Santa Barbara Rescue Mission focuses on rebuilding lives. Here are just a few stories.
L.B. Chandler was born in Lafayette, Louisiana. At age eight, after the divorce of his parents, L.B. moved to Lompoc, California, with his father and stepmother. Although he was a three-year varsity letterman and captain of his high school football team, he struggled with drugs and alcohol. This struggle would continue into adulthood, leading L.B. down the dark path of addiction for the next seven years, during which he experienced the loss of many meaningful relationships, several attempts in rehab, and multiple incarcerations.
In the fall of 2004, L.B. entered the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s 12-month residential treatment program, where he took an honest look at his life choices, established relationships with others in recovery, and gained the tools for living life clean and sober. Upon completion of the program, L.B.was hired by SBRM as the Program Technician, later transitioning into the role of Treatment Counselor, and, for the last two years, he has held the position of Men’s Program Director. L.B. has completed the Alcohol and Drug Counseling Program (A.D.C.) at Santa Barbara City College, holds a CATC II State Certification and continues to further his education.
L.B. currently lives in Summerland with his wife Darlene and his nine-year-old son, L.J. He enjoys working out, reading a good book, attending L.J.’s football games, and cheering for Alabama football (Roll Tide!).
Dan just turned 31 this month and received his GED on Monday. Over the last several months, he worked diligently in the Learning Center with our volunteer tutor, Jane Blair. He shares, “It felt good to accomplish something, especially my high school diploma, which took me over 16 years to do.”
Dan has been in the Mission’s 12-month Residential Recovery Program for nine months and just entered the fourth phase of treatment, which includes finding employment. “I’m applying for jobs, and I feel more confident that I’ll get a job now that I have my diploma,” he explains. Dan intends to continue his education at Santa Barbara City College. He is planning to take automotive classes that will give him the certification to complement the experience he already possesses.
Distress rarely keeps a schedule. At SBRM, we never know when a desperate person will arrive and what their particular need might be. This is most evident during the night—when most of us are sleeping comfortably at home—where for the past year our Night Security Clerk, Tom Melody, has rarely worked an uneventful shift.
In addition to maintaining vigil over the entire facility so 175 people can sleep in safety, Tom has routinely been charged with responding to some of the most challenging circumstances: individuals finding themselves without shelter; law enforcement trying to get someone to safety; sick people in need of medical attention; scared people desiring security. We are so grateful for his faith, compassion, dependability and clear judgment in the midst of unexpected and severe needs.
This month, we celebrate how God has led Tom from being a guest in need of shelter, to being a volunteer assisting with our nightly services, to being the paid employee responsible for the facility, to being presented with a new “dream job” opportunity as the live-in caretaker at Rancho La Patera & Stow House.
Tom, we miss you already, but are so grateful for your dedicated service and excited for your new position. We trust this will involve many more uneventful evenings than you may have gotten used to around here.
I don’t think Kim ever really had a chance at a normal life. You probably wouldn’t have either if your mom was an addict. Kim’s mom was also a nurse, so drugs were all too easy to get her hands on.
“My mom was dependent on pills and was always giving me pain meds for anything,” she says, “so I became chemically dependent at a young age. I used to party with my mom, so there were no repercussions.” With a 25-pill-a-day habit, Kim could have overdosed and died . . . at any time. Like I said, she never even had a chance.
When Kim reached her lowest point — when she was dumpster diving for food and living under an overpass, she turned to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission for emergency shelter and entered our Outpatient Program. “I’m a totally different person today,” she says. “I was on the freeway off ramp, camped out there, and the Mission kept me from living like that. My life is just beginning, which is scary, but I have a lot of hope, instead of guilt.”
Kim is well on her way to recovery now. She’s been clean for months, and in her own words, “My obsession for using is gone, and the anxiety is gone.” She’s landed a job, and it’s a good one. She can hardly wait for the day when she’ll be reunited with her one-year-old son.
Rosie barely knew her daddy. He went to prison when she was just a little girl. She missed him fiercely, but it didn’t matter — he couldn’t be there when she needed him. Rosie’s mom was addicted to drugs, so it fell to her grandmother to raise her. Her grandmother was a good woman, but there was a void in Rosie’s heart that she simply could not fill.
Some would have deemed her hopeless. That she even finished school was a miracle. “I had pretty much dropped out,” Rosie says, and that was only the beginning. Soon she was trapped in a downward spiral . . . where all she wanted was her next fix and a place to sleep for the night. “I was the lowest of the low,” she remembers — “the most broken addict you will ever see or care to know…”
She was a wreck when she came to us — in every way you can imagine. “I don’t know if you noticed my scars up and down my arms,” she says. “I was almost a goner from doing drugs.”
That was more than a year ago now. We’ve seen Rosie blossom into a new woman — not at all the angry, fearful, and confused woman who, when she came to us, was “always looking over my shoulder.” For the first time in her adult life, she’s drug-free. She wants to become an x-ray technician, and she’s living in a place of her own.
Leslie didn’t set out to destroy herself. But by the time she came to us, she had lost all hope.
Leslie was just a pitiful shell of a woman when she got here. “I remember standing at the mirror, looking at my arms, and my eyes, and just how sunken they were,” Leslie remembers. “I didn’t recognize myself. I stood there bawling, ‘Who is this? Is this my life?’”
“I was too afraid to commit suicide, but I figured drugs would take care of that for me,” she recalls. This Easter will be so different for Leslie. “I had never experienced Easter for what it truly is,” she says. “It’s just a beautiful experience.” Her life has literally been raised from the dead — her health is back, she’s been restored, and she’s broken free from addictions that had her in a death grip.
Leslie graduated from the Mission’s 12-month recovery program on March 2, 2013.
We’re so grateful to Russell Shannon for capturing a graduation ceremony on video. Please enjoy these graduates from our 12-month residential recovery program, as they share their personal success stories.
He looked like the kid next door. He was quiet. In his own words, a bit of a mama’s boy. But there was more to Deron than met the eye — he’d been drinking since grade school. By the time he turned 14, he was living on the streets.
“Wherever they would let a fourteen-year-old hang out and drink and use drugs, that’s where I was,” Deron remembers sadly. He longed to fit in. And he was desperate to dull his pain. As long as life was one big party, he could forget how much it hurt to be part of a broken family. After 27 years of poisoning himself, he realized that every crime he committed separated him from others.
Deron was back in jail and headed to prison for the seventh time. He remembers, “crying yourself to sleep at night in a jail dorm with 70 other guys is not the most comfortable situation.” When he was rejected by two other programs, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission accepted him into the 12-month residential recovery program. His prayers were answered, “This really was no less than a lifeline thrown to a dying person.”
Deron graduated from the program on March 2, 2013, attends college, and has a good job. “There is no way to express the difference this has made in my life.” he says. “I thought that I would die in my addiction. Today I believe there is a different life ahead for me.”
Perhaps you have seen a woman pushing a large shopping cart of recyclables around the streets of downtown Santa Barbara. Her name is Nancy Thompson, and all of us who know her or have seen her can rejoice that she is now housed after being homeless for 23 years.
As a woman living outdoors who also has health problems, Nancy was identified as one of the top 100 most vulnerable individuals in Santa Barbara County during the 2010 Vulnerability Index survey. When I saw her name on that list, I knew I needed to advocate for this remarkable, self-sufficient woman who regularly showers and eats at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.
Now, thanks to the Santa Barbara City Housing Authority, the wonderful women at the Doctors Without Walls/Santa Barbara Street Medicine Women’s Clinic, and all the rest of us who encouraged and supported her, Nancy has the keys to her own apartment. The Pathpoint support staff is going to help Nancy explore other means of earning her living after she settles in. Although she can pull hundreds of pounds of recyclables at age 57, she knows that a less strenuous and stressful job will be welcome as she ages.
Congratulations, Nancy, you have earned this!
Homeless Guest Services Director
Tom was a victim of child abuse and grew up deathly afraid of his father. As a teenager, he began running away from home and ended up in juvenile hall. He felt a sense of security for the first time in his life and was finally receiving the attention he had been seeking from his dad. When Tom was the age of 16, his parents divorced and he stayed with his mother. She didn’t have any money or job skills, so they moved into the projects of East Oakland where they survived on food stamps and welfare. In his new neighborhood, Tom learned how to fight, sell drugs, and steal cars. By the age of 20, he had an eighth grade education and no future.
At this time, Tom was introduced to heroin by his brother and found relief from fear, pain, and rejection. Within a few years of heavy drug use, he received his first prison sentence. “At first prison frightened me but after many trips it became my comfort zone,” Tom remembers. He served time in San Quentin, New Folsom, DVI, and Corcoran State Prison with a combined total of 22 years behind bars. “I destroyed three marriages and was never there for my children,” he said, and came to the conclusion that he would die in prison.
Tom landed in the Santa Barbara County Jail on a parole violation, and he heard about the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. He remembers, “I came to the Rescue Mission with the clothes on my back. I had no self-worth, no value in myself or my life.” He received compassion and clinical treatment at the Mission and began his recovery. Tom said that he learned the importance of self-disclosure and “sharing the secrets of my past allowed me to rely upon and believe in the integrity of another human being.” He credits his recovery to the new relationship he has with God and said he found Jesus on Easter Sunday.
Tom received his certificate of completion from the 12-month Drug and Alcohol Treatment Recovery Program at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on Saturday, November 3, 2012. He delivered the speech for his graduating class and closed with these words, “I have lost many battles with this disease called addiction, but I believe in the end I will win the war.”
Lori was the last person you’d expect to find at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. She used to have a great job and a comfortable home. She had a college-age daughter she was incredibly proud of. But Lori also had a secret: While recovering from a knee injury, she’d become addicted to prescription painkillers. On the outside, she’d always been the picture of success. But on the inside –– to say that Lori was a mess doesn’t begin to describe it. Little by little, she lost everything…her job, her home, and every shred of her self-respect.
Lori finally reached the point where, she says, “I decided that it would be a good idea to drive my car into a brick wall.” She knew she needed help and her first stop was the emergency room of a local hospital. Not long after, Lori entered our 12-month residential treatment program. “I went kicking and screaming” she remembers. “I still don’t know how I got here. It’s God. I was just so against it, yet I just kept being compelled to follow through.” Lori graduated from the program in July and recently went back to school to finish her degree in psychology, and the future just keeps looking better.
Kristian’s parents divorced when he was five, and he and his brother went to live with his father on a Hare Krishna farm. He reflects “I never really fit in anywhere we moved to because my dad made us look and dress like Hare Krishnas, and my experiences left me full of fear, anger, resentment and confusion. I didn’t even start first grade until I was nine, so all of these things combined caused other kids to excessively pick on and make fun of us which resulted in my constantly getting into fights, getting kicked out of school, and getting in trouble with the law.”
Kristian’s drug use left him out of money and homeless in Isla Vista. He was arrested and in jail once again. This time he requested an opportunity to recover at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. He remembers “I really wanted to change my life but was out of ideas and had nowhere else to go.” He was given an opportunity to invest in the Mission’s 12-month residential treatment program instead of serving a one year sentence in the county jail. “There is a night and day difference that has happened to me, and I now have a peace I have never known before and hope for my future” Kristian said.
A life consumed by addiction was the only life Porfirio had ever known. His dad was a drug dealer. His much-beloved sister had overdosed and died. “I was in gangs and doing crazy stuff. Drugs ruined everything and I lost everything.” When they couldn’t take it anymore, even Porfirio’s wife and 6-year-old son gave up on him and left. That should have gotten his attention, but it only made things worse. “I was addicted and couldn’t stop,” he remembers.
People like Porfirio usually die if they don’t get help. And he could easily have become another tragic statistic. But God intervened and he was arrested. Some might celebrate this but it only creates a revolving door. Instead of prison, he was given a chance to come to the Mission and that was the turning point. Porfirio found the courage to face his addiction, and the life skills that are helping him overcome it. He no longer wanted to end his life –– he surrendered it to Christ, and he’s a whole new man. He secured employment while in the program and graduated in March. Today he is a loving father to his five children.
Pam had a good life, a beautiful home, and a husband she loved deeply. Until he started abusing her…and she had to flee for her life. It was the hardest thing she’d ever done. Before Pam knew it, she was alone…on the run…and living on the streets. It was brutal. She lost everything. Her family didn’t know if she was dead or alive. But that was nothing compared to the nightmare that ensnared her when, like so many who seek to escape from their pain, she started using drugs.
When we first met Pam, she was a shell of a woman. “I didn’t think anybody cared about me,” she says. “I was scared. I was broken. I was not able to trust.” She knew she needed help. Through our state-certified recovery program for women, Pam received professional counseling, spiritual support, and help to heal her pain. “It forced me to look at things in my life from my past and my childhood that I didn’t want to look at,” she explains. “I had the most amazing, patient counselor, and she showed me that I needed to confront those demons in my past. I learned that, if I would allow Him, God could take all of those horrible things that happened to me and use them as a stepping stone in my life rather than a stumbling block… I was totally broken, but my whole life has turned around.”
Jeff grew up hard and much too fast. He never knew his dad and his friends were his real family. When he was just 12 years old, they introduced him to drugs. It is a miracle that he even finished high school. All that mattered to him was getting high. He’d find a job…and then he’d lose it. Before long, he was sleeping in a tent in the forest at night. He still shudders at the memory of the noises…”the rats running…the wild animals and stuff.” In the midst of all of this he became a father.
The birth of his son was the happiest and worst day of his life, as he put it “I was happy that I had a beautiful baby boy but scared that I could no longer control my drug use and drinking. If I couldn’t be a father to my son, who was I?” Jeff was arrested and found himself in court. He said “I was facing a lot of time and didn’t know what I was going to do. I did the one thing I knew how to do…pray.” Jeff applied to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission while he was in jail and was accepted. He entered the path to healing, restoration, and the hope of a new life in Christ. Jeff became equipped with a biblical foundation and practical skills that will keep him from slipping back into his old lifestyle. He found a good church and, a few months later, a job that he’s kept. Jeff is a walking, talking miracle.
Tori started smoking marijuana at the age of seven and entered her first program ten years later. She experienced some clean time but relapsed and started using crystal meth. At the age of 20, she went into another program while pregnant with her second child and stayed clean for six years. Tori relapsed again and turned her house into a meth lab that was soon raided. Her three children were taken in the process. She said they were very angry with her, because they thought she lied to them. Tori told them she wasn’t going to go back to jail but she did. That’s when she knew she needed to change her life.
It was at this time that she heard about Bethel House and was very resistant to the idea. She said “I’d been to programs before, I’m a hooked to die dope fiend and I needed something stronger. I knew that God was the only thing that could save me.” Tori entered Bethel House on February 3, 2010 and at the age of 27 her healing began. Even though she experienced clean time in the past, she never changed her thinking. She said “I came in like a hard little street thug with a bad attitude. I turned into somebody that’s vulnerable, has compassion, and sincerely cares about other people.” Tori graduated in March of this year and returned to her husband and three children. What a gift!
Today is an exciting day for Tom, one of the recent graduates of our Men’s Recovery Program. After a year of challenging self-examination, key life skills training, and vital relapse prevention counseling, Tom is leaving SBRM and moving out into the community. Having already made the move from our Men’s Program to our independent Sober Living facility, he is now moving on to his own place as he begins his new full-time job as Assistant Manager at a local fuel station. What an encouragement he is to those men and women still in the program who hope to follow in his footsteps!
Even more exciting than the present success of independent living and a full time job, Tom is also a stunning example of our vision here at SBRM. Just a little over a year ago, he was homeless in Santa Barbara and lost in his addiction. But today he stands tall as a healthy, productive citizen who continues to rebuild his relationships and who is leading others to recovery. That’s exactly why we do what we do, all to God’s glory!
The News-Press reports on Robert Raseta’s recovery from a lifelong alcohol addiction in this article:
A Santa Barbara native, Tony had come home to live with his mother, a few years earlier. His addictions were completely out of control, and then, “I was the cause of her almost getting thrown out of where she was living. I’d never taken any responsibility until then, but I had to straighten that problem out. As a result of that, I had to leave the home, and I became instantly homeless.”
Out on the streets and in the grip of drugs and alcohol, Tony was helpless to protect himself from the violence that threatens the whole homeless community. “I’d have blackouts and wake up cut up or beat up,” he remembers. Every year, some of our homeless die from exposure, violence, and other dangers of the streets. It looked like Tony would be next.
Then Tony got arrested, and seeing that jail had never helped him before, the courts sent him to us. Here, for the first time, Tony explored the feelings he used to cover up with the drugs—the abuse he suffered from his mother as a child. “She did crazy things,” he says sadly, but at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission he’s learned the skills to work through those memories to healing.
If you met Tony today, you’d never believe he was the same man! He’s an avid student at our Learning Center, and his family is amazed at his new life. One brother, struggling with addiction himself, is even following in his footsteps! “Not only do I want to be a productive citizen out there,” he says now, “I want to give back the way they gave to me.”
Meri’s father was a “functioning” alcoholic who couldn’t seem to show his children any love. So Meri went looking for other ways to fill that hole in her life. “All my life I’ve struggled with drug addiction and abusive relationships,” she says sadly. “They kind of went hand in hand for me.”
Things went from bad to worse when the end of another bad relationship left her homeless. Now, she faced the nightly danger of violence on the streets—even rape. Thank God, Meri was spared, but her life was chaos. Her three children were living in three different states. She no longer felt she had any reason to live . . . until she was granted a year at our Bethel House women’s program after a drug-related crime.
Now, if she could sit across a table from you, she’d say: “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the donors who support the Rescue Mission. There was a time I was literally crying by myself under a bush, thinking I was going to die and there was no hope for me to ever recover. I had given up all hope for life. Because of the Bethel House, it’s like somebody came along, held me in their arms and said, ‘It’s OK.’ Without Bethel House I would not have had the opportunity to heal and be the person I always thought I could be, a servant of God who wants to help restore other lives.”
Meri’s making the most of her second chance, restoring her relationship with her parents and her children. “I never felt like I could raise these children and give them a better life,” she says, “Now I do.” And for the first time in her life, she looks forward to the future!
Alana is the proud mother of an amazing 19-year-old boy named Nicholas. Although they have an incredible relationship today, it was not always the case. Alana comes from a long line of alcoholics, and her family worked hard at presenting a normal appearance to the outside world but on the inside it was far from the truth. She said, “In my family you were taught that big girls don’t cry. I was supposed to do everything on my own because it was weak to need anybody. I was angry and hurt and I learned quickly that drugs were an escape from painful thoughts and feelings. Using drugs made me feel powerful and for ten years I was under their spell.” When Alana became pregnant with her son Nick, she was able to stay clean for three years, but she began to use, sell, and make drugs, which led to trouble with the law.
When she was released and out on bail, she realized that she could be locked up for 12 years. Alana said, “I began to look at this hole I’d dug for myself. I swallowed a bunch of Methamphetamine (speed) and had a loaded gun in my lap. I prayed ‘God forgive me for what I’m about to do.'” Thankfully, she woke up to a friend pounding on her door and asked for help. He told her about the Mission and she filled out an application and was accepted. Alana is the Mission’s Outpatient Treatment Coordinator and celebrated eleven years clean and sober this year. Alana said, “I am so thankful that I did not pull that trigger. Without the Mission, I know I would be dead.”
Amanda and her cousin, Danny
Amanda was addicted to meth, prescription drugs, and alcohol. She was stealing, lying, and cheating—anything she had to in order to get her next fix. Before she graduated from our donor-funded residential treatment center. Today she says, “I allowed God to enter my heart and I began to have a desire to be more like the woman God created me to be, to be a woman of integrity. He gave me something I never had–HOPE.”
Amanda is attending Santa Barbara City College, studying to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor—just like her cousin Danny, a 2006 graduate who currently serves as a residential treatment specialist here at the Mission. Your gifts made such an impact in her life, through the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, that she wants to counsel other recovering addicts and alcoholics–just like the counseling she received from our Bethel House.
Before her graduation, Amanda’s new-found faith and transformation were tested. Amanda’s grandmother—who meant more to Amanda than life itself—passed away a loss Amanda had been dreading for a long time. “I always thought that I could never stay clean if I lost [my grandmother]. She was my everything…”
But Amanda has come a long way. In fact, everything about her has been so radically transformed that she’s a completely different person. “It is because of my relationship with God that I made it through clean and sober. I feel like God told me, ‘It’s okay,’ and he will take care of her and she won’t hurt anymore.”
Stan grew up in a poor neighborhood in our very own community, where peer pressure forced him into a gang and its lifestyle of drug abuse. But even in the midst of his supposedly tight-knit gang, Stan was lonely. He hated his life. “Prior to coming to the Rescue Mission, my lifestyle was an unbalanced death sentence. Willing to pay the cost for my actions, I wasn’t sent to prison again, but I was given the opportunity to go to the Rescue Mission and change my life.” Stan then said, “Over the past year, miracles have been a big part of my daily life, and on September 30, I was granted sole custody of my three oldest children. A year ago, I was not allowed to see my kids. People like me don’t stay clean and sober for over a year. People like me don’t get custody of their kids. People like me don’t check in with parole or probation. People like me die in their alcoholism, die in their addiction, die in prison. I was welcomed at the Rescue Mission when I wasn’t welcome anywhere. One last great idea to try and get sober, and here I am today.”
Sherry was adopted as a child and felt a rejection and abandonment that would plague her for most of her life. During her teenage years growing up in Los Angeles, friends introduced her to alcohol and marijuana. “I used to go out of my way to prove I was something,” she remembers, “but I didn’t even know who I was.” It was not until she was into her 30’s that Sherry realized she had a problem with substance abuse. By this time, she was a wife and mother of four children. Sherry went in and out of jail and lost job after job as a result of her destructive lifestyle.
Sherry writes, “I have contentment and confidence in God; there used to be such a strong need for anything else to fill that void. Now its like, ‘Okay, God, what are you trying to show me; what should I be moving forward in?’”
Although she attempted to get treatment for her addiction more than once, permanent recovery remained elusive. A referral from a counselor led Sherry to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. “I had heard about the Rescue Mission in passing,” she explains, “but I never thought much about it. But once I got to Bethel House, I knew I was home.”
During her year in the residential program, Sherry went through a process of facing the deep hurt that she had been running from since her childhood. One day at a time, Sherry began to explore the root issues fueling her addictions. She asked a lot of questions, applied herself diligently to her counseling workbook, and learned to be truly honest with herself and other for the first time. Simple lessons like learning discipline, setting boundaries and receiving forgiveness had significant results. Sherry’s relationships with her children, now grown, were transformed. “So much has happened in my heart…” she reflects, “in my entire life.” One of the Bethel House volunteers, Shirley, became Sherry’s mentor. The women developed a wonderful relationship that is a source of encouragement and friendship and still continues to this day.
Today, Sherry is excited to be working full-time at the Rescue Mission’s main facility on Yanonali Street. She encounters many women who call in seeking help and she tells them “If you really want what is offered here, your recovery will happen.” Sherry’s life is living proof.
I grew up in Santa Barbara County and started using marijuana as a teenager. My parents were going through a divorce and I began to distance myself from life at home. At 17 I began using methamphetamines, all the while trying to keep my lifestyle a secret from my mother. After years of sneaking around, I was caught by the police and sent to jail. At that point, my mom was through with me. I was at a point where I needed to get clean. I was exhausted. Everything else I’d done didn’t work—it was time to change. I went through the Rescue Mission’s Bethel House program and graduated in 2006. Not only did I overcome methamphetamines, but the staff even helped me to stop smoking! Bethel House saved my life. The staff cared about my life when I didn’t care at all.
Kim, Cambi’s mother, shares her experience “I remember going to Family Day with Cambi one Saturday towards the middle of her treatment. We came to one of the more emotional points in the session and Cambi knelt down in front of me. She held my hand and looked into my eyes as she shared her heart. She was being honest and open for the first time in a long time. It was a touching moment—kind of a rebirth for us. I don’t think people know where to send the people that they love. Today, it’s like a whole new world—now I know there is help out there. Without the Rescue Mission I don’t think that Cambi would have gotten sober.”
Cambi adds, “I look back and I think ‘Wow—I’m so different.’ When I was in my addiction, I couldn’t spend more than 10 minutes with my mom; now, I hunger for her time. To me, that’s a big change. She’s amazing. Today I care about my life and I care about the young lady that I see in the mirror. I am no longer a victim of my past. I work full-time, I am responsible, and when I give my word I follow through on it. Best of all, I have a great relationship with my mother.”