Rescue Mission’s job is getting tougher: Our community can help
The Wenatchee Valley owes a debt of gratitude to the selfless leaders at the Wenatchee Rescue Mission for their tireless efforts to help those experiencing homelessness find the resources and inspiration to rebuild their lives in our community.
While it is fashionable for critics to blame unhoused people for their circumstances, a more honest assessment is that many of our neighbors are one life crisis or medical emergency from living on the streets.
There is much we can and should do to assist the Wenatchee Rescue Mission. They’ve had a run of tough luck lately, with refrigerators and freezers failing during a recent heatwave, spoiling food and setting back their efforts to meet essential human needs.
“Sometimes Satan throws a wrench, and we got the whole toolbox thrown at us (this summer),” said Scott Johnson, the mission’s executive director. The local homelessness task force gave them an emergency $75,000, about half the cost to replace a new 12-foot by 16-foot commercial freezer. We must find a way to help them raise the rest of the funds.
Just as important, we should wrap our arms around the organization — as individuals, nonprofits and churches — by becoming volunteers and mentors so that they feel less like pariahs in our midst and extend them the dignity and respect that everyone deserves.
What I appreciate most about the work being done by Johnson and his wife Monique is that it begins with seeing value in every human being, meeting them where they are without judgment, and providing resources to help them get their lives moving forward.
Wenatchee Rescue Mission was originally called Hospitality House. Before the Johnsons came to the valley, services were contingent upon participants following religious rules. That old school mindset was counterproductive, said Johnson, a Desert Storm veteran and a man of faith who has been doing this work for more than 25 years. He described the new approach this way: “We are meeting human needs first with a Godly approach.”
From outward appearances, we seem to be seeing more homelessness in our valley — people panhandling at intersections, vehicles of all sorts serving as housing on the streets.
Services for those who are homeless have been scaled back this summer, after the PowerHouse Ministry center closed in East Wenatchee and Lighthouse Ministry reduced services. However, the People’s Foundation is redeveloping a center in South Wenatchee that will provide additional resources.
Wenatchee Rescue Mission has roughly 90 beds available and is a full-service resource center for individuals — helping them get identification and providing shower and laundry facilities, as well as food boxes, for individuals struggling in the community. Recently trained volunteers are conducting outreach to see how to help others who are not getting services. Whatever the need, Wenatchee Rescue Mission is there to do what can be done, with a skeleton staff of three, passionate volunteers and board members like Meg Driscoll, a former mental health crisis specialist.
There is no single story about how someone ends up unhoused, Johnson told me. In one case, a man ended up in a downward spiral after his wife committed suicide. Another lost his job during COVID, couldn’t make the exorbitant rental rates locally and ended up at the mission.
Circumstantial homelessness, caused by a crisis, is on the rise. Homelessness happens for a combination of reasons, from mental health issues, crises and generational poverty, exacerbated often by alcohol and drug use.
Being a full-service resource center is the best approach to helping people get permanent housing and build sustainable lives, said Johnson.
He said there are steps we can take if we want to address homelessness in our valley, rather than just inhumanely run people out of town:
- Refrain from giving money to panhandlers and instead give them cards provided by the Wenatchee Rescue Mission that tell how to access services.
- Continued financial and volunteer support from the faith community.
- Help Wenatchee Rescue Mission raise $75,000 for a new freezer through its website, wrmchange.org.
- As individuals, volunteer at the Mission and get to know these individuals as fellow human beings.
- Give food and clothing regularly to the mission to help feed and clothe those who are struggling.
The heart of our approach to the complicated challenges facing those who experience homelessness ought to be kindness, respect and dignity. Remember, our shared humanity is the first step toward a community that helps out those who are struggling.