“It was excruciatingly hot. I always did what I could to stay out of the sun.”
Sergio knows how dangerous it is to be caught on our sweltering summer streets. For five long years, he did what he could to keep cool, to keep hydrated – to stay alive.
“I would stay in abandoned trailers and sometimes hide out in the library. I’d only come out once the sun went down to search for businesses with spigots to get water.”
Thanks to God’s mercy and Sergio’s resourcefulness, he survived. But others haven’t been so fortunate. Last year, the heat claimed the lives of 197 individuals in Maricopa County* – the highest ever recorded – and this year is shaping up to be even more deadly.
Thankfully, the way out you provided Sergio didn’t just save his life. Today he’s back out on the streets with Code:Red and the Hope Coach on a new mission – to save others before it’s too late.
Sergio’s story begins in childhood. He’s been struggling with addiction ever since he was eight years old.
“I’ve been to numerous programs, but never experienced more than 3 months of sobriety. Just constantly relapsing and getting worse every time.”
His family tried their best to help, but found themselves at a loss.
“They didn’t know what to do with me. My brothers and sisters are all successful hard workers. Then you got me coming around with two kids, in the middle of a separation, drunk and addicted…”
Eventually, his family kicked him out and Sergio became homeless.
“I started smoking meth on a daily basis. When that happened, things got really crazy. I was hearing voices, thinking crazy stuff, having terrible episodes and believing they were true. I was hungry and digging out of dumpsters every day. The meth messed my mind up so bad, I thought people were making fun of me, that they were talking about me, that they were inside my head, listening to everything I was thinking.”
Thankfully, his family recommended he give Phoenix Rescue Mission a try.
“After five years, I was done. I could see I wasn’t able to stop my drinking and drug use on my own. I wanted out of the heat, away from the hunger and the shame. I was ready to walk though those gates.”
What he found inside changed everything.
“I’ve tried recovery so many times. But this time it’s different. Here I’m around brothers who really want to change, leaders who really care about me, and about everyone else’s well-being. If something was missed, it’s quickly dealt with. That’s different. I’m used to a lot of shadiness, manipulation, to the point where people are using drugs in the program and getting away with it. There’s none of that here.”
When asked what makes the Mission’s recovery program different from his attempts at recovery in the past, there’s no hesitation.
“The main difference was where they pointed me to – they pointed me to Christ. They taught me to open up the Bible. Now, if I have a craving or a crazy thought, I give it to God. It’s encouraging seeing other guys doing the same thing and watching the Holy Spirit move them into success.”
Today, Sergio is a proud graduate of our recovery program. He’s sober, he’s completed our Servant Leadership Training and even our rigorous Ministry Training programs.
“My family came to the graduation and they’re all super proud of me, especially my mom and dad. I could see it in their faces. It’s always been a struggle between me and my parents. I thank God every day that they can finally see me going in the right direction.”
Now that he’s sober and safely off the streets, Sergio is making his return as the newest member of our Street Outreach team. Monday through Friday, you can find him out on the Hope Coach giving others a chance to find the help and hope he’s found at Phoenix Rescue Mission.
“I love it! We’re connecting with people out there, giving them water, hygiene supplies and right now, because of the coronavirus situation, we’re handing out sack lunches to anyone who is hungry. It’s building that relationship with these people who are struggling, and meeting them where they are: in parks, outside stores, and in washes all throughout the city.”
And not a moment too soon – things are already heating up.
April 26th through May 1st represented the second-longest streak of consecutive triple-digit days in April in Phoenix since 1896, and marks only the third time in recorded history we’ve experienced five or more 100-degree days in April. Summer is still four weeks away, but the deadly triple digits are already here.
But with the prayers and support of friends like you, despite the heat, despite the virus, hope is moving forward – for Sergio and for hundreds more just like him this summer.
“It’s a blessing. It’s definitely not something I would have ever envisioned for myself. I was just looking for sobriety, but recovery is so much more than that, it’s growing in seeking the Lord, depending on Him and being a vessel for Jesus Christ.”
*“Heat-Associated Deaths in Maricopa County, AZ Final Report for 2019.” Heat Reports | Maricopa County, AZ, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, 2019, www.maricopa.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/4959