January 2019

Here are just a few of the partnerships that helped the homeless at UGM in 2018.

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The Homeless Crisis in Downtown Spokane

As I reflect back on 2018, my overwhelming reaction is one of gratitude: gratitude for God’s faithfulness, your partnership, the lost who have come to know Jesus, the families that have been restored, and the men and women who have secured jobs and are now God-dependent, contributing members of society. It was a great year.

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November 2018

“I can go without. But I will not let my daughter sleep on the streets.”

Kylee shows the desperation and resolve of a homeless mom with a three-year-old.

There are more people like Kylee than you might expect. Homeless families make up 41% of the homeless population nationwide, and UGM shelters about 113 women and 52 children every single night at three locations. Each has a unique story, but there are a few common threads that stand out: domestic violence, addiction, poverty, mental illness, and the tenacity with which any mother can fight for her kids.

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Serving the Lord - and Enjoying It

To mark World Homeless Day October 10, six crews from UGM went out to paint over graffiti in downtown Spokane.

At the head of one of the painting crews was Jim Illback. Painting isn’t Jim’s particular skill set, but helping others certainly is. In fact, in two years of regular volunteer work at UGM, Jim has never said no to anything we’ve asked him to do. So there he was, paint roller in hand.

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The Great Light

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” – Isaiah 9:2

Generally, I'm an optimist. I see what is possible. I dream and make big plans (big enough that I make my staff nervous every now and again). I see the need, I see the way to meet it, and I get excited about the process – not ignoring the obstacles but not letting them get in the way either. I believe in a big God who does more than we can ask or imagine.

However, over the past year, I admit to experiencing periods of discouragement. The current homeless situation is challenging. Even with all the new housing-first projects, I see more people sleeping on sidewalks downtown, more people panhandling. With the recent backlash against area “sit-lie” ordinances, I worry that the fate of Seattle and Portland – abounding with tent cities – may be ours. The national political climate has been acrimonious, and not every decision has gone the way I’d like. In my Bible studies at the women’s shelters, I hear horrendous stories of abuse.

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September 2018

“All my needs were met when I got here. The food, the shelter, and the fellowship. … I tried to do it on my own, and I couldn’t do it.” - Mike

Mike Baker is a self-described mountain man who, for a lot of years, preferred the company of trees to people. When he found himself living in his car in North Idaho, the thought of coming to the Union Gospel Mission in Spokane scared him, but the support and fellowship he found surprised and changed him.

As you read Mike’s story, you’ll see some themes common among people experiencing homelessness.

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God Loves the Poor

What better phrase to describe one’s life than the one God used to describe David, “a man after my own heart.”

What do we know about God’s heart? How can we be people who pursue what is dear to Him? One of my favorite Bible verses is Jeremiah 22:16: “‘He helped those who were poor and needy, so everything went well for him. That is what it means to know God,’ says the Lord.”

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Crisis Shelter Medical Clinic: “Treat them like they matter”

UGM makes it a priority to maintain a safe and healing environment throughout the ministry. The newest UGM medical clinic, which opened early in 2017 to serve the women and children at the new Crisis Shelter facility, is a place of safety and healing in every sense.

“You get somebody that comes in that is just at the bottom, and just to have somebody treat them like they matter is a big deal,” says Pam Ubaldo, a registered nurse who volunteers in the clinic, which is open nearly every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.

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June 2018

Most of the people finishing the UGM LIFE Recovery Program this month experienced trauma as young children: Abuse. Neglect. Abandonment. Homelessness.

Those experiences left emotional wounds that were covered up and left to fester. The children became adults and sometimes looked fine for years, but the wounds were still there.

Left alone, that pain grew until it couldn’t be ignored and they’d do anything to make it go away.

That’s why people who have gone through multiple traumas as children are 7-10 times more at risk for alcohol and drug abuse, with all its destructive consequences.

The following stories are hard to hear – even harder for them to tell – but only by listening to the stories can we begin to understand how those wounds can be healed.

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Speak Truth. Speak Life.

I had a teacher in sixth grade who thought she’d motivate me to try harder in school by giving me straight Ds. It didn’t motivate me. Quite the opposite, I began to believe I was stupid. The memory still stings.

I carried that false belief for nearly 14 years. It wasn’t until I was working on my master’s degree and one of my professors told my wife I was a sharp student that I began to believe I had academic potential. It took a university professor, speaking words of truth and encouragement, to remove that label and bring healing.

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