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.

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."

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.

Through Jace’s Tears: God Gave Him the Strength to Forgive

Growing up in church, Jennifer knew the power of Easter. She knew that because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, grace, transformation and forgiveness were offered to all who would accept them.

So when life spiraled out of control and her decisions cost her the custody of her children, she knew there was a way back. Like so many prodigals before her, Jesus promised to forgive and welcome her back home, if she returned.

What she wasn’t so sure of was if her own son, Jace, would do the same.

When the Department of Child Safety (DCS) showed up at her door, Jennifer knew firsthand the terror and confusion her children were about to go through. She had lived it. When she was two years old, she too had been removed from her parents’ custody. Other than a short-lived, abusive, reuniting with her mother when she was five, Jennifer stayed in the foster care system and never returned to her birth parents.

It was a past she did her best to put behind her. She settled down, found a place of her own, had a son, and in 2010, she was hired on here at Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.

“I knew this place was being built and I thought to myself, that would be a cool place to work. I’m a Christian, I love Jesus, so I got a job here before any women moved in. I was working in the day care center, to help set it up.”

Then everything went sideways. After so many years of being suppressed, the scars of her past suddenly welled up inside and refused to stay hidden any longer.

“One day I just broke. I couldn’t mask those years and years of trauma anymore. I became clinically depressed. Then a friend introduced me to meth. It made me a different person. I was suddenly outgoing. I had energy. I loved it. I thought I could do everything. I thought I was a super mom… which was not the case, but that’s the way it was in my head. My son was three years old at the time.”

Not even her oldest son Jace noticed anything wrong, until DCS showed up at their door.

“I remember getting taken away to a facility,” says Jace. “I waited there for hours. Then a random family walked in, took me and put me in their car. I didn’t really know what was happening.”

It was a traumatic night for Jennifer on multiple levels.

“Growing up in foster care, you always tell yourself you’ll never let your kids go through that.”

Thankfully, Jennifer not only knew she needed help, she knew exactly where to find it.

“I should have come a lot sooner, but I was embarrassed to come back as a guest after being an employee. But that was just my pride. I thought I was going to come here and they were going to give my kids back to me right away. I was very wrong. It took a lot of work.

Thanks to the support of friends like you, Jennifer was able to work through the trauma of her past, find the root, surrender it and put it behind her once and for all. Back on her feet, she found freedom from her addiction, graduated from our recovery program, and earned custody of her two kids, Jace and Jedidiah, nine months after she arrived.

“It was amazing to get them back. I’ll never forget that day. I know in my heart, from that moment on, I could never turn back. I can’t. Just looking at their faces, knowing what I put them through, I could never do that again.”

But just because Jennifer had changed, didn’t mean it was smooth sailing between her and her boys.

“When I got back, at first, I really didn’t want to talk to my mom,” Jace admits. “She wasn’t there and I thought that she left on purpose. I thought she wanted those people to take me. I thought she didn’t want me anymore, that she gave me away to someone else. It was hard to talk to her.”

But your support of our Changing Lives Center for Women and Children gave this broken family time to heal, time for God to mend the fractures and allow his Son to work in the hearts of Jennifer’s boys.

“God gave me the strength to forgive,” Jace says through tears. “I learned here that I could forgive because I was forgiven for my sins and I could forgive other people.”

That’s the power of Easter. Today, Jennifer has her own place once again and her two boys are thriving. She’s even rejoined the staff here as part of our R.A.P. (Rescue, Assess, Place) intake program team to help other families find the same kind of hope and healing.

“My favorite thing about working here is watching that transformation happen before your eyes. I’ve only been here for three months, but even in that short time, their faces change, their demeanor changes, their attitudes change."

"I gave a walking tour to a woman the other day and we came to the chapel and she says, ‘I don’t believe in God and I will not believe in God.’ She was really angry. Three weeks later she tells me, ‘I prayed in class today!’”

As we celebrate the gift that keeps on giving this Easter, thank you for the prayers and the financial support that continues to pass it on to those who need it most. On behalf of all of us, we wish you a very blessed and safe Easter celebration!