Working For A Better Future
When Kimjoy left prison for the last time at age 57, she was determined never to return to her old life. To do that, she needed a way to support herself. She needed a job. But she had no home, was penniless, and had no real job skills. Read More »
The Life-Changing Power of Education
Growing up experiencing homelessness, abuse, and abandonment, Kenneth struggled in school. Few people gave him much of a chance. But when he came to Union Rescue Mission at 15, he found the stability he needed. See how your support helped Kenneth excel in this month’s eNewsletter. Read More »
Sea of Heartbreak: A Ghanaian Tale
Growing up in Ghana and spending most of his life as an international seaman, 65-year-old Seth had never experienced an American Thanksgiving before. But in 2015, traveling the United States, tragic circumstances forced Seth to seek help at Union Rescue Mission, where he spent the holiday season.
“I loved the opportunity to spend my first Thanksgiving with so many Christian brothers,” he recalls. “But more than that, it was a day to reflect back on everything that happened in my life and to thank God for protecting me.”
Despite being raised in a large, influential, polygamous family in his native country, Seth says he never experienced real love. The trauma, bitterness, and resentment he felt eventually led him to leave home and seek adventure as a seaman.
Near Death at Sea
The work was often dangerous. Seth was involved in several serious accidents at sea and saw many people die as a result. But in 1994, it was almost his turn. Sailing on a yacht off the coast of Brazil, his captain — who was drunk — accidentally blew up the boat. Without food or water, Seth clung to the boat’s remains for a week before help arrived.
“I prayed the whole time,” he says. “God gave me courage.” He survived, but the trauma was so great, he started drinking and struggled with alcohol for the next 20 years.
“Eventually, I went back to sea. But I could never forget I should have died,” he says. “So I kept drinking.”
In 2013, Seth decided to travel in the United States. But the day he arrived, he lost all his money. For the next two years, he struggled to find work. But he kept hearing God speak: “Just trust me and obey, and I will take your hand.” When he finally made it to Los Angeles, he says God led him to Union Rescue Mission.
Grateful to God
“They gave me food and shelter. Then I started to learn more about Jesus and the true way of God,” he says. “I stopped drinking and my life changed so much. I came to realize that God was calling me to minister to other people. All my life, I wanted to get revenge on my family. But now my plan is to return to Ghana where I can be a blessing to them.”
“In Everything, Give Thanks”
“I know God will never let us down”
I never thought my family would be homeless. But this year, my husband and I, and our three boys, wound up here at the Union Rescue Mission. Last Thanksgiving, we were in our own place. I know this coming Thanksgiving is going to be very hurtful, but thanks to God we’ll have a roof over our heads. I know God will be with us and He’ll never let us down. He might not answer when I want him to. But I know He’ll answer my prayers and we’ll have our own home again.
“I’m thankful we’re all safe”
I’ve been here with my family for about two months. I’m a straight-A student, but my grades dropped when we first got here because I was worried about my family. But now I see God working in our lives and everything’s getting better. This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful that all my brothers and sisters are safe and we have somewhere to lay our heads.
“I thank Jesus I’ll live to see another Thanksgiving sober”
I’m 54 years old and I’ve been drinking more than 40 years of my life. In the past, Thanksgiving was all about liquor stores and partying. I’ve been at Union Rescue Mission for over a year now, and this Thanksgiving will be only the second time I’ve ever spent it sober. I just thank Jesus I have a roof over my head and I’ll live to see another Thanksgiving sober.
Rufus lived next to the mortuary that he thought was his next stop, but God wasn’t done with him yet. Watch his incredible story!
Thanks to You…
Women and children experiencing homelessness are seeking help at Union Rescue Mission in greater numbers than we saw in the Great Recession. The misery they face on Skid Row right now is almost unspeakable. Children see and hear things no child should ever experience, and vulnerable women are threatened by predators night and day. The emotional scars they suffer often last a lifetime. For everyone, these streets are simply a Darwinian nightmare of survival of the fittest.
With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, it would be easy to wonder how anyone could find anything to be grateful for here. But they do, especially inside the walls of Union Rescue Mission, where they find food, safety, shelter, long-term help, and even love.
But they’re not the only grateful ones. I’m thankful too, especially for compassionate and generous people like you, who make it all possible. Thanks to you, we never have to turn a woman or a family with children away. Thanks to you, every day I see lives transformed and renewed. And thanks to you, every time I see the smiling face of a child in our care, my heart floods with joy. Your partnership with Union Rescue Mission means everything to me.
Please give hurting people a taste of love and the chance to start over this Thanksgiving.
For most people, Thanksgiving is a day of warmth, love, family, and gratitude. But for people experiencing homelessness, it’s too often a day of everything that’s gone wrong. And this year, the growing number of hurting people — especially mothers and children — seeking our help at Union Rescue Mission is heartbreaking!
All year round, your gifts provide these hurting souls with safe shelter, nutritious meals, and God’s care. But this Thanksgiving season, your generosity will provide even more — the hope and courage they need to rebuild their lives.
It still costs just $2.41 to provide a holiday meal to a hungry man, woman, or child. This season, we expect to serve more than 180,000 meals. So please give generously. Thank you!
One of Lorraine’s fondest childhood memories is her mother’s cooking. Food was her mother’s way of saying, “I love you.” But no day was better than Thanksgiving and the magical aroma of turkey, ham, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, yams, and sweet potato pie. Lorraine was only 11 when the magic ended. That’s when her stepfather came into the family, bringing verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. Lorraine’s mother quickly became a drug addict. And love disappeared from the home. Then the unthinkable happened. Lorraine was 13 when she was raped by her stepfather.
“When I told my mom, she didn’t believe me,” Lorraine recalls. “She just said, ‘No way. He’d never do that.’ After that, I felt so alone. I didn’t feel like I was worthy of living.” A scar on Lorraine’s face, from a car accident, was just the physical manifestation of the wounds she felt inside:
“ I hated myself. When I looked in a mirror, all I could see was how ugly I was.”
Lorraine left home at 15. She soon had her first child at 16, dropped out of school, and her life slowly unraveled — abusive men, alcohol abuse, more children, and severe depression crippled her. In August 2014, unemployed and a mother of four, she came to Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens.
Cooking Up a New Life
“I asked God to help me build a new life,” she says. “Hope Gardens was the perfect place for me. God answered all my prayers. The people here didn’t see me as a scared and ugly girl no one cared about. God used them to drive the clouds away in my heart and bring the sunshine out. They showed me I’m not Lorraine-who’s-ugly-and-raped. I’m just me. A brand-new person.” Today, Lorraine is also a cook on staff at Hope Gardens, where she serves nearly 222 meals a day to mothers, children, and senior women. “This is my dream come true,” she says. “When I cook, it reminds me of the magic of my mom’s cooking.” But no meal has been more important than Thanksgiving: “Last year, I got to cook all the things I remember from childhood: turkey, ham, mac and cheese, sweet potato pie, all of it. I cooked all night. It was my way of showing the women and kids here how much they’re loved. When we all prayed, I thanked God for Hope Gardens, for my new life, and for my chance to give back to these women. It was the best day ever.”
THANKSGIVING AT UNION RESCUE MISSION: The Recipe for Success . . .
Union Rescue Mission will serve more than 135,000 meals this holiday season and more than 4,000 meals at our Thanksgiving Celebration alone! It’s never too soon to start getting ready. Here’s a brief peek at everything that goes into making Union Rescue Mission’s special Thanksgiving Celebration a day filled with good food and a whole lot of love.
1. FILL THE PANTRY! It takes months to collect enough food!
2. VOLUNTEER! We need over 200 volunteers to help make this day special.
3. PREPARE FOOD We have to start prepping the food almost a week in advance! After all, we have to deep fry and serve more than 500 turkeys in one day!
4. SEE GUESTS SMILE We’ll serve hundreds of thousands of meals this Thanksgiving season. The meals we serve can open the door to a lifetime of change.
5. YOU ARE THE MISSION None of this is possible without YOU! Give someone a real reason to offer thanks to God in 2016!
Please give today so more people like Lorraine can receive the meals and family love they need at Union Rescue Mission. See how your gifts helped transform Lorraine’s life! www.urm.org/Stories
Union Rescue Mission is proud to celebrate its 125th Anniversary on October 24, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. Please contact Karmen Herring at 213.347.6311 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
URGENT CRISIS ON SKID ROW! WE NEED YOUR HELP . . . Help Serve a Thanksgiving Dinner — and a Side of Love
This Thanksgiving season, Union Rescue Mission will serve more than 135,000 meals! And that number continues to climb, due to a growing crisis of women and children experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. This year, each Thanksgiving meal we serve costs only $2.41. Your gift today will provide precious men, women, and children on Skid Row with hot meals, safe shelter, hope — and even love. Thanksgiving is still more than two months away, but it takes months of planning and preparation to serve a Thanksgiving dinner for thousands of men, women, and children on this special day. Your gift will help provide holiday meals — just $2.41 each! So please give someone a real reason to give thanks this holiday season. Send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you! For more information, or to put your gift to work even faster, go to www.urm.org/thanksgivingfeast
The one word that describes Skid Row right now is “extreme”: extreme numbers, extreme violence, extreme desperation, extreme heat, and extreme danger. And no one is more at risk than the growing number of women and children we’re seeing here. As many as 4,000 people now call these dangerous streets of Skid Row “home.” It’s tragic to see anyone trying to survive here. But it’s the women and children who break my heart most. Fortunately, many of them are now seeking shelter inside of Union Rescue Mission. In fact, for the first time ever, more than half of our 1,163 guests are women and kids. The sheer numbers and need are challenging all our resources — financial, food, space, beds, increased security, and clean-up costs. And the months ahead only promise more desperate straits. But Thanksgiving is around the corner, and despite our many challenges, we still have much to be thankful for. And I’m especially thankful for the faithful generosity of people like you. You’ve stepped up in unprecedented ways to help struggling people in the past. And I know you will again, as we seek to ensure that every man, woman, and child who comes to Union Rescue Mission finds their way home again.
“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.’”
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.
Lives 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.
Jack’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.
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.
I hated my mom, because she started it all. I hated my grandmother for everything she did to me. And I hated my siblings, because they all ran off and left me alone with her.
My family was messed up. My mother slept with my grandmother’s boyfriend and had a child. Then my grandmother made life hell for my mom. It was so bad, my mom tried to commit suicide when I was 3. She ended up paralyzed from the neck down, which meant all us kids were left with my grandmother. All the rage she felt for my mom, she took out on us. She beat us so bad, we thought she’d kill us. There were times I prayed she would.
All my siblings ran away, leaving me alone with my grandmother. When I was 15, even she left. All I had left was my hate. I was on my own, living on the streets, drinking and sleeping from pillar to post. Eventually I learned how to use and manipulate women to get what I wanted. It was the pattern for the rest of my life.
I never married, never had kids, and even though I was a raging alcoholic, I had all the girlfriends I could handle. I always worked, too. But in 2007, I hurt my back and couldn’t work anymore. I ended up living in my van, depressed, angry, and drinking three bottles of vodka a day, trying to drink myself to death. Seven years later, I asked God to take this monkey off my back. He led me to Union Rescue Mission.
Leaving the Past Behind
My path was pretty clear. I learned, for the first time, how my childhood shaped me, why I hated myself, why I lashed out, and I learned new ways to deal with my anger and hurt. Then I confessed every terrible thing I’d done, and I left them at the cross of Jesus. I had to learn that not only God forgave me, I had to forgive myself.
And finally, the hardest part, I’ve had to go back to people I’ve hurt and ask them to forgive me for every rotten, dirty thing I did to them. I also had to forgive my mom, though she died long ago, and I wish I could ask her to forgive me for all my hate.
But it all changed me. Union Rescue Mission gave me a family I never had. I’ve learned that God is everything He says He is. I don’t have any more hate.
Fred came to URM after more than 20 years in prison. Thanks to the support of his chaplain, Fred was able to complete something for the first time in his life: our one-year life transformation program. Watch Fred’s amazing story at www.urm.org/Stories
Thanks to YOU!
In addition to addiction issues, many guests come to Union Rescue Mission with many other difficulties, including health, dental, legal, and emotional issues that threaten their future. Thanks to the UCLA Primary Health Clinic, the USC Dental Clinic, and Pepperdine’s Legal Aid Clinic and Mental Health Clinic — and thanks to YOU — our guests are able to get the help they need right here on site. Here are some of the ways David benefited from these services:
Health care: “When I got here, I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease and a torn rotator cuff. I also had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and hepatitis C. Now I’m getting ready to get both my hips replaced, have reconstructive surgery on my shoulder, and I’m getting treatment for the COPD and hepatitis C.”
Dental: “Because of all my alcohol and drug use, my teeth were rotting, infected, and bleeding. The dental clinic gave me all new implants, top and bottom. Now I got beautiful teeth again.”
Legal Aid: “Over the past few years, I had some hefty fines for several violations on my driving record. There was no way I could pay them. Worse, I had at least five warrants out for my arrest and I was looking at jail time. But because I was committed to staying here at Union Rescue Mission for a year, the people in legal aid were able to get all my violations expunged and got my fines reduced so much, I can take care of them in small monthly payments. Now I can get my driver’s license back.”
DR. CLAUDE MOFFITT’S STORY, 1933
I was born to Christian parents in 1914, in Southern Illinois. But despite my upbringing, I left home at a very young age to see the world and to experience the thrills that I thought life could offer me in Southern California.
But California was not as good to me as I had hoped. I ended up friendless, broke, and homeless. Fortunately, someone told me of the Union Rescue Mission. So I came here seeking food and a place to sleep.
But one evening during a worship service in the spring of 1933, God spoke to my heart. When the invitation was given, I made my way to the old altar where God forgave all my sins. Shortly after that, God called me into the ministry. I served as a pastor for 15 years, and I later served as the executive secretary of the Arizona Baptist Convention, working with some 50 churches.
HELP CHANGE SOMEONE’S LIFE TODAY
Your gift today will provide shelter, meals, and the real help hurting people need to live transformed lives.
There’s no one way to help people escape homelessness. Some need recovery from addictions. Others need counseling and
spiritual renewal. Many need education and job training. But they all have one thing in common: they need another chance at life.
Thanks to generous people like you, these same precious people find that chance for new life at Union Rescue Mission. They begin to live life the way God always intended, filled with joy and gratitude, and surrounded by friends.
Your generous gift of $25, $35, or more will help provide nutritious meals, safe shelter, and the real help broken, hurting people need to put their lives back together. 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 www.urm.org/ChangeLives
NOTES FROM ANDY: You’re the Fuel
People experience homelessness for many different reasons: addictions, lack of affordable housing, broken family
relationships, childhood and domestic abuse, and mental-health issues. Then there’s unemployment and underemployment, lack of job skills, lack of education, and legal issues.
That’s why Union Rescue Mission —thanks to you — offers a holistic program that addresses every area of a person’s life to help them escape homelessness. You help provide people with safe shelter and a nutritious meal. You help provide classes dealing with addiction, healthy relationships, financial management, and more. You help sharpen education and job skills. You support counseling services and spiritual nurture. And you make sure people get the health and dental care, and the legal services they need. And most important, you make sure people are surrounded by loving friends and a loving God. It takes an entire community to offer folks all these services.
It takes all kind of partners and strategic relationships. But in this community, no partnership is more vital than you. You are the fuel that makes everything that happens at Union Rescue Mission possible. Your financial support and prayers are changing lives — today and for eternity. Thank you.
To read Andy’s blog, please visit revandysblog.com