When most people think about Gospel Rescue Mission, they think about the meals we serve to the hungry, the safe beds we provide to the homeless, or the jobs we help them find along the way to self-sufficiency.
But homelessness, like the people it affects, is much more complicated. Beyond the hunger, shelter, and addiction, there often exists a vast legal burden tying the homeless to the streets. Years of trespassing fines, missed court dates, and drug charges can make starting over difficult or even impossible.
Or it would be, if it weren’t for Jim Richardson and our Legal Services team.
“It started back in 2003,” says Jim, “when the former director of GRM challenged the Christian Legal Society of Tucson to do more with our faith than just meet for lunch each month. So we did.”
Jim and a few other attorneys visited our former Men’s Center, got to know some of the men there, and learned what they were dealing with.
“I don’t think we provided much help that first time, but they were happy we came!” laughs Jim. “We learned pretty quickly that if we really wanted to help, we had to get them into court.”
Since that day, thousands of men and women have found legal transformation thanks to Jim and his team.
Jim explains, “We help people recover from their past legal mistakes. Our goal is to get the cases taken care of, if we can, by the time they complete their program.”
Avery is a guest who’s seen firsthand what Jim and his team can do. Homeless and addicted, Avery came to Gospel Rescue Mission just two short months ago looking for hope. Today, he’s not only sober, but he’s able to save money for his own home, thanks to our legal services team.
“I was scared about going back to jail,” says Avery. “Jim helped me sort it all out and helped me work out a payment plan with the court. I was looking at $1,500 in fines, but he got them reduced to $200!”
Ariah is another guest who was in legal trouble. She’d been running from a felony warrant for two years before her Jim’s team and her advocate teamed up to untangle the mess. “When I started the program, Jim got it all set up for me,” says Ariah. “He and my advocate called California and told them about my being in the program. They were able to get my probation dropped and arrange for a $50/month payment plan!”
Our legal team isn’t here to erase past mistakes, but to help our guests manage them in such a way that those mistakes don’t inhibit their transformation from addiction to recovery, from jobless to employed, from homeless to self-sufficient.
And our guests work hard to repay their debts, either through direct payments or by working off what they owe. “We use community service to settle a lot of fines. Everything the guests do, at both of our centers, those hours count towards community service, reducing fines by $10 per hour.”
Over the past 18 years, God has worked miracles through your support and the work of our legal team.
Every month, these seven volunteers donate roughly $10,000 worth of legal services to help change the lives of the men and women we serve.
Jim adds, “We pray at the beginning and end of the interviews, both for their legal issues and any others the guests may be struggling with. It blows people away when they learn that we care for them, not only as a guest but as a person.”
When asked how long he and his team intend to keep providing this critical, life-changing help, Jim had this to say: “A person that I respected many years ago told me, ‘When God tells you to do something, you keep doing it until He tells you to stop.’ And He hasn’t told me to stop.”
With your partnership, we won’t stop, either! Legal problems are enough to keep anyone awake at night. It can be daunting to seek legal counsel, keep court dates, and supply all the necessary paperwork in a timely manner.
Now, think about that burden to someone without an address, without transportation, without a valid ID, and you can start to see what a blessing our legal team is to the men and women we serve!
Suddenly they have options that didn’t exist, the obstacles that once blocked their path are made manageable, and for the first time, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This is what your support offers to hundreds of men and women every year at Gospel Rescue Mission. Freedom. Hope. A future. Thank you for the partnership that makes priceless gifts like these a reality!
Thanking God for you.
Chief Executive Officer