(Colorado Springs, Colorado)—With Father’s Day approaching this Sunday, it’s important to keep in mind that many dads are dealing with homelessness and poverty. According to the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) annual Snapshot Survey, single men are the heads of about 10 percent of the homeless families served by rescue missions. And another 13 percent of homeless families served by rescue missions are intact, with both mothers and fathers in place. These numbers have held steady over the past five years.
This makes fathers an active part of nearly a quarter of the homeless families served through AGRM member missions. And it makes Father’s Day, like any day that emphasizes family relationships, a significant event for rescue missions to remember.
AGRM President John Ashmen says, “Of course, not every memory is pleasant, but Father’s Day gives us a chance to emphasize the importance of families and the sense of connection they can provide not only to dads but also to uncles, brothers, and anyone else who might provide male leadership in a family unit.”
James, a recent graduate of the addiction recovery program at Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, is one example of a homeless man recovering his role as a father figure. “I didn’t ‘do drugs,’ I ‘did drug,’” James says. “Crystal meth for 39 years. I lost a lot of jobs, lost a lot of relationships, and eventually shut the door on the relationship with my family.”
James adds, “I could’ve been a brother to my sister and brother-in-law. I have two nieces and a nephew, four great-nieces and one great-nephew, and even one great-great-niece. They all knew me as Uncle Jim, but you could see the disappointment in their faces while I was addicted. My family finally had to tell me, ‘We love you, but we just can’t have you around anymore.”’
The only place open to James was the home of his drug connection. “There were a lot of guns, a lot of drugs, a lot of bad people,” James recalls. “But it wasn’t long before I felt God tell me,’ It’s time for you to get up and leave this place.’ So I did.”
James soon found himself in a Los Angeles park where he met someone wearing a badge from Union Rescue Mission. His new acquaintance told him that the mission was a place that might help straighten out his life, as it had his. James made his way to the mission. As he walked through the doors, he knew it was the right place for him.
“James is representative of what many people who come to Union Rescue Mission—and rescue missions around the country— face,” says Union Rescue Mission CEO Andy Bales. “Many of us find that a common denominator among those who are homeless is that their family has disintegrated, or that they’ve burned every bridge to their family members.”
James successfully completed the year-long addiction recovery program at Union Rescue Mission. “When I graduated from the program, my family was in the front row cheering me on. Today, I’m an apprentice on the development staff. My job is to call people and personally thank them for their donations.”
James adds, “Four generations of my family are restored to me now. The hardest part is the hurt and loss I caused over the years. Now I can see how much they loved me, over all those years. The only way that they understood Uncle Jim before was through my addiction; they had no idea who I was without the drug. Now they can see Uncle Jim as he really is. The old is gone. The new has come, and I thank God for that.”
AGRM’s Ashmen notes, “It should come as no surprise that homelessness is very hard on families. Fathers and mothers alike agonize over the health and well-being of their children without the stability of a home, and often miss the impact that homelessness has on their own lives. As with James, homeless men who have never been fathers also long for solid connections with their families and friends.”
Ashmen concludes, “It’s a better Father’s Day when the men we serve through rescue missions can celebrate stronger relationships with their families.”
Now in its 103rd year, AGRM has nearly 300 rescue mission members across North America. Each year, AGRM members serve approximately 66 million meals, provide more than 20 million nights of shelter and housing, assist some 45,000 people in finding employment, provide clothing to more than 750,000 people, and graduate nearly 17,000 homeless men and women from addiction recovery programs into productive living.
Rescue missions have been providing hospitality to impoverished people in America since the 1870s. They are experts at providing effective care for men, women, and children who are hungry, homeless, abused, or addicted.
AGRM is North America’s oldest and largest network of crisis shelters and rehabilitation centers, offering radical hospitality in the name of Jesus. For more information, please visit www.agrm.org.
To schedule an interview with AGRM president John Ashmen, please contact Brad Lewis, Director of Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (719) 266-8300, ext. 103.