Testimony of the Month
MICHAEL JENSEN'S TESTIMONY
I was an angry person when I came to the Rescue Mission last year. I was angry my relationships had fallen apart. Angry that I couldn’t find a job in the rural East Carbon community where I was from. Angry I couldn’t stay sober. Angry at almost all other people, even if I didn’t even know them. I guess mostly I was angry that my life had become a train wreck.
Today, things are different. I actually enjoy people. In fact, I can honestly say I have real love for people.
And while the New Life Program is a cornerstone of our ministry, it is not the only way we help people. Recently, we have been refocusing on our Transitions Program. Our staff, led by our House Manager Don Nicholson and Greg Sheffield, our job placement and housing coordinator, have been dedicating more time to helping people (who might not be good fits for our New Life Program) transition out of homelessness.
I love the Mission’s staff, who gave me a chance at the New Life Program. I love the people at my church, The Rock Church. They have great group Bible studies, sharing groups and recovery meetings. I feel like that church is my true home. I love the other people who share struggles with me on the New Life Program. I can even say I love the other homeless people who stay at the Mission. While they might be ornery at times, I know one year ago my heart was callous too.
I attribute much of my change to prayer. One day I experienced a tangible change of heart while praying. I was asking God to take away the cravings I had for drugs and alcohol. I asked Him to take away the bad feelings I always had for people. That night I felt changed in a way I had never felt before. I felt like a new person.
And if God can change my bitter, callous heart, I know He can change anyone.
It was a little over a year ago when I told my probation officer (who might have been my only “friend” at the time) that I needed real help.
I was living in the rural Carbon County community where I grew up. But despite my roots there, I had nothing going for myself. No job, no life, and my only real companion was my dog. To make matters worse I was saddled with a daily drug and alcohol addiction. Those addictions had been festering since I started using cocaine and other street drugs in the early 90s.
I was on probation for domestic and drug crimes and my wife had left me. Even though I had a place to live I looked around my pastoral community and had no prospects for work. There were few jobs around, especially if you didn’t have a car or driver’s license. I tried to stay sober by going to recovery meetings, but there were only two in town and it was hard for me to get to them.
I felt stuck in a poor community where I was drinking or doing drugs all the time. If something didn’t change I was going to be back in jail, or worse. Mercifully, my probation officer said he would try to help. And, after searching online, he found the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake.
Since I had almost no money but needed a lot of help, we agreed that the Rescue Mission could work for me. But traveling to the Rescue Mission for a year of inpatient treatment meant I would have to leave my one friend, my dog, behind. It was hard to do, but I found a family to take him and give him a good home. So, I made the trek up from rural Central Utah with just a backpack and one change of clothes.
When I walked through the Rescue Mission’s front door I was shocked. I had never been homeless before. To see so many people without a home was eye-opening. In that moment I realized what it was going to take for me to change. I was going to live like a homeless person and be completely humbled. And while that was a tough pill to swallow at that moment, looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Despite my humbleness epiphany, change didn’t happen overnight. I was so stubborn when I first came in that I thought I knew what was best for my recovery. I had a person picked out who I really wanted to be my counselor on the New Life Program. But, I was assigned a different counselor. I had to accept it (even if I didn’t want to) and trust that God knew what was best for me. It turned out my counselor was perfect for me and challenged me in ways that helped me grow, know God better and stay sober. I will never, ever forget my counselor and the others here at the Rescue Mission who helped me get my life back.
When I moved to the employment phase of the New Life Program I was able to get a job in just one week. It’s a great job with a stable company that makes prefabricated components for large residential construction projects. I have been saving money and just moved into my own apartment. I am working on getting my driver’s license back so I can become a delivery or yard driver for my company. Even at age 44, it feels like my whole life is ahead of me.
I have been sober for nearly a year now and a few weeks ago I was finally released from probation. I had been on probation so long I thought I would never be off. Now I finally feel truly free.
I am still working to rebuild my relationship with my daughter. It is hard for her to trust me because I have been untrustworthy my whole life. My addiction ruined our relationship, but I hope that over time and with my continued sobriety, God will bring us closer. I am so thankful for all the Rescue Mission supporters who pray, volunteer and give to the Rescue Mission. Without you, the loving staff, and God, I would not have a new life today. You have helped make me truly happy.
DECENTRALIZATION HAS OUR SUPPORT
You’ve probably heard the news. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have decided to further decentralize homeless services away from downtown. Since this decision was announced last month, I have been regularly asked about how this decision will impact the Mission..
So, I wanted to share my thoughts in two parts. This month I will share how the City and County came to support decentralization. Next month I will share how this decision will impact the Rescue Mission.
Many people might not know it, but for the past two years the Rescue Mission has participated on the Homeless Site Evaluation Commission. The purpose of the Commission was to evaluate best practices for homeless services in Salt Lake and throughout Utah. The Rescue Mission was one of 31 participants who made recommendations to Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. The City’s focus was on site locations, while the County was focused on the types of services provided and funding.
There were two models under consideration. The first was a concentrated campus model or “Homeless Mall.” The second was a decentralized or scattered-site model. After prolonged discussions, advice from consultants, and site visits to multiple locations, the Commission recommended a decentralized or scattered-site model, not only for Salt Lake, but likely for the state as well.
In making its recommendation, the Commission recognized that the Wasatch Front already had somewhat of a scattered site model. There is a family shelter in Midvale, domestic violence shelters in West Jordan and Salt Lake City, and treatment centers in Ogden, Salt Lake, Tooele and Provo. In addition to these facilities, there are detox services at local hospitals on the southwest side of Salt Lake City.
That said, it’s true there are a lot of homeless services, including the Rescue Mission, in the downtown area. This led the Commission to recommend further decentralization in order to serve the entire community and our homeless friends more efficiently. The Commission explained what characteristics those scattered sites should have, including easy access to public transportation, job placement services, medical care, day labor opportunities, stores, and libraries.
The City decided to follow the Commission’s recommendation and then chose four sites that fit the Commission’s recommendation. The Rescue Mission ultimately supported this scattered-site idea, but didn’t have any say about which sites were chosen.
The scattered sites will be owned by a public-private partnership overseen by a board of primarily elected officials and a few private citizens. That board will create contractual terms for the secondary organizations who will provide services within the facilities. The governing board and Salt Lake County, will also divy up the public funding to agencies operating in the facilities.
The public/secular nature of the governance model will preclude the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, a religious non-profit, from participating. That said, the Rescue Mission has plans for how our faith-based ministry will continue to restore broken lives in Utah. I look forward to sharing more about our vision to work alongside this scattered-site model next month.
God bless you and I greatly appreciate your continued support of our ministry.
Chris D. Croswhite
THANK YOU FOR A GREAT THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS
A special thank you to everyone who donated during Thanksgiving and Christmas time.
We had so much support from individuals and businesses that allowed us to show God’s love to thousands of hurting and homeless men, women, and children this holiday season. R&R Barbeque smoked turkeys that were donated by Smiths Market Place and Hercules Industries, so our homeless friends had Cajun smoked turkey for our Christmas Banquet!
We served over 25,000 meals from Thanksgiving to Christmas and gave away over 700 Family Food Boxes to low-income families in need. Your support also helped us give away hundreds of toys to low income kids as well as the children of the students on our New Life recovery program. With the cold temperatures, we distributed thousands of socks, coats, gloves, and other items of warm winter clothing. When our friends at Hillside Tire and Service stopped by the Rescue Mission to drop off the proceeds of a customer fundraising event, they were moved to see several of our homeless friends without a coats (the Mission had given away all we had). Hillside Tire’s owners then went and purchased 50 new coats, just to ensure hurting people can stay warm. It truly is a blessing to see such generosity and then see how grateful people are for the food, clothing, shelter and presents they received.
And the best part was that thousands of people heard the message of God’s love during our nightly chapel services and special-event banquets.
None of this would happen without the generous support of you, our friends and donors, as well as the provision of God. So thank you for blessing us and enabling us to bless so many others. In 2017 we will continue to provide hot food, warm clothes and loving service, as well as our comprehensive services to help people permanently off the streets, and into employment and housing. Please pray for and support our efforts as we look to restore broken lives in the New Year. Thank you again for making 2016 such a special year!
STATS: HOW YOUR GIFT HELPS