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.
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.
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.
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!
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 […]
It’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 […]
This weekend, five formerly homeless men will be participating in the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. They are working hard to overcome difficult life circumstances, from addiction to abuse to extreme poverty. Not long ago, these men were so close to giving up all hope, when they found their way to San Diego […]
The incredible generosity of our San Diego partners during our 60th year of saving lives helped pave the way for some exciting changes in the years ahead. You may have heard me say that San Diego Rescue Mission is much more than “3 hots and a cot”. And now, we are in a position to […]
The 3,000 miles between my 5 children and 12 grandchildren (who live in Boston) feels extra distant around the holidays. We try our best to connect through Facebook photos of the grandkids dressed up in their holiday best and my wife Carol and I will Skype with our grown, married children. We all know family […]
It’s truly a work of God when you see the convergence of people with the right skills, resources, desires and needs all come together for a common goal. The purpose of our recent Casino Royal 60th Anniversary Event was to embrace our beginning, which started in a poker hall, and to share the stories and […]
You’ve heard me talk about the importance of breaking the cycle of homelessness from the start. Homeless children tend to have delays in development and they suffer from anxiety, emotional distress, and toxic stress. Their unstable, under nourished and often abusive environments put them at a disadvantage right from the start, and perpetuate the cycle […]
Thank you to everyone who joined us at Le Dimora last month to kick off our 60th Anniversary year of saving lives! In case you missed it, below is a transcription of Herb Johnson’s presentation sharing news of expansion projects and how you can help further fund these critical programs. “First, I’d like to talk […]
It is a challenge to find enough time to get things done. And often, when we hurry through our days, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks and forget to look at the big picture. The big picture of why we are here, and doing what we do. This has been a year […]
I love the holiday season. Just ask any of my 13 grandkids, 5 adult kids, friends and neighbors. In fact, my house is the one that closely resembles the family home in Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation movie – almost 2,000 light bulbs, synced up and flashing to music! And in front of my home, I’ve […]
Depending on whom you talk to and which reports you read, stats about mental health among the homeless range from about 40 – 68%. That means 40 – 68% of the homeless people living on the street have some sort of untreated psychiatric illnesses, from Bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to major depression to a whole […]
I’m thrilled to announce the official opening of our new Children’s Center this Tuesday, September 2, 2014! Up until now, our Women and Children’s Center has been run like a co-op. That means, while one mom is getting therapy or attending educational classes, the other is babysitting children in a shared play area. Now, thanks […]
My brother is a two-tour Vietnam Vet. He was not drafted, he enlisted. He spent much of his deployment on the border or in Cambodia as a Helicopter Crew Chief and a Door Gunner. During his deployment, he was shot down five times. The 5th time, they sent him home. After arriving home, he proudly […]
When I see the homeless and hungry men who come through the doors of the Rescue Mission each night, their bodies and souls ravaged by the effects of alcohol, neglect and abuse, I can’t help but think of my own father. I think about how different life could have been if a 12-month recovery program […]
Another San Diego Summer is officially upon us, and I’m feeling so blessed for all the community support we’ve recently received. May was a busy month. As most of you know, we officially opened our 4th thrift store in San Diego. San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister and former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders […]
An Easter Meal, a Preschool for Homeless Children, and a Brand New Thrift Shop- Just a few of the ways we’re reviving hope to San Diego’s homeless this Spring! As we move out of last week’s dark, rainy San Diego weather, and sun begins to shine brightly down upon us again, it’s a welcomed reminder […]
Wow, what a year it’s been! Because of your generous support in 2013, 1,522 women and 690 children were safe in our emergency shelter instead of being out on the cold, dangerous streets last year. We served over 448,000 hot, nutritious meals and I watched 87 men and 9 women graduate from our year- long […]
I read the following story during Friday’s Winter Graduation Ceremony. Since then, several people have requested that I post it to my blog. Here it is… Pastor Jeremiah Steepek The New Pastor Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured right) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to his newly assigned church where he was to be […]
I love looking at old photos. The ones I’ve included in this blog post are some of our best memories from our annual holiday meals. These are truly wonderful reminders of all the great work you’ve made possible here at San Diego Rescue Mission during the past year. If you volunteer, you may find yourself […]
As we plan for our annual Candlelight Vigil, my thoughts turn to the homeless men, women and even children, who die alone on the streets each year here in San Diego. The lonely souls who, for whatever reason, lost touch with friends and family, and were not able to find a way to make a […]
When I think about sharing blessings, my mother and grandchildren come to mind. (I visited both on a recent trip to Boston to see our five children and their families.) As I cleaned the moss from my mother’s headstone and left some of her favorite flowers, I thought of her tremendous care and concern for […]
“Is my gift really important?” “Will it really matter if I don’t make a gift to the Mission today?” Yes! It most certainly will. It will make a difference to a mother and her children who would otherwise be living in their car on a dangerous street. It will make a difference to a homeless […]
Last year, 280 boys and girls whose only home is the Women & Children Center Nueva Vida Haven here at the Mission received backpacks full of school supplies, thanks to the generosity of donors like you. Sometimes, students think we’ve made a mistake because these backpacks are brand new and full of unused supplies. When […]
Here at the Mission, we are seeing an increase in San Diego families needing our help. And according to a recent survey, children represent 60% of people sheltered as a family. This latest stat was no surprise to me as I’ve seen our emergency overnight shelter at or near full capacity each night, with waiting […]
My mother was always looking out for other people. She had a wicker basket in the trunk of her car that she would fill with clothing she would buy at the local thrift shop and then donate. She would embarrass her children by asking for dented cans and outdated baked goods at the local grocery […]
I had planned to read the following story at our Spring Graduation Ceremony. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, so I promised I would post it here: Just $1.67 feeds one hungry San Diegan. Please help us meet the challenges ahead in 2013. Your gift will keep bellies full and spirits high. Your support encourages […]
We are “a nation of givers.” More than 70% of all Americans make donations to non-profit organizations – the highest percentage of any country in the world! Amazingly, the average amount given per family is more than $1,000 per year. This generosity certainly benefits the Mission, where more than 93% of our support comes from […]
Springtime at the Mission not only marks a time to prepare for one of our biggest holiday meals, Easter, but a time to celebrate new beginnings- and in this month’s case, a brand new life! Meet our newest resident here at the Mission. Because of the continued support of our donors, this little girl has […]
My heart goes out to the people of Boston, my home for over fifty years, and home to twelve of my Grandchildren! Immediately after the events unfolded, I reached out to the President of the Boston Rescue Mission, letting him know that they are on our Prayer List. As he described the horrific acts of […]
For more than 50 years it has been more than our purpose – it has been our privilege — to help San Diego’s homeless and poor populations create better lives for themselves and, in turn, build a better community for us all Our comprehensive programs meet basic needs, then go further. They help our clients […]