Heroin and Opioids: A Growing Epidemic

An opioid related epidemic has been growing for a number of years in our city and sadly just now beginning to break into the immediate realities of the mainstream consciousness.

Current Arizona Department of Health Services and National Institute on Drug Abuse information show a strikingly grim reality; although heroin and opioid related deaths in the U.S. and Arizona have been increasing for nearly a decade now, 2016 marked a spike in the overall trend.

A look at some of the recently released statistics show how serious and widespread the issue has become.

  • In 2016, somewhere between 59,000 and 65,000 people died of overdoses in the U.S.
  • In Arizona, a total of 790 people (on average more than two a day) dies from overdose of opioid prescription medication s and heroin in 2016.
  • Over the last five years, heroin related deaths have triples in Arizona, and heroin specifically accounted for 39 percent of all opioid deaths last year.
  • Arizona adults 45 to 54 had the highest overdose rates at 18.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • Additionally, "opiod-related encounters" cost the Arizona health-care system more than $341 million in 2015 alone and there were an estimated 51,000 "opioid-related encounters" at hospitals in 2016.

State health officials report that this surge shows no signs of stopping.

Phoenix Rescue Mission is doing it's part to help with the surge in overdoses in Arizona. We are already training our staff and volunteers on opiod safety and overdose prevention, as well as the recognition of an overdose. We are also now providing many of our centers and our Hope Coach with Naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opiods. Administering Naloxone during an overdose is the first step in saving a life!

It's another way that your support is keeping our neighboss on this side of eternity! Our hope is to provide more man and women like Trevor (cover), who have gotten caught up in this tremendously addictive and deadly drug, with a second shot at life and a second chance at transformation.

God asked, “Are you ready?” | June 2016 Newsletter

God asked, "Are you ready?"

Sun striking his eyes, Gilbert slowly regained consciousness on the sidewalk near the corner of 11th Avenue and Jackson Street. The night before was a blur. After 22 years of living out of a bottle, Gilbert had finally decided that he had had enough and embarked on the bender to end all benders – in attempt to end his life.

It didn’t work.

Instead, he woke with a pounding headache and the stinging realization that he had failed to die. More determined than ever to stop a lifetime of pain, Gilbert readied himself to run out into traffic. But before he could step off the curb, God stepped in and led him down an altogether different path.

A police officer stepped between Gilbert and the road and asked him to move along. At that moment, Gilbert felt something he had never felt before.


“I didn’t know what it was then, but looking back, I know it was the Holy Spirit speaking into my soul,” admits Gilbert. ”He asked, ‘Are you ready?’ and suddenly I had this great urge to move. I had never heard about the Phoenix Rescue Mission, I didn’t know where it was, but the end of my journey that day led me to the front gates.”

Gilbert got a bed and a few hot meals at our Community Services Center, but it wasn’t enough. He was sober, but nothing else had changed. He was mourning the death of his son, delivered stillborn 22 years ago. Each night when he laid his head on his pillow, he was reminded of his failed marriage and separation from his family. Without alcohol to numb the pain, Gilbert’s hopelessness was tangible.

“I had a lot of trust issues at the beginning and kept mostly to myself. But I started listening to Chaplain Gabe preach and slowly, the things he had to say started making sense. God’s Word began chipping away at my heart.”

Gilbert took the next step and enrolled in our Transformations Recovery Program. Among our caring counselors and staff, he finally found where the Holy Spirit had been leading him.

“I spent 22 years in a bottle, hating myself and despising who I was. It took someone like Chaplain Gabe to turn that around. He showed me the power of Christ’s love and eventually I was able to love myself again.”

Terri and Gilbert

Today, Gilbert is a graduate of our Men’s Recovery Program and even went on to become one of our Ministry Training graduates – teaching some of the very same recovery classes that helped turn his life around. He’s sober, has a car, a job in the produce department at Fry’s Food and is attending college. He’s even found a new love! Her name is Terri and they are engaged to be married in October.

But through it all, Gilbert hasn’t forgotten that dark day when he almost ended it all. He makes it a point to visit that lonely stretch of sidewalk every year – the anniversary of when he felt a small still voice lead him away from death to everlasting life.

“For me to forget is to repeat my misery. I’m not willing to go back down that path anymore.”

Thank you for making sure Gilbert had a place to find hope in his darkest hour. Your support means more than food and shelter. For people like Gilbert, it’s life and death and a chance to find true transformation.

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The Key to Life

Summer doesn’t officially start for a couple more weeks – but this is Phoenix. Triple-digit temperatures have been here since the beginning of May. For you and me, it’s an inconvenience, a return to sizzling car seats and high A/C bills. But for those caught out on the street, it’s an altogether different situation.

It’s life and death.

I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s true.

Every year, scores of men and women lose their lives due to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. No one is more vulnerable than those who can’t escape the sun - our homeless neighbors.

People who make their homes in abandoned lots, beside canals and in the back alleyways of our city often have no idea of the threat heading their way. Matthew has only been homeless for a few months; he’s never experienced a Phoenix summer on the streets – but soon he will be one of the thousands in danger of losing their lives.

“Once people like Matthew hit this level of homelessness, they’re stuck,” says Chaplain Cliff, head of our Hope Coach program. “They don’t have the resources or the means to get away from the heat or do anything about it.”

Homeless Camp

That’s why Chaplain Cliff hits the streets 5 days a week, in tandem with our fabulous volunteers. Their mission is to find people like Matthew, equip them with cool bottled water and hygiene supplies, and warn them about the risks they are about to face. Cliff’s ultimate goal is to convince them to leave the streets behind and find new life at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“People ask me, ‘But these are homeless people, they’ve got no ties. Why don’t they just head north or someplace like San Diego for the summer?’” says Cliff. “What people don’t understand is, these are men and women who are in bondage. Whether the chains are linked to addiction, a medical condition or a mental issue, they are here because something keeps them here. But the good news is; we have the key. We can unlock the chains holding them to this lifestyle. But it’s a race against time. We have to get to people like Matthew before the heat does.”

With your continued support, Code Red and the Hope Coach will be running week in and week out, keeping our neighbors like Matthew safe. It truly is a matter of life and death to many we serve.

Your help is needed today. Volunteer to ride with the Hope Coach this summer and provide life-saving water and hope to those who are stuck on the streets.

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Something as simple as a meal and a place to cool off can change everything for someone caught out in the summer heat. Get a first-hand look at how our fabulous volunteers help make that miracle happen daily with a smile!

Interested in volunteering? Click here to see the latest opportunities.

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Instead of Justice, Hope | May 2016 Newsletter

Instead of Justice, Hope

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.

4 Ways to Help

“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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Kids Can Save Lives Too!

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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Heat Relief Rescue Packs

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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6 Reasons the Mission Transformed More Lives Than Ever in 2015


As the first day of winter, today is National Homeless Persons' Remembrance Day. We are proud to say that the Mission is a powerful force in ending homelessness and providing programs and plans for our hungry, addicted, and needy neighbors. 2015 has been quite a year here at the Mission, but here are a few of the milestones that are helping us transform more lives than ever:

  • PARC: In the spring, we joined with Phoenix Police to begin the "Police and Rescue Collaboration." Our team of Case Managers joined the forces of Phoenix Police as they entered homeless camps. This way, rather than arresting repeat misdemeanor offenders, our case managers spoke with each man and women to help them build a plan and gave them the resources they need to begin taking steps in the right direction. See photos of the first homeless camp we entered together on Facebook.
  • AZ Gives Day: On April 7, Arizona givers voted the Phoenix Rescue Mission into first place on Arizona Gives Day for the 2nd year in a row! Over $97,000 was raised in a single day - nearly double any other competitor - thereby winning an additional $15,000 grant for the transforming work at the Mission. 2016's Arizona Gives Day is coming up on April 5!
  • Clients Reach Out at Momma Jo's: Graduates began reaching out to other homeless and hurting individuals at Momma Jo's in downtown Phoenix. Many of them were once there, but now they want to give hope to the place they had left behind. Watch a video of clients reaching out and sharing hope with others in downtown.
  • 2nd Hope Coach: In late April, a second Hope Coach was donated to the Mission, which doubled the amount of impact we are having on the streets of Phoenix. Double the number of streets we can visit, sack meals we can provide, water bottles we can deliver, and hope we can offer. See the work the Hope Coach is doing and learn about volunteering here.
  • Shelter Expansion Doubles Available Beds: From March through August, we were working to expand our shelter space at the Community Services Center. We had to rearrange significantly to keep beds open even during construction, but upon opening in August, the number of beds for shelter and men's recovery doubled to nearly 200 men every night. See pictures of the entire expansion process on our digital photo album.
  • Biggest Code Red Heat Relief Ever: During our blazing hot summer, hundreds of big businesses, small dental offices, churches, school groups, families, and even kids conducted water drives, raising 860,907 bottles of water! We broke another record by giving away 760,687!! Also, the matching grant in May and June was fully met, we provided life-saving water to many other organizations including St. Mary's Food Bank to spread our impact even further, and the Hope Coach team literally saved the life of someone who nearly died of dehydration on a Phoenix sidewalk. See more about Code Red on our special web page here.

We don't have the final numbers yet, but 2015 is easily going to surpass all other years in number of meals provided, bed nights of shelter offered, and recovery clients transforming their lives.

The life-transforming work being done here at the Mission has also been noticed by our community! We are proud to be counted one of the "2015 Top Homeless Services Organizations" recognized by Coulter Nissan in Surprise. They wrote an excellent article describing the best places in Phoenix to give this winter, and we were at the top of the list!

Motivated by Love | August 2015 Newsletter

Motivated by Love

Jesse came from a broken home. His parents’ constant fighting filled his childhood with feelings of fear, depression and anger. Turning to drugs in high school to alleviate the pain, Jesse started down a road that not only cost him his possessions, his home and what was left of his family ties – it robbed him of his freedom.

“It’s hard for me to grasp how I was back then because God has changed my life so much. Even the way I think isn’t the same anymore,” says Jesse, a recent graduate of our recovery program.

He was just 19 years old when he found himself homeless in Phoenix, standing outside the gates of a government-run shelter downtown.

“That place was filled with the mentally ill, violent criminals, sex offenders and the addicted,” remembers Jesse. “It was unnerving at first walking through those gates, but because of the numbing effects the drugs had on me, I soon adapted. In fact, my addiction flourished so well there that it eventually became too much for the shelter to handle. So I left and took up residence for the next year under a bridge in southeast Phoenix.”

But the craving wouldn’t let him sit still. Each day would be spent looking for places he could shoplift, finding those who would buy the goods he stole and visiting the dealers who would help him feed his expensive habit.

“I was a lifeless machine driven by nothing but desire. It was exhausting but I couldn’t stop. Each night I gazed with dead eyes at the star-filled sky, listening to the cars pass and wondering if I was destined to do this forever. The hopelessness I felt was overwhelming.”

Over the next few years, Jesse spent time in and out of jail on shoplifting charges, eventually landing in prison. But through it all, Jesse’s addiction survived. As soon as he was released, the vicious cycle continued.

That is, until he had a run in with one of our graduates.

“I traveled to a detox center in east Phoenix and checked in for the night. Right before I was getting ready to leave, a woman who worked there pulled me into her office. She told me about how she had been an addict and the brokenness she had experienced. It freaked me out to hear how similar our stories seemed and how her words seemed to describe the pain and longing in my heart perfectly. She had been through the women’s program at the

Changing Lives Center where God had touched her life and changed it forever. I wanted that.”
The next day Jesse went to see his probation officer to ask her for help – she sent him to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

I found a friendship and fellowship here...

That was one year ago. Today, Jesse is a brand new man. He’s completed our recovery program, has become a servant leader through our Servant Leadership Training program and is currently working part-time as the assistant to our Vocational Development Manager Rhonda Blake.

“Being able to use my skills and talents to help others find employment has been a real blessing to me,” he says.

The future is looking brighter than ever for Jesse. Recently, after a tour of our center, Grand Canyon University offered to provide one of our graduates with a full college scholarship. Jesse submitted a six-page, single-spaced essay describing his story and his hopes for the future and was chosen to receive $25,000 toward the major of his choosing! He’s set to move into GCU dorms on August 25th!

He plans on majoring in counseling with a minor in Christian studies with the goal of becoming an addictions counselor.

Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support that not only transforms the lives of people like Jesse, but also sets them on a path to bringing hope and healing to countless others! It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

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For those we serve, finding employment is the last, and many times, the hardest step on the road to transformation. Despite the changes that have been made on the inside, many still carry the wreckage produced by their past lives. Things like vagrancy-related fines, criminal records and large gaps in their resumes all send giant red flags to any prospective employer.

Rhonda teaching

To combat some of these barriers, the Phoenix Rescue Mission offers one of our most vital services – our Vocational Development Program. Rhonda Blake, our Vocational Development Manager, teaches classes and works individually with the men and women we serve to give them access to everything they need to find success in the marketplace.

  • Some of what we offer includes:
  • The latest in resume building techniques
  • Job leads
  • Interview preparation techniques
  • Assistance with online job search
  • Professional attire
  • Direction in obtaining certifications and licensure
  • Financial counseling
  • Assistance with obtaining a GED or High School diploma

Because transportation is usually an issue, we also provide bus passes once an interview is obtained and continue to provide them until the first paycheck is received.

This program has helped countless graduates of our recovery program find a way off the streets for good and back to living normal, healthy lives. But there is more we can do. There are countless families in our community who are living right on the edge of losing it all, for whom a better paying job would mean all the difference in the world.

Robert was one of them. That is, until he lost his job last year and couldn’t find another in time to keep his apartment. He ended up staying at the Mission where he volunteered between interviews. His luck changed when he met Rhonda. With her help, he was able to obtain government grants to pay for classes and obtained two certifications in computer programming. Today he’s found a job he loves, working at Sears as a Technical Support Specialist.

It’s for people like Robert that we opened these services to more than just the men and women in recovery. As of July 2014, anyone in our community who needs these vital services is welcome to take advantage of them. In that time, we’ve assisted 354 individuals from both inside and outside the Mission to become job-ready – resulting in 210 permanent job placements!

Robert tells us, “Through this experience I’m finally convinced that if you pray to God and keep faith in him, in your time of trouble, he will deliver you 100 percent of the time. Everything will be alright as long as I stay seeking God.”

These are the kinds of programs that are making waves here in Phoenix and changing lives before they end up on the streets like Robert. Together, we are building a better city, one job-placement at a time!

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Jerry Waehner

Retired park manager Jerry Waehner oversaw the operation of some of our biggest city parks, including South Mountain, for quite some time. When he retired 3 years ago, he became a regular in our cafeteria, serving hot, delicious food to those who needed it most.

But it’s when he got a taste of the life-altering power of the Hope Coach that things changed.

Watch the Story on the Street video with Jerry to find out what happened out on the streets that led him to seek more challenging ways to serve and live out his faith by clicking here.

Rest for the Weary

Shelter Renovation Interior

A cool, safe bed at the Phoenix Rescue Mission is a godsend for those who have been living on the streets. It gives them a place where they can get real rest, a hot meal, and a chance to take stock of their situation. More often than not, it’s a place where real transformation begins.

This past year, our Community Services Center has been undergoing construction to provide more of those life-changing beds than ever before. Soon we’ll have 80 brand new beds in addition to our current beds, but first we need bedding to get them ready for use.

Shelter Renovation Exterior

Just $50 supplies an XL Twin bunk bed with commercial-grade sheets, comforters, and pillows that will stand up to high-temperature washes and constant use for years.

Would you consider sponsoring a bunk and giving someone a night’s rest that may change his or her life forever? Just check the box on the enclosed reply and send your gift today.

Thank you so much for your continued support! Together we’re transforming lives one good night’s sleep at a time!

August Mission Mileposts

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