people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row for more than 20 years. But it wasn’t until he visited Andy Bales and Union Rescue in 2013 that he realized it was time to get more involved. Continue reading »

The Mission Newsletter – December 2013

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I was walking down the street one day in November 2011, when I passed an old lady with a dog. I’d never seen her before, but she stopped me. “Excuse me, young man,” she said. “God has plans for you. You can reach people others can’t. So whatever you do, get on the right side of God and stay there. You remember what I said.”

I’m not used to strangers stopping me on the street, so I kept walking. But a few steps later, I turned around to take another look at her. She and her little dog were gone. But what she said haunted me.

While I believed in God, He wasn’t important to me. After all, I thought, I’d led a great life without Him. I earned a lot of money as a private contractor, laying carpet, tile, and hardwood flooring, as well as doing drywall and painting. I had a great home and a girlfriend who was carrying my child.

So, no, God wasn’t that important — but crack cocaine was. Although drugs had never been part of my life before, suddenly I was spending almost $300 a day on crack, and it was beginning to tear my life apart.

I don’t know whether that old lady was an angel or what. But God used her to get my attention. If God had something for me to do, I knew I’d better get clean and figure out what He wanted. So two months later, I checked into Union Rescue Mission.

Two months after that, my girlfriend gave birth to my child. My baby lived for five hours and died. Then a month after that, my girlfriend died of a brain aneurysm. I know one thing, I couldn’t have endured that much sorrow if it weren’t for Union Rescue Mission.

I still don’t know what God has planned for me. But I’ve been here for almost two years now and I’m clean and sober. The Mission has completely transformed me. For the first time, God is number one in my life. I know I could leave today and never touch drugs again. I could leave and rebuild my career. But I remember what that old lady said. And I’m not leaving this place until God pats me on the shoulder and says, “Here’s what I got for you to do.”

So what’s my New Year’s wish for 2014? God’s pat on my shoulder.




For a long time, I’ve joked that I want to be a skinny biker dude — you know, one of those skinny guys riding their bicycles around town. It was a joke, because as someone battling Type 2 diabetes, and major heart and kidney problems, I had no hope of that ever happening.

In July 2012, I got my heart fixed, but by December, my kidneys had failed. I feared that my lifelong work on behalf of people experiencing homelessness was coming to an end. It was hard to face that. The number of people living on Skid Row continues to grow. It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it. And the desperation here is even worse. It broke my heart to think I’d have to give up this work.

But last February, my dear wife donated one of her own kidneys to me. Her gift saved my life. With a new heart and a new kidney, my health has improved dramatically. I no longer face 2014 with fear — in fact, the URM team and I have big plans! A new jobs program for our guests. Moving more families away from Skid Row. Helping hundreds more people gain new housing.

And my New Year’s wish? Well, I’m biking again. I want to be that skinny biker dude I used to joke about!



The Mission Newsletter – November 2013


“Christmas used to mean presents, cookies, and Santa Claus,” says 11-year-old Kira. “But now I know it’s not about toys. It’s about the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God and He’s my savior. And I know He loves me no matter what.”

Kira is just one of nearly 80 children who live with their moms at Union Rescue Mission’s Hope Gardens Family Center, a 77-acre sanctuary that offers transitional housing to families experiencing homelessness like Kira’s.

“She’s a good kid,” says Kira’s mother, Tifani. “She’s a firecracker, with a bit of a temper, but she says what she wants to say and she means it. I’m proud of her. She graduated last spring from 5th grade, and she was awarded the school’s Presidential Certificate for her good behavior and academic achievement.”

Kira came to Hope Gardens, along with her mother and two sisters, on Easter Sunday, 2012, after they escaped a dangerous situation where they were living.

Unfortunately, Tifani was unemployed and had no place else to take her children, until she learned about Hope Gardens.

“I like Hope Gardens,” Kira says. “The people here take us to the park and the swimming pool. Sometimes we have barbecues. I’ve even seen three families of deer since we’ve been here!”

While summers are Kira’s favorite season, she also loves Christmas. “Last Christmas was really fun here,” she recalls. “We had a party and we got to make cookies and gingerbread houses, and we even got to sing karaoke! My favorite Christmas song is ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus.’”

Then she starts singing . . . “Happy birthday, Jesus, it’s that time of year. All the lights on the trees say Christmas time is near. Another year’s behind us, you helped us make it through. So, happy birthday, Jesus, this song is just for you.”

            “Over the years, I’ve pretty much gotten everything I wanted for Christmas, she says. “But I don’t want any presents this year. Ho

pe Gardens is helping my mom start her own business so we can move into a new house. That’s my Christmas wish.”


No Better Christmas Present

by Tifani

All my life, I’ve loved singing Joy to the World at Christmas. How can anyone sing

that carol and not feel happy? It always reminds me that God and my kids are my true joy.

But my life hasn’t always been filled with joy. I got married when I was 21 and we had three beautiful daughters, including Kira, whose story is in this newsletter. But despite our kids, we spent 13 rocky years fighting and quarreling until I couldn’t take it anymore.


After we divorced, the girls and I struggled financially. I finally got a good job working as a bus driver. But then in the span of a couple years, my mother and father died, then two of my uncles and a nephew passed away, and I fell into a depression. I found it hard to keep working.

Life was so difficult for me — but it was especially hard at Christmas. Instead of feeling joy, I just cried.

Then we started having problems with our apartment manager, who was breaking into our home and was making my daughters feel afraid. The police wouldn’t do anything about the manager, so I had to leave with my kids. But I didn’t have the money to move into another apartment, and we had no place else to go.

Thankfully, when I called emergency services, they referred us to Union Rescue Mission and their Hope Gardens Family Center.

We’ve been here since April 2012. They say every gray cloud has a silver lining, and Hope Gardens has been that for me. Not only have they provided me and my kids with meals and shelter, they’ve given me the chance to go back to school. And today I’m in the process of starting my own private bus business.

This Christmas, Joy to the World means something special again. I may be down, but I’m not out. I have my kids, we’re safe, and we have a future. I may not always feel it, but joy is a real possibility again. I know it. I feel it. And there’s no better Christmas present than that.



It’s hard to imagine what happens to a child when they experience homelessness. Devastated and embarrassed, they often emotionally withdraw. And some kids will never be able to let go of that pain.

No matter what time of year, homelessness is painful for children. But Christmas is especially difficult. They have no home, no tree, and no gifts. There’s no excitement or anticipation of Santa Claus coming down the chimney. It’s heartbreaking to witness that kind of sadness in kids at Christmas.

That’s why we work so hard to bring the kids at Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens a little joy and hope this time of year. Our Christmas Store ensures parents have gifts for their kids. We throw Christmas parties, we let the kids decorate trees throughout the building, we take them out to look at Christmas lights, and, of course, we tell them all about Jesus and His own experience being homeless. Children take great comfort in knowing that Jesus understands what they’re going through.

As we enter Advent and the Christmas season, please remember all the special kids experiencing homelessness today who are made in His image. After all, when you care for these precious children, you care for Jesus Himself.



The Mission Newsletter – September 2013

Union Rescue Mission’s Chef Delilah knows that Thanksgiving is about more than great food – it’s about family.

All my life, I wanted to be a chef. I spent my childhood watching chefs like Paula Deen and Rachael Ray on TV, and I dreamed of one day hosting my own cooking show. I never dreamed of cooking meals on Skid Row.

So after high school, I pursued my dream and studied at the Cordon Bleu cooking school. Later, I catered food for the Twilight films, TV shows like True Blood and Desperate Housewives, and even for the Oscars and the Grammys! I was on my way!

But God had other plans. In April 2011, Union Rescue Mission invited me to cook full-time for men, women, and children experiencing homelessness. Tiring of the instability of catering work, I thought, Sure. Why not?

Skid Row didn’t intimidate me – but suddenly having to prepare meals for 2,000 people per day sure did! At first, it was hard to keep up. I’d never worked so hard. But that was nothing compared to Thanksgiving – and the prospect of serving 4,000 people at one time!

I’d never spent Thanksgiving with people experiencing homelessness.

I didn’t know what to expect. Thanksgiving was always one of the best days of the year in my family – the food, the laughter, the hugs, and the family bonding. What would it be like on Skid Row?

There was so much food to prepare, we had to start a week before. We baked pasta, prepared yams, mixed gravy, and made stuffing. I cooked almost 100 turkeys in five hours – it was crazy! The final two days leading up to our Thanksgiving event, I never went to bed. As guests showed up to eat, I worked in the kitchen. My back hurt, my feet ached, I was covered in sweat. But I still had no idea how the event was going.

Finally, about 3:00 p.m., my boss said, “Let’s go look.” It was unbelievable. The decorations, the music and happiness – thousands of people who may have been struggling in their personal lives, but today they were family. And I thought, Yeah, this is what it’s all about.

Now, Thanksgiving is already around the corner again, and I’m already looking forward to it – even the exhaustion, pain, and adrenaline. But more important, I’m looking forward to family. Yes, the men, women, and children at Union Rescue Mission are my family now.

This Thanksgiving, you ask me what I’m grateful for? Serving here. There was a time I worked in the midst of all the glitter and glamour of Hollywood. Now I can’t see myself working anywhere but Skid Row.



Help make this year’s Thanksgiving our best one ever with your generous gift today!

Click here to Donate now!

Chef Delilah is not only a first-class cook, her personality lights up the room. She helped make last year’s Thanksgiving our best celebration ever!

Every year at Thanksgiving, we invite more than 4,000 men, women, and children experiencing homelessness into our “home” for a special party, complete with all the hugs, love, and laughter that make this a true “family” event.

I think it’s this “family” spirit that makes our Thanksgiving celebrations so remarkable. Time and time again, I hear hurting men and women tell me that was the day that convinced them to give life another try.

But our Thanksgiving isn’t possible without caring people like you. So as we approach the season, thank you for being part of this big, extraordinary family!


Taking Steps Toward Your Dreams



“Hey, this guy is on Facebook!”
“That’s his job, Deshay”

And that’s how my first experience at the teen LifeSkills class began. I had tried to blend into the background, to be an invisible observer, but that just wasn’t an option. On Monday nights, everyone participates—everyone is part of the group.


These Life Skills Classes have been going on for almost three years—this particular one was class #126. Christopher Kai (an entrepreneur among many other things) is the lead volunteer, and has devoted every Monday night (sans holidays) to enrich the lives of the teens at the Mission. Each lesson encourages, inspires, and teaches the students how to work toward their dreams. He also has an awesome and diverse group of volunteer mentors: a former marine, an preschool teacher, a wealth manager, a model/photographer, and a ballerina.


From the moment the door opened up you could feel the excitement emanating from the teens. As they entered the room, their faces would light up—one right after the next. You could definitely tell this class was one of the highlights of their week, a place of retreat from the monotony of Mission life. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Chris approach all of the first timers and make an effort to memorize all of their names. Impressive indeed.

Today’s meeting revolved around the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”.

“We are each made exactly 99.6% the same,” Chris explained as he pointed to individuals in the group. He continued on how MLK fought for civil rights and how it’s significance in history affected not only those in America, but to all people worldwide.

We were then broken up into three groups in a little exercise to the roof.

Each group was given a mentor and instructions on how to tackle the flights of stairs before us. The first group would ascend to the top by skipping as many steps as possible, the second would skip every other step, and finally the third would take every step.


When all of us finally reached the rooftop we regrouped under the cityscape of downtown LA. The exercise was designed to show that whether we are skipping steps or taking our time with each individual stair, we are all on our individual journey. All we needed to focus on is our dreams and the goals we needed to set to get there.

If anyone is interested in volunteering, please visit: or email Christopher Kai directly at