Thanks to a dedicated, caring group of staff members and volunteers at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, homeless people had a welcoming, festive celebration to attend on the 4th of July. In the afternoon, the Rescue Mission held its 11th annual Fourth of July Barbecue Dinner for about 100 homeless guests, many of whom had been displaced for the day by the festivities on the beach. About 30 men in the Mission’s Residential Treatment Program also joined the celebration. Both the caring spirit of organizers and the gratitude of guests were palpable.
The Rescue Mission’s parking lot on East Yanonali Street was decorated by the Women’s Auxiliary in patriotic red, white, and blue. A large contingent of volunteers and staff from Calvary Chapel prepared and served a bountiful all-American buffet of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and plenty of sides. While dining, guests got to enjoy upbeat, live music performed by Wilson and Max Geyling (sons of President Rolf Geyling). The 71- member auxiliary provided raffle prizes, which were announced every 15 minutes and geared toward homeless guests. Luggage and a backpack were the most popular items.
The Rescue Mission’s President, Rolf Geyling, shared that while it’s challenging to be homeless every day of the year, the holidays are an even more poignant time because people who are homeless see families out having a good time on Cabrillo Boulevard and at other public celebrations. During this special time, he related, the Rescue Mission likes to remind its homeless guests that they are valued as well.
Due to ongoing construction, space constraints prevented setting up the multitude of carnival games that are typically at this event, but guests didn’t seem to mind — they were enjoying the good food, camaraderie, live music, and prizes.
Not only is this an enjoyable day for the homeless guests, but it also exposes those who haven’t been to the Rescue Mission before to the services the organization offers. The Rescue Mission provides shelter and emergency services to S.B.’s homeless population year-round.
The shelter provides an entry point for its 12-month residential drug and alcohol recovery program for men and women, which has had phenomenal success. Nationally, only 20 percent of those who start a treatment program complete it, and of those who complete it, only 20 percent maintain recovery for five years or longer. The Rescue Mission’s current completion rate is 43 percent, and 52 percent maintain recovery for five years or longer. The Rescue Mission also offers family support, relapse prevention, and men’s sober living.
The Rescue Mission recently completed a five- year, $12 million renovation of its 40,000 square foot facility. After providing an estimated three million meals and 1.6 million stays since 1986, the facility was in desperate need of repair. With a multi-staged construction schedule, the Rescue Mission was able to continue a significant portion of its programs during the remodel.
With the renovated facility, the number of women who can be sheltered increased from 18 to 34, and the number of men from 80 to 88. Before the renovation, every night there were more homeless people seeking shelter than beds available, with the chapel being used nightly to accommodate the overflow. The renovation created, for the first time, dedicated, gender-specific bathroom facilities for homeless guests and made extensive structural and seismic upgrades to meet current building codes.
This nonprofit receives no government funding. Donations are still being sought for the capital campaign and are always welcomed for ongoing operations. For more information about the Rescue Mission, click here.