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Homeless in Tucson share their journey off the streets

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Posted at 4:59 PM, Oct 02, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) - There are thousands of people living homeless in Pima County, all in need of shelter and food. One Tucson organization is working to not only provide for those emergency needs, but also hope for a better future.

Gospel Rescue Mission stands out for its work with the homeless in Tucson, and it's changed thousands of lives.

“I was injured and got introduced to opiate pain medication, with the addictive nature that I had it just snowballed,” said Norm Englund, a formerly homeless man.

He had an opiate addiction for 30 years, and says he swallowed almost 300 pills a month. He ended up alone on the streets.

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

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

“It means everything, because sometimes you get 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 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 it every single day a privilege to be a part of people’s journey and what they’re experiencing,” 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 soon after got a phone call from major developer Humberto S. Lopez.

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

With Lopez’s help- Gospel Rescue Mission and 33 other non-profits developed a “Center of Opportunity” in Southern Tucson.

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

The center offers food, shelter, counseling, addiction recovery programs, and much more.

“It’s really got me more motivated, more happy, more confident," said Nathanael Holliker, a guest at Gospel Rescue Mission. "It just likes to bring the better side of you.”

“When you’re out there you can get comfortable, I've seen people waste years on the streets doing dope," said Daniel Ramirez, a guest at Gospel Rescue Mission: "You come here, especially in a Christian place like this you have content that’s helpful and healthy.”

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

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

The Gospel Rescue Mission has a motto: "where homelessness ends, and lives are restored".

  • For information on how to get help, click here.
  • For information on how to give back or volunteer, click here.