Heroin and Opioids: A Growing Epidemic

An opioid related epidemic has been growing for a number of years in our city and sadly just now beginning to break into the immediate realities of the mainstream consciousness.

Current Arizona Department of Health Services and National Institute on Drug Abuse information show a strikingly grim reality; although heroin and opioid related deaths in the U.S. and Arizona have been increasing for nearly a decade now, 2016 marked a spike in the overall trend.

A look at some of the recently released statistics show how serious and widespread the issue has become.

  • In 2016, somewhere between 59,000 and 65,000 people died of overdoses in the U.S.
  • In Arizona, a total of 790 people (on average more than two a day) dies from overdose of opioid prescription medication s and heroin in 2016.
  • Over the last five years, heroin related deaths have triples in Arizona, and heroin specifically accounted for 39 percent of all opioid deaths last year.
  • Arizona adults 45 to 54 had the highest overdose rates at 18.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • Additionally, "opiod-related encounters" cost the Arizona health-care system more than $341 million in 2015 alone and there were an estimated 51,000 "opioid-related encounters" at hospitals in 2016.

State health officials report that this surge shows no signs of stopping.

Phoenix Rescue Mission is doing it's part to help with the surge in overdoses in Arizona. We are already training our staff and volunteers on opiod safety and overdose prevention, as well as the recognition of an overdose. We are also now providing many of our centers and our Hope Coach with Naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opiods. Administering Naloxone during an overdose is the first step in saving a life!

It's another way that your support is keeping our neighboss on this side of eternity! Our hope is to provide more man and women like Trevor (cover), who have gotten caught up in this tremendously addictive and deadly drug, with a second shot at life and a second chance at transformation.

“Saying Good Bye to My Old Self”

When you walk around the Mission, you see men and women who came from a variety of situations. Many of them still wear signs of their past selves on their skin. Tattoos can be a permanent reminder of your past, your old self. _____ explains the tattoo that goes across her entire neck. "It was my old street name, this was what everyone on the streets knew me by."

The National Laser Institute recognizes that some decisions can never be undone. Tattoos, often are one of those decisions. "When I look at my tattoos, I am reminded of my past."

Like many organization, churches, individuals that partner with the Mission, the National Laser Institute wanted to be a part of life transformation. They offered to serve four women going through program at the Mission, and remove the tattoos of their pasts, free of charge. The day after their treatments, the women were already seeing their tattoos fading.

National Laser Institute instructor, Shelley Cook, has provided our clients with an opportunity to have their tattoos removed by being subjects of teaching for new laser techs. An ambassador of the Mission, John Humphrey, shared this resource with the Mission and allows us to identify clients in need of this service and each campus moving forward with set up transportation once every 8 weeks to have clients receive this gift!

"It was very emotional, it was riding myself of my old identity. The old is gone."

The National Laser Institute is giving individuals working towards new life, a chance to continue in their transformation. This month we were able to help nine clients with LIFE CHANGING TATTOO REMOVAL. Some of the clients will require multiple trips and some tattoos will be done with one trip, but it depends on how your body absorbs the ink.

The Phoenix Rescue Mission is so blessed by organizations, churches, and individuals who want to serve.  step up to be a part of life transformation for the men, women, and children that are currently going through program at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

God asked, “Are you ready?” | June 2016 Newsletter

God asked, "Are you ready?"

Sun striking his eyes, Gilbert slowly regained consciousness on the sidewalk near the corner of 11th Avenue and Jackson Street. The night before was a blur. After 22 years of living out of a bottle, Gilbert had finally decided that he had had enough and embarked on the bender to end all benders – in attempt to end his life.

It didn’t work.

Instead, he woke with a pounding headache and the stinging realization that he had failed to die. More determined than ever to stop a lifetime of pain, Gilbert readied himself to run out into traffic. But before he could step off the curb, God stepped in and led him down an altogether different path.

A police officer stepped between Gilbert and the road and asked him to move along. At that moment, Gilbert felt something he had never felt before.

Gilbert

“I didn’t know what it was then, but looking back, I know it was the Holy Spirit speaking into my soul,” admits Gilbert. ”He asked, ‘Are you ready?’ and suddenly I had this great urge to move. I had never heard about the Phoenix Rescue Mission, I didn’t know where it was, but the end of my journey that day led me to the front gates.”

Gilbert got a bed and a few hot meals at our Community Services Center, but it wasn’t enough. He was sober, but nothing else had changed. He was mourning the death of his son, delivered stillborn 22 years ago. Each night when he laid his head on his pillow, he was reminded of his failed marriage and separation from his family. Without alcohol to numb the pain, Gilbert’s hopelessness was tangible.

“I had a lot of trust issues at the beginning and kept mostly to myself. But I started listening to Chaplain Gabe preach and slowly, the things he had to say started making sense. God’s Word began chipping away at my heart.”

Gilbert took the next step and enrolled in our Transformations Recovery Program. Among our caring counselors and staff, he finally found where the Holy Spirit had been leading him.

“I spent 22 years in a bottle, hating myself and despising who I was. It took someone like Chaplain Gabe to turn that around. He showed me the power of Christ’s love and eventually I was able to love myself again.”

Terri and Gilbert

Today, Gilbert is a graduate of our Men’s Recovery Program and even went on to become one of our Ministry Training graduates – teaching some of the very same recovery classes that helped turn his life around. He’s sober, has a car, a job in the produce department at Fry’s Food and is attending college. He’s even found a new love! Her name is Terri and they are engaged to be married in October.

But through it all, Gilbert hasn’t forgotten that dark day when he almost ended it all. He makes it a point to visit that lonely stretch of sidewalk every year – the anniversary of when he felt a small still voice lead him away from death to everlasting life.

“For me to forget is to repeat my misery. I’m not willing to go back down that path anymore.”

Thank you for making sure Gilbert had a place to find hope in his darkest hour. Your support means more than food and shelter. For people like Gilbert, it’s life and death and a chance to find true transformation.

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The Key to Life

Summer doesn’t officially start for a couple more weeks – but this is Phoenix. Triple-digit temperatures have been here since the beginning of May. For you and me, it’s an inconvenience, a return to sizzling car seats and high A/C bills. But for those caught out on the street, it’s an altogether different situation.

It’s life and death.

I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s true.

Every year, scores of men and women lose their lives due to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. No one is more vulnerable than those who can’t escape the sun - our homeless neighbors.

People who make their homes in abandoned lots, beside canals and in the back alleyways of our city often have no idea of the threat heading their way. Matthew has only been homeless for a few months; he’s never experienced a Phoenix summer on the streets – but soon he will be one of the thousands in danger of losing their lives.

“Once people like Matthew hit this level of homelessness, they’re stuck,” says Chaplain Cliff, head of our Hope Coach program. “They don’t have the resources or the means to get away from the heat or do anything about it.”

Homeless Camp

That’s why Chaplain Cliff hits the streets 5 days a week, in tandem with our fabulous volunteers. Their mission is to find people like Matthew, equip them with cool bottled water and hygiene supplies, and warn them about the risks they are about to face. Cliff’s ultimate goal is to convince them to leave the streets behind and find new life at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“People ask me, ‘But these are homeless people, they’ve got no ties. Why don’t they just head north or someplace like San Diego for the summer?’” says Cliff. “What people don’t understand is, these are men and women who are in bondage. Whether the chains are linked to addiction, a medical condition or a mental issue, they are here because something keeps them here. But the good news is; we have the key. We can unlock the chains holding them to this lifestyle. But it’s a race against time. We have to get to people like Matthew before the heat does.”

With your continued support, Code Red and the Hope Coach will be running week in and week out, keeping our neighbors like Matthew safe. It truly is a matter of life and death to many we serve.

Your help is needed today. Volunteer to ride with the Hope Coach this summer and provide life-saving water and hope to those who are stuck on the streets.

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Something as simple as a meal and a place to cool off can change everything for someone caught out in the summer heat. Get a first-hand look at how our fabulous volunteers help make that miracle happen daily with a smile!

Interested in volunteering? Click here to see the latest opportunities.

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Instead of Justice, Hope | May 2016 Newsletter

Instead of Justice, Hope

His name is Justice, but he’s quick to tell you that throughout his life he’s experienced anything but.

“My past is full of mistakes but somehow I always managed to avoid the consequences,” Justice admits. “I was doing every drug imaginable at 11 years old, running with gangs, robbing drug dealers… by all rights, I should be in prison or dead.”

Justice’s luck finally ran out last summer when a bout with heroin cost him his living arrangements, his transportation, even the custody of his children. He suddenly found himself homeless in Phoenix in the blistering July heat, a situation that has been a death sentence to so many in our city. But God was about to arrange a better plan.

Instead of finally finding the justice he deserved – hope found him first.

“It still gives me chills to think about it.”

Sweating in the desert sun and standing on the corner of 27th Ave and Northern, Justice was reaching out to his older brother in Nashville. His brother had been in and out of penitentiaries his whole life, culminating in an attempted suicide just a month earlier. But then, something unbelievable happened. Justice heard his brother had checked into a homeless shelter, the Nashville Rescue Mission, where he managed to kick his drug habits and establish a newfound relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I was telling him about my situation and he was pleading with me to find the same kind of help he did,” Justice remembers. “He said there was a rescue mission in almost every major city. I was hot, I was frustrated and I told him that was all well and good for Nashville, but there wasn’t anything like that here.”

Right after Justice hung up the phone, Chaplain Cliff pulled up in front of him in the Phoenix Rescue Mission Hope Coach.

“I couldn’t believe it. It said Phoenix Rescue Mission on the side, plain as day. The door opened up and people got out offering me cold water and a sack lunch.”

Like so many caught out in the summer heat, the full gravity of his situation hadn’t hit Justice. The dry air and excessively hot temperatures can cause heat stroke to occur in as little as 10-15 minutes of exposure, causing permanent damage to the brain, heart and kidneys. Chaplain Cliff quickly put his situation into perspective.

4 Ways to Help

“He told me, ‘This is July, it’s hot and it’s only going to get hotter. And it’s not the kind of heat that is just uncomfortable, it can get deadly real quick. Right now is the time to get off the streets.’ I took the warning to heart, gathered up my stuff and three days later Cliff picked me up and brought me to the Mission.”

Today Justice has found his own relationship with Christ and is working through the first stage of recovery. He was fortunate to find hope right when he needed it, but many others aren’t so lucky.

Last year, a mix of blazing summer temperatures and a lack of proper hydration claimed 55 lives in our city. That’s 55 people that could have been saved by something as simple as a bottle of water.

That’s why each summer the Phoenix Rescue Mission takes to the streets through our Code Red campaign to put these kinds of life-saving bottles of water, nourishing food and cooling supplies into the hands of those who need them the most. I’m proud to say that though your generosity and partnership with Code Red, we’ve seen the number of lives lost fall dramatically every year since we started in 2013!

But until that number is zero we still have work to do.

Together we can continue to make a difference and keep even more people like Justice safe this summer. Thank you for helping us beat the heat this season and keep the men, women and children we serve safe!

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Kids Can Save Lives Too!

The summer heat is a big issue for those caught out on the streets, but that doesn’t mean our littlest volunteers can’t help come to the rescue! Just ask Allison Lee.

When she was 10 years old, she heard a news story about how our homeless neighbors were in danger because of the summer heat. Allison organized her own water drive using the power of social media. The response was enormous. She received support from all over the world – even as far away as Australia!

“At first I was nervous that it wouldn’t get any attention,” said Allison. “But when donations started coming in from halfway across the world, I realized there were so many people who cared, and I felt better.”

By the time it was all over, Allison had raised over 160 cases all on her own! Today she’s 12 years old, a middle schooler at Wigwam Middle School and last year she topped her efforts by raising 267 cases or 6,408 bottles of life-saving water! She plans on starting the process again this June.

This summer encourage your kids to be a part of the solution by organizing a water drive in your neighborhood or, like Allison did, online using social media. Not only will the experience have a positive impact on your kids – you’ll be be saving lives together!

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Heat Relief Rescue Packs

Place some or all of the following in a plastic gallon-sized Ziplock bag:

  • 1 pair new socks
  • 1 white t-shirt
  • 1 cap or bandana
  • 1 bottle sunscreen
  • 1 lip balm or Chapstick
  • 2 snacks/protein bars
  • 1 Christian tract, inspiring note or pocket-sized Bible

You can drop off your donations Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at our Mission Support Center and Donation Warehouse at 1468 N. 26th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009.

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Gone Astray | March 2016 Newsletter

Gone Astray | Shannon's Story

Unlike most livestock, a sheep that wanders away from the fold will never return. Instead, it will wander the hills and the valleys of the field until it finds a shady spot. It will lie down, and if no one comes to its rescue, it will remain there until it dies.

Like sheep, we’ve all strayed in life; we’ve all found our shady spots. If it weren’t for the sacrifice that we celebrate every Easter, the marvelous gift that made our rescue possible, that’s where we would still be.

But unlike most who find a way out, Shannon wasn’t ready to be rescued. Just four months after starting her journey at the Changing Lives Center, she left, convinced that God didn’t have the right answers.

It was a decision from which she almost didn’t return.

Shannon’s journey began when she was just 10 years old. Her mother was an alcoholic and she found that the best way to connect with her was by sharing a drink. Unlike her mother, Shannon became a functioning alcoholic. She graduated high school, went to college and soon after began a promising career in the aerospace industry.

But when she was 22 years old, her mother suffered a spine injury that required the use of powerful prescription pain medication. Suddenly the old tradition of sharing a drink with mom took on a new twist. One taste of prescription pain pills and Shannon lost all control.

Shannon tells us, “I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t get enough pills and my life slowly started to fall apart.”

For the next few years, Shannon and her mother would visit doctor after doctor across town, obtaining and filling prescriptions for her mother’s recurring sciatic nerve condition. But then one day, her mother had enough. She left town to get sober and Shannon was left in a lurch. Alone and without a way to obtain more pills, Shannon’s search for a new way to get high led her down a dark path.

“Words can’t describe how lucky I am to be alive. For the sake of my addiction, I put up with a man who broke my bones, blackened my face, held a knife to my throat and had me beg for my life… I stayed away from home for days, sometimes for weeks when he got in his moods, doing whatever I could to survive. While I was away, I was safe, but I was also separated from my supply. So I started to rob homes in the middle of the night. Then I got caught.”

Shannon was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail and a further four months in prison. When she was released, her parole officer directed her to the Changing Lives Center.

“I know now that was God knocking on my door. While I was at the Center I met some wonderful people and made some great friends but I didn’t want to surrender. I was a control freak. I didn’t think God could give me the right answers… so I left. That was a huge mistake. Within days I was back with my abuser, back on the streets, back on drugs, and back to robbing homes. I was more miserable than ever. I didn’t want to keep going. Thank God I got arrested when I did.”

Back in jail and severely depressed, Shannon was at a loss for what to do next. But two weeks before she was released, Shannon received some surprise visitors.

“I walk in thinking maybe it was my parole officer come to see me, and there they were, Mimi Page, the CLC intake coordinator, and Cierra Pena, one of the CLC graduates I had made friends with while I was in recovery. They were sitting there with big smiles on their faces. They said, ‘We want you to come back. If you want to make a change, you have to come back.’ I couldn’t believe they sought me out. Nobody called them; they came to me on their own time. It saved my life.”

Shannon returned to the Changing Lives Center and graduated from our women’s recovery program. But she didn’t stop there. She wanted to give back and has since completed our Servant Leadership Training program and is serving as one of our case managers. She’s currently finishing up the Ministry Training Program, our most rigorous discipleship program, with the goal of becoming one of our permanent staff.

“I love it here; I love these girls because I’ve been where they’ve been. Not only have I been there, I’ve been there twice! They look to me for guidance and I hope that’s what I give them. I get to show them what’s possible when you put your trust in God.”

Today there’s one more sheep back in God’s fold, thanks to His grace and your support that makes this work possible. From all of us here at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, we wish you and your family a wonderful Easter celebration.

Of Tacos and Transformation

Rita

With Easter right around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to catch back up with one of our latest examples of transformation and see just how God is continuing to change her life.

You may remember Rita. She went from living in a box on the corner of 35th Avenue to finding transformation and new life through the Changing Lives Center. When we last left her, she had just completed the Servant Leadership Training program and was looking to begin her life anew. We’re happy to report that she’s not only on her way to success; she’s taking others from our program with her!

“Right after I graduated, the judge gave me two weeks to find a job or be incarcerated for back child support. Fortunately, I had already received my ServeSafe certification working in the kitchen at the CLC. That, combined with help from Rhonda in the vocational development program, landed me a position as general manager of America’s Taco Shop just three days later!”

Since then, Rita’s used her newfound position to bless others.

“So far I’ve employed eight women fresh from the recovery program at the Changing Lives Center. Some of these women have never worked. Some are felons; others came from addicted families and know nothing else. With that kind of history, it’s tough to find a way to support yourself. But you can’t change who you were, only who you’re going to be. This is their shot to move forward.”

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Brandi, a recent graduate of the CLC, says it’s a huge blessing to have someone like Rita as her employer. She tells us, "I look up to her as a role model because I’ve seen her life transformed first hand. I know if she can do it, I can do it."

For Margarita, Rita’s help meant that she was able to regain custody of her child. Margarita says, “It was the last thing I had to do, get a job. But I hadn’t worked in over ten years. Thanks to Rita and the CLC, I’m here and I got my daughter back in July!”

“I’m so proud of these girls, and I’m glad that God has given me a way to give back.” Rita confesses with a smile. “He’s helped me open the door for them, but they are the ones who keep it open by working hard and continually proving themselves. They are fabulous women; I love them all like they were my kids. As long as I’m here, I’ll continue to hold the door open for those men and women looking for second chances.”

"You can't choose who you were, only who you're going to be."

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