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    San Diego Rescue Mission marks 50 years service with open house

    God is a giver of second chances, offering every person the opportunity to turn their life around no matter what they have experienced. The San Diego Rescue Mission has extended God’s love to the homeless, addicted and abused in San Diego for 50 years now, letting them know of the plans He has for their lives.

    The rescue mission’s 50 year anniversary will be celebrated, along with the grand opening of their new Elm Street facility, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 5-7 p.m. with a reception, tours, a building dedication and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

    Located in the former Harbor View Medical Center, the rescue mission has been up and running at the new facility since January 2004 for men, and April 2004 for women. However, because the building was not yet complete, the grand opening was on hold.

    The new facility is able to house 40 percent more people than what the ministry had previously been able to accommodate — and is still acting somewhat as a hospital, as the SDRM focuses on healing the body, mind and soul. Currently, more than 300 homeless men, women, and children are benefiting from the rehabilitation and residential programs.

    There is a program specific to men, and another for women and children. The men are treated in a 12-month rehabilitation program, where the cause of their problem is targeted to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. The rescue mission wants to help get these people back on track and living the life God intended, rather than giving them one meal and sending them on their way.

    The women’s program focuses on parenting and gives mothers the opportunity to raise their children in the 12-month residential program. For women, they often need healing from an abusive relationship and to learn how not to make their way back into such a relationship.

    Because of the reality that 50 percent of women at the rescue mission have been victim of domestic violence, and therefore struggle with some serious issues, some with a phobia of men, the six-story building is divided between men and women.

    Keith Hammond, spokesman for SDRM, said there is a high level of security, with computer cameras, security guards, and key cards needed for entering certain areas of the rescue mission, as well as separate entrances and dining areas for men and women.

    Nueva Vida Haven is another part of the rescue mission where women and children can get help, but it’s a nightly emergency shelter, rather than a rehabilitation program. This shelter allows them to retreat to a safe place when being troubled on the streets at night.

    They receive two hot meals, a good night’s sleep, and staff helping to determine the best long-term help for their specific situation. But most importantly, they are reminded that they are daughters of the King.

    They’re not in the education business, said Hammond, they’re in the life-transformation business.

    “It’s not just about teaching people how to help themselves,” he said.

    In most cases, those seeking help are struggling with an addiction or some kind of abuse — substance or physical. Because there are internal wounds that occur with these types of abuses, they are provided with the proper treatment through one of the rehabilitation programs, as well as clinical help and the guidance of Jesus Christ.

    Hammond said they need help healing their problems so when they leave the rescue mission, they don’t end up retreating back to their addictive crutches when they hit a speed bump in their lives.

    One of the reasons SDRM has been so successful, with a 20 percent to 40 percent graduation rate for men, and 70 percent graduation rate for women and children, is because they combine two important elements — when other rehabilitation centers usually only focus on one.

    “Most centers usually go one direction or the other,” said Hammond. “They’re either very clinical or very God, but we take the best clinical practices and teachings of Jesus Christ and blend them together.

    “People get the best of all worlds by coming here,” he said.

    The rescue mission has 80 paid staff, who are all licensed in their given areas of work. Everyone has their bachelor’s degree, some have their master’s. All women and children go to the staff psychologist and when others get past the orientation phase of a program, they are assigned a case manager, who can really discuss what’s going on in the person’s life, said Hammond.

    While those who enter the rescue mission don’t have to be a Christian, they have to be willing to go to chapel and Bible studies.

    “When people ask for Jesus’ help, he’s the glue that puts people’s broken lives back together,” said Hammond.

    They are encouraged by the staff that God has a plan for their life and that good things lie ahead for them. Hammond said they want them to live out Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” so they can experience the blessing of second chances.

    Hammond said the best thing is to see God working in people every day, making promises to the down-trodden and hopeless. People can change in one day and after one month, the transition is phenomenal, even if they don’t graduate, he said.

    “This place is perfect for those who want to change their lives around,” said Hammond.

    Because of the nature of the rescue mission, a small group of neighbors had their concerns about its relocation. However, SDRM is dedicated to making it an asset to the community. Since their presence at the new location, the crime rate in the area has gone down and things are now going great within the area, said Hammond.

    A neighborhood advisory committee has been created to “facilitate dialogue and collaboration between the rescue mission and the surrounding community, and to serve as a forum for addressing community issues.”

    Once an abandoned building, the facility served as a home for the homeless, he said, but with no one helping them. Now that it has become SDRM’s location, several hundred people in need are receiving the help they need to get back on their feet in society.

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