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How Does Lasting Change Happen in the Lives of the Homeless?

By September 21, 2017Articles

Professional Panhandlers or Truly Homeless?

Oregon State Representative Carl Wilson points out that vagrancy is growing everywhere on the West Coast, from the streets of Los Angeles to the sidewalks of Seattle.  Shockingly, “professional vagrants” are often on the streets by choice,  especially here in Grants Pass.  Why not?  They have no intention of changing their lifestyle because they can make around $60 to $85 daily panhandling.  Those free handouts they receive on street corners and freeway off-ramps provide them the money to buy drugs, booze and cigarettes.  Many of them deliberately dress down and look dirty to fool us. Free food is always available in Grants Pass.


Mission Residents

However, the truly homeless do not choose to become penniless. Mission residents want and deserve your help and mine. Many of our homeless residents have lost their jobs or suffered an illness that their insurance won’t cover.  Some are battered or abandoned wives and children.  When they seek help at the mission, residents are required to quit drugs, cigarettes or liquor and to work every day in our kitchen, do housekeeping, work at the Second Chance Thrift Store, Recycling Center and help clean the streets of Grants Pass.  While they stay at the Gospel Rescue Mission they begin to change their lives for the better.  They may return to school for vocational training, get jobs and work to improve their lives.  If they are caught panhandling in town they are asked to leave!  The mission does not support panhandlers.


Resources for Community Care

What can we do about the panhandlers in our community?  Police Chief Landis appreciates the mission facility, sobering center and daily food truck.  Such organizations help officers to choose appropriate treatment for homeless individuals and families.   Commissioner Lilly Morgan points out that our Christian mandate is to love God and to love others.  The mission is a resource for this kind of care in the community. National statistics tell us that around one-third of our female residents are treated for mental illness and 40% have been diagnosed with substance abuse (“Homelessness and its Effects on Children.”  www.fhfund.org).   Our goal is to help them – not to force them out on the streets again.  As long as they remain drug, alcohol and tobacco free, we are willing to assist them in turning their lives around.  This is how we can be good stewards of your donated funds.


What G.P. Citizens Can Do: Existing Resources & Think Tanks

You can help organizations like the Gospel Rescue Mission and other food outlets.   Encourage panhandlers to visit our mission to decide if they are truly willing to change their lives for the better. Encourage local leaders to support the mission.


Faith Changes Lives

Don’t forget that a person who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord is enabled by the Holy Spirit to make valuable contributions to society. Therefore, your mission is proactive in sharing the gospel to our residents.  For example, Tammy was a hardcore heroin addict who spent 23 years in and out of jail.  She was tired and worn out when she came to our mission.  But, she accepted Christ as her savior and became a new person.  Then, Tammy died unexpectedly in her sleep at the mission.  Her witness lives on and we encourage others with her story.  Laura suffered from battered wife syndrome.  Sadly, she passed away in a car crash.  But, she shared her struggles with other mission residents as we led bible studies for abuse victims. Both ladies changed their lives for eternity.

The mission serves a valuable role in changing lives for the better as we care for the truly homeless in our Grants Pass locale. Please volunteer your time or money for those who are willing to make lasting changes.


-Val Emilio

Val Emilio

About Val Emilio


  • June perkins says:

    I am concerned about the no smoking part. This is so hard to quit and the least of their problems. Why is this worth kicking people out over?

    • Brian Bouteller says:

      Hello June, and thank you for your question. It’s a very common concern.

      Our short answer is, because it’s good for them and it’s the right thing to do. How is it good for them? Well… it is good for their health, it’s wise for them financially, it is proven to increase their chances of quitting other addictions, it’s good for them to practice impulse control, and it’s an indicator of their commitment to making genuine change in their lives. All the research and data support this. This is also why the Mission does things like paying for nicotine patches, invite Smoking Cessation Specialists from AllCare into our program to provide weekly support groups, and encourage medical assistance when ever necessary to help residents quit.

      The only time we ask people to leave the Mission is when they break the covenant contract that they willingly signed and agreed to upon entering the Mission (which includes a signed commitment to quit using nicotine). We offer services to those who agree to abide by a code of conduct. When they change their mind and break that agreement, we ask them to leave but also let them know that after a period of time (often 30 days), as long as they are ready to commit to that contract, we will be willing to try again.

      I would offer that a resident using offensive language can be just as hard to quit and may not be seen as the largest of their problems, but you can be certain that if they refuse to quit using offensive language while staying at the Mission (another breach of the contract they signed), they will be asked to leave. I tell you this to say that all of those behavioral changes we ask for during a residents stay are what make up the necessary changes for independence because they are all connected to what makes them homeless in the first place. Our goal isn’t simply to make life more comfortable, but to make homelessness something they can escape from entirely.

      If you’re interested in further conversation about this topic please take the time to listen to our podcast where we take the time to specifically address the issue http://gospelrescuemissiongp.org/2017/10/grm-podcast-episode-8-why-does-the-mission-prohibit-smoking/ .

      I sure hope that is helpful!

  • Eric Mortinson says:

    Brian wrote a great article responding to this. You can download a PDF file here: https://goo.gl/PqaT7B

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