2016 Annual Report 125 years: A History of Hope

Dear Friend,

Looking back on Union Rescue Mission’s 125th year of service, I wonder if Lyman Stewart would recognize the ministry he founded back in 1891. What would he think of the hard drugs and violence on L.A.’s Skid Row? Or of the unprecedented spike in the number of women and children seeking shelter at URM?

Homelessness is an increasingly challenging and complex issue. The sheer numbers have increased tremendously over the years. However, the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the precious souls we serve are very much the same, driving our Core Values of Respect, Relate, Redeem and Restore.

And one very important thing hasn’t changed at all; that’s hope.

Following in the footsteps of Mr. Stewart and each of URM’s leaders since 1891, we invite people experiencing homelessness to come into a healthy community that embraces the individual and offers them the hope of lasting life transformation through Jesus Christ.

I pray that you’ll continue to stand with us as we do whatever God requires to heal our hurting brothers and sisters in this new year. In the meantime, as you read these stories of transformed hearts and lives, know how very thankful we all are for your prayers and partnership and for helping to keep hope alive in L.A.!

Gratefully,

Rev. Andy Bales, CEO

In 2016, Union Rescue Mission celebrated 125 years of continuous service to people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. That’s 125 years of opening our doors to literally thousands of men, women and children in need and transforming their pain into hope. With help from generations of caring people, we’ve grown into one of the largest missions in the nation. We thank God and friends like you for the many years of support you’ve provided the precious people we serve. We remain committed to continuing our work to end the tragedy of homelessness in Los Angeles. Thank you for opening your heart and helping us reach out with the compassion of Christ to transform lives and our community.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

“I was a walking dead man.” Decades of drug addiction had claimed everything of worth to James: his job, home, health and relationships. By the time he found himself sleeping on the streets, diving into dumpsters and recycling cans for cash to buy drugs, he was on the verge of losing his life.

When this “dead man” walked into Union Rescue Mission, he was welcomed with respect and kindness. “I knew from the start that everything would change,” James says. Starting with the first hot meal he’d enjoyed in months, James found the compassion and the resources he needed to rest, recover and begin restoring his life.

As James progressed through our program, he realized that his life still had value and that lasting transformation was within his grasp. “When I came to Union Rescue Mission, I was dead. But today I am truly alive. And I love that feeling.”

…As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. -John 13:34–35

Looking out at Skid Row, Maria wonders, “How can I be in the worst place and be the happiest person alive?” When her six-year relationship deteriorated into heavy drug use, Maria moved out but her situation remained desperate. She slept in the streets for three days before she found her way to Union Rescue Mission and entered the Gateway Program.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Maria says. “It’s been a blessing because I have grown in this place. There are a lot of people who help you in different ways.” Drug-free for over a year, Maria looks forward to regaining custody of her 13-year-old son. In the meantime, she volunteers at the Mission to “give something back. Even if you’re tired, since you’re doing it from the heart, it’s great.”

Maria tells us that coming to URM saved her life. “I came so I could get stronger for my kids. All I want is to gather them together. That’s the hope that I have every single day.”

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom… singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. - Colossians 3:16

“For most of my life, the world viewed me as trash,” Gary remembers. “But God used Union Rescue Mission to make me a treasure.”

Gary’s transformation came after a childhood of crushing poverty and foster homes, followed by years of crime and drug abuse on Skid Row. Gary went to prison and surrendered his life to Christ. On his release, God led him to Union Rescue Mission.

“I needed a place to stay and I wanted to be in a stable Christian community.” Gary found that here in our Life Transformation Program. “The Mission fed me, gave me clothes, all of that. But the most important thing is, they raised me up in the Word of God, and gave me purpose and direction.”

Today, as truck driver for URM’s Thrift Store, Gary is living out God’s gift of redemption. “I know what I’m doing is going to benefit others. So I drive my truck with joy, because I know I’m part of this incredible ministry.”

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters… psalm 23:2

“I did not deserve to be homeless,” Tiffani says. But a perfect storm of misfortune struck. The young mother lost both of her jobs, her home and finally, her truck. With nowhere to go, Tiffani brought her family to URM and settled in Hope Gardens, a safe haven for single mothers and children experiencing homelessness.

“I knew it was the right choice for my children. I needed support and I needed hope.” Tiffani found all the support and hope she needed, as well as practical living skills and most importantly, a new faith in God.

Tiffani tells us, “God used Hope Gardens to plant a seed inside of me. Then they watered it every day to keep that seed alive and grow.” Strengthened by God’s grace, Tiffani was restored to be the woman and mother He created her to be.

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