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.