A major change in the San Diego Rescue Mission’s schedule of serving of meals to the needy is being touted a success after just several weeks.
Instead of an evening meal, the local missions outreach now serves breakfast to its outside guests. The change was made Sept. 29 and administrators believe the switch is practical for several reasons.
“We are committed to ‘taking the street out of the person.'” said Bill Brunk, executive director. “This new structure, focused on recovery, will create a more suitable atmosphere for change — a new journey toward greater excellence.”
Seven days a week, the doors open at 5:30 a.m. to the dining hall in the men’s Mission at 1150 J St. A brief chapel service, usually including two testimonies, begins at 6. At 6:15 the doors close and the men, women and children are fed. Then there is a chapel service 8-9:15 a.m., followed by assisting with individual needs.
“We used to see the men and women — mostly men — just hanging out, waiting for the dinner meal,” said John Stauffer, director of resource development. “By having them come in early, we can help bring the structure of getting up early and starting with the day.
“They’re also sober to hear the message and get cleaned up for the day.”
This also allows the Rescue Mission to use the facility the rest of the day for people in the men’s or women’s residential program who are committed to changing their lives.
Lunch and dinner are served to these people and the traditional evening chapel is continuing with the churches involved being able to minister to people who are sober and eager to change.
“It’s allowing the volunteers to get to know some of the men and women better so that when they’re ready to move forward with their lives, there are people who care and who can help,” Stauffer said.
For more than four decades The San Diego Rescue Mission has provided “recovery for the total personÐbody, soul and spirit.” This has meant food, shelter, clothing, medical services, and more. Each of these services is meaningful in and of itself, and each has greater impact when delivered with God’s love and His message.
Stauffer, who said he had been homeless but was able to recover with the Resue Mission’s support, said there is no need for people to be hungry in San Diego.
“It’s no problem getting five meals a day,” he noted. “The problem is changing the life. We’re the home ministry of the church, but the problem we have is that many churches just don’t see us as a missions organization.”
“We know that unless we tend to the spiritual needs of those who seek our help, their recovery will be limited,” said Bill Brunk, executive director for the last year.
Brunk noted that as the face of homelessness changed, so has the mission’s challenges.
“Now we have men, and now women, in their late 20s and early 30s, rather than just men in their 50s and 60s,” he said. “Although alcohol abuse has always been an issue, today it is compounded with drug abuse, histories of violence and child abuse, and families torn apart at the seams. We see individuals who, as a result of falling into the abyss of substance abuse, have the emotional stability and social development skills of teenagers.
“We find ourselves faced with a large population of chronic homeless, people who remain on the streets for years. Some have been in and out of homeless programs for 10 years. Plus, there is a high incidence of mental illness. At least 40% of the guests who were coming to our evening chapel service and meal were ‘hard core’ homeless. They are not really interested in hearing God’s word. They are here to be fed and find reprieve from the elements. Their behavior is often inappropriate and disruptive, inside and outside our facility.”
Stauffer said that changes in the welfare system could mean an increase in women and children who are homeless. “We could see as many women and children on the streets as men by the turn of the century,” he said.
Brunk noted that many of the 5-day emergency shelter guests have stayed with the mission before and were not using the shelter as it was intended — as a stepping stone to recovery. Also, many of the walk-in guests who take advantage of the personal hygiene services (showers, restrooms, etc.) deliberately damaged Mission property.
“After much prayer and consideration, we have decided to significantly enhance the way Rescue conducts its ministry,” Brunk said. “We are convinced that these enhancements will not only help us achieve greater excellence, but that our clientele will find more wholeness and recovery.”
The director said these improvements were carefully and prayerfully considered by the Mission’s Board of Directors and staff. They are changes that reflect the need for a new structure to deal with a new clientele.
Brunk said the changes also means:
- Breakfast guests will be encouraged to attend morning chapel service.
- The Contact Office will be open until 9 a.m. to those who have joined the breakfast.
- There will be no walk-in services provided after 9 a.m.
- A small number of beds will continue to be set aside for emergency purposes.
- The evening chapel services will continue, and they will be attended by all program members in residence.
“We feel that these changes will motivate those who are willing to rise and leave their make-shift beds, get cleaned up, and attend to the business of returning to self-sufficiency,” Brunk said. “For those who have not yet found the self-motivation to make positive changes, this early morning start may help teach positive behaviors, such as getting up early and getting a start on the day. And, it will eliminate the need to wait for a meal until late in the day.”
Early morning meals and services are a more recovery-oriented approach, the director noted. Guests will be better behaved and more receptive, providing more fertile ground for the Bible study and counseling activities. Those interested in positive activities outside the Mission will be able to leave and spend the day profitably. And with the evening chapel service a resident-only gathering, there will be greater opportunity for positive Church-group interaction.”
“Improving our operating structure allows us to make better use of our entire facility,” Brunk said. “The chapel, for instance, can be used for recovery program group activities, the kitchen for job training. And our staff will be free to focus the bulk of their day on the needs of our resident program members. There will be an increased quality of the counseling and spiritual guidance given to those in residence. There will be more change and less maintaining of the status quo.”Our witness is not only to those in need, but to the entire community. These changes, coupled with a ‘Good Neighbor’ program, will have a major and beneficial impact on our immediate community. We will accentuate the positive and remain the lighthouse of spiritual recovery in the community.”
“The doors of the Mission will always be open,” Brunk said. “For those who wish to change their lives, they will be the doors of opportunity. Graduates of our men’s program will be better equipped to take their places in society as productive, self-sufficient individuals.
“In all things, the first, foremost, and only true role of the San Diego Rescue Mission is to present the gospel of salvation, pointing the way to a changed life through Christ. Our primary focus is and always has been on recovery-oriented activities. It is here at Life Ministries where those seeking change find a safe, productive environment away from the disruptive, stagnant elements of the homeless community and relearn responsibility and become productive citizens.
“In addition to the men’s facility on J Street, the Rescue Mission has a women’s and children’s facility at 939 S. 16th St. The organization also serves special Thanksgiving and Christmas meals the day before the holidays. For more information, call 687-3720.