No Longer Homeless for the Holidays | Brian’s Second Chance

Brian’s second chance at the Mission brought an end to his homelessness.

Brian came to us looking for a good meal in 2007. Back then he was addicted, homeless, and miserable – and had been that way for about four years.

“I wasn’t able to maintain a job. Whenever I would try to get back on my feet or clean up for a little bit, I’d end up repeating the same mistakes.”

Then he enrolled in our recovery program, got clean, found Christ, and started on a new path… only to find himself stumbling again a few years later. The Mission is always clear that we value restoration and care for the long-term health of our clients. We do not stigmatize those who relapse but instead invite them to rebuild a solid, Christ-based foundation and community for their long-term well-being.

“I knew the only chance I had to turn my life around was to be a part of a community of people who were going to support one another; that’s the brotherhood you find at Phoenix Rescue Mission. I knew people would support and encourage me there. I went back there and tried to get in. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”

This time, he’s plugged in. Instead of going it alone, he’s making sure he maintains the accountability and connections that make all the difference. In fact, he’s found an apartment of his own next to three other graduates who’ve traveled a similar path, to make sure the connections he needs are within easy reach.

His second time around, we were able to connect him to a grant that enabled him to get his Commercial Driver’s License. He’s using it to drive dump trucks and couldn’t be happier.

“I’ve been doing this for over a year,” he says, “and I love it. I have to pinch myself sometimes because I can’t believe I’m doing it. It feels good to have a great career and make good money doing it.”

Thank you for giving the gift that made it possible for Brian to have a home for the holidays.

Hope is Expanding – Ahead of Schedule!

Every day that goes by gets us a little closer to seeing this dream become a reality. Construction at the Transforming Lives Center on our new Life Recovery Building is moving now at a dizzying pace. The fourth floor has been added, the waterproofing and siding is going up, and we’re currently on the cusp of starting work on the interior.

In fact, things have been moving along so well that we’re actually ahead of schedule. The original estimate put the end of construction in early 2021, but as of today, it’s looking more like the end of this year!

Once construction is complete, we’ll still need to add fixtures, furniture and the like before opening the doors in early 2021. But every day we gain means that there will be much more opportunity to transform lives – and do it on a scale that’s never been possible before.

All we can say is – God is good!

Thank you for all the prayers blessing this work and speeding it along. We’re all so excited to see God use this new space to transform more lives than ever before, and Phoenix itself in the process!

You can see all the details about our progress of the Expanding Hope Capital Campaign at hopeforphx.org!

A Return to Recovery | Brandon’s Story

Three years ago, Brandon was running amok in Show Low, drinking and doing drugs with abandon. It wasn’t until he ended up in prison that he realized he had been caught by the same trap as his cousin Danny.

“I remember hearing from my parents about Danny growing up. Sometimes we would overhear them saying, ‘Danny messed up again,’ and we all knew what that meant. But then I found out that he was doing really well. (So well in fact that he’s managing our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, see cover story.) And I wondered what happened. That’s how I found out about Phoenix Rescue Mission.”

After nine months, Brandon was released into rehab. Figuring that what had worked for his cousin would work for him, he enrolled in our Men’s Recovery Program. But he soon found out that recovery is more than just going through the motions.

“When I graduated, I left campus and pretty much fell flat on my face. I went back to drinking and taking pills almost immediately. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t been honest with anyone during recovery. I just told the counselors and staff what they wanted to hear.”

“I was honest with them. I told them I had relapsed and they recommended I start the program over from square one.

Looking back, it was the best decision I’ve made.”

"But there was something different this time. Even though I was back to doing drugs, God convicted my heart each time I did it, and it just got worse each time. I knew I had to go back.”

Recovery is a long road, full of ups and downs. Just as Christ grants us all the grace to return to Him time and time again, every graduate knows the doors are always open to them at Phoenix Rescue Mission if they stumble.

During his recovery, and before Covid forced us to close our Mission Possible Café temporarily, he found that working in the kitchen both complemented his studies and gave him a new perspective.

“I had a lot of animosity in my heart toward authority figures. I didn’t like them telling me what to do. As I worked in the Café, my attitude began to change. I started seeing how it wasn’t them versus me, it was us working together. They showed me how criticism can be constructive and to not take things personally. They basically helped me become an adult, to see the bigger picture, and I started loving going to work. Once you begin putting God first, everything changes and you start to transform.

Today, Brandon has completed recovery for a second time, but for the first time with an openness and honesty that has given him a real foundation for a new life. He’s found a steady job and is looking forward to graduation in October. He’s saving for a car and his future is looking bright, thanks to the grace afforded by friends like you.

Recovered 5 Years Ago: Where Are They Now?

It seemed like Lance and Dawn had been running from their problems all of their lives.

“We knew we had a problem with alcohol,” says Lance. “It got to the point where I was making sure we had vodka in the morning to avoid the shakes and the withdrawals. When it got too bad, we’d move somewhere else, thinking we’d be able to stop drinking.” It was an idea that they tried over and over again.

“We lived in Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, California… but the whole time, we were the problem. You can’t move away from yourself!” Lance laughs.

It was during a move to Oregon that they reached the end of the road. Their car broke down. Reaching out to friends and family, they formed a plan to head to Phoenix. But only one of them would get there.

“We got as far as Vegas where we got into a fight and separated. I called my sister, who got me a plane ticket to Texas, and Lance continued on,” says Dawn. “I didn’t know it at the time, but he ended up at the Mission.”

I got in and it was just what I needed,” Lance remembers. “I was able to put the world on pause and study the Bible. The great pastors here helped me through. The whole time I was praying that my wife was okay. One day, out of the blue, Pastor Gabe found me and said, ‘God put this on my heart. We need to find your wife.’” Working together, they found Dawn through an old email account.

“When we got to talk on the phone, I told her, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I found what we were searching for. I found the answer.’ And she took her last paycheck, flew to Phoenix and we got her into the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.”

But that was five years ago. Did the transformation take? Or was Phoenix just another stop on a long road of addiction?

We’re happy to report that both Lance and Dawn have been clean and sober for the past six years! After being baptized and graduating from our recovery program in 2015, they moved back to Texas for a bit, but are back in Phoenix and planning to stay.

“Coming here was the greatest decision we ever made,” they say. “We should be dead or in jail. I mean both of us have been hospitalized before because of alcohol, but here we are. It changed our lives! Sobriety is just a fringe benefit of the relationship with Christ that we found here. We’re doing great, our marriage is great, and it’s because of the Mission.

What didn’t kill Sergio pushes him to save others

“It was excruciatingly hot. I always did what I could to stay out of the sun.”

Sergio knows how dangerous it is to be caught on our sweltering summer streets. For five long years, he did what he could to keep cool, to keep hydrated – to stay alive.

“I would stay in abandoned trailers and sometimes hide out in the library. I’d only come out once the sun went down to search for businesses with spigots to get water.”

Thanks to God’s mercy and Sergio’s resourcefulness, he survived. But others haven’t been so fortunate. Last year, the heat claimed the lives of 197 individuals in Maricopa County* – the highest ever recorded – and this year is shaping up to be even more deadly.

Thankfully, the way out you provided Sergio didn’t just save his life. Today he’s back out on the streets with Code:Red and the Hope Coach on a new mission – to save others before it’s too late.

Sergio’s story begins in childhood. He’s been struggling with addiction ever since he was eight years old.

“I’ve been to numerous programs, but never experienced more than 3 months of sobriety. Just constantly relapsing and getting worse every time.”

His family tried their best to help, but found themselves at a loss.

“They didn’t know what to do with me. My brothers and sisters are all successful hard workers. Then you got me coming around with two kids, in the middle of a separation, drunk and addicted…”

Eventually, his family kicked him out and Sergio became homeless.

“I started smoking meth on a daily basis. When that happened, things got really crazy. I was hearing voices, thinking crazy stuff, having terrible episodes and believing they were true. I was hungry and digging out of dumpsters every day. The meth messed my mind up so bad, I thought people were making fun of me, that they were talking about me, that they were inside my head, listening to everything I was thinking.”

Thankfully, his family recommended he give Phoenix Rescue Mission a try.

“After five years, I was done. I could see I wasn’t able to stop my drinking and drug use on my own. I wanted out of the heat, away from the hunger and the shame. I was ready to walk though those gates.”

What he found inside changed everything.

“I’ve tried recovery so many times. But this time it’s different. Here I’m around brothers who really want to change, leaders who really care about me, and about everyone else’s well-being. If something was missed, it’s quickly dealt with. That’s different. I’m used to a lot of shadiness, manipulation, to the point where people are using drugs in the program and getting away with it. There’s none of that here.”

When asked what makes the Mission’s recovery program different from his attempts at recovery in the past, there’s no hesitation.

The main difference was where they pointed me to – they pointed me to Christ. They taught me to open up the Bible. Now, if I have a craving or a crazy thought, I give it to God. It’s encouraging seeing other guys doing the same thing and watching the Holy Spirit move them into success.”

Today, Sergio is a proud graduate of our recovery program. He’s sober, he’s completed our Servant Leadership Training and even our rigorous Ministry Training programs.

“My family came to the graduation and they’re all super proud of me, especially my mom and dad. I could see it in their faces. It’s always been a struggle between me and my parents. I thank God every day that they can finally see me going in the right direction.”

Now that he’s sober and safely off the streets, Sergio is making his return as the newest member of our Street Outreach team. Monday through Friday, you can find him out on the Hope Coach giving others a chance to find the help and hope he’s found at Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“I love it! We’re connecting with people out there, giving them water, hygiene supplies and right now, because of the coronavirus situation, we’re handing out sack lunches to anyone who is hungry. It’s building that relationship with these people who are struggling, and meeting them where they are: in parks, outside stores, and in washes all throughout the city.”

And not a moment too soon – things are already heating up.

April 26th through May 1st represented the second-longest streak of consecutive triple-digit days in April in Phoenix since 1896, and marks only the third time in recorded history we’ve experienced five or more 100-degree days in April. Summer is still four weeks away, but the deadly triple digits are already here.

But with the prayers and support of friends like you, despite the heat, despite the virus, hope is moving forward – for Sergio and for hundreds more just like him this summer.

“It’s a blessing. It’s definitely not something I would have ever envisioned for myself. I was just looking for sobriety, but recovery is so much more than that, it’s growing in seeking the Lord, depending on Him and being a vessel for Jesus Christ.”

*“Heat-Associated Deaths in Maricopa County, AZ Final Report for 2019.” Heat Reports | Maricopa County, AZ, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, 2019, www.maricopa.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/4959