Homelessness Posts

Faces of The Mission :: Thomas

thomas 3

“I woke up to a girl screaming.” Thomas says. “I sat up to see what was going on, to see where [the screaming] was coming from. She was getting beat on. Two of my friends bolted over to help her. Then, more guys came running from the side and started jumping on my friends. I pulled one guy off my friend. That’s when he stabbed me, twice; once in the chest and once in the thigh. I got a large portion of the blade stuck in [me]. That’s when I really got permanence into the family, though. Until then it was just…I was there, they helped me, they accepted me, they watched out for me, but [the stabbing] is when I got inserted into the family permanently.”

We’re in a bakery at the corner of 22nd and Larimer. Thomas is across from me, mid-sip of his orange juice. “I don’t like being out on the street. It’s a big blow to the pride to ask for things.  I was more or less raised to work for things. I have to rely on the shelter for a lot, but it’s necessary, and I’m grateful for the bed… [But, in a way,] as far as growing up goes, being homeless is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

I sit back and think this doesn’t sound like the best thing to happen to someone. Perhaps he’s joking, I think. I expect laughter to ensue, or at least a smile and a “just kidding.” Instead, his eyebrows are beginning to furrow. He looks up, then to the right. His movements are slow and thoughtful. He’s trying to remember his past, a past he’s chosen to forget.

“[I had] a lot of trauma in my childhood. I never really had a true family. I don’t talk to my parents, my relationship with them is complicated. I have one person I consider family back [home], in Mississippi, but he doesn’t even know where I’m at. [Out here, on the street,] I’ve actually got a family. There’s 10 to 15 of us; it’s a pretty large connection. They’ve definitely made it easier because they are people who help watch your back. Plus, they are people to talk to. You can’t do the homeless thing alone. Being homeless and alone, you go crazy. That’s when you get the people on the sides of the street screaming and [talking to themselves, saying crazy things like], ‘Pumpkins are the reason the government is flying to Africa!’”

Thomas’ comment about pumpkins and crazy people causes him to laugh, at least for a brief second. “Ugggggarrh, that hurts!” he says, grabbing his chest. “Every time I [laugh] it feels like my stomach is being ripped open.”

Thomas pauses, trying to catch his breath.

“And every time I breathe it feels like I’m being stabbed again. He nicked my diaphragm when he slashed my chest. I’m all sorts of screwed up right now.”

He lifts his shirt up, revealing what Thomas calls his “holes.” We didn’t ask to see them, but to Thomas these wounds are not just soon-to-be scars; to Thomas, his wounds are sacraments, remembrances to those around that he is committed, and connected, to something greater than himself.

“You lost everything, and this experience (I point toward the window, to the street) is the best thing that’s ever happened to you?”

“Yeah, just yesterday I lost everything in my storage and I could not care less. It was all material things I lost.”

I take a sip from my coffee. I’m trying to put the pieces together, trying to make sense of Thomas’ experience on the street. I set my latte down. “In losing your material life, you’ve gained family,” I say.

“A true family,” Thomas says.

Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, a Next Step Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Community Center, offering insights and real life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.

Faces of The Mission :: Julie

Julie

She ordered a traditional macchiato. We ordered lattes, as is our custom. By “our” I mean Jennifer Fitzgerald and I. We’re both Community Relations Coordinators at Denver Rescue Mission. Jennifer works more directly with our guests, while I work more closely with our Next Step members.

This is my first day meeting Julie. I’ve seen her around, hanging out in our courtyard and eating meals in our cafeteria, but I’ve never spoken with her, and for that reason, I feel a bit nervous. It’s odd to walk up to a stranger and ask them if I can hear their story and take their picture. It’s easier to just go about my day, working my nine to five. But if I only did that, something is lost—a voice, most notably. But also, the opportunity to connect and to learn goes by the wayside and instead two people just go about their daily routine, never knowing what the person has to say.

“Embrace your faith, if you have any” begins Julie. We are at a coffee shop in the Ballpark neighborhood; a cool breeze, coupled with the clamor of nearby traffic, dances through the patio where we sit. “Anyone can be, in a blink of an eye, homeless…” she continues, and so her story begins.

 “[Being homeless,] I’ve never seen hysteria and violence as I have on this scale, and I’ve been subjected to a lot when I was younger… Sometimes just because we are born of blood does not mean that is necessarily our family. I was never told the truth of my life. I don’t talk to my father. My mother passed away when I was 32 and she suffered at the hands of my father. Mother was ahead of her time, she pushed me to the point of liberating myself independently away from my toxic family…I lived with mother [for a while] and we were kind of poor. Father was in and out of adultery, doing horrible things, getting other women pregnant. Mother had the babies at home all by herself, and my mother used to tell me ‘your father’s not right.’ My mother used to abuse me, but I loved my mother. I saw through it for some reason and I never forgave my mother because there was nothing to forgive; she just tried to be the best mother that she could with what we had. I don’t know that there ever has to be a time where I forgive father for what he’s done and destroying mother. Maybe, maybe not, but I don’t think so. I’ve reconciled with him in my own soul… I’m not too ashamed, and I really should have a lot of shame for the way I’ve been treated and for tons of embarrassment, but the human soul, and my new found religion, gave me a tree of love in my heart and life that I knew nothing about…and my father concealed this from me…”

How did you end up homeless?

“I had my near death experience when I was 29…I was seeing a counselor at the time, I was on my medication, sadness medication. I took a whole bunch of pills, I told my son goodbye and I said to God ‘if you’re really real then you know what to do.’ I ingested pills. I went to my bed to lay down and I kissed my son goodbye forever and I prayed for an angel to come and rescue him.

I’m a recovering alcoholic; I drink occasionally when I want to, but the need to wake up every day with that craving is insidious, it’s horrible. I just want to be me, I just want to be humbly me…”

What’s the best, most exciting event that’s ever happened to you?

“Kindness and compassion and realness and sincerity rocks; it lives, it really lives! There’s real people that don’t lie to you like my father did all the time, good people who are willing to give me a break after everything I’ve been subjected to, people who forgive…people are really kind.

When I get off the street I want to be in a cool little apartment with my studies, all my books around me, with cool intellectual friends to replace what I’m missing.”

What would you say would help the most on the street?

“For people to kind of look out for one another, because you know what some people out here are really bad, evil. When you see an opportunity to lift someone, interject; I’m very shy, it’s hard for me.”

Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, a Community Relations Coordinator at the Lawrence Street Community Center, offering insights and real life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.

Denver Rescue Mission among faith-based groups leading the way to help the homeless

Back in February, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for the unveiling of a new homeless study completed by the Baylor Institute for Studies for Religion on behalf of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM). It was a privilege to be in a room full of dignitaries and nonprofit leaders who are making a significant impact on homelessness across the country. And the study had some impressive results.

ASSESSING THE FAITH-BASED RESPONSE TO HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA: FINDINGS FROM ELEVEN CITIES was compiled in 2016 with data from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and local agencies in 11 “sample cities” — Baltimore; Jacksonville, Fla.; Atlanta; Indianapolis; Omaha, Neb.; Houston; Denver; Phoenix; San Diego; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.

Denver Rescue Mission was one of the local agencies to participate in this research and we are eager to share the results. Overall, faith-based organizations (FBOs) and missions are at the forefront when it comes to not only providing the homeless with shelter beds, but also effectively dealing with the root causes of homelessness. 

Some of the key findings from the Baylor Study include…

  • 58% of emergency shelter beds in these 11 cities are provided by FBOs
  • These FBOs save taxpayers $9.42 per every $1 invested by government funding
    • Essentially, $119 million in tax savings in the 11 cities over three years
  • FBO homeless ministries are at the forefront of program innovation to improve their ability to increase positive outcomes for homeless individuals and families
  • Cities with more FBOs tend to have less unsheltered homeless individuals and families
Faith-based organizations provide nearly 60% of the Emergency Shelter beds, what many consider the “safety net of all safety nets” for the homeless population. Graphic courtesy of Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion

Faith-based organizations provide nearly 60% of the Emergency Shelter beds, what many consider the “safety net of all safety nets” for the homeless population. Graphic courtesy of Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion

Find a link to the full report here.

The report itself is over 140 pages long. Denver’s portion begins on page 44. If you are passionate about our cause and homelessness, I encourage you to browse through these pages and explore for yourself how FBOs are changing communities one mission at a time.

This study, I believe, reminds us of the importance of the faith-based community in meeting the needs of the homeless as well as the significant effort that needs to continue to be made to collaborate with you (our community of supporters) and the government in working together toward solutions to issues of homelessness. We couldn’t do this soul-saving work without you!

More Than Just A Homeless Shelter

Have you ever been down Jefferson Street in Fort Collins? If so, then you’ve undoubtedly seen our building. You know, it’s the one with the facade that resembles The Alamo. While passing by, you may have asked yourself, “What goes on inside those walls?”

Sure, you’ve probably seen the line of people gathered outside with all of their worldly possessions in tow. But what happens once they enter?

fcrm

Fort Collins Rescue Mission is primarily known for providing vital services like overnight shelter and meals for people in need. However, the Mission is so much more than that. Inside our facility, we offer compassion, kindness and hope as well as provide opportunities for men and women to get back on their feet through life-changing programs and spiritual guidance.

We believe everyone who comes through our doors deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. One of Jesus’ most interesting teachings is that our commitment to him can be measured by how we treat other people, especially those who have been rejected by society for one reason or another. Whether someone is experiencing homelessness as a result of being laid off, undergoing a divorce, seeking escape from domestic violence, suffering from financial burden, or being released from prison, they can turn to Fort Collins Rescue Mission for help. A hearty meal, a hot shower and a place to lay their head — we are here to meet them at their physical point-of-need.

A Step in the Right Direction
Moreover, we go beyond just offering a meal and bed for the evening; we also meet people at their spiritual point-of-need. Fort Collins Rescue Mission offers a short-term, faith-based, transitional program for those seeking life change called Steps to Success. Through the program, we provide opportunities for adult men and women to become productive, self-sufficient citizens. Our Steps to Success program is three to nine-months-long and combines one-on-one case management, life-skills workshops, work therapy and spiritual engagement. Once completed, individuals will have what they need to successfully re-enter society.

Case Management
Having lost everything, some people come to us with literally nothing but the clothes on their back. Sometimes what’s missing includes essential documents like a birth certificate and social security card. When you lack these critical pieces of information, it’s impossible to secure employment, among other things. That’s where our case managers can help. Each program participant receives comprehensive case management to help them gain access to necessary services, including housing resources, mental health care providers, educational opportunities, and beyond.

Steps to Success Program

Training for Success
Additionally, we provide a variety of life-skills classes that impart the tools necessary for individuals to become independent and self-sustaining. For example, we offer workshops that emphasize things like developing critical thinking skills, letting go of destructive habits, learning to build positive relationships and how to set healthy boundaries. We also focus on setting goals, employment readiness, developing budgets and more. These trainings help build confidence and self-esteem and provide the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to tackle life’s challenges.

Taking Pride in Work
Another critical component of the program is called Work Therapy, which teaches responsibility and accountability. Participants engage in daily assignments which can include helping in the kitchen, lending a hand with facility maintenance or assisting with operations. These small chores provide opportunities for “small wins” and allow participants to feel a sense of pride for meeting goals and accomplishing daily tasks.

Spiritual Guidance
Perhaps the most important element of the program is the spiritual factor. Every evening, volunteers from local churches lead on-site chapel service. They offer guests words of encouragement and deliver powerful messages of forgiveness, peace and love. They shine a light in midst of darkness. They are a beacon of hope. Similarly, our staff host routine group bible studies. By spending time in the Word and learning about the power of God’s love, participants discover greater meaning and purpose for their lives. They also have opportunities to develop relationships and build supportive community networks by attending local church services and participating in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Finishing Proud
Upon graduating the program, participants have a new perspective, a reinvigorated sense of purpose and are surrounded by strong community support. These are all key to sustained success as they transition into their new life beyond our walls. The old saying is true: If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. But teach that man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

Interested in learning more about how we’re “Changing lives in the name of Christ”?

Visit us at our OPEN HOUSE at 316 Jefferson Street on Thursday, May 5, 2016 from 11am – 1 pm. Click here to learn more. See you there!

open house

Reaction to Clearing Homeless Camps Downtown – What is the Mission Doing?

This week in the news, you may have heard about the City of Denver clearing out homeless camps near Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter downtown at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street.

The Denver Post has the story here.

Photo credit: David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

Photo credit: David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting today, March 8, 2016, the City of Denver, Department of Public Works and the Denver Police Department began enforcing encampment rules along area sidewalks in the Ballpark Neighborhood in an effort to protect the health and safety of our community, including those who are experiencing homelessness.

Signs were posted in the area advising that public spaces must remain free of obstruction. Any items encumbering public spaces will be removed and placed into storage for up to 30 days.

NOTICE

Photo credit: Jason Gruenauer, Channel 7 News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than anything else, Denver Rescue Mission wants to help people who are experiencing homelessness get off the street and become productive self-sufficient citizens. We feel these encampments outside our walls on the streets of our city are significant health risks and create an unsafe situation.

Over the last several months, city outreach workers have reached out to those camping on the streets. Once inside our facilities, Denver Rescue Mission staff work to connect homeless individuals with important services and establish lasting relationships. We sleep up to 640 men each night at our shelters and serve nearly 1,000 men, women and children every day at the Lawrence Street Community Center downtown, a new day center for the homeless.

Other local organizations, such as The Samaritan House, also offer shelter and access to services for the homeless. A full list of resources can be found here.

As a Mission, we will continue to support our homeless and hurting neighbors in every way we can through emergency services and life-changing programs. We ask our community to join us in prayer as the city and those experiencing homelessness go through this trying transition.