Bill was stuck.
He felt too much shame to go back. After all the time and energy the counselors and his new friends had poured into him over the last six months, Bill couldn’t stand the thought of returning to the Men’s Recovery Program a failure.
Instead of facing his friends and confessing his relapse, he made a decision that would put his life in danger.
He decided to take his chances living on the streets – during the hottest months of the year.
Bill arrived in Phoenix in November of 2013 looking for escape from a past ruled by addiction. He found his way to the Phoenix Rescue Mission and signed up for our Men’s Recovery Program in hopes of turning his life around once and for all. For six months, he went to counseling sessions; he studied the bible and for the first time, felt like he was on his way to leaving drugs behind forever.
Then one night, Bill made a bad decision and relapsed.
Turning away from the Mission in shame, he decided to take his chances on the streets instead.
He had heard that the summers in Phoenix were rough, but he wasn’t worried. Bill explains, “I worked in a Pennsylvania quarry growing up. It was hard work and there was no shade all day. I thought I could handle it. But back there I never needed water like you do here. The humidity kept you hydrated. Here it’s a totally different kind of heat.”
Bill’s plan was to find a job, get back on his feet and finish his recovery on his own. But instead of looking for work, Bill found all his time was spent simply surviving.
“I would have to plan my day around finding water. It was more important than anything else. I could miss a meal, but water – water was life or death,” said Bill.
Eventually the heat was too much for Bill. He began to hallucinate and lived for a while in a state of confusion. Then, without warning, one day he woke up in the ER for severe dehydration. It was a wakeup call.
The shame he carried for relapsing wasn’t worth dying for.
After spending a brutal summer on the streets, Bill returned to the Phoenix Rescue Mission and re-enrolled in our Men’s Recovery Program in September 2014.
Today Bill is a graduate of our recovery program, living at one of our transition houses and working a full-time position at a large retail warehouse. He’s saving up for a car and is looking forward to getting his own apartment soon.
His experience on the streets has made Bill more determined than ever before to work toward a better future and help others on the same journey.
He tells us, “I met Christ here at the Mission. He used my relapse to bring me to a new level of understanding of His love and what it means to be reborn. I don’t know how I survived, but I want to let others on the street know that they have a choice, that the Phoenix Rescue Mission is a safe place where they can clean up their lives. Christ is the answer to what they are looking for.”
Homeless camps dot the landscape of Phoenix. Usually found in abandoned lots, under bridges and in back alleyways, they are breeding grounds for drug use, prostitution and violence. The trash they produce and the attention they attract can quickly become a danger to the neighborhoods where they exist and to homeless men and women who call them home.
In an effort to bring transformation to such places and hope to their residents, the Phoenix Rescue Mission is partnering with local law enforcement through the PARC (Police and Rescue Collaboration) Bench program, we wrote about in January. For the past month, our shared focus has been to bring to end homelessness for the residents of these camps.
Our approach is a three step process:
- Step 1: Establish a History – We start by talking to the neighbors and property owners of the camp site to get an idea of how long the camp has existed and who lives there.
- Step 2: Report to the City – After we gather information, we then report our findings to the city. The city sends out a police detective to confirm the facts and speak to the property owners.
- Step 3: Assess the Need – Outreach workers from the Phoenix Rescue Mission and mental health coordinators from Southwest Behavioral Health along with police officers interview each camper one-on-one. With compassion, our caseworkers assess their situations and determine how we can find solutions to their needs. The most desired outcome is that they choose to leave the camp behind in favor of a finding hope and a new start at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
Just two weeks ago, three of the campers we spoke with decided they had enough of the streets and took a ride back to the Mission on the Hope Coach!
Through your support, we’re visiting homeless camps all across Phoenix and bringing the hope and transforming power of Jesus Christ to each one. It’s just another way our partnership is making our city a brighter place for those we serve!
This is a brand new program so expect updates on our progress in the future. Thank you for the support that makes life and city-transforming projects like this one possible!
Should you give a panhandler money?
We see their somber faces at intersections, in parking lots and outside convenience stores every day – men and women carrying cardboard signs pleading for assistance. The sight convicts us; it twists our hearts and makes us want to help. But is this really helping?
Many times the dollars we give to someone on the streets only serve to further an addiction. By offering a free meal or a coffee instead, we provide temporary comfort at best. Offering a free meal or cup of coffee, while it provides temporary comfort, is not sustainable. Our hearts sink when we see the person attached to the cardboard sign on the corner the next day.
So how can we help without enabling – hand them a Phoenix Rescue Mission Panhandler Pack. Assembling a Pack is easy. Keep it in your car and you will be ready the next time you are sitting at an intersection.
In a one-gallon zip lock bag place:
- Rescue Referral Card – you can download more Rescue Referral cards by clicking here. This handy card lists our address, our services, and a map to our location and meal service times.
- Bus Ticket – one all day bus pass can be purchased at grocery stores across Phoenix for $4 and provides a safe, easy way to get to the Mission.
- Bottle of Water – keep our homeless neighbors hydrated on their journey to our shelter.
- White Socks – a new, clean pair of socks provides comfort for the trip ahead and protects against blisters that come from walking in worn shoes.
- *Optional items include a granola bar, sunscreen, and toiletry items.
These items have the power to change a life – by providing the means to find true hope and transformation at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
We hope that you use the cards that we’ve enclosed to get you started. Those who are truly at a crossroad might be unaware of the services provided to those who need a hand up. A moment of conversation could help change the direction of someone’s life.