My last update to the blog was June 6th, almost a month ago. The month has been very busy and I continually posted a lot on facebook; links, writing, photos, videos. I will now hit some of the highpoints here.
In late May it looked as if Hope Gardens would be closing. Unless they could raise $2.8 million dollars by June 30 the women and children would be relocated back to Skid Row.
The below was taken off one of the pages at http://www.urm.org/ the page of Union Rescue Mission.
June 25, 2010
Officials at Union Rescue Mission said Friday that they had raised sufficient funds to keep open Hope Gardens, a transitional housing center for women and children in the foothills of the San Fernando Valley.
“I’m feeling great relief,” said Andy Bales, chief executive of Union Rescue Mission. “We’re planning a celebration next month at Hope Gardens.”
Like many nonprofits, Union Rescue Mission has been hard-hit by the recession. Demand for the organization’s services, which include a downtown shelter, has increased 45% in the last two years, Bales said. But by late May, donations were down 21% from last year.
Unless the organization could raise $2.8 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, officials feared they would have to close Hope Gardens, which offers homeless women and children a tranquil atmosphere in which to rebuild their lives.
On May 24, Bales issued an emergency appeal for donations through his blog, Twitter, Facebook, text messages and snail mail.
He said key support came from individuals such as Scott Minerd, a managing partner at Guggenheim Partners, who provided $1 million in matching contributions.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and he’s really stepped up,” Bales said. “But it’s not just been the big gifts. It’s been other people stepping forward with what they can that has helped get the matching funds.”
The target was reached Friday morning with a $250,000 gift from the Louis & Gladyce Foster Family Foundation, he said.
Bales sent out a celebratory Tweet: “Thanks 2 you http://urm.org has received $2.9 Million towards $2.8 Million goal 2 Save Hope Gardens!”
The next step is to develop a plan to ensure the center remains financially viable, Bales said. All employees have already accepted two 5% pay cuts, and eight people were laid off, Bales said. The organization is also appealing for long-term support from Los Angeles County, which pays for security, counseling and other services at the site.
– Alexandra Zavis
This was the news story last week as you, our donors put us over the top in our fundraising efforts to save Hope Gardens Family Center and keep precious moms and children from returning to the mean streets of Skid Row. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!!
31 days ago I feared for the worst as I drove home late one night after a Board of Directors meeting at Union Rescue Mission downtown. I contemplated the fate of not finishing well, retiring in disappointment and disgrace, believing that I might be viewed as a fellow who tried hard, but failed. It was not a new feeling to me. 6 years after I handed off the reins of Good Samaritan Urban Ministries in Des Moines, Iowa to a capable new leader and committed Board of Directors, this coalition of 120 churches that I had helped form from ground up and nourished for 10 years closed the ministry and sold the property that we had not only renovated for over 140 previously homeless families, but also battled gangs and crime to provide a peaceful helpful setting for those families. When I left, I underestimated the continued need for building relationships and the heavy weight of debt that eventually did the ministry in. That decision that was made to close haunts me to this day, and during our battle to win Hope Gardens, opponents of Hope Gardens brought it up and stuck it in my face and it felt like a knife in the back.
So here I was again. Our services at URM were up 45% over the last 2 years, and giving had fallen off by over 21%. We were looking at a $4.4 Million shortfall for the budget year that ends June 30th, and there was talk of selling this beautiful place that we had fought so hard for in a 21 month, $1.9 Million dollar legal battle, including 34 neighborhood meetings (beatings), that culminated in a remarkable 6 hour Planning and Zoning Hearing victory!
The worst part of all, I knew that if we closed Hope Gardens, before I could retire in disgrace I would have to have to be the one to tell the moms and children now living in peace and safety, that they would have to find other housing or return to URM surrounded by Skid Row and some of the meanest streets in our country. I was not sure my heart could take it, but I knew that I would have to carry it out.
We reached out to the County Board of Supervisors for help and shared that without their help, not only would we be unable to move 24 more single moms and their children to Hope Gardens, but we would indeed have to vacate the 34 families now residing at Hope Gardens. We are still waiting and hoping for continued support.
I wrote a plea letter that I promised would be a once in a lifetime request, and based on my health, I truly meant that. We sent the letter to our donors, posted it on my blog and shared our need through texts, emails, twitter and Facebook.
A kind donor and KKLA Radio Hosts Frank Pastore and Reba Toney provided a powerful radio thon that helped us passionately get out the word and we raised close to $70,000.
I drove to Santa Monica on May 24th a tired, broken, fearful yet hopeful man and met with our friend Scott Minerd. He had called and asked me what we needed to save Hope Gardens, and I shocked him by saying that we needed $2.8 Million by June 30th to have any hope of saving Hope Gardens. He told me a sweet story of how he wanted to bring his friends dog for a walk around Hope Gardens, but the dog had died of cancer. Tears welled up in his eyes as he told me that his friend had gone to the pound to find another dog, but the dog he picked out was mean, and he left the dog at the pound. Later that day the pound called his friend and said that the mean dog would be disposed of in a few hours since he was not adopted. Before he finished I knew what this huge hearted man was going to tell me. Scott was now owner of that once hurt and aggressive dog, and he had named her grace, because she was saved by grace!
I asked Scott, no I begged Scott to allow us to honor him as our 2010 Hero 4 Hope. He was not keen on the idea, but said he would consider being the Hero 4 Hope if it would help. Before I left, this giant of a man with an even bigger heart told me that he would provide a gift of $250,000 that would be a challenge gift asking for others to match. He gave me a hug, and assured me that we had to do everything possible because, “we cannot let Hope Gardens close!” I began to feel hopeful that a miracle was coming!
When we honored Scott as the Hero 4 Hope, we surprised him by having a partner of his who had flown in from Chicago say a few words. Scott was surprised, but he had a bigger surprise for me. He said, “I had a dream last night. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and in the dream I matched up to $500,000 of whatever was given at this event today!” I was amazed, but Scott was not done. “Beyond that, I dreamed I would match any single gift of $250,000!” I really began to have hope! When that gift was matched by wonderful friends of the Mission, Scott said, “I did not tell you the rest of the dream. I dreamed the 1st $250,000 was matched and I offered a second match of $250,000.” Not only did my faith grow at that moment, but I knew that indeed we were experiencing a miracle of love and that there was great hope for the moms and kids at Hope Gardens Family Center.
Like Scott, thousands have responded in their own special way. A formerly homeless friend named Don who now has a home and has completely rebuilt his life became a monthly donor; a colorful builder of amps and guitars for premiere artists around the country, Myles, reached out to his network of friends, and you all gave what you could. Pastor Steve Faubion of Calvary Church Pacific Palisades presented us with a check for $25,000 from the church and shared that when the mission was hurting, they were hurting. In addition the children at Calvary Christian school raised over $5000 when they were told they could wear jeans to school for a $10 donation! Early last week we were getting close when Pauley Perette, star of the top show on TV, NCIS, and a volunteer at Hope Gardens contacted me and said she wanted to help save Hope Gardens! She joined twitter, something she had opposed for a long time, and with the help of a friend she posted a Youtube video asking her friends to join her in saving the most beautiful place on earth, a place where previously homeless moms and kids live a life of peace and hope. We gained a huge amount of momentum from Pauley. It was remarkable. Friday morning, June 25th, just 31 days after launching what seemed like an impossible attempt to raise $2.8 Million, a check for $250,000 came in from the Louis and Gladyce Foster Foundation, 1 week after the Foster family lost their wonderful matriarch, Gladyce at the age of 90. She and her husband had given the cornerstone gift for our URM downtown building, the largest Mission in the US. Amidst their sorrow, they took the time and shared what they had putting us over the top, to $2.9 plus and counting!
Instead of having the dreadful task of relocating families, we are planning a celebration in the near future to praise God and thank each and every one of you who took part in this miracle!
I am trying, but I can not possibly put into words how thankful I am for this miracle that has transpired through you and friends like Scott who had faith, and more than that, had love for precious moms and kids. I broke into tears as I shared my joy with the Chairman of our Board of Directors that I don’t have to finish my career of ministry as a failure, and much more than that, hopeful moms like Angel, one of my Facebook friends, and her children do not have to leave the peace, safety and hope of Hope Gardens Family Center. Here’s what she wrote to me last night on Facebook:
“Thank you guys and thank our Heavenly Father – i will be giving prayers of thanks until the day i have to leave hope gardens! God bless and keep you all that created, support, and run these programs for us and our kids!”
I felt pretty terrific that the goal was reached on my birthday and it was terrific that Andy Bales and his staff thanked my friends and I directly and indirectly.
There was a little bit of dialogue on the page:
Myles Rose says:
June 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm
Andy & URM staff … I am ready for the next challenge. The effort and energy was more than worth the end result. One of the most worthwhile actions in over a half a century walking this earth. My deepest regards and respect to all of you who work each day at URM and those who helped keep Hope Gardens open.
Andy Bales says:
June 26, 2010 at 5:03 pm
Thank you, Myles, for having a big part in this! Bless you!
The original page can be seen at http://www.urmblog.org/2010/06/26/saved-by-grace/
The Los Angeles Times ran a story on this event as well - http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/06/union-rescue-mission-reaches-fundraising-goal-to-keep-transitional-housing-center-hope-gardens-open.html
The folks from NCIS were also part of the battle.
In the end the battle was won.
Back at Union Rescue Misson other activities continue. Thursday nights are now the six nights of Starwars. On the roof of Union Rescue Mission children who have very little in life are given a few hours of fun and diverson from their difficult life.
My Terrifying Night on the Streets of Skid Row
I thought I knew how bad Skid Row was. It took a sleepless night on the sidewalk to experience the terrifying reality.
When I recently had the chance to spend a single night outside in front of Union Rescue Mission, I thought I knew how bad it would be. But I didn’t. It was the most terrifying night of my life.
I had planned to spend the night sleeping in an EDAR, a kind of folding tent on wheels. But the smell of trash and human waste, the constant yelling, fighting, and drug use, and the squeaking of giant rats the size of cats – which I saw crawling over people all night – kept me awake.
The sidewalk in front of URM was crowded with dozens of people: an old man sleeping in a wheelchair, a frightened middle-aged man and woman huddled in a dark corner, an elderly man suffering from Alzheimer’s wandering lost, a wheelchair-bound prostitute plying her trade in the pay toilet across the street.
Then there were the drug-crazed predators; the man who attacked a woman across the street, another man who attacked a woman in a nearby alley, the thug who assaulted everyone who crossed his path, and who even threatened me. Risking my own life, I broke up at least five or six fights that night.
That’s how it was all night long. There was never any let up in the noise, fear, screaming, fighting, drug use, prostitution, and rats. It was just relentless.
I spent just one night on those streets. That night scarred me. If I had to spend one more night out there, I’m not sure I would have recovered. But what happens to the hearts and souls of the thousands of precious people who have spent weeks, months, or years on Skid Row? Men and women who’ve given up on life and hit bottom here?
That’s a thought I can’t tolerate. No one – not one single human being – should ever be left on the street and forced to live in terror.
Today I’m more grateful than ever for all our generous donors. We’re able to serve almost 5,000 precious souls a day. Every night more than 1,000 men and women sleep in a safe bed. And best of all, more than 600 people have decided to give life another try and escape these streets for good.
BBQ Friday lunch is just about over but I had lunch here with a few of the URM staff folks. BBQ burgers, hot dogs, beans, chips, drinks.
As a side note ... during lunch part of the conversation was my six paramedic release tags after being injured. One of the URM folks was a bit taken aback that I "had been to the hospital" six times since December. To correct things ... only one visit to the hospital was necessary, the rest of the times it was paramedics who later released me and in most of those cases the paramedics were there for other people also involved.
To also set the proper picture ... It is not a given that when walking down the street in skid row you will get attacked. Likely at times? Perhaps. In my case it was generally my fault as I tend to step in the middle of altercations between others and stop them. This can happen maybe a half a dozen times per night. In six or seven months I have only been injured about six times or a bit more when medical attention was not required, it looks like my percentage of win versus loss is quite high :-)
with a friend who was more taken aback by Andy's mention of rats than some of the other material. I explained there is a lot of trash and filth on the street. Today as I was walking (7/2/10) to URM down 5th I took a shot of some of the trash as this was a very clean day on the street compared to most days.
I posted many stories on the economy on facebook. Bottom line ... things are not getting better and I see the number of residents on the street increase each week. Unemployment benefits have run out for the first wave of folks and the future does not look bright ... or even dimly lit at this point. I seem to have a pretty good track record in speaking my viewpoint on the state of the economy.
The bottom line here .... Please think a bit about trying to help. Look at the website at http://www.urm.org/ and send the link to your friends. Ask them to help. The battle is ongoing and Los Angeles has the highest homeless population in the USA. The homeless population in Los Angeles is higher than the population of Santa Barbara. If you don't think you can make a difference you are mistaken ... you can. I spent five weeks posting on facebook, twitter, emailing my friends and associates in the music industry asking them to help and they did. My deepest thank you to all of my friends that stepped up and helped in many ways - donations and spreading the word themselves.
URM provides thousands of meals a day. 365 days a year. They provide shelter, medical, dental, legal, educational services and more. This is an ongoing expense so please consider helping and passing on the word and website link.
To my country music folks that are looking to get into the running for the Home Depot Humanitarian Award ... just do something for URM. Nobody could beat that as they are the largest mission, the oldest and Los Angeles has the largest homeless population. Pretty hard to top helping Union Rescue Mission. Lots of you thank God when you accept your rewards from the ACM, CMA, CMT, Grammy etc. Well, I think that Pastor Andy Bales who heads URM might have some great thoughts about any of you that help and heck, that can't hurt.
I am also trying to organize a summer concert series. Not anything huge or complex. Maybe 250 folks on the roof of Union Rescue Mission for a fun concert. The ticket proceeds would go to URM. If some of you folks are in town to do a gig for the late night TV shows like The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel, or day shows like Ellen and want to make a difference, a big difference and perhaps end up in the L.A. Times and other publications as well as on the news drop me a note about spending a few hours playing (acoustic or electric is fine) and I will put you in direct contact with the right folks. Keep in mind that you can probably write all this off anyway as URM contributions are a tax writeoff. So what are you waiting for :)
In closing, thank you to all my friends that stepped up to the plate and helped keep Hope Gardens open. Thank you to the staff at Untion Rescue Mission for all your hard work, long hours and support. Thank you URM for your continued encouragement and a heartfelt thank you for being there for me above and beyond to Alex, Jacqui, Ginger and Andy Bales. You are all an inspiration to me every day.
Myles S. Rose