This has never been a job. It’s always been my Mission.

It was 2003 when I first started volunteering at San Diego Rescue Mission. From the start, I knew this was a strong organization; but its impact was little known in the community.

Providing new shoes and hope during a Samaritan’s Feet event.

It wasn’t until San Diego Rescue Mission moved to a new building in Bankers Hill that the community took real notice. Shortly after the move, I joined the board of directors and went on to become Board Chair. I put my energy into stabilizing and growing the staff, working with neighborhood associations and working more closely with the San Diego homeless community and its providers. Today, I am proud to say, the community now realizes our impact!

When I became CEO and President, the Rescue Mission had 5 or 6 programs to help our homeless population – today we have 11! And each of these programs is continuing to grow.

One of the biggest accomplishments in my 15+ years with the Rescue Mission happened during our 60thAnniversary Celebration in 2015, when we raised funds to expand and enhance the Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter for Women and Children. This meant we could finally get the mattresses off the floor and the women and children into new bunks. We replaced floors, redid the walls, and expanded the entire space to include more beds, storage, better bathrooms and a quiet room, so kids could focus on their homework.

Getting the mattresses off the floor. Before and After photos of NVH Emergency Overnight Shelter for Women and Children.

Another important accomplishment, that I could not be more proud of, is the opening of our Licensed Children’s Preschool. Now, entering its 3rd year, we are able to see our preschoolers successfully move on to Kindergarten. And I’m so happy to share that their new schools have reported “no deficiencies”. This is critical to helping break the cycle of homelessness from the start. As many studies have shown, kids who start school behind, never catch up. And that leads to drop outs and eventually homelessness.

The 2nd Avenue Transitional Housing program is another major program we recently added. This multi phase transitional housing program is now able to accommodate a diverse group of individuals by offering two tracks; one focused on finding and maintaining employment, and the other finding alternate routes for client’s with disabilities to be active and resourceful within their greater community. This program is critical is helping formerly homeless men and women heal previous barriers to independence and work towards self-sufficiency.

I’ve also witnessed the After Care program grow into a huge success. It took us a while to figure it out – but today, we have a high-level, full-time, dedicated After Care Coordinator who is keeping in constant contact with more than 800+ alumni. We’ve learned from experience that some of our graduates are more successful, with close contact for 1-2 years after they leave the Mission. Ongoing communication and assistance with job training, housing, and support is critical to permanent change.

I started the Recuperative Care Unit (RCU) over 7 years ago and have watched it grow and change to meet the needs of clients referred to us by our partner hospitals. We were able to convert some extra space, and provide more services to homeless men and women newly released from the hospital yet still requiring medical attention. Today, the program offers up to 32 patients a safe and supportive environment, as well as meals, oversight of medical treatment, and follow-up care.

Another big change in San Diego Rescue Mission history happened just last year when we were able to move the executive team to a building across the street. This significant move not only allows for more office and living space, but more space for education and training. In fact, 35% of our new building is dedicated to classrooms. This enhanced classroom space paved the way for a relationship with San Diego Community College. Last month, instructors from SDCC started teaching 2 classes – and we are looking to increase those classes to several more. In fact, that will be one of the focuses of our upcoming June 17 celebration – raising funds for scholarships, classes, computers, and training materials to help further grow this program which not only serves homeless individuals, but any San Diegan in need.

35% of our new building is dedicated to classrooms benefiting all San Diegans in need.

Another important accomplishment happens each Fall when hundreds of young “friendraisers” and fundraisers join together to serve the community and to educate themselves and the public about ways to help homeless. In the years I’ve been at San Diego Rescue Mission, I’ve seen our signature event Sleepless San Diego become a bigger and bigger impact in our community. As a result, it has connected us with important groups such as the Military, Community Colleges, and City Government.

Working to inspire the next generation of young fundraisers and volunteers during Sleepless San Diego.

And finally, I am most proud of the executive team I’ve helped put in place. We have such strong players here, and because of this, I am confident that they (along with your help) will strive to ensure each of our programs continue to thrive and help our entire community stay healthy and whole. In fact, along with personal, direct contact with our clients, (and the amazing food we have here!) this dedicated and inspirational staff is what I will miss most when I retire.

This has never been a job for me. Having the ability to change people’s lives in a Christian environment has always been a mission, MY Mission!

God Bless,



 

Herb Johnson

Samaritan’s Feet – June 8 & 9, 2017

Samaritan’s Feet is a humanitarian aid organization that shares a message of hope and love through washing the feet of impoverished children around the world and adorning them with new shoes. Samaritan’s Feet will visit San Diego Rescue Mission on June 8 & 9, 2017 and provide shoes and the opportunity for local churches to pray for and wash the feet of homeless men, women and children.
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Interfaith Candlelight Vigil – Sunday November 5, 2017

3:00 pm – Procession begins at San Diego Rescue Mission – 120 Elm Street
3:45-4:45 pm – Candlelight Vigil:

San Diego County Administration Center
West side of Building (Closest to Harbor)
1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego, 92101

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Thanksgiving Congregate Meal

thanksgivingJoin us on November 18, 2017 for our special Thanksgiving holiday meal.

This is one of three times in the year when San Diego Rescue Mission opens its doors to the homeless community to celebrate the holidays. Gather to enjoy home-cooked meals, entertainment, and to celebrate in the festivities!

Christmas Congregate Meal

christmasJoin us on December 16, 2017 for our special Christmas holiday meal.

This is one of three times in the year when San Diego Rescue Mission opens its doors to the homeless community to celebrate the holidays. Gather to enjoy home-cooked meals, entertainment, and to celebrate in the festivities!

How to Inspire Giving

giving to homeless

Our children, our neighbors, our community is watching – will you inspire them to give?

I didn’t grow up in a big house. But every Thanksgiving, my mother filled it with people. And when she ran out of room at the table, she would send food to those neighbors who had a little less luck that year. She made sure nobody felt deprived, and everyone felt loved.

Although my mother has passed, I continue her tradition of including extra families at my Thanksgiving dinner table. Each year I find one or two families at my Church who need a lift, and invite them to join me for a warm holiday meal, comfort and conversation.

And of course there is also San Diego Rescue Mission’s annual community Thanksgiving meal, where we open our doors to the hundreds of homeless San Diegans who are alone and hungry this holiday.

During our holiday meals, clients from our Residential Recovery Program make themselves available to share stories about how San Diego Rescue Mission has helped turn their life around. And there is no better spokesperson to encourage the homeless to take part in the critical services we offer than the individuals who have been personally helped by our programs.

I stay at the front door for the full 3 hours of our annual Thanksgiving meal to say “hello” to each person who walks through the door. Many, I can tell, have already had a few too many adult beverages, and others are missing shoes and in need of fresh clothes. The difference between those who have been in our program for even just a month, is drastic compared to those fresh off the streets. Those in the program have sobered up and cleaned up. I feel so blessed to be able to offer these individuals a chance at a new life, new hope.

homeless on thanksgiving

The difference between those who have been in our program for even just a month, is drastic compared to those fresh off the streets.

Just as my mother influenced me, the passion and feeling to give to others is often inspired by those around us. I was reminded of this again while working with the Over the Hill Gang to collect material donations for our Thrift Stores. As I sat with the group, watching the last of the donations get dropped off, and ready to get picked up and taken to our Thrift Stores, a little girl decided to join us and sell lemonade to the neighbors. “Well that sounds like a good idea,” I thought as I got up to buy a glass. That’s when I learned that this little girl was selling lemonade to raise money for San Diego Rescue Mission. I was shocked – what are the chances!? What a remarkable coincidence.  That’s when I learned that she is the granddaughter of one of our largest donors.

As that little girl proved, it doesn’t take a huge house and a great job to give.  Anyone can do it. Just last month, during our Sunday night Chapel Service, I had the opportunity to witness another act of selflessness.

During our Men’s Center Chapel Service, which is also open to the public, a worn and weathered homeless man walked through the door, without any shoes.  Upon seeing this, one of the younger men in our program immediately got up and went to his room. A few minutes later he came back with a pair of shoes, and not just any pair of shoes, it was his best pair of shoes. He offered them to the homeless man, who was so, so grateful.

meals for homeless

It doesn’t take a huge house and a great job to give. Anyone can do it.

Our children, our neighbors, our community is watching. And our acts of giving (no matter how small) influence others. We are all so busy around the holidays, and it’s so easy for many of us to get caught up in the perfect table setting and beautiful table cloth. When really, the holidays should be a time to give thanks, include and praise others.

I feel so blessed to be able to have so many join us at the dinner table this holiday season, and doubly blessed to have the support of our donors, volunteers and the community to help make it happen.

Thank you and God Bless to you and your family,

 

herb-full-name

 

 

 

Herb Johnson

Staff Spotlight: Larry Perry

Larry Perry, Lead Janitor at San Diego Rescue Mission

“There are so many miracles that come through the Mission, and I am one of them. I’m a living miracle, all thanks to God and the San Diego Rescue Mission,” says Larry.

Meet Larry Perry, Lead Janitor at San Diego Rescue Mission, and a very special member of our team. His story is an inspiration and his positivity and joy for life is infectious!

Larry first came to the Mission in September of 2009 after living on the streets where he faced a number of life changing struggles, including, sadly, his wife being murdered. He was at a point in life where his family wanted nothing to do with him because of the poor choices he had made, and he decided he couldn’t continue down that path any longer. He was determined to make a change. That’s when he joined San Diego Rescue Mission’s 12 Month Residential Recovery Program, where he received the tools and support needed to strengthen his relationship with God and transform his life. After a year of hard work and determination, he graduated and was offered an internship here at San Diego Rescue Mission. In 2011 he completed the internship, and his journey with the Mission continued as he was hired on as staff. Larry has been here ever since.

As the Lead Janitor, Larry supervises house keeping and is responsible for overseeing nine clients. He works hard each day training his team of clients with cleaning techniques so they’ll have skills necessary to contribute to the community on their own after they leave the Mission. “I’ve come a long way,” Larry says, “I was just a lonely housekeeper before, and God decided he wanted me to do more!” One of Larry’s favorite parts about working at the Mission is the opportunity to talk with others and share his story to instill hope. “I can relate to most of these people that come through the Mission from the streets. I know what life is like on the streets; I went through it all. But, I made it and look at me now! I’m clean, living on my own and paying my own bills. I give God all the credit and glory and all I can do is thank him.” Larry enjoys sharing his story with those struggling because its proof to others that they can get through anything, and the Rescue Mission is their opportunity to take the leap of faith and to trust God.

One of Larry’s main janitorial responsibilities has always been the Recuperative Care Unit, which has become a sentimental aspect of his job. There he enjoys playing his morning gospel music for clients while getting to know them and their stories, encourages them to keep fighting, and witnesses them overcome their battles. He’s influenced a handful of residents who have joined the Men’s Center upon their release from the RCU. Recently, Larry was even acknowledged in a graduation speech where the graduate whole-heartedly thanked him and gave him credit to his success.

The piece of advice Larry always carries with himself is to always trust and keep faith in God; He will not let you down. “God is able, no matter what we do in life. If we turn our life over to God, He’s able to change it around. The hope is there, just waiting for someone to grab it,” Larry explains. Utilizing his own inspirational story as proof, he encourages others to trust God and follow Him back on the right path. “I tell them ‘look at me – it’s real.’ There are so many miracles that come through the Mission, and I am one of them. I’m a living miracle, all thanks to God and the San Diego Rescue Mission.”

Larry is now 7 years clean and sober living on his own, making his own decisions, and has completely transformed his life for the better. “My life has turned around and I have my family, kids, and grand-kids back in my life! I’m finally wanted by them and it’s the best feeling in the world!” Larry is truly a success story and an inspiration to anyone out there going through hard times. His story is a reminder that there is always a silver lining through the hardships.

How would you feel if your child started the school year 3+ years behind everyone else?

helping homeless kidsIt’s that time of year again – back to school. For most San Diego kids, it marks a time for new school clothes, shoes, backpacks, a fresh set of school supplies and a chance to reconnect with old buddies and meet some new ones. But for homeless kids, starting school comes with a whole set of uncertainty and stressors. Besides the tattered clothes, and shoes that may be too big or too small, most homeless kids don’t show up to school until the first grade. This puts them almost three years behind the other kids, who were able to attend preschool, or have a stable enough home address to last through Kindergarten.

Three years behind when they start 1st grade. Then, assuming they are able to keep a consistent home address and stay in the school, they are still behind when they move on to 2nd grade. And so the cycle of homelessness is already starting. They are not given a fair chance from the start.

That’s why our Children’s First Initiative is so important to our community. And with community support, we hope to further expand many of the programs here – such as doubling the size of our licensed Preschool by the end of the year. By expanding our Children’s Center Preschool, we will be available not only to children in our WCC, our yearlong recovery program for women and women with children,  Transitional Housing Program, but also those staying in our Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter.

healthy eating for homeless kidsSince we opened our Children’s Center just 2 years ago, I am touched by how many people have taken the care and interest in making San Diego Rescue Mission a stable and caring home for the children.  It was only 24 months ago, when most of the toddlers who would come to us, already had rotting teeth from all the sugar drinks their mothers fed them. They had no interest in eating vegetables or even a piece of fruit. The men in our Residential Recovery Program, who were working in the kitchen, saw the unhealthy eating patterns of the kids (and mothers) and set out to make a difference. The men started by making animals out of fruit – first a bird out of cantaloupe balls, and then a watermelon whale … then moved on to making the veggies fun! Suddenly, the kids started to eat. The same kids, who wouldn’t touch a piece of fruit or vegetable 24 months ago, were now enjoying a healthy diet.

As we move into this new school year, with high hopes and expectations, I want to thank everyone who has supported us these past couple years and beyond to make this happen. But our work doesn’t stop here. My goal is to expand our educational services to help even more kids in San Diego. In fact, my goal is to double the size of our Children’s Center. This means we are seeking money and support to rehab our space to include 1600 square feet of classrooms, and acquire more educational tools (tablets, textbooks, art supplies). Most importantly, we need to add to our amazing Preschool staff so we can maintain the effective ratio of 4:1 student : teacher ratio! And each year, we want to continue to provide even more homeless kids with new clothes, sneakers, and backpacks full of fresh school supplies. Let’s work together to help all of San Diego’s children feel safe, secure and confident as they start the new school year.

We are grateful for your generous support of our children.

God Bless,

Herb Johnson

Herb Johnson

 

 

 

 

Staff Spotlight: Micaela Cappa

Micaela Cappa

“I like to think of myself as a wounded healer. We all have our own set of issues, and I use my imperfections and experiences to help heal others,” says Micaela.

Meet Micaela, Marriage and Family Therapist in the Outpatient Therapy Clinic at San Diego Rescue Mission.

Those experiencing life on the streets face more than just physical challenges. Many also live with one or more mental health or substance abuse issues, adding to their difficulty in finding housing and employment. That’s where our Marriage and Family Therapists in our Outpatient Therapy Clinic, like Micaela, come in and provide treatment and support to those in need.

Micaela is a native San Diegan with extensive experience supporting the less fortunate and those experiencing homelessness. In the past, she spent time working with refugees and immigrants in San Diego. She was part of the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and taught Spanish in Montana. She eventually earned a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, which is what brought her to San Diego Rescue Mission.

While studying for her degree, one of her class assignments was to stay overnight in the Nueva Vida Haven Shelter. It was that eye-opening experience that made her realize she wanted a career supporting and working with the homeless population. “I had always been interested in the poor and broken hearted people going through major life struggles, and I knew I wanted to help,” she said. Micaela wanted to help turn lives around.

The therapists in our Outpatient Therapy Clinic provide free, quality counseling to individuals, families, children and couples who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or unable to afford therapy. Micaela leads a process group in the Recuperative Care Unit (RCU) where she provides psychotherapy to adults in need. She assists with the development of treatment plans for clients experiencing trauma, mental disorders, addiction, substance abuse, domestic violence, and more. “It’s a neat experience because I get to see pretty much everything – there are no two alike clients. They all come in with so much trauma, and I love helping them identify their goals and manage their unwanted symptoms,” she says. Together with the psychiatrists, they work as a team to develop the most beneficial treatment plans possible with the goal of having clients eventually able to manage their symptoms on their own, essentially becoming their own therapist.

What Micaela loves most about her job is that she sees so many types of people; all with unique backgrounds and issues, but with common spiritual background and faith in God. “Being able to talk spiritually with them and share a love for God is so neat. I love that the Mission is faith based and I am able to pray with staff and clients and share that bond.”  One recent client in particular had a significant impact on Micaela. After seeing the client for two years and observing her from her lowest point, so hopeless and depressed, Micaela witnessed her client progress through the trauma and develop into an independent woman with so much hard work and determination. “She is a completely different person from when I first started seeing her – she has come so far and I could not be more proud. She’s impressively committed, coming in each day and working through her problems. She’s grown to love challenges and developed the will to push herself to face her fears. She’s gotten to the point where she is able to do the majority of the work herself, and it’s very rewarding that she’s taking the process so seriously. I feel very special to be a part of her journey.”

Micaela believes that nobody is perfect, but with the right mindset and determination anyone can overcome anything, and she and the other therapists are there to help. “I’m not perfect either! I like to think of myself as a wounded healer. We all have our own set of issues, and I use my imperfections and experiences to help heal others.”

Staff Spotlight: Angela Ford

Angela Ford, Aftercare Coordinator here at San Diego Rescue Mission

“I love working with our clients and instilling hope. Being able to serve God’s people is something that I’ve been destined to do,” says Angela.

Meet Angela Ford, Aftercare Coordinator here at San Diego Rescue Mission.

The Alumni Aftercare program was created for clients who are re-integrating with society after successfully completing and graduating from our 12 month Residential Recovery Program. The purpose and goal of the program is to provide resources, encouragement, and support while promoting self-sufficiency. That’s where Angela comes in!

Angela is our newest Aftercare Coordinator. She was previously employed at Jane Westin Center where she worked closely with the mental health community, and several clients who were formerly and currently clients at San Diego Rescue Mission.

On a daily basis, Angela provides supportive services to graduates of the Residential programs as well as to those who are nearing graduation. Some of these services and tasks include checking in with clients on job readiness and aiding with resumes, applications, job searching, mock interviewing, and providing overall emotional support as clients work to transition back into society. “I always do my best to help our clients with an open heart and integrity,” says Angela.

The hope of the Aftercare program is that through Christ, and the tools each client has been given in our programs, they will have a full understanding of how to maintain sustainability while living independently, and overcoming any of life’s challenges that may arise.

Angela shared a story about a client she met in late January who right off the bat declared he didn’t like people and didn’t trust anyone.  She explained that was an issue he would have to overcome and suggested that he find someone to be accountable to. He continued to insist that he didn’t trust anyone.

“Finally, I got him to commit to having an accountability partner. He called me about three weeks later and asked if I would be that accountability partner,” explained Angela. “He said he felt comfortable around me and thought I would keep him on his toes!”

A few months later, the client received some difficult news concerning his health and went to visit Angela to talk it over.

“I encouraged him and spoke life to him and shared testimonies of what I have seen God do with my own eyes. He then told me that when he received the news, the first thing he thought of was to call me, not even to drink, which is what he would have normally done. This was huge for me. It blessed me tremendously and after he left, I cried. God is good and I just kept thinking about his goodness,” she recalled.

Those enriching experiences with clients are what motivates and inspires Angela to work for San Diego Rescue Mission. “I love working with our clients and instilling hope. Being able to serve God’s people is something that I’ve been destined to do.”