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!

As COVID Continues, So Does Hope

Safely Reopening Hope for Hunger Food Bank

With the numbers of cases continuing to rise in Arizona, it doesn’t look like COVID is disappearing any time soon – but neither is hope!

Phoenix Rescue Mission is taking all recommended precautions to keep our guests safe on campus, as we give more men and women a chance at transformation. As a part of our new intake process, masks are mandatory, hands are thoroughly washed, and temperatures are taken at the door. The safety of our guests and staff are most important, and we’re doing all we can to protect and care for our people during these challenging times.

At our Hope for Hunger Food Bank, impacted families are finding boxes filled with nutritious veggies, meat and other produce ready and waiting. Surfaces are carefully cleaned and sanitized after use and safety is key. Families can rest easy knowing that the same recommended procedures that keep our guests safe in recovery are doing the job at Hope for Hunger as well.

Innovative procedures and systems have made it possible for us to open intake to our recovery programs again at a limited capacity.

Of course, it’s your prayers and partnership that keep hope alive, even during a pandemic. Thank you for your support that shines like a beacon in these trying times!

Tactfully reopening intake to recovery programs

Instead of Justice, Grace | Spencer’s Story

Spencer's Story | Instead of Justice, Grace

Spencer messed up.

When he graduated from high school, his brother introduced him to methamphetamines. Later, his girlfriend introduced him to heroin. For the next 12 years, his life revolved around drugs and what he had to do to keep them coming.

“I got to the point where I didn’t care anymore. I slept outside. My only motivation was to go get high. That’s when things started getting really bad. I kept getting picked up and arrested over and over.”

Straight out of the gate, Spencer was saddled with an addiction that ruled his life and a lifestyle that ran counter to the law. By the time he was 30 years old, Spencer was living next to a dumpster and looking forward to 10 to 15 years in prison. His life was over before it had begun.

Or at least it was, until your love gave him a second chance.

Spencer was one of the first to find true freedom through Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Criminal Justice Diversion – a program dedicated to helping repeat offenders find a path to recovery and self-sufficiency.

In search for a place to lay their heads, homeless men and women often rack up a laundry list of charges, including trespassing, loitering, panhandling, and sleeping in public places, just to name a few. It’s an endless cycle, so much so that most cities in the valley have programs solely dedicated to the issue. One of them is Phoenix’s Misdemeanor Repeat Offender Program, or MROP. (Pronounced M-Rope)

Phoenix Rescue Mission has long worked with MROP detectives to join in the outreach and offer help to those caught out on the streets. But detectives soon found they couldn’t keep up with the rising numbers.

Those detectives needed help,” says Jussane Goodman, our Acting Director of Community Engagement. “They were doing the work of case managers, even though they weren’t trained in it and didn’t have the time to do so. We were asked to step in to assist, and Phoenix Rescue Mission saw it as an opportunity to serve people, our community, and the police department at the same time. We set up a pilot program in September 2018.”

It’s called Criminal Justice Diversion, designed to break the cycle of endless litigation by offering a path to recovery and self-sufficiency to repeat offenders, in lieu of jail time.

“We’re providing case management in the courtroom. We talk to clients, after they speak to the judge, to connect them with mental health clinics for medication, with resources for housing, employment, or shelter once they’re released, if they have nowhere to go. If someone is in court for a substance abuse issue, we can recommend recovery, either at Phoenix Rescue Mission or somewhere else as part of their plea agreement. We just want them to get the help they need.

For Spencer, that help came just in time.

“I met Jussane the first time I had a court date in Peoria.” Spencer remembers. “She was always there waiting to talk to me. The last time, she somehow got my mom’s number. When I went to court that day, there were Jussane and my mom waiting for me. Jussane went in front of the judge for me. Instead of sentencing me to 10 to 15 years, he sent me to Phoenix Rescue Mission for recovery instead!

Spencer entered our recovery program on December 18th of last year. It’s a day he remembers well, not only because it was his birthday, but it was also the day when everything started to change.

“I didn’t know God before I came to Phoenix Rescue Mission. I used to think a blessing was waking up to find a bit of dope left over. But here, He’s shown me what real blessings are, like having money and not having to steal stuff to pay for things, reconnecting with my two kids, or finding there’s more to life than getting high.”

Spencer serves dinner at the men's campus

Through your faithful support and the grace of God, Spencer has graduated from our recovery program. Free from addiction, he’s starting life over again. He’s found a steady job at the Home Depot Warehouse and is saving his money for a new place and a car.

Spencer was one of the first to find true freedom through Criminal Justice Diversion, but he won’t be the last. Since becoming a full program in July of 2019, Phoenix Rescue Mission has engaged with 104 repeat offenders like Spencer and have placed 7 in a path to recovery.

"Our presence in court has been very positive," says Jussane with a smile. "It’s caused a shift in thinking. More and more are starting to see how hard time in prison doesn’t rehabilitate in these cases. It’s substance abuse programs, coupled with counseling, that make rehabilitation possible."

"Seeing success stories like Spencer’s remind us that ‘This is why we do what we do.’ There’s no such thing as a lost cause. People can really turn around if they’re given the right opportunity."

Despite the Pandemic, the Hope Coach Travels On

It’s 8am. Hope Coach drivers Sarah Snead and Brian Farretta load up with hygiene packs, water bottles and other supplies as they prepare to hit the road. Their excitement is palpable.

Just a couple of summers ago, they would have been on their own. But today, they’re part of a team of six street outreach case managers offering services throughout Phoenix and much of the West Valley.

“We get up in the morning ready to go,” says Brian, “knowing that we’re about to make a difference and give God the glory.

God tends to move in amazing ways on the Hope Coach and today will be no different. Although COVID-19 has altered how they interact with men and women on the street, it hasn’t affected their resolve to reach the least, the last, and the lost.

Virus or not – Hope must move forward.

You might remember Brian from the cover of our March Newsletter last year – a man who was at the end of his rope, until a Facebook post from an old friend and a referral to Phoenix Rescue Mission saved his life. Now he’s giving back by sharing what he’s been given through the Hope Coach.

“I love it, I absolutely love it,” says Brian. “I like connecting with people. I like the evangelism part of it. I was rescued from so much, and I want people to know that we serve a God who can do that for anybody.

Sarah shares a similar past. “I didn’t know how to handle some life trauma and I started dabbling with drugs ‘til I couldn’t control it anymore. When I was 20, I started selling. Our house got raided and I ended up in prison for four years.”

While incarcerated, she found a relationship with Christ that changed her heart. Shortly after, she met Melissa Sheller, Director of Volunteer and Inmate Reentry Ministries, and joined the Mission working in Donor Care.

“When I found out about the Hope Coach and being able to connect with people on the streets who are suffering, I felt like the Lord was telling me, ‘This is where you need to be.’

Now, Monday through Friday, Sarah and Brian hit the streets looking for opportunities to transform lives.

“There are a lot who don’t receive it,” Brian admits, “but man, the ones who do! I love going into the Mission and seeing someone in Servant Leadership Training or Ministry Training who I originally picked up in the Hope Coach. Just seeing them thriving with a true heart’s desire to serve the Lord, man, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

On the road, we drive by a young woman in a coat. Immediately Brian recognizes her, exclaims, “Hey, that’s Misty!” and pulls over. Misty was one who didn’t make it. Brian picked her up a year ago, helped her enroll at the Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center, and prayed for the best. For a while, she thrived. But then she fell in with a group of girls who wanted to leave and quickly ended up back on the street.

Today, God gave him a second chance to see a life transform. After some catching up, Misty says she’s ready and Brian sets her up for an appointment for a pickup at 2:30 that afternoon. They also meet Mike, who you can tell is on the fence about coming in for recovery. He tells stories about having to sleep with one eye open. He knows it’s not safe out there. While Sarah and Brian minister to others, he returns over and over again to ask more questions about the program, but in the end, Mike decides he’s not ready.

“He knows he’s got a drug problem. We can help with that,” Brian relates with an obviously heavy heart. “We offered him a safe bed and a warm meal. But he’s still willing to sleep outside with one eye open every night just to stay high. That’s how badly this stuff has a hold on people. Until they come to that point where they say this is not me, this isn’t what I was meant to do, it’s hard to change.”

While this wasn’t the day for Mike, the services the Hope Coach provides have evolved over the years to be more relational. As a result, more are leaving the streets in search of hope.

“It’s a lot different now than it used to be,” says Sarah. “Before, it was more meeting people, giving them water and food and connecting with the homeless population that way. Now there’s more case management. We offer ID vouchers, help people get birth certificates, we’ve got options to house people. It’s more of an intimate relationship to try and get them out of their current situation and into a better one.”

With your support, we’ve expanded our reach as well. Today, there are four vehicles in the Hope Coach program, reaching homeless and hurting individuals across the Valley. From Peoria to South Phoenix and Sunnyslope to Goodyear, we’re spreading hope to more locations than we ever have before.

“Let’s find the problem, meet their needs by fixing their addiction problem, help them recover from trauma, all through the hope found in Christ,” says Sarah. “You just keep planting seeds and watering ‘til they’re ready. When they finally take it, that’s when people get better. That’s why we do it.”

*Note: The photos of Brian and Sarah were taken prior to the CDC guidelines surrounding COVID-19 being announced, which is why they are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Freezing temperatures and our homeless neighbors

Most people don't associate below-freezing temperatures with Arizona, but the state will be seeing a continuing trend of cold weather over the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.

The homeless population has an increased risk for hypothermia and other cold-related conditions.  This risk is even higher from those who suffer from substance addictions, mental illness, or other physical illnesses.

Homeless service providers and governments have the responsibility to protect their homeless citizens through state- and city-wide winter plans and increased shelter availability. Phoenix Rescue Mission joins these efforts year-round, and has seen an influx of men and women seeking refuse from the cold temperatures.

Cold weather poses a threat to those experiencing homelessness even when temperatures seem mild. Hypothermia can set in when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Precautions to Reduce the Risks of Hypothermia*

  • Wear hats, mittens, gloves and clothing that create a static layer of warm air, provides a barrier against the wind, and keeps the body dry.
  • Avoid alcohol and other mood- and cognition-altering drugs.
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia (e.g., shivering, slurred speech, and drowsiness) that indicate the need to seek shelter and call for help.
  • Keep and carry emergency supplies containing blankets, non-caffeinated fluids, high-energy food, and an extra supply of medications for chronic conditions readily available.

*These precautions are important for both homeless people and those who help them.

Seven hundred people experiencing or at risk of homelessness are killed from hypothermia annually in the United States. From the urban streets of our populated cities to the remote back-country of rural America, hypothermia – or subnormal temperature in the body – remains a leading, critical and preventable cause of injury and death among those experiencing homelessness.

Because of support from our community, Phoenix Rescue Mission is able to play a pivotal role providing our homeless and hungry neighbors with support during not only the winter months, but year-round.

The Mission is asking the communities support with the following items:

Any donations can be dropped our at our warehouse at 3440 W. Lewis Ave Monday-Friday 8am-4pm, or at our Transforming Lives Center outside of regular business hours at 1801 S. 35th Avenue.