Homeless people in Tucson share their journey off the streets

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) – There are thousands of homeless people in Pima County, all of whom are in need of shelter and food. An organization in Tucson is working not only to meet these urgent needs, but also to hope for a better future.

Mission to rescue the gospel stands out for his work with the homeless in Tucson and has changed thousands of lives.

“I was injured and I was introduced to opioid pain relievers, with the addictive nature that I just snowballed,” said Norm Englund, a former homeless man.

He has been addicted to opiates for 30 years and says he swallowed nearly 300 pills a month. He found himself alone in the street.

“It left me almost inconsistent by the time I got here,” Englund said.

A family member told him to go to Gospel Rescue Mission for help. A year later, he’s sober and moves into a new apartment.

“It means everything, because sometimes you come in here and you’re in a position where you don’t know if you’re going to live or die,” Englund said.

There are thousands of them with similar stories and not-so-happy endings in southern Arizona. According to the State Department of Economic Security, there are more than 6,400 homeless people in Pima County alone.

“I just consider that every day is a privilege to be part of people’s journeys and their experiences,” said Lisa Chastain, CEO of Gospel Rescue Mission.

Lisa Chastain’s grandfather started Gospel Rescue Mission in 1953. She took over as CEO in 2018, and shortly thereafter received a phone call from lead developer Humberto S. Lopez.

“He called us up and said, ‘I’m thinking of buying this old hotel and using it to serve the homeless,’” said Chastain.

With Lopez’s help, Gospel Rescue Mission and 33 other nonprofits have developed an “Opportunity Center” in South Tucson.

“Whatever case people find themselves homeless, we have the answers here,” said Chastain.

The center offers food, shelter, counseling, drug rehab programs and more.

“It really made me more motivated, happier, more confident,” said Nathanael Holliker, a guest at Gospel Rescue Mission. “It just likes to bring the best of you.”

“When you are there you can make yourself comfortable, I have seen people spend years on the streets taking drugs,” said Daniel Ramirez, guest at Gospel Rescue Mission: “You come here, especially in a Christian place like this, you have useful and healthy content.

This year, the center served more than 100,000 meals to the homeless. It has provided a place to sleep for thousands of people and helped 320 people find jobs. Norm Englund is one of them. At 65, he says he’s taking another chance at life.

“Probably one of the most important things for me is being able to come back here and volunteer and give back to a program that I always say saved my life,” Englund said.

The motto of the gospel rescue mission is “where homelessness ends and lives are restored”.

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