Changing the Future of Homelessness – Brick by Brick | Jason’s Story

It’s 7 a.m. when our Street Outreach van pulls up outside a church on East Osborn Road. Despite the early morning cold, a group of five is already there ready and waiting for a chance to make a difference.

Each one is experiencing homelessness, but they’ve heard word on the street that there are meals to be had and money to be made doing a job that might directly benefit them someday.

Jason boards the van, joking and laughing, knowing he’s not only in for an honest day’s work, but something more. He’s heard that what he’s building today has the potential to change the state of homelessness in Arizona – one brick at a time.

It’s called Scottsdale Works and it’s the newest program at Phoenix Rescue Mission. Like Glendale Works, it gives men and women on the streets the opportunity to earn a fair wage for an honest day’s labor while connecting them to all the life-changing resources Phoenix Rescue Mission has to offer.

While Glendale Works cleans dirt in city beautification projects, Scottsdale Works is using dirt to build the future, brick by brick.

The Scottsdale Works program is designed to engage individuals experiencing homelessness in Scottsdale, provide them with the dignity of earning a wage, and connect them with services that can break down the barriers that are keeping them homeless - all while providing a service to the community as a whole.

“Once cured, the bricks are very strong,” says Mike Lopach who oversees operations in this joint venture with the City of Scottsdale.

“The hope is to use these bricks to benefit people experiencing homelessness by building tiny home communities,” says Mike. “They’ve got them in Detroit, St. Louis and Portland. But where those are built from sheds, we are building ours out of much more energy-efficient bricks. The key is to provide a dignified living space that is welcoming and has services available.

Mike and Jason check the measurement of a brick. The team is capable of producing enough bricks to complete one tiny home every four to five days.

Working together, participants are able to produce about 50-60 bricks per hour or about 250-300 per day. With 200 square-foot tiny homes requiring about 1,500 bricks each, this team is capable of crafting enough to produce one home every four to five days.

Since launching on November 30, 2020, the program has already changed Jason’s life. Homeless for over 20 years, Jason found work through Scottsdale Works as one of our first participants and today he’s living in the first apartment he’s ever had to himself.

“It’s a dream,” says Jason with a smile. “I don’t have to worry about sitting at the bus stop or trying to find a dry place at night to sleep. I can come and go as I please. I have some money in my pocket; it’s not much but it’s enough.”

Jason isn’t the only one feeling pride in their work and where it’s got them. In the first few months of operation, Scottsdale Works already has a rotating team of 20 strong with more on the way.

“The goal is to keep our participants coming back two or three times a month… enough time to see progress – to see some of our services in action in the lives of their co-workers,” says Reese, our Street Outreach Coordinator for Scottsdale Works, “For example, we were able to furnish Jason’s new apartment with a microwave, pots and pans, dishes and linens, all the necessities you need for an apartment. Once the other participants hear about it, they start asking what else we can do – and that opens the door to all sorts of transformation.

Scottsdale Works is another example of how your support is making transformation possible in new and innovative ways.

“If this hadn’t come along, I’d still be on the streets,” says Jason. “After so many years, I figured I’d die on the streets. This gave me new hope.

Reese (left), our Street Outreach Coordinator for Scottsdale Works, helped navigate Jason off the streets, into his own apartment, and connected him to services to help set him up for success.

From Broken Trust to Transformed Life | Lorenzo’s Story

Lorenzo has new hope

Lorenzo finds real trust takes faith.

There’s nothing more central to who we are than where we place our trust. Scripture tells us it’s the very foundation our lives are built upon.

When Lorenzo was 13, that foundation was shaken to its core when his father left home. His grades slipped and participation in sports and other activities waned. But when he used that broken trust as an excuse to rebel, things went from bad to worse.

“I started hanging out with my cousins and getting involved with the side of my family that sold drugs. I dropped out of school my junior year and never went back. I couldn’t hold a job. Eventually, my family closed the door on me.”

Alone and homeless, Lorenzo felt like he had no one left to place his trust in but himself. Thankfully, there was one other option he hadn’t yet discovered – a solid place to put his trust that would change everything.

Early on, Lorenzo’s stepfather, a longtime detective for the Phoenix Police Department, recognized in his son the familiar patterns of a drug dealer and immediately put distance between Lorenzo and the family.

“My stepfather kicked me out when I was 23-years old. After that I never had a steady home; I was always jumping from place to place, in and out of jail, selling drugs and sleeping out of friends’ garages. I started stealing and even my friends in prison didn’t want to have anything to do with me. My addiction swallowed everything up.”

It wasn’t long before the emptiness inside Lorenzo began to manifest on the outside.

“I wasn’t maintaining good hygiene. My arms were torn up from IV usage. I stood out like a sore thumb. People wanted to stay away from me. The last 4 years were very rough. I just wanted a way out.”

After hearing about our recovery program in detox, Lorenzo came to Phoenix Rescue Mission in October of 2018. It was a step in the right direction. We helped him recognize the destructive patterns in his life and introduced him to Christ. But having been burned so many times in the past, Lorenzo wasn’t quite ready to put his trust in God. After 36 short days, he left the program and fell back into his addiction.

It’s a good thing for Lorenzo that God doesn’t give up that easily. Soon after leaving, Lorenzo was caught violating his probation. He was given the choice between prison time or building a solution pathway through recovery at the Mission. It was a no brainer.

“I’ve been to other places, but this was the only one I found where people were honest about trying to get clean. They taught me how to serve God and what it means to be a Christian, not in a judgmental way – they don’t do that here. We uplift each other and help each other out. It’s what I needed to finally buckle down and hit this head on.”

Lorenzo and Orin
Here with his fellow graduate Orin, Lorenzo is another transformed live. He is sober, a recovery graduate and part of our Ministry Training program. His relationship with his family is restored and he says, “It feels so good!”

In other words, Lorenzo finally found a safe place to put his trust – and it’s changed everything.

“I’ve learned that you can’t rely on your own strength. Only God can help you persevere.

With solid ground under his feet for the first time in his life, Lorenzo got to work correcting the mistakes of his past.

“Since I’ve been here, Phoenix Rescue Mission has helped me handle my legal issues, gave me the resources to pay back the restitution fees on my own and even helped restore the relationships with my family.”

All that time, God never let him down. Month after month, our counselors and staff helped him face his addiction and, more importantly, the roots that maintain a hold on his life. Through God’s grace and his diligence, he’s experienced true transformation.

His family, even his sharp-eyed stepfather, has seen the 180 degree change in Lorenzo over the past year – a revelation that has restored bonds broken for more than a decade.

“My family is starting to trust me again and it means the world to me. I’ve become a role model to my brothers. My stepfather and I are closer than ever now. They allow me to come over and spend the night, even drive their cars and use their bank cards! It feels so good.”

Today Lorenzo is sober, a recovery graduate and is currently helping others put their trust in God as part of our Ministry Training program. From rejected to role-model, he’s become a different man.

“The counselors and mentors here are all genuine. They’ve shown me that people do care. I have value and hope in my life now. They’ve instilled these values in me and now I’m working to help others.”

If there’s one thing to learn from this story, it’s that trust goes a long way. When you entrust Phoenix Rescue Mission with your time and treasure, you’re not only helping transform lives like Lorenzo’s, you’re reaching every person who sees that transformation and finds that it’s real. Your partnership is powerful.

Thank you for helping change our city life-by-life and day-by-day!

Lorenzo

“Scottsdale Works” program sees immediate success

The city of Scottsdale and Phoenix Rescue Mission are celebrating a successful first month of Scottsdale Works – Brick by Brick, an integrated workforce development program that aims to reduce homelessness in Scottsdale and put the city’s homeless to work.

“This program has been a blessing to both the participants and the community because people are getting connected to resources to end their homelessness,” said Phoenix Rescue Mission Street Outreach Supervisor Gabe Priddy.

One individual, Jason Smith, recently received keys to his first home since his life on the streets began in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Smith found work with Scottsdale’s program, which instilled in him a sense of worth and gave him hope that he could end his cycle of homelessness after all.

Read the news article on YourValley.net

Watch the news video from Fox10Phoenix.com

4 Years After Graduation | Rich, Street Outreach Case Manager

Where Are They Now? | Rich Heitz

Because of a cocaine addiction Rich picked up when he was 17, much of Rich’s early life was a blur.

“I spent 8 years locked up: 3 years in prison, 5 years in county jail,” Rich remembers.

“I was in and out of jail and homeless off and on for 7 years.”

With so much time on the inside, incarceration started to seem like a home away from home. So, when he was arrested again on a heroin charge in 2013, he told his probation officer to send him back to the yard. With a single word, the officer changed Rich’s life.

He said “No.”

“He told me that he could see in my eyes that I wanted to quit but couldn’t on my own. He sent me to Phoenix Rescue Mission instead.”

What Rich found here he couldn’t believe.

“When I saw the guys in the program, they were hugging each other and telling each other that they loved them. There was nothing weird about it. I liked that. It felt like a true brotherhood. People were actually looking out for each other and not trying to hold each other back. It was a life that I didn’t know existed prior to 2015.”

Three weeks later, Rich asked Jesus into his life and nothing has been the same since. He graduated from our recovery program in 2017.

“After I graduated, I started looking outside the Mission for employment. I had three great interviews. But then about a week later, I was called into the office at PRM. They asked me how I’d feel about working for them. God heard my prayers and opened doors for me.”

Today Rich is back on the streets, but this time, he’s spreading a word of hope, help, and transformation as part of our Street Outreach Team.

“I love it. I go everywhere: Avondale, Goodyear, Surprise, Peoria, Glendale, Scottsdale, Phoenix; wherever I’m needed. I walk up to people with needles in their arms and provide them with water, hygiene items and hope.”

From no future, to helping others find a brand-new future, that’s what your support of Phoenix Rescue Mission makes possible.

“Every day is different. God took an old burnout, running and gunning for 30 years, and now He has me working for his glory; I love it!”

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!