A Comeback Story. San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission Equipping People to Lead Productive + Independent Lives
Images via SanFernando Valley Rescue Mission
The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission is in comeback mode. In May, a fire ravaged the Mission, which supports and serves the homeless of the greater LA area. The fire started at a pallet company across the street from their former North Hollywood location, causing more than 20 people (mothers and children) to be evacuated from the place they called home after coming off the streets, the Mission’s emergency shelter.
The shelter, offices, food pantry, and thrift store sorting area, which held $180,000 worth of donations, were declared a loss, a total of $2.5 million in destruction. Currently operating out of a rental property while awaiting the construction of their new location, which was started before the fire, the organization hasn’t skipped a beat continuing to provide services to the homeless.
“It wasn’t an option to give up. Our staff and organization were committed to keep moving forward – our community said yes,” said April Lindh, Community Relations coordinator, who has worked for the Mission for the past three years.
The Mission’s operations are extensive. The first part of their mission is refuge. Providing basic needs to the homeless, their Rescue S.O.S. (Survival Outreach Services) is the point of contact with homeless persons or families. The Rescue S.O.S. team travels to six distinct areas of the Valley each week equipped with its mobile shower unit, hot nutritious food, and clothing and hygiene items for distribution. Each month, they serve an average of 1,177 men, 278 women, and 47 children and provide over 1,500 meals, 1,400 items of clothing, 300 showers, and 400 hygiene kits.
This connection can then lead to their other services of recovery, programs to minister to the whole person body, mind, and spirit and then restoration, equipping people to lead productive and independent lives. The emergency family shelter offers 90 days of free overnight shelter, counseling, and guidance toward social and economic improvement.
The Mission is supported by three “Super Thrift Stores” with locations in North Hollywood, Reseda, and Sun Valley which bring in 50% of their funds said Lindh. They don’t take government funding, so they rely on the community to donate and support the cause. Lindh said they do, however, partner with the government; it just looks different. Four local council members are on their advisory board which helps build community support.
“We rely heavily on partnerships with city officials and community leaders,” said Wade Trimmer, director of the Mission for the past two years and longtime nonprofit worker. “Those relationships are not a means to an end. The relationships themselves are the end. We strive to be authentic and purposeful in all that we do. In non-profit work, people can feel like you intend on taking advantage of them for their resources. We are intentional about not doing that. We want donors and stakeholders to know that we care about them as people and what we have to offer them is a chance to make a difference in the world.”
The Mission most often serves families through their programs. “Family homelessness is the largest growing demographic [of homelessness] in the nation,” said Lindh. “One third of homelessness is family homelessness.”
This type of homelessness is different than chronic homelessness in that it occurs because of lost jobs, illness, or lack of affordable housing among other reasons. Chronic homelessness has more to do with mental health or drug issues.
Both kinds of homelessness are served at the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission. “The culture of rescue missions in general is evolving,” said Lindh. “It’s important to see the person as a whole.” That’s why the Mission makes efforts to provide more than just a one-time service to the people they serve.
“Our approach is to enhance dignity,” said Trimmer. “You can only enhance someone's dignity when you are letting them do the hard work. Our job is to resource the people we help and to encourage them. When they succeed, it is their success. When they don't succeed, it is their lesson.”
For example, as the holiday season approaches, the Mission is gearing up for their annual toy store. They learned that when a volunteer gives a toy to a child, the volunteer then becomes the hero, so they allow the parents to pick toys out for their children instead. “Our goal is to treat people with dignity and help them become the best parent they can be,” said Lindh.
Seeing the people they serve as equal to them is a core value for the way the Mission runs its programs. “My belief is that those who are in need in some way help me with my poverty, which is not physical,” said Trimmer. “We are all poor in some way. Some of us are poor in generosity. Others are poor relationally. Some are dealing with a poverty of hope. The people we serve are amazing and inspire me to continue this seemingly impossible task of ending homelessness in Los Angeles.”
San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission
8714 Darby Avenue
Northridge, California 91325
From the Editor
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