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.”
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."