“I see individuals coming in with 10-year-old unpaid parking tickets that turned into a suspension on their driver’s license.”
Karen Sadler is a representative of the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County. “A suspension also means they aren’t able to register their vehicle, which quickly turns into an abandonment of vehicle fee because they can’t move it. And, of course, if they have warrants for those unpaid tickets, finding housing gets a lot tougher. These things can compound very quickly.”
It’s what happened to Anna. When she came to the Mission, her compounded fines totaled just under $2,400 – an insurmountable debt for someone with little more than a duffel bag to her name.
Addicted, unemployed, and in debt, Anna was trapped in more ways than one.
Unlike many of the men and women we serve, Anna didn’t come from a broken home. She wasn’t abused or overcome by peer pressure at a young age. Anna was a victim of Arizona’s opioid epidemic.
She suffered from Arteriovenous Malformation, a fusing of arteries and veins that, in Anna’s case, required a series of hand surgeries over the years. Ironically, the painkillers prescribed for surgery recovery would require a recovery of their own.
“At that time, if you had a pain doctor they’d give you whatever you want. Mine had a reputation. We found out later that he was known as ‘The Candy Man.’ And looking back, yeah, it was a disgusting amount of pain medication I was given every month.”
Despite the reckless amount of drugs that were prescribed, Anna honored the recommended dosage for years. Then, tragedy.
“My husband had an affair and left me and my daughter. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time and it was a little too much to take all at once. I caved. I caved hardcore.”
Anna turned to her medication for comfort. It’s a move that, in short order, cost her her home, her relationship with her family, her daughter… even her freedom.
“When my parents kicked me out, I sent my daughter to live with her father. I was bouncing from couch to couch for a few years, shoplifting to get by and pay for pills. Then I got arrested.”
It turned out that was the best thing that could have happened to Anna.
“I found out about Phoenix Rescue Mission through the Bridge Program [our inmate outreach program]. One of the girls I had buddied up with in jail was super religious. She talked me into going. I kinda went as a joke at first… but every week I kept going back ‘cause I found it more and more interesting.”
When Anna’s time in jail was up, she enrolled at the Mission’s Changing Lives Center for Women & Children to continue the recovery she began behind bars. Thanks to your support, what she’s experienced here has transformed her life.
She met Jesus Christ and his indescribable forgiveness and transforming love. She found her sobriety, thanks to months of counseling and peer support. She’s even salvaged broken relationships with her family thanks to God’s grace and the encouragement of staff.
“My parents literally feel like they have their daughter back – and I have my own daughter back!”
But despite finding freedom in so many areas, there was still something standing in the way of her new life. With fines and fees factored in, three old traffic tickets had increased over the years to just under $2,400.
“One was a speeding ticket,” Anna recalls. “The others were for driving with a suspended license.”
The Maricopa County Regional Homeless Court allows those with back fines to make resolution through time spent in recovery programs.
It’s not uncommon for fines and court fees in the range of thousands of dollars to stand between those we serve and their path back to self-sufficiency. For these men and women, a collaboration between Phoenix Rescue Mission and the Maricopa Courts system makes all the difference.
“Resolution through the Maricopa County Regional Homeless Court is a service we offer to anyone in discipleship or higher (about 5 months into our recovery program) to pay back fines that impede them from moving forward,” says Melody, Lead Case Manager at Phoenix Rescue Mission.
Karen Sadler, Maricopa County’s Homeless Court Coordinator, explains, “Instead of using traditional community restitution, like cleaning up a highway or something similar, they can apply the time spent working on their mental and behavioral health through counseling, housing and job search, going to interviews and more. It fosters the applicant’s path out of homelessness and benefits the community as a whole.”
For Anna, that was exciting news.
“We started applying at Homeless Court last January because, with COVID, we knew it would take a while. They added up the time I spent working on my recovery, and including the time in the Ministry Training program, I had 1,240 hours to apply towards my fines.”
“I just got the call last Friday; it was enough to satisfy every single fine! That’s a huge load, gone. You have no idea!”
Today, Anna has been set free in more ways than one – and she knows it. She’s eager to give back for the amazing blessings your support has given her.
“I just really want to pay it forward,” says Anna, who is going back to school to become a case manager. “This place has done wonders for my world, and I want to help the people that come in after me.”
Without the partnership of friends like you and the amazing work of our case managers, none of this would be possible. Your support helps provide a true path off the streets, breaking the bonds of addiction, hopelessness, and even the financial burdens that serve as roadblocks – keeping so many on the fringe of society.
For Anna and countless others like her, thank you! Your support is proving yet again, “Who the Son sets free, is free indeed.” (John 8:36)