Herb Johnson

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

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