Prepared for the Streets [Matt’s Outreach Story]

How God used Matt's past to give others a future

Though many people know Matt now as a phenomenal street outreach case manager, his initial steps into adulthood could be described as “rocky at best.”

“I was never the greatest student,” Matt admits. “I graduated high school a couple years late. I wasn’t sure what to do next so I tried to enlist in the military but ended up failing the entrance exam. I couldn’t hold down a job. I had no direction, so I turned to partying, gambling and drinking.

It’s no surprise that partying wasn’t the answer. Starting with nothing and spiraling from there left Matt homeless by the time he was 24. But just when it seemed like life was over before it began, God took what was meant for evil and used it for good.

No job. No home. No control. Everything in Matt’s life up to this point told him he was a failure. Thankfully, God saw something different.

In the midst of depression and alcoholism, God used a simple song to break through the lies and speak to Matt’s heart. “I heard a song on the radio one day while I was driving called ‘Spoken For’ by Mercy Me.”

Covered by your love divine,
Child of the risen Lord
To hear you say “This one’s mine”
My heart is spoken for.

“I broke down in tears. I felt the love of God like I’ve never felt it before. I gave my life over to Christ in that moment.”

Suddenly, Matt’s life took on an altogether different trajectory.

He enrolled in a Christian recovery center in Los Angeles to find sobriety and strengthen his relationship with Christ.

After graduation, he found purpose for the first time in his life helping others as a part of a homeless outreach team. He was married in 2012, graduated from Bible college in 2017 and took a position as Case Manager for the Homeless at the Western Montana Mental Health Center.

It was the most success Matt had ever experienced! But there was something missing. The secular organization he worked for didn’t allow Christ as a solution.

“When I worked there I was limited in sharing my faith, and it was my desire to share. That got me praying about it and God revealed a ministry to me called Phoenix Rescue Mission. I started researching and really fell in love with it.”

A few interviews later, Matt became an outstanding addition to our Street Outreach team in January of 2020. Today, he’s out on the streets in the Hope Coach five days a week fulfilling his God-given purpose – to reach the homeless and hurting and offer hope and transformation.

Sharing his faith is extremely important for Matt. He knows that helping those who are struggling on the streets is critical, but he also wants to help them find eternal life in Christ.

“We encounter anywhere from 15 to 30 men and women a day. We help them get on housing lists, find recovery, get ID’s and really just share the love of Christ with people who are hurting and broken.”

Reaching people has never been more important. The hottest summer ever last year also claimed a record number of lives in Maricopa County: 336 perished, a majority of them homeless.

“A lot of what we’re doing is warning people: ‘The heat is coming, figure out a plan, get off the streets.’”

Matt knows firsthand just how vital this contact can be– it saves lives!

“Last July I spotted a man who looked like he was in trouble. It was 115 degrees outside and he knew he needed help. We loaded him up and took him to the hospital.”

Matt continued, “Shortly after, I came across a man at the bus stop who was so dehydrated it was clear he needed medical attention. We called 911 and the paramedics took him away. All of us on the Outreach team, we’ve all got stories. That’s why we do our best to prepare people for the coming months.”

With your help, we can give men and women like Matt the tools they need to reach people, not only in time, but for eternity.

“I love what I’m doing. I know this is what I was called to do. Looking back, I can see how the Lord prepared me for this role every step of the way. My bout with addiction, the recovery, Bible school, the mental health center – it was all preparing me for this.

You can be prepared when you encounter someone on the streets with tips from our Street Outreach Team at phxmission.org/tips

Surviving Homelessness in the Phoenix Summer [Robert’s story]

If it seems like the summers are getting hotter in the Valley of the Sun, you’re not imagining things.

In 2020, not only did we experience the most blistering July we’ve ever seen, August’s average high temperature of 110.7 degrees broke the record for the hottest month. Combined, they made for the hottest summer ever recorded – since records began in 1896!

As temperatures start to climb this month, that’s a deadly forecast for the men, women, and children caught on the street. Add that to a lingering pandemic that has brought thousands of families to the brink of homelessness and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

This is a Code:Red!

If anyone knows how dangerous summers can be while living on the streets, it’s Robert.

In 2019, his parole officer recommended that, in order to overcome his addiction, he enroll in recovery at Phoenix Rescue Mission. Even though Robert readily agreed, he was already making other plans. He blew off his intake appointment and spent the next couple months on the streets trying to stay out of sight. But he didn’t take into account the fact that it was summer.

The decision to run almost cost him his life.

“It was rough,” Robert remembers. “I would bounce between Starbucks and fast-food restaurants to stay cool. But then I collapsed one day in front of the library on 46th Street and Thomas. When I opened my eyes, there were paramedics standing over me. They said I was very dehydrated. They told me I was lucky I woke up.”

That near-death experience was a wake-up call for Robert. He knew that if he reconnected with his parole officer it would mean jail, possibly even prison time, but it was far better than the alternative.

“It was so bad that I turned myself in. I told them I would accept whatever conviction they gave me. But instead of locking me up, they still allowed me to go to Phoenix Rescue Mission!”

Robert narrowly escaped death from severe dehydration in the summer of 2019. More than 280 others experiencing homelessness in the Valley weren’t so fortunate last summer.

Your support saved Robert’s life. We gladly welcomed him out of the deadly heat, connected him with recovery classes, counseling, and case management tools that would help break the hold addiction had on his life and gave him the tools he needed to find transformation.

Today Robert is better than safe. He’s sober, he’s a graduate of our Men’s Recovery Program, and is currently enrolled in tech school working on his A+ technical certification with plans to become an IT professional.

It’s only by God’s grace and your support that Robert survived the summer of 2019 – 283 others didn’t.

Last year, during the hottest summer ever recorded, that number soared to a tragic 494 lives lost – 59% of them homeless – an increase of 33% over 2019.

It’s a combination of record-breaking temperatures and closed businesses during a pandemic that gave those living on the streets fewer options for refuge.

When just 15 minutes in our intense summer sun can cause heatstroke, hundreds stranded on the streets don’t have a chance.

We must do better in 2021.

With temperatures rising, more lives are on the line. We can change it. Help put a bottle of water and a message of hope in someone’s hand when it means the most.

A graduate of our Recovery Program and currently attending tech school to become an IT professional, Robert’s future is promising, thanks to your support.
Code:Red

Summer is Here – What Can I Do? [street outreach tips]

It’s 110 degrees outside and there he is on the corner, cardboard sign in hand, looking to you for help. You know handing him cash is not the answer and food isn’t a solution. It would be easy to drive on by, but your heart won’t let you abandon this homeless man to the heat.

What can you do?

It’s a question that weighs heavy on many of our hearts during the summer – our street outreach team is here to help!

Here are four simple tips that can make a real impact and could transform the life of someone on the street:

  1. Be Prepared. It’s hot and you are going to run into someone in need of help. Be ready! Keep a Summer Hope Tote or two in your car this summer ready to give away. Build yours at phxmission.org/hopetote.
  2. Talk with them. Say hello. Show them your heart. Asking if they have a place to stay the night or a plan for the future can be a great way engage in a quick conversation while at a stop light.
  3. Point them to PRM. This is the opportunity for transformation. Guide them toward a solution by handing out one of the enclosed Rescue Referrals or print your own at phxmission.org/referral. Tell them you support the Mission, and it could be a place their needs can be met.
  4. Pray. This is most important – only God can change hearts! Don’t forget to pray for those on the streets and for those battling addiction. Pray that their physical and emotional needs are met, and their spiritual hunger is satisfied. And please pray for the staff and volunteers at the Mission as we serve many who come to our door.

Last summer, record-breaking heat took the lives of 494 men and women in Arizona. As a community, we need to step up and reach out to those who may not know how deadly our summer can be.

Together, we can make a difference by connecting people in harm’s way with the resources that keep them safe and transform lives!

Code:Red

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