Providing Comfort + Joy to San Diego’s Lost, Least + Forgotten

helping homeless families

What a difference a year can make! Last Christmas, I met this family in our Emergency Overnight Shelter. Today, mom is in our Residential Recovery Program and her children were among the very first to attend class at our new Children’s Center!

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 set up a tall pole lined with blue and white lights, where I’ve perched a glowing star – my version of the Star in the East.

For most of us, home is a place of comfort, security and peace. But for most of the women and children who will come to San Diego Rescue Mission this holiday, home is a dangerous place. Many live with abusive mates or with those involved in illegal activity. At night they sleep in their children’s room with a locked door, never knowing who may walk into their home, and for what reason.

Thanks to your support, we’ve been able to provide warm meals and safe shelter for homeless families like this, keeping them off the streets and out of dangerous homes.

Just last year, during our annual Christmas meal, I met a women staying in our Emergency Overnight Shelter. Her husband was living under a bridge, and she was trying to care for her two young children. She was rattled and torn, and her young toddler was badly sunburned from trying to stay warm at Balboa Park all day.

Since that meeting 1 year ago, this woman has not only entered into our 12-month Residential Recovery Program, but her two children are among the first to enroll in our new Children’s Center! What a difference a year can make! And it all starts with a caring hand.

helping homeless

Let’s show them that we care even after the Christmas season has passed. We are their safety net when things get tough.

I didn’t come from a wealthy family. We never had money to go to a fancy department store or buy gifts. But we did give, whenever we could. We’d often make crafts from office supplies or terrariums from glass jars. And today, in my family, our gifts still consist of hand-made personal touches – whether I’m putting together my own hand-made wooden crosses or my wife is knitting a blanket or making jewelry. For us Christmas isn’t about fancy gifts, it is about showing you care. And that is exactly how I see our Holiday Meals here at the Mission. We go beyond a warm meal. We offer a personal touch, a smiling face, and yes, a small gift pack put together by volunteers.

I hope you’ll help me this Christmas season, and throughout the year, show the hundreds of men, women and children we serve each night that San Diego cares. And that we care even after the Christmas season has passed. We are their safety net when things get tough. And together, we can give the least, lost and forgotten the physical, emotional and spiritual support they need, long after we’ve taken down our Christmas Lights.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very blessed holiday,
Herb-Full-Name

 

Herb Johnson
President/CEO

Mental Illness + San Diego’s Homeless: Let’s take their hands, and get them the help they need

Herb Johnson with Congressmen

Me with The Honorable Congressmen Hunter and Murphy after our discussion on Mental Health issues among Homeless on World Mental Health Day. Congressman Murphy is pushing a bill to bring more rights and services to the mentally ill.

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 host of other mental illnesses.

I’ve always known that mental health plays a critical factor in the success of helping homeless men and women get the help they need to return to contributing members of society. That’s why I was eager to join the Mental Health Roundtable last month with Congressman Duncan Hunter and Congressman Tim Murphy. As we discussed the statistics of homeless people with mental illnesses in the US, I wondered how these stats measured up the homeless population staying at San Diego Rescue Mission’s own Recuperative Care Unit.

Our Recuperative Care Unit (RCU) addresses the critical needs of homeless men and women newly released from the hospital yet still requiring medical attention. When I met with our RCU staff and asked them about the percentage of mental illness cases they’ve witnessed here, I was surprised to learn that number was estimated at well over 90%! More than 90% of the homeless in our RCU suffer from mental health issues. And not minor ones – serious issues at the top of the mental health scale.

homeless kids

More than 50% of mental health cases among the homeless we see at San Diego Rescue Mission stem from early childhood trauma.

This is not a small issue. We are way over the norm here in San Diego. I asked my staff of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists  why so many of our homeless have mental health problems. They explained that early childhood trauma is in many (or even most) cases a major contributing factor to severe mental illness.  Many had parents that were under equipped to raise them, and beating was often the only way they knew how to discipline. Many come out of homes with no standard of nurturing, and so they go through life never thinking to ask for help.

This is the problem with many of today’s mental health services. They are very difficult to access and navigate. And for a mentally ill person with no support, and who doesn’t think to ask for help, the system makes it difficult to get the treatment they need. People with mental health issues literally need someone to take their hand and say, “Let me help you. Let me walk you through this. Let me make sure you make it to your appointments.”

Homeless at Thanksgiving

We expect to serve close to 2,000 meals this Thanksgiving. When the lost, hungry and homeless walk through our door, and sit down for a warm meal, it’s an opportunity to take their hands, talk with them, and navigate the steps they need to get help.

Helping those who wouldn’t think to ask for help, is one of the primary goals of our annual Holiday meals. When those lost, hungry and homeless men and women walk through our door, and sit down for a warm meal, it’s an opportunity to take their hands, talk with them, and walk them through the steps they need to get help.

But even after we take their hands, many have mental scars that cannot be healed quickly. This is why we offer programs with long-term solutions. Our residential recovery programs are 12 months long and incorporate a holistic approach to recovery, addressing the needs of the mind, body, and soul. We give them space to shed their guilt and understand the issues that led to their homelessness in the first place.

And sometimes even a 12 month program is still not long enough. That’s why we also offer Alumni Aftercare where we continue to provide support as these men + women continue their efforts in becoming productive members of society.

handsPlease join me this holiday season in taking the hands of our homeless brothers and sisters. Together, we can help San Diego’s homeless get the treatment they need and deserve!

God Bless,

Herb-Full-Name

Herb Johnson
President/CEO

Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness – Right from the Start

Children's Center for homeless children

This new Children’s Center is not just daycare –We’re providing learning activities to stimulate young minds as well as develop healthy social and emotional skills.

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 to the new Children’s Center, moms can concentrate on their own training, while their children can get the quality education they need to help break the cycle of homelessness.

Last year, 683 children stayed in our emergency shelter. From 7pm at night until 7am the next morning, they are sheltered, fed and cared for. But for the next 12 hours, moms and very young children are on their own. If the weather is unusually bad, cold or raining, some, desperate for a place to stay, go back into abusive situations. Others spend their days in the parks. But even on a good day, it can be chilly in the winter and brutally hot in the summer sun. One mother came in with a young child who was badly sunburned. She had been sitting in the sun in Balboa Park all day to keep both of them warm!

The first five years is a time in which children learn more than they ever will in their lifetime.  Delays, especially in the first few years of development, caused by trauma, instability and deprived environments, set a child up for compromised brain development to say the least.  Infants who are given a safe, nurturing environment will be able to overcome delays and repair some of the damage.

homeless family

Now, homeless children can get the quality education they need to help break the cycle of homelessness.

This new Children’s Center is not just babysitting or daycare –it’s much more than that. We’ve hired a licensed teacher and a caring Director to oversee a curriculum designed to provide learning activities to stimulate young minds as well as develop healthy social and emotional skills.

Although the state requires a 12:1 ratio for teaching preschool aged children, we have taken into account the special needs and circumstances of these children, and provide a 6:1 ratio of students to teacher.

The new Children’s Center will accommodate 11 students (ages 2-5) with plans to add more over the next 6 months. We’ll be serving children from the Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter and those with mothers in our year-long recovery program.

homeless child

Homeless children tend to have delays in their development, and they suffer from anxiety, emotional distress, and toxic stress.

This is why it means so much to officially open this much needed Children’s Center.  However, we have only received 25% of the necessary funding to offset the start-up costs and keep this Children’s Center operating for the next year. We are still in need of significant funding for this important project. If you would like to discuss ways you can help donate funds, or attend our upcoming Grand Opening Celebration, please contact me.

 

God Bless,

Herb Johnson

 

 

 
Herb Johnson
President/CEO

They Served our Country. Will you Help Serve Them?

homeless vet

This holiday, as you enjoy a festive meal with your family and friends, I’d like you to think about the 57,849* homeless veterans just looking to eat.

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 put on his uniform, donned with medals, and met his friends for lunch in Harvard Square. His pride and confidence quickly faded when instead of being greeted with gratitude and respect, he was heckled and actually spit on by protestors of the war. Upset, confused, discouraged, my brother headed home. I watched him put his medals and uniform in a box. We never saw them again.

Since that day, he’s been married a few times, became a hard drinker, and taking more medications than he can afford.

It wasn’t until 40 years later when the VA office finally took the extra time to diagnose him beyond the physical pain he endured each day due to combat experience, that they realized he was also suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) Symptom as well exposure to Agent Orange. He has truly been to Hell and back! He said to me last month, “If I knew I was going to live this long,  I would have taken better care of myself.”  I have loved and respected my brother all these years  and I embrace him for his Service to his country.

Today, he is doing much better emotionally.  He finally has a stable relationship, but physically, he is still a mess due to numerous service related injuries.

Today’s active military are given respect and support in our community. Today, people understand the stress, both physically and emotionally, war can put on a human soul. But 40 years ago, the 500,000+ guys (http://www.statisticbrain.com/vietnam-war-statistics/) who went to Vietnam paid a big price. Many had to wait 40 years to get the support they needed, and a chance to get their life back on track.

And they are still not okay. We are still seeing the effects this war had on these men as their addictions, broken families and PTS send them into homelessness.  Today, 20-30% of the men who come to San Diego Rescue Mission looking for help are Veterans.  We owe them our respect, and our help.

This holiday, as you enjoy a festive meal with your family and friends, I’d like you to think about the 57,849* homeless veterans just looking to eat. They served our country, will you help serve them?

*US Department of Housing and Urban Development 2013 Report

Herb Johnson

 

 

My Father – What Could have Been

father figures

I’ve been fortunate to have had some father figures in my life who stood in place where my father should have been. This gave me a place of safety, comfort and support. Not all boys get that.

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 like the one we have here at the Rescue Mission was available to him. A program like this could have saved him, and his life.

He was a working alcoholic. He worked six days a week, and he drank six days a week. Back then, it was a different world. There weren’t open recovery programs available like the ones today. In fact, he didn’t find a way out of the abusive cycle until he died – at age 45 from the damages of alcohol. I was just barely 14 years old when my father died.  I was always mature for my age, but at that moment I became a man earlier than I should have. I look back at photos of myself when I was a teen, and never saw a smile on my face – with the exception of my high school prom picture. Responsibilities weighed heavy on me.

After my father passed, my mother became a huge influence in my spiritual growth and learning to care for others. I also had strong Christian support by my Pastor’s entire family.  But in addition to this important support, I was fortunate to also have some father-figures step into my life.  These were men who stood in place where my father should have been.  This gave me a feeling of safety, comfort and support. I realize how lucky I was to have this – and that not all boys have a father-figure in their lives.  This extra support helped shape the confidence I have today and give me the ability to help others. So many struggling young boys, whose fathers left due to abuse and neglect, never go on to experience the type of relationships that offers much needed positive reinforcement. There is no one to show them a way out of their situation.

So, as I look at the men going through our recovery program here at the Rescue Mission,  I realize what they have left behind.  Perhaps a son like me.  Or a daughter.  A wife.  A family.  But before we can rebuild their families, we need time to rebuild them each spiritually – and solve the problem that led them to abuse and homelessness in the first place. That’s why the recovery program here at the San Diego Rescue Mission is 12 months long. There is a lot of work to do.

When I think of our program, I think of my dad. I think about how things could have ended differently if he had the same tools available to him back in 1958.

When I see the men in our dining hall, I think, “This is your chance! Your chance to fix things, and go back to some normal life, before it’s too late!”

This Father’s Day, my 12 grandchildren and five adult married kids will be far away from me on the East Coast. We talk often on the phone. They share stories about the weekend’s soccer games, upcoming baseball practices and other family events. My wife and I visit a few times a year, and cherish the memories we create. (Our next trip coming up in just a few weeks!)  It’s painful being separated by such distance, but my wife and I made this decision to be here, in San Diego because of the Rescue Mission and the important work we do.  This is my mission. I have a lot of personal reasons for being here.

This is why God brought me to this job.

Herb Johnson

 

 

 

 
Herb Johnson
President/CEO

 

A Blessed San Diego Summer

Cutting the ribbon

County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister and former Mayor Jerry Sanders helped me cut the ribbon at our Thrift Store Grand Opening Celebration.

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 helped me cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening Celebration. We proudly received Proclamations from Susan Davis, Ron Roberts and Mayor Kevin Faulconer. And representatives from the offices of Juan Vargas and Toni Atkins also joined in the special day. This new thrift store not only helps fund our critical programs here at the Mission, but offers our clients work therapy positions, teaching them retail, book-keeping, and other skills they’ll use when they return as contributing members of society.

We celebrated Mother’s Day with the Mission Valley Sunset Rotary Club and everyone else who came out to support and participate in the 2nd annual Mother’s Day 5k. What a great turnout of active, healthy families spending their Sunday morning, before Church or brunch, at De Anza Cove in Mission Bay to help raise money for the homeless mothers and children here at San Diego Rescue Mission!

Overall, we had 248 participants this year – up from 166 last year! The 5K raised almost $7000 through caring participants and generous sponsors. I want to personally thank each of you for your support.

Mother's Day 5k

Thank you to the 244 participants who helped us raise $7,000 during this year’s Mother’s Day 5k

We also had a great turnout at our second annual Shepherd Society luncheon last week.  I enjoyed meeting with so many generous San Diegans who thought to put San Diego Rescue Mission into their Will. This enduring support is a true blessing, and a lifeline for men, women and children who are hungry and homeless.

To help more people understand the impact they can make through Planned Giving, we launched a new web site http://sdrescuelegacy.org/ which shares donor stories, personalized planned giving calculators, and provides an easy way explore the many benefits of charitable gift planning.

Just last week over 50 people came to the Mission to help fix up the hallways and landscape the exterior of the building.

Volunteers at the Mission

Last week, more than 50 volunteers helped beautify the Mission!

Planned Giving

Thank you to individuals like Tony + Alisa who’ve established legacy gifts to benefit the Mission. You can read their donor story and more on our new Planned Giving website

A big thank you to Gables Residential for coordinating Sherwin Williams, De La Torre Landscape Solutions, HD Supply, J&C Carpet and Michelle Harrison Design.  Sherwin Williams supplied 30 gallons of designer washable paint, while Gables employees used supplies from HD Supply to paint the third, fourth and fifth floor hallways.  Employees from De La Torre Landscape and Gables came together to add $5,000+ worth of new plants and mulch to the planters, while Michelle Harrison Design donated and hung framed canvas paintings on each of the three floors.

Nearly 400 people call the Mission home every night and we are most grateful for our partners’ efforts to make them feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.
But even with all this incredible community support, when San Diego summer starts, our donations drastically drop.  In fact, 40% of our donations for the year come in between October and December. This means the pantry is pretty bare when summer comes.  With fewer gifts coming in, it’s going to be a challenge to serve more than 132,313 meals and provide 34,584 nights of shelter in the next 90 days. That’s why we are promoting Christmas in June.

Homeless mother with her two children

40% of our donations for the year come in between October and December. This means the pantry is pretty bare when summer comes.

Today, I’m asking if you can make a special gift and share the spirit of Christmas with our neighbors in need. It only takes a few moments to give a gift that can make this a summer of Christmas-sized blessings for people who are hungry and alone, broken and homeless – and want hope for a better tomorrow!

Thank you for your continued, generous support this Summer. On behalf of the men, women and children here at the Mission, God Bless!

Here’s a few of the Ways we’re Reviving Hope to San Diego’s Homeless this Spring!

When hunger ends, life really does begin. And that statement continues to ring true  during our annual Easter Meal, when hundreds of home-cooked meals are served to those who might otherwise have no food, companionship, or celebration this holiday.

When hunger ends, life really does begin. And that statement continues to ring true during our annual Easter Meal, when hundreds of home-cooked meals are served to those who might otherwise have no food, companionship, or celebration this holiday.

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 that Spring is almost here. The beginning of Spring doesn’t just mark a time for us to begin preparing for one of our biggest holiday meals, Easter, but a time of renewal, possibilities, hope and new beginnings for many of San Diego’s homeless, lost and hungry.

One reason I’m in this job is because of my mother. She believed in opening the doors of our home to people in need and giving them whatever help she could.

I wish she could have met some of the people who come to our door each day. For many of them, life has been so hard, that it’s often very difficult for them to believe that there is another way – or that complete strangers want to help them open the door to a better life, new possibilities, a new beginning.

Jesus opened that door when He died on the cross and was resurrected. Just as He came to life again, so do the men and women whose hearts and lives are changed here at the Mission.

A New Preschool for Homeless Children

This Spring, we’re going another step beyond our annual Easter Meal and recovery programs to help change lives. I’m excited to announce that we are in the final planning phase of opening the doors to a new preschool for homeless children. This marks a new beginning for San Diego’s youngest homeless population. This new project would not have been possible without your generous support, and with a grant from Alliance Healthcare Foundation.

Preschool1-300x199
Find out why a preschool for homeless children is so critical.

A New Thrift Shop

We also just signed a lease to open a brand new Thrift Store on Sports Arena Blvd. This will be our 4th San Diego Thrift Shop and will not only help to fund our critical, life changing programs, but our stores provide our clients with work therapy positions, teaching them retail, book-keeping, and other skills they’ll use when they return as contributing members of society.

San Diego Thrift Store

We’re opening a brand NEW Thrift Shop at 3601 Sports Arena Blvd on May 2, 2014.

I hope you’ll join us for the Grand Opening on May 2, 2014 and help us celebrate another avenue for helping homeless create a new beginning.

And finally, I’d like to encourage you all to join us this Mother’s Day for the 2nd Annual Mother’s Day 5K on Sunday May 11, 2014. This special event, organized by the Mission Valley Sunset Rotary, is a healthy and fun way to celebrate Mom, while helping to support important programs here at the Mission.

Thank you for being part of these joyous transformations!

herb_johsnon_signature

Herb Johnson
President/CEO

Let’s “Open More Doors” to a Better Life for San Diego’s Lost, Hungry + Alone

Homeless and Hungry

In 2013, we served over 448,000 meals to San Diego’s homeless. Pictured here are some of the homeless and hungry waiting to enter the Mission for our annual Thanksgiving meal. Click here to view our full “Year in Review” to see more ways you helped in 2013.

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 residential recovery program.

As we move into 2014, I hope to open more doors for San Diego’s homeless by expanding our life-saving programs and services here at the San Diego Rescue Mission.

As I told Diane Bell of the San Diego Union Tribune for her recent article highlighting resolutions of some of San Diego’s top local leaders, this year “we will strive to provide the highest level of rehabilitation and housing services to the least, the lost and the forgotten of this community. Every night we house nearly 380 souls. That includes 75 to 80 children and more than 60 mothers in our emergency overnight shelter. Our 12-to-16 month residential recovery programs extend lifesaving services to nearly 250. There still are nearly 5,000 unsheltered homeless or indigent citizens who need our continued support to survive and be safe in this wonderful city.”

Herb Johnson with Baby

Although I don’t do this important work for the personal awards or recognition, I was deeply honored to receive the Humanitarian Award this year during the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Gala.

In addition to providing more nights of shelter and hot meals, a major goal of 2014, is to raise a minimum of $175,000 and open a preschool for the homeless children staying at the Mission each night.

Currently, the infants and preschool aged children and their moms staying at our Women and Children’s Emergency Shelter, have to be back on the streets by 7am each morning. Per the terms of our conditional use permit they can not come back until our doors open at 7pm each night.

A preschool at the Mission would provide these children a safe environment to learn and grow. This video from KPBS does an excellent job showing what life is like for these young families on the streets each day, and how critical a preschool for homeless children can be to their survival.

As we begin our 59th year of caring for people who are hungry, homeless and in need, I want to thank you for being a “door opener.”

For many of the men, women and children who come to San Diego Rescue Mission, life has been so hard for so long that it’s often difficult for them to believe that there is another way to live,for them this is “a door to a better life.”

Mother's Wish

Tomorrow, new faces will come through our doors. They will be hungry, homeless and lost.

You are the person who helps open that door!

It may start with a simple meal or a night of safe shelter. A chapel message. Or a conversation with a staff member.

Tomorrow, new faces will come through our doors. They will be hungry, homeless and lost.

As we move into 2014, I hope you help us continue to feed them, give them a warm place to sleep and begin the work that returns them to their homes, their families and their communities. Your support is a great blessing that is never taken for granted.

God Bless!
herb_johsnon_signature
Herb Johnson
President/CEO

The New Pastor

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

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek

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 introduced as the head pastor that morning.

He walked around this larger church for about 30 minutes while it was filling with people for Sunday morning service… Only 3 people said hello to him.

He asked people for change to buy food… NOT ONE person gave him change. They turned away or said that they didn’t have any change- even though they had more than enough change for the coffee donation bucket.

He went into the sanctuary where he sat down in the front of the church. Shortly thereafter two ushers approached him and asked that he move to the back of the sanctuary.

He obeyed, and as he walked to the back row, he quietly said hello with a warm smile to the people also sitting in the sanctuary. The greeting returned was stares and dirty looks. He felt that uncomfortable feeling of people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, the service began. He listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders walked to the front alter… They were excited to introduce the new pastor. They were advised that the new pastor would be sitting with the congregation.

The only elder who was in on this experiment announced, “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek!

The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up- he began walking down the aisle.

The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him as he walked the altar. The elder who knew what was going on handed the microphone to the new Pastor.

While holding the microphone, the Pastor looked down as he paused for a moment.

Then he looked up and quietly recited, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’.” he paused as he looked over the congregation.

The Pastor continued, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Members were shocked, some began to cry- many heads were bowed in shame.

He continued by stating, “Today I see a gathering of people, but I do not see a church that represents the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The world has more than enough people. We need more Christian disciples.

My question to you this morning, when will YOU decide to become a disciple?” He then dismissed the service.

Far too many people do NOT understand that being a Christian is so much more than something you claim… It’s something you live by- it’s compassion… it’s something you kindly share with others.

Food for thought!

Photos + Stories from our Annual Holiday Meals

Holiday Meals VolunteersI 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 in one of these pictures! Dedicated groups and individuals, churches, schools, companies and families donated more than 25,477 hours of their time to make life better for homeless men, women and children.

Holiday Meals VolunteersGenerous donors fed those who were hungry and provided warm beds for those who were homeless by sponsoring nearly 500,000 meals and 142,000 nights of shelter.

Together, we’ve rescued hundreds of homeless men, women and children from the streets each day. Fed, clothed and sheltered them, healed them physically and spiritually. We’ve changed their lives and given them hope!

This Saturday, we expect to serve more than 1500 hungry and homeless men, women, and children at our annual Christmas Dinner.

During each holiday banquet open to the homeless, we have some of our clients volunteer to be table hosts to sit amongst our guests and be a friendly face, and to tell them about our programs.

These table hosts submit feedback after the meal that is powerful.

Here are some comments I’ve received from our hosts after our recent Thanksgiving meal:

  • RosaHumbling. I just want to hug them all. They all seem so happy with just a little bit… I appreciate what God has given me so much more.
  • This experience is just a blessing. I never thought I’ll be table hosting for a homeless shelter. I just thank my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
  • That I need nothing other than what I have. God may I never forget this is all I will ever have and ever need.
  • As I see the people come in it fills me up with emotion. To see the kindness still exist in society. Thank God for the Rescue Mission my gratitude is unexplainable of how they have helped me change from my behavior to my relationship with God. How He has saved me from my troubles. This experience to be able to reach out to those in need and share of the mercy of Jesus our Lord is always going to stay in my heart. The generosity the Mission spreads and the look at the children’s faces priceless. Thank you San Diego Rescue Mission and Herb Johnson.
  • Holiday MealsI am overwhelmed with the dinner experience, as server here at the Rescue Mission. Meeting and greeting the public and hearing their stories of thanks and blessing lets one know that they do appreciate every and all for Thanksgiving.
  • I am very grateful that God has blessed me today. I got to share my experience with people just like me and tell then now god has changed my life through the San Diego Rescue Mission. My heart has been broken today by God and has shown me that no matter what He is and will always be.
  • I am 34 years old I have been blessed with yet another confirmation that this is where I am supposed to be. With my 23 days clean and sober and walking with God. The first women I met at this dinner coincidentally has 23 years clean today and although she is homeless has not chosen to pick up for this revelation to me that God is good.
  • The Thanksgiving congregate meal is a bittersweet experience for me. I loved meeting with all these people and sharing with them God’s love. Letting them know that they mattered and how the Rescue Mission has helped me. The sad part was hearing some of their stories. It made my heart ache inside and I wanted to cry. I know that all I can do right now is listen and pray and with God that is enough.
  • Holiday MealsThis experience is truly a blessing I feel a lot of joy and peace about this event. This event is truly humbling. This event I believe is the beginning of a wonderful change in my life and my attitude about other people. They were truly a blessing in disguise to me personally. I truly felt a whole lot of love form those who sat at my table and there was a harmony all around me. To God be the glory.
  • I am grateful that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to give back. I am grateful to see my brothers volunteer with me and to see the smiles on their faces. When they start a conversation with someone they has never met. I am happy to see people that are less fortunate smile as they eat. It also makes me happy to hear them say that the food tastes amazing. Today has been a great day.
  • I am happy to be a part of this experience. It is a blessing to see the smiles on their faces and moving to the music as they enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner here. I was able to talk to some of them and give them a few words of encouragement to help lift up their spirits. I am thankful for what God has done for me because once upon a time I was their shoes.

Thank you to all of our donors, volunteers and everyone else who has helped the Mission this year. Because of you, we are able to you provide these life transforming services.

God bless you for your compassion and generosity!
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Herb Johnson
President/CEO