JAMESTOWN – The UCAN City Mission, 7 W. First St., has hosted more than 300 men since opening its doors April 10, 2017. By all accounts, the men have come from all different backgrounds.
A common theme, however, has occurred over the past two years. The Mission’s Executive Director Scott Linden told Congressman Tom Reed, during a visit at the Mission Friday that guests undergo “stabilization” before they attempt to change their lives by building a relationship with God. Two people who’ve stayed at the mission, in addition, gave their life story as Reed and several Mission staff members were in attendance. (For privacy reasons, we are withholding the men’s names.)
“Guys are coming in, homeless or displaced, for various reasons, and those reasons include addiction issues, the parolees, chronic unemployment, mental health issues, domestic situations,” Linden said. “Getting them in here, first and foremost, we talk about stopping the bleeding.” Linden detailed how the Mission offers, if available, a bed. Hygiene products, meals, places to shower, etc.
“That process of stabilization has to come first…Then we move on into what (the two men) talked about, which we believe is the most important issue, and that being their relationship with God, the Gospel. It’s changed hearts that truly change lives.”
One of the men who gave their testimony said that, if those who stay at the Mission aren’t led towards God, the life issues will continue to occur.
“When the bleeding stops, if we don’t point people to God, it’s just going to keep recycling and recycling,” he said. Reed reiterated the man’s point by detailing how society must find alternatives as the “bleeding” continues.
“If you give a man a fish, and a lot of social services, in my opinion, is about giving a fish to someone for the crisis for the day,” Reed said. “But what we have to figure out is a better way to teach people to fish.”
One of the staff members said that guests aren’t required to attend the group sessions that convene in the Mission’s chapel. In addition, they added that the staff members’ personalities help overcome the various challenges that the organization experiences due to the diversity of the guests.
The group also discussed how the Mission, when it was first opened, was “looked down upon.” One member, however, said that the community has started to accept the mission as a community staple.
“We are reaching people, we are having success,” the person said. “A lot of people are getting jobs, they’re getting housing, and my favorite word they taught me here, they’re getting accountability.”
“They’re erasing the stigma, too,” another group member said. “People ask me, often times when I’m speaking, where am I at. I tell them the mission, and they assume that I’m working here, and I’m like, ‘No, no, no, I live here.'”
“There’s no shame in that. Erasing the stigma that goes along with these types of environments.”
The mission is currently holding the maximum amount of guests, which is 19. The organization said it hopes to be able to create more room on the third floor so that the mission can house more residents.
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