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

Herb Johnson at Samaritan's Feet event

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

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.

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 60th Anniversary 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.

Emergency Overnight Shelter for Women and Children

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.

classroom at San Diego Rescue Mission

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

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.

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.

Herb Johnson at Sleepless San Diego

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

Join Us for Spring Graduation, Friday April 21!

Join us at GraduationOne of our most beloved events happens every three months at the San Diego Rescue Mission.

Our next graduation ceremony is scheduled for Friday, April 21, 2017.

That’s when the men and women who have successfully completed their 12-month residential recovery programs are recognized in a special graduation ceremony. The event celebrates the accomplishments each graduate has made, with God’s help, during their year-long journey. Current program participants also attend to honor their brothers and sisters and to be inspired by the possibilities that await them.

As part of the ceremony one male and one female graduate each shares their story of recovery. A local Christian band or church choir provides entertainment for the day and, of course, all graduates receive an official diploma.

Time and Location:
First Presbyterian Church
320 Date St. San Diego, CA 92101
6:30 PM – Graduation Ceremony
Dessert Reception Immediately Following

For more information, please contact Michael Babida at mbabida@sdrescue.org or 619-819-1851.

Can’t make it to this Graduation? You can also join us on July 14, and October 13, 2017.

Mother’s Bay Run – April 29, 2017

Mother's Day 5k5th Annual Rotary Club of Mission Valley Sunset Mother’s Bay Run will be held on April 29 at DeAnza Cove.

When: Saturday, April 29, 2017
8:30 AM Race Start

Where: De Anza Cove, Mission Bay, San Diego

What/Why:Mission Valley Sunset Rotary will put on their 5th Annual Mother’s Bay Run, Saturday April 29 benefiting the San Diego Rescue Mission! There is a 10K, 5K and Lil’ Tykes Dash. This is a fun and healthy way to celebrate with the whole family. The run raises funds for the San Diego Rescue Mission who is dedicated to providing support for the needs of homeless men, women, and children in San Diego. They provide rehabilitation and Christian discipleship to create better lives for San Diego’s homeless, their families, and the community as a whole.

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.
Read more

Sleepless San Diego – Oct 7-8, 2017

Sleepless San DiegoOctober 7-8, 2017 at Liberty Station
Jump into action! Be a part of the largest youth impact movement in San Diego at the 11th Anniversary of Sleepless. Your day will include team service opportunities in our local community benefitting homeless men, women and children. Then celebrate with live music, incredible performances, activities and a sleep-out under the stars that will inspire you to make a difference in our city!

Mid-day service opportunities on October 7th followed by an evening celebration and sleep-out ending 7am Sunday!

For more information or to register your group please contact Michelle Smith at (619) 819-1892 or msmith@sdrescue.org

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.