URGENT HELP NEEDED! Changing How the World Sees Homelessness—Union Rescue Mission

The Union Rescue Mission, Los Angeles' oldest and largest homeless shelter, exists to empower those experiencing homelessness and provide what's needed most: hope. Would you consider helping today with a donation of support?

URGENT HELP NEEDED! Changing How the World Sees Homelessness—Union Rescue Mission

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The Union Rescue Mission, Los Angeles' oldest and largest homeless shelter, exists to empower those experiencing homelessness and provide what's needed most: hope. Would you consider helping today with a donation of support?


URGENT CALL TO HELP FROM REV. ANDY BALES:

I am currently on the streets of Skid Row, and I had to write to you immediately. The situation here is unbearable. The heat is oppressive. There is nowhere to escape from it.
We are doing whatever we can: Passing out water bottles. Providing food to eat. Bringing every person we can back to Union Rescue Mission to cool down with a cold shower and perhaps a place to sleep. But we are encountering urgent needs every day.
That’s why I’m writing to ask for your immediate help right now. Will you give a generous gift to provide lifesaving help for neighbors out on the streets?
Thank you for responding quickly!
Blessings,
Rev. Andy Bales


Unpleasant statistics. They’re hard to comprehend and are often pushed out of our minds due to the discomfort they stir in our conscience. There are 550,000 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. For some, if the number seems overwhelming, it becomes easier to see it as only that: a number, a statistic, a problem…“the homeless problem.”

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Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission is passionate about changing the way the world views homelessness. “People experiencing homelessness are so much more than that. They’re somebody’s brother or sister, somebody’s uncle or aunt, mom or dad…they were once somebody’s precious baby.”

Union Rescue Mission is located in the heart of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, where conditions are so shockingly unsanitary that comparable conditions are rarely seen outside of the Third World. Tents line the street and men and women can be found sleeping directly on the pavement, unsheltered. In fact, of the 550,000 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S, 32% are reported to be living completely unsheltered. The dangers of skid row are multifaceted—ranging from crime, hygiene, drugs, drinking, lack of amenities and a multitude of infectious diseases.

However, visiting Union Rescue Mission (URM) is a different story. The cafeteria is spotless, the staff is friendly and rooms are ready for men and women who need shelter for the night. There are activity rooms, temporary housing and even special housing for senior citizens. In any given year, they serve 1 million meals and provide 250,000 nights of shelter to men, women and children. Despite how full they get, URM will never turn away a woman or child that needs a place to sleep—they will find a way to ensure they aren’t forced into a dangerous night on the street. URM is one of the only rescue missions to stand by such a commitment. This dedication is evident throughout everything they do.

When walking the halls with Andy Bales, it becomes apparent that he is not a CEO that stays locked in his office on the top floor. “Hi, Andy!” women and men call as he makes his way toward the cafeteria. Each is greeted in return with a smile, a handshake or an encouraging word.  “I used to look through people experiencing homelessness,” Andy explained. But after a transformation of the heart, Andy began to view the men and women living on the streets through a different lens. When speaking with Andy, it’s clear that he is incredibly intentional about his choice of words.

He stresses the point that we need to stop speaking about those experiencing homelessness as “them” or “the homeless.” Us vs. Them is a dangerous mindset, and one that both furthers feelings of separation for those of a higher socioeconomic class, and furthers loss of dignity for those on the street. On Skid Row, there are no restrooms, no showers and no privacy—Andy explains how the absence of these things contributes to a decline of self-worth and dignity.

“We want to affirm their dignity,” he says. And he does. URM goes beyond just providing the necessities. They offer education, Bible studies, activities and events. Each year, they host 15,000 health and legal clinical sessions and celebrate an average of 85 graduates who find a home. URM is in the business of affirming every human’s dignity and offering up motivation in the form of a helping hand and kind spirit.

So how can we help? For some, volunteering at a local mission might seem like an overwhelming first step. According to Andy, the first step can be much simpler. “Look them in the eye,” he tells us when asked for a good starting point. “Greet them, love them and they will love you back.” Perhaps this kind of love comes in the form of a cup of coffee, a granola bar or a simple “Good Morning” when paths cross on the street, rather than intentional avoidance.

When we stop treating people experiencing homelessness as a problem and instead, treat them like precious human beings, only then can we begin to solve the problem. Everyone has a story. But with a change of heart from those of us in a position to help, we can work to ensure that no precious human is left to live on the streets. It’s time to stop looking away.

To learn more about Union Rescue Mission and what you can do to help, visit www.urm.org.


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