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Homeless Shelter Executives Inform, Educate Lawmakers About Pending Legislations’ Negative Impact

Forty visit Washington, D.C., to Discuss Critical Issues Facing Nonprofits

Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2012) – Leaders of homeless shelters and rescue missions across the United States — who reach out to thousands of men, women and children in desperate need — gathered in Washington, D.C., March 18 to 20 to present concerns about pending legislation that could slow or halt their ability to provide valuable services.

The gathering of 40 leaders is part of a growing effort by Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) members, who run faith-based nonprofits, to inform lawmakers about their operations, and about how recent congressional efforts may affect their organizations.

“For more than 100 years, rescue missions have been providing tangible help and long-term hope for America’s most disadvantaged citizens,” said AGRM President John Ashmen.  “But as traditional, faith-based entities, we’re finding the current legislative environment increasingly unfriendly to our collective cause.  Far too many pending policies have the potential to hamper the critical services rescue missions offer.”

While donations from individuals and private organizations, rather than government dollars, typically make up the bulk of rescue missions’ funding, government actions can profoundly affect their operations and fund raising.

For example, some pending legislation would affect tax-related incentives for donors.

Community support is critical and integral to AGRM-member missions, with citizens, businesses, churches and civic groups in each organization’s city volunteering and giving money, food, clothing and other items.  In the past few years, Ashmen says, gospel rescue missions have faced significant increases in service requests related to the struggling economy’s negative impact. At the same time, donors’ ability to support their work has diminished.

“At a time when the government should be providing huge incentives for ordinary citizens to give, there seem to be more than the usual disincentives,” Ashmen said.

Another issue important to the leaders is the potential removal of the postage-rate discount for nonprofits, forcing missions to use first-class postage for their mailings.

“If passed, this legislation would have a negative impact on our ministry and result in additional dollars going toward postage rather than feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing hope to those who are hurting,” said Rev. Chico Daniels, president of Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  “Since 50 percent of our funding is derived from direct mail and only 5 percent comes from online donations, our postage costs would increase by almost $393,000 — or 257 percent — under this law.”

Monday the members gathered to hear updates about current legislative activities and to discuss the issues that might affect mission operations, fund raising and other areas.

“We have a great representation from all across the United States,” Ashmen said.  “The mission leaders who have come to D.C. to be part of this event are from the nation’s first- and second-tier cities.  Countless people in those cities depend on the rescue missions not for just meals, clothes, and beds, but also life-skill instruction, job training and addiction recovery programs.”

On Tuesday, mission leaders visited Capitol Hill offices of legislators who represent the districts where their organizations are located.

“It is a privilege to be in our nation’s capitol with AGRM as a guide to learn about and interact with our government representatives,” said Brad Meuli, president and CEO of the Denver Rescue Mission in Colorado.  “Rescue mission leaders from around the country are gathering in unity here.  It is a great opportunity to discuss the important issues that impact day-to-day activities at their operations and at Denver Rescue Mission.”

Each day, thousands of homeless and poverty-stricken men, women and children find life-saving services at Association of Gospel Rescue Missions-affiliated organizations across the United States.  The nonprofits provide meals, clothing, emergency shelter, long-term rehabilitation programs and other services to help victims of poverty, homelessness, abuse and addiction.

“Rescue missions unashamedly present the gospel of Jesus to those who come through their doors,” Ashmen said.  “That’s because it is core to who they are, and because they have repeatedly witnessed the boundless power the gospel has to radically change lives.  They have decades of moving accounts of seemingly hopeless addicts recovered, splintered families healed, and broken lives put back together.”

AGRM is an association of more than 275 rescue missions across North America.  Each year AGRM member ministries serve approximately 50 million meals, provide more than 20 million nights’ lodging, distribute more than 27 million pieces of clothing, bandage the wounds of hundreds of abuse victims, and graduate more than 18,000 homeless men and women from addiction-recovery programs into productive living.  AGRM is North America’s oldest and largest network of crisis shelters and rehabilitation centers, offering radical hospitality in the name of Jesus.


Editor’s note: Photographs of the Washington, D.C., gathering are available at AGRMNews photostream.