Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Today I spent the day downtown at Union Rescue Mission. My head is filled with new knowledge and information but I walked away with a few heavy questions with no answer. I also learned there are apects of what people think they know about URM which are not factual.
Before I continue, please excuse spelling and typing errors as well as the basic flow of this bit or writing. I have a thousand thoughts in my head from the day. I could have broken this down into many blog entries and perhaps should have done just that but don't worry, I have not even begun to start on this subject.
I cannot figure out how to wrap my head around a business model that makes no sense to me. What I have been taught over the years does not seem to be applicable in this sort of business. The business model of Union Rescue Mission is a 180 degree departure to any conventional business. If one wants to get directly to the bottom line or cut to the chase so to speak, they seem to be in the business of putting themselves out of business.
Some forms of business such as police and fire services loves when business is slow. Most forms of business do their best to grow and expand.
Union Rescue Mission supplies food and shelter. That is what most people think the downtown missions do. It is a very small part of the picture. URM supplies food, shelter, medical, dental, legal, training programs, guidance and the list goes on and on. They take people in who have nothing, who have lost their life, their way, their home, their job and more. People that have nowhere to go. They have many sub-objectives and all of these leads to one major objective, help people to become self reliant and productive.
URM puts as many people as they can on a road to being productive using various programs. Get folks on their feet, get them help in a number of areas, get them trained, get them organized or back on track, get them out the door and hope they never see them again unless it is when they visit the many friends they made during the time spent at the mission.
If there were not a steady inflow of people in need they would put themself out of business and that would be just fine with them.
Unfortunately, there is not a steady inflow of people. The inflow is not consistent, it has increased. The economy is taking its toll on the resources and finances of Union Rescue Mission.
I am posting a video from URM where Andy Bales gives some figures about how donations have gone down while the necessary services required have gone up. Not a comforting thought. On the surface these figures look a bit scary. It is considerably more critical than the video might indicate initially. I am just starting to grasp how critical the situation is after learning a bit more today.
Here are a few facts or observations that I learned first hand:
Union Rescue Mission has stockpiles of cash and generate a substantial income? Nonsense. The have had to reduce staff and the remaining staff have taken deep pay cuts. These folks were not in what most would define as a high income braket even before the cuts. As a personal observation, one of the members of the executive staff takes public transportation to work each day and rides the URM shuttle from the bus stop to the mission. What about the head guy, the man in charge, the head cheese. Andy Bales. The guy drives a Honda. Not a Mercedes or BMW.
"The Church" donates big money to the mission. Uhhh, well ... more nonsence. Churches take care of their own property and their own people. Just because some of the missions follow religious doctrine don't believe for one second that the big Church in Rome or anywhere else is sending money to Union Rescue Mission.
So where do they get their money? Many of you know the answer to this. Donations. Donations from big corporations, small business and individuals. Sounds workable, right? Everybody repeat after me, the new word of the moment .... NONSENSE. The economy has taken a toll and continues to take deeper cuts each month. The data is all around us. Increasing unemployment and rising foreclosures on homes are only two of many indicators. Business is changing. Companies are trying to be viable again by reducing operating expenses and increasing profits. This is most easily accomplished by reducing staff and reducing compensation to staff who remain employed. As things improve these companies post profit on Wall Street in many cases but their remaining workforce who are employed have been transformed or educated. Simply, they are thankful they are employed. The lost jobs for those gone will probably never be replaced. Money will be spent on less costly automated systems that do not require salary, benefits or retirement considerations.
What we have now is big companies cutting back on contributions, small and mid size companies just trying to stay in business and many individuals out of work. The operating cash flow has dried up. In California we have a water shortage, shortage of jobs and shortage of resources to folks like Union Rescue Mission. I don't want to scare folks but URM is something of the lifeboat on a ship in trouble at sea. The lifeboat may or may not be usable if and when it is needed by you. You don't think it can happen to you? I have heard this every day for months as I meet one new unemployed person after another, or somebody who has lost their home after loss of employment or financial difficulty.
Bottom line econonomics - Income is down and services needed are up. The lifeboat needs attention in the form of paint, caluking and routine service but there are not enough funds to do this. Don't look up though as you may become a bit concerned at the increasing clouds, wind, darkness in the sky and the waves are growing larger as well.
I have met many folks in the area known as Skid Row and have learned more than I could attempt to articulate in any media let alone writing. I am not a writer. I was never on the school newspaper. I never took any classes other than basic composition stuff long long ago in some school somewhere. I write technical material and can get those ideas and lessons across to many but I am weak when it comes to trying to express things I see every week.
People on Skid Row are not all crazy. They are not all drug addicts. Then again, spend a month or two sleeping on the street and being without a safe place twenty four hours a day and you will probably become a little crazy yourself. There are a lot of great people that just need help or a helping hand. Some need a safe place for a new start. Many crave a chance for a better life. I will post a few videos at the end of this blog. One I have posted before on a student named Kenneth. Spend a bit of time talking to some of the folks who are homeless and you may learn how full of dreams and strength some of them happen to be.
People on Skid Row don't work, do not want to work and just want to panhandle. Not total nonsense but again, NONSENSE in most cases. There are jerks and lazy people everywhere. I was in the corporate world for decades and there were countless jerks and lazy people all around me every day. Look at the news. Some of the biggest names in the business world are now spending their time in prison. By the way, most of the folks on the streets do have forms of income and many do have regular jobs. Unfortunately the compensation may not be adequate to have a home and raise a family.
What is my point here? I don't know. There is just too much to think about. When life gets a bit too complex for me I step back and try to simplify things into fewer objectives. I will try to do that here.
1. Go here and donate something to URM - https://secure3.convio.net/urm/site/Donation2?idb=606437098&df_id=1320&1320.donation=form1
A few dollars on a regular basis will go a very long way. These folks need income they can depend upon. URM does not have a stockpile of cash and the situation is critical.
2. Go here and read a bit about Hope Gardens. Some of this information is a little older but it is still quite important and current in the scope of the message. The video I will post was done almost two years ago but is filled with good information. Hope Gardens is run by Union Rescue Mission and without your help it may not have a stable future. You can help. Take a stand and make it personal. Too many of us just leave these sorts of things to others. http://campaignforhopegardens.org/
I am sure many of you saw the recent news stories about a person that went to the aid of another who was being stabbed. The person was able to save the person under attack but was stabbed himself. Security cameras showed people walking past the bleeding individual for an hour, doing nothing. Psycologists on the news said it was human nature in society where we shut down and ignore situations like this one. Self protection. Feeling that somebody else will help or somebody has already made a call for help. Well call me crazy as I have a very difficult time letting those shut down mechanisms blind me to these things. Bottom line here .... I am telling you.... your eyes are open, look at what is going on, do something, others are not doing anything, YOU can make a difference.
Hope Gardens from Union Rescue Mission on Vimeo.
Kenneth | Stories from Skid Row from Union Rescue Mission on Vimeo.
For something good to be accomplished one has to actually do something.