His name is Justice, but he’s quick to tell you that throughout his life he’s experienced anything but.
“My past is full of mistakes but somehow I always managed to avoid the consequences,” Justice admits. “I was doing every drug imaginable at 11 years old, running with gangs, robbing drug dealers… by all rights, I should be in prison or dead.”
Justice’s luck finally ran out last summer when a bout with heroin cost him his living arrangements, his transportation, even the custody of his children. He suddenly found himself homeless in Phoenix in the blistering July heat, a situation that has been a death sentence to so many in our city. But God was about to arrange a better plan.
Instead of finally finding the justice he deserved – hope found him first.
“It still gives me chills to think about it.”
Sweating in the desert sun and standing on the corner of 27th Ave and Northern, Justice was reaching out to his older brother in Nashville. His brother had been in and out of penitentiaries his whole life, culminating in an attempted suicide just a month earlier. But then, something unbelievable happened. Justice heard his brother had checked into a homeless shelter, the Nashville Rescue Mission, where he managed to kick his drug habits and establish a newfound relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I was telling him about my situation and he was pleading with me to find the same kind of help he did,” Justice remembers. “He said there was a rescue mission in almost every major city. I was hot, I was frustrated and I told him that was all well and good for Nashville, but there wasn’t anything like that here.”
Right after Justice hung up the phone, Chaplain Cliff pulled up in front of him in the Phoenix Rescue Mission Hope Coach.
“I couldn’t believe it. It said Phoenix Rescue Mission on the side, plain as day. The door opened up and people got out offering me cold water and a sack lunch.”
Like so many caught out in the summer heat, the full gravity of his situation hadn’t hit Justice. The dry air and excessively hot temperatures can cause heat stroke to occur in as little as 10-15 minutes of exposure, causing permanent damage to the brain, heart and kidneys. Chaplain Cliff quickly put his situation into perspective.
“He told me, ‘This is July, it’s hot and it’s only going to get hotter. And it’s not the kind of heat that is just uncomfortable, it can get deadly real quick. Right now is the time to get off the streets.’ I took the warning to heart, gathered up my stuff and three days later Cliff picked me up and brought me to the Mission.”
Today Justice has found his own relationship with Christ and is working through the first stage of recovery. He was fortunate to find hope right when he needed it, but many others aren’t so lucky.
Last year, a mix of blazing summer temperatures and a lack of proper hydration claimed 55 lives in our city. That’s 55 people that could have been saved by something as simple as a bottle of water.
That’s why each summer the Phoenix Rescue Mission takes to the streets through our Code Red campaign to put these kinds of life-saving bottles of water, nourishing food and cooling supplies into the hands of those who need them the most. I’m proud to say that though your generosity and partnership with Code Red, we’ve seen the number of lives lost fall dramatically every year since we started in 2013!
But until that number is zero we still have work to do.
Together we can continue to make a difference and keep even more people like Justice safe this summer. Thank you for helping us beat the heat this season and keep the men, women and children we serve safe!
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The summer heat is a big issue for those caught out on the streets, but that doesn’t mean our littlest volunteers can’t help come to the rescue! Just ask Allison Lee.
When she was 10 years old, she heard a news story about how our homeless neighbors were in danger because of the summer heat. Allison organized her own water drive using the power of social media. The response was enormous. She received support from all over the world – even as far away as Australia!
“At first I was nervous that it wouldn’t get any attention,” said Allison. “But when donations started coming in from halfway across the world, I realized there were so many people who cared, and I felt better.”
By the time it was all over, Allison had raised over 160 cases all on her own! Today she’s 12 years old, a middle schooler at Wigwam Middle School and last year she topped her efforts by raising 267 cases or 6,408 bottles of life-saving water! She plans on starting the process again this June.
This summer encourage your kids to be a part of the solution by organizing a water drive in your neighborhood or, like Allison did, online using social media. Not only will the experience have a positive impact on your kids – you’ll be be saving lives together!
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Place some or all of the following in a plastic gallon-sized Ziplock bag:
- 1 pair new socks
- 1 white t-shirt
- 1 cap or bandana
- 1 bottle sunscreen
- 1 lip balm or Chapstick
- 2 snacks/protein bars
- 1 Christian tract, inspiring note or pocket-sized Bible
You can drop off your donations Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at our Mission Support Center and Donation Warehouse at 1468 N. 26th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009.
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