Phoenix Rescue Mission Launches 10th Code:Red Campaign

Nonprofit Accepting Monetary, Nonperishable Food and Water Donations for Heat Relief

PHOENIX – As temperatures begin to creep upward and summer months roll closer, Phoenix Rescue Mission is kicking off its 10th annual, city-wide Code:Red Summer Heat Relief Campaign to save the lives of the city’s unhoused and at-risk individuals. According to Maricopa County, at least 130 individuals experiencing homelessness died from heat-related causes in 2021. The nonprofit’s goal is to protect our most vulnerable population by collecting and distributing one million bottles of water.

From May 1 through August 31, PRM is providing essential resources to sustain the city’s homeless population, such as nonperishable food and water supplies. Ahead of this Valley-wide undertaking, the Mission is seeking monetary, nonperishable food and water donations. Monetary donations will be matched up to $150,000, made possible by a grant by several supporters of Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“During the summer months in Phoenix, asphalt can heat up to a deadly 170 degrees. Anything above 104 degrees can cause brain damage and death,” said Phoenix Rescue Mission CEO Ken Brissa. “While many Valley residents find respite indoors, our unhoused neighbors cannot take shelter from the heat and need help that can come to them.”

Several municipalities, including Avondale, Peoria, Glendale, Goodyear, Surprise, El Mirage, and Scottsdale, have created partnerships with the Mission, bringing relief to the streets in the Mission’s Hope Coach vehicles to distribute water, toiletries and case management services.

“Anything helps in this undertaking to save and change lives, whether it’s through a small monetary donation, dropping off a case of water or starting a water drive,” said Brissa. “This is so much more than a handout of water. This is arming people with the tools to change their lives and move out of harm’s way.”

More information about the 10th annual Code:Red initiative can be found Red Summer Heat Relief Campaign here. Food, water, and all other heat-relief donations can be dropped off at the Mission’s Donation Warehouse, located at 2515 N. 34th Drive in Phoenix. The Mission is also in need of volunteers to help distribute vital, nutritious food to families in need at its Hope for Hunger Food Bank in Glendale.

For more information on what to donate or to start a Code:Red drive, please contact gikhelp@phxmission.org or 602-346-3347.

Escaping the Deadly Summer Streets (Dezzerai’s Story)

Homeless, pregnant, and alone, Dezzerai and her child were in danger--in more ways than you think.

The corner of 12th Avenue and Madison Street isn’t a place you want to be caught after dark. Last year, this ever-growing tent city in the heart of downtown was the site of 39 aggravated assaults, 13 robberies, 6 burglaries and 1 homicide.

Yet, it was this stretch of sidewalk that a pregnant, 20-year-old Dezzerai called home for two terrifying months – barely avoiding becoming a statistic herself.

“Living in that tent, it felt like a portion of hell. It was so horrible… so evil. I got into fights; people threatened to shoot me. Just the energy – the vibe – it was so off.”

But as dangerous as her neighborhood was, it was nothing compared to the threat that was headed her way – a deadly force of nature that kills hundreds on our streets every year.

Summer was coming.

In Arizona, our summer isn’t just hot, it’s deadly. In fact, just 15 minutes of exposure is enough to cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, and kidneys, and can even lead to death by heatstroke.* But Dezzerai hadn’t put herself in harm’s way by choice.

“There was a lot of hurt, a lot of pain in our house,” Dezzerai remembers. “My dad beat my mom. He was on drugs, but so was she and my grandma. I was adopted out to my great-aunt in Houston when I was 10 years old, but that was bad, too. I ended up running away to Arizona to get back with my mom when I was 17.”

Dezzerai didn’t realize at the time that she was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The reunion with her mother was anything but stable.

“At first, I was working and she was doing her own thing. But then we started getting high together. It was just a cycle of her using me, me using her, falling out and manipulation between the both of us. One day, I couldn’t go back to her house anymore.”

Dezzerai was 10 weeks pregnant when she hit the streets. She did what she could to survive. She battled Covid. But as the days wore on and the temperature started to rise inside her tent, she knew she was in trouble.

“I hadn’t prayed to Jesus in a very long time. Growing up and seeing how hypocritical my family was about it, Jesus offended me. I totally disconnected from God. That night, I was desperate. I called out to Jesus. The next day, an outreach team came!”

God intervened to save Dezzerai and her baby – just in time.

2020, the year Dezzerai found herself on the streets, was the hottest summer ever recorded in Phoenix history. By the end of October, the blazing temperatures claimed a record 323 lives in Maricopa County – the majority of them homeless. (www.maricopa.gov/CivicAlerts)
Thankfully, your love helped Dezzerai and her daughter escape the blistering streets.

“I was scared I was going to lose my baby. But I had a friend who told me about this place (the Changing Lives Center). She was here before and said it would be good for me. It seemed like something totally different, like somewhere I could find a whole new life.”

Dezzerai attributes her recovery and newfound hope and confidence to the support she’s received from the CLC counseling team.

You gave Dezzerai more than just shelter from the sun. Here she found recovery from her addiction, counseling for her past, parenting classes, childcare for her daughter and direction for her future.

“My counselors are amazing. They have been helping me break generational curses. My grandma lost my mom, my mom lost custody of me; it’s been this never-ending cycle of losing your kids to the system in my family. But I don’t have to conform to that. That ends with me.”

Most importantly, you helped her find the saving relationship that is transforming Dezzerai from the inside out.

"I feel like the only reason I woke up from that nightmare is because I called on Jesus. I just feel like he's speaking to me. If you told me two years ago that I'd be saying that today, I wouldn't have believed you. I'm totally brand new."

Today, Dezzerai and her baby are safe. She’s just three months from completing our Servant Leadership Program, she’s heading back to school to learn how to give back as a healthcare professional and is excited for the new life God has set before her.

But there are hundreds more like Dezzerai who are on the streets at this moment and in danger of becoming a statistic. Together, we can reach them in time, put a life-saving bottle of water in their hand, and invite them to the kind of new beginning only Christ can provide.

Thank you for the prayers and support that will give so many a second chance at life and eternity during the deadly summer months ahead!

*https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.html
Now that she has the security and shelter of the Changing Lives Center, having lunch outdoors is a joy for Dezzerai and her daughter.

Phoenix Mercury Launch Fifth BG’s Heart & Sole Shoe Drive in Partnership with Phoenix Rescue Mission

As the Phoenix Mercury organization and concerned fans everywhere await the safe return of Brittney Griner, Phoenix Rescue Mission is partnering once again with Phoenix Mercury to bring back BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive this season.

When Griner noticed many of the homeless across the Valley without shoes back in 2016, she wanted to help. On her drive home from practice one day, she saw unhoused persons in the Arizona summer in their bare feet. She saw a need and was moved to action. Since then, nearly 2,000 Phoenicians have been served with shoes from the Heart & Sole shoe drive.

This season, we are once again working with Phoenix Mercury in Britney's honor. Mercury President Vince Kozar said, “The most important thing is that our friend and teammate is healthy and safe. We remain hopeful in the efforts underway to bring her home, and we are grateful for the outpouring of concern we have received. As we await her return, WNBA teams are collectively committing to serve the community in ways that BG would if she were here. In Phoenix, we are launching the fifth season of BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive, an initiative she founded in 2016 and cares about very deeply. BG has always led with her heart and in her absence, it’s our duty to do good in her name. We invite you to help in any way you can.

Not only did Griner lead the charge to collect new and gently-used shoes, each year she joined our mobile Hope Coach and delivered the shoes and other resources directly to individuals in need in the community.

How to help:

  • Donate new or gently-used shoes of all sizes throughout the 2022 season at Mercury home games at Footprint Center.
    • The first opportunity to donate will be Thursday, April 28, at the team’s home preseason game against the Seattle Storm.
  • Fans can also make cash donations directly to the Mission at: phxmission.org/valley

Your support is making a big difference in our community, and we are #PrayingForBrittney!

From Tragedy to Transformation [Debbie’s Story]

Depression couldn’t keep Debbie down — thanks to you

It’s easy to see someone on the street whose life is in shambles and think, “That’ll never be me.”

Just a few years ago, Debbie had every reason to believe it. She’s always been a hard worker. She had a good job and a house. She paid her bills and even had a boyfriend who, she was hoping, might soon become a husband.

But none of us are immune to tragedy.

For Debbie, and many others on the streets, one bad day is all it takes to turn a life upside-down.

It was 2012 when Debbie’s bad day hit her like a ton of bricks.

“My boyfriend passed away from cancer. Losing him put me into this deep depression that I couldn’t get out of. I stopped going to work. I couldn’t get out of bed; my whole world just fell apart.”

Debbie quickly found out that depression doesn’t care who you are, what you have in the bank or what your work ethic is. It’s capable of hollowing out a life just as quickly as any addiction.

Over the span of a few years, Debbie’s hold on life spiraled out of control.

She went from living in a house, to an apartment, and when the savings finally ran dry, to her car.

“I had never been evicted before. I always paid my bills. It was horrible. It was scary, too, because I knew how the homeless were treated. Living in my car, people would look at me like I was some kind of monster. I wasn’t a human being anymore.”

Debbie lived this nightmare for a little over a year and a half, driving her Nissan Sentra up and down Thunderbird Avenue looking for a safe place to sleep.

“I took care of my car, but sometimes you do stupid stuff. I let a friend drive it one day and he was really reckless with it. He tore the gearshift up and suddenly there was all this smoke coming from underneath. It was totaled. I didn’t have any place left to go.”

That’s when your love stepped in.

“I came here [Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center] on the Hope Coach. Cliff [our former Hope Coach Coordinator] picked me up. I had no idea what this place was or what I was getting myself into, but I knew my life had to change. I told God, ‘Whatever you’re planning, Lord, I’m in.’” 

Over the course of a year, your compassion gave Debbie the tools she needed to break the grip of depression on her life.

In a matter of a few short years, Debbie found herself going from a comfortable home to living in her car. She knows firsthand how those experiencing homelessness are treated and wants to help others find the transformation that she found at Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“I got counseling that I would never have gotten before. The trauma egg took a huge burden off my shoulders.”

A trauma egg is a counseling exercise designed to draw out past traumatic experiences in a tangible way. A large egg shape is drawn on a poster-sized sheet. Then, those in recovery fill it from top to bottom with traumatic events from their past, both big and small. With the help of Ta’Mella Pierce, Debbie’s counselor, she was able to work through each event one at a time.

"It opened my eyes to what was holding me back: the co-dependency, the anger, the resentment, the depression, the people-pleasing, it showed me where all that came from when I did my egg. It gave me a road map for what I needed to work on."

Through the exercise, Debbie also discovered there was much more to her depression than the passing of her boyfriend.

I found I had a lot of repressed anger toward my family. My father was very abusive. My mom had been abused as a child and never stuck up for me. I stuffed things down for so long.”

“To help get it all out, Ta’Mella had me write resentment letters. I don’t feel any resentment for anyone anymore because I wrote everything I wanted to say down and gave it to God. I told Him, ‘I don’t want to carry these. I don’t need them anymore.’”

Today, Debbie’s a different person, thanks to you.

“Looking back now, I can see where Jesus has been with me through all the rough times. Even here, when I was going through one of my lowest points, He showed me He was right beside me. The counseling here helped me out of my depression. I feel so much stronger now and I’m never going to go back to my old lifestyle.”

In fact, Debbie’s made it her goal to help others find find hope and healing. She’s completed her Peer Support Certification and hopes to serve those who are experiencing homelessness with hope and guidance.

“I know how people on the street feel, I know how they’re treated. No one should be made to feel less than human. I want to be out there giving them the kind of positive experience that changed my life. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”

Debbie is off the streets, depression-free and she’s got you to thank for it.

“We are so blessed here by all the donors. I am thankful every day for what you’ve given us here. God wakes me up and helps me do better than I did the day before. It’s hard work, but this is the best program there is. It changed my life completely.”

With the caring help of her counselor, Ta'Mella Pierce, Debbie discovered the repressed anger that was at the root of her depression. Your support makes it possible for people like Debbie to find freedom from depression.

Michael is No Longer Homeless for the Holidays

Michael is No Longer Homeless for the Holidays

After 15 years of living on the street, YOU helped him obtain the keys to his own apartment 

A year ago, you could find Michael passed out drunk in a park, by his own admission, “killing himself” one pint of whiskey at a time.

Today, he’s sober, employed, and turning the key to his new Glendale apartment. Who does he have to thank for ending 15 years of living on and off the streets? God, of course. And you!

It was a chance encounter. Our Glendale Works team, responsible for providing the homeless of Glendale with the opportunity to earn an honest day’s wage, visited Michael’s park one day to clean up. A curious Michael got to talking to Gabe Priddy, our Street Outreach Coodinator, and shared his story. To his surprise, Gabe could relate!

It wasn’t too long ago Gabe was in a similar position. Instead of giving up, he encouraged Michael to strive for something more.

Michael took those words to heart and joined the Glendale Works team. While he worked, Michael was assigned Case Manager Brian Farretta who helped him get copies of his birth certificate and his social security card so he could begin to look for employment. He helped him obtain a housing voucher, locate an apartment and purchase furniture for his new place. Brian even worked it out so the Mission could pay for his apartment application fee!

Now, one year later, Michael is truly homeless for the holidays – thanks to you!

I’ve never had apartment keys in my life. I’ve been on the streets so long, it’s hard to believe this is real. If it weren’t for you, I’d still be in the park. I want to thank you guys,” says Michael with tears in his eyes. “Thank you, Lord! I’m blessed!”