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Gospel Mission works to empower its guests

Regarding the editorial entitled "One answer to homelessness is shelter" on Nov. 26, I was encouraged that someone is recognizing what the Medford Gospel Mission has been doing for almost 60 years. We have a shelter that is never full; the problem is some people prefer to camp out and follow their own rules rather than follow the rules of a shelter system.

The Medford Gospel Mission isn’t interested in enabling people in their unhealthy situations; rather, we work hard to empower people — one small step at a time — by building within them the confidence to take ownership of their lives. This typically happens in three stages: relief, restoration, and transformation.

The first step is relief and comes in the form of offering food, clothing and shelter in a compassionate, respectful way as we build relationships with them. We know that simply offering free services, as nice as these are, won’t bring lasting change. This is why the goal in all three of these areas is to first gain relational trust. This is extremely important because many of the people we serve have relational barriers that have them feeling stuck in the situation in which they find themselves. Once we gain their trust and the person is ready for real life change, we can start to do the work of empowering them down the road of restoration that leads to transformation.

Restoration happens as we empower our guests to take responsibility to address the challenges they face. They do this as they enter our Getting Things Done program that gives them the opportunity to set goals and accomplish them over the course of 10 weeks while living at the mission. We meet with these guests daily to encourage them to stay the course and weekly to empower them to plan their next steps. These individuals also invest time every day completing tasks that keep our facilities a pleasant place to live, and embolden them to become part of a positive environment that helps other people in need. Over the course of these 10 weeks, most of our Getting Things Done participants accomplish their goals and leave better equipped to live a more responsible life in our community, and do not immediately return to camping out.

We can only accomplish so much in 10 weeks, so we encourage people to invest in themselves by committing to our two-year developmental program called the Upper Room Transitional Living program which enables them to work on whole life transformation. This program leads people out of a life of dependency, depression, and addiction by encouraging them to address the challenges they face. Over the course of two years, whole life transformation comes as the individual is challenged to change the core of who they are as they work on their relationships with God, self, others, and their community. With the help and trust of our community mentors, they are empowered to take ownership of their lives, and with confidence, set long-term goals and achieve their dreams.

— Jason Bull is executive director of the Medford Gospel Mission.