As we enter 2022 at the Central Coast Rescue Mission, we’ve been considering the many peaks and valleys of 2021, and what’s coming up in this year ahead. We’ve become experts at pivoting when faced with challenges outside of our control. We wish the pandemic was over. All year staff and volunteers have risked their health to continue to fight this good and worthy fight and we’re grateful.
This year our Thanksgiving and Christmas banquets were once again held at Santa Maria Foursquare Church in a to-go style format. We served over 1,200 meals at Thanksgiving, over 1,500 meals at Christmas and gave away 600 toys to kiddos in our community who may not have a merry Christmas. As is always the case, our banquets are an opportunity to start a relationship with new clients and get them on the path to recovery.
We tried something new this year, asking our guests what else we can help them with. We are spending these first few weeks of 2022 following upon that feedback.
Speaking of 2022, we have a big plan: open a new location! One of the biggest needs we see in our community is a long term recovery program for women. We know this is the case based on inquiry calls we’ve been getting since 2017 (about 20 each month asking about a program for women). We know this is the case based on our partners’ findings as well. With the support of our community this year we’ll be starting a recovery program to serve women in the local area!
This time of year we also meditate on right expectations. For those who help the homeless, whether as staff, volunteer, or donor, it might feel like our efforts aren’t enough. The frustrating fact is: things are getting worse in our area. We are seeing more people in need of help than we have in the past.
About 20 percent of our clients moved to Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo counties in 2020. About 10 percent of them were not in California in 2020. We have more families struggling to make ends meet. We will continue to see homeless camps in the Santa Maria riverbed when we cross the bridge into SLO County.
This year we didn’t end homelessness in our community. We did, however, engage in life change. Thanks to the efforts of staff, volunteers and donors, we helped a kid in his early 20s, who’s faced indescribable trauma and loss, finally gain ground in his battle with mental health. We’ve been a family to a guy who’s absolutely torched every single bridge he’s ever had. We’ve welcomed a man who’s worked with his hands his entire life, and pledged to be there for him over the next four months as he has major reconstructive hand surgery. And most of all, we’ve repeated in the ears of 54 men that their futures are not determined by the sum of their mistakes, but by the love of Jesus for each and every one of them.
The Rescue Mission is a part of the solution to homelessness in our community. But that is a side effect of our true mission: to Change Lives for Good. Everything we do boils down to lives changed. We set our expectations on the individual level.
2022 will see us focused on holistic, long-term recovery. In 2022 we want to try new and creative ways to change lives. We want our donors to feel like they are making an investment in their community as well as in the Kingdom. We want our volunteers to feel like they’re doing something meaningful for the community they live in. We want our staff to sweat and cry and grow as we serve those who need it most. And we want to see the face of Jesus in the eyes of the clients we serve. We’re ready for 2022, and we hope you’ll join us!