Blog Archive:

4th of July Carnival


We are holding our seventh annual 4th of July Carnival for our homeless guests on Friday, July 4 from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m.  The celebration will occur in the parking lot located at 535 E. Yanonali St.  We are preparing to serve a BBQ dinner to feed approximately 300 homeless men, women and children.  Through the efforts of the Women’s Auxiliary there will be music to entertain guests, a carnival of games, and raffle prizes provided. The men and women in the Mission’s 12-month Residential Recovery Program will also be present to lend a helping hand.

Rolf Geyling, President of the Rescue Mission, stated, “Life on the streets is never easy. That is why the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission works so hard to create a warm, welcoming, homelike atmosphere––especially during the holidays.” The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is the only local agency providing summer overnight shelter to the homeless, along with other emergency services and life-changing recovery programs.


Turkey Drive

We are accepting turkeys, canned food, and monetary donations in preparation for our annual Thanksgiving Feast on Wednesday, November 27 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.  We’re planning to serve over 300 meals to community members in need.  The Thanksgiving dinner will include turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, pie…and all the trimmings.  Approximately 800 turkeys are needed for all of the meals that will be served throughout the holiday season.

Rolf Geyling, president of the Rescue Mission, stated “We’re already expecting this to be one of our busiest Thanksgiving seasons ever.  We are seeing an increase in emergency meals with other local, emergency resources drying up due to cutbacks—our numbers will only continue to climb.”

Donations may be dropped off Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the Yanonali St. office.

L.B.’s Happy Ending

(From left: L.B. with his wife Darlene and son, L.J.)

L.B. Chandler was born in Lafayette, Louisiana. At age eight, after the divorce of his parents, L.B. moved to Lompoc, California, with his father and stepmother.  Although he was a three-year varsity letterman and captain of his high school football team, he struggled with drugs and alcohol.  This struggle would continue into adulthood, leading L.B. down the dark path of addiction for the next seven years, during which he experienced the loss of many meaningful relationships, several attempts in rehab, and multiple incarcerations.

In the fall of 2004, L.B. entered the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s 12-month residential treatment program, where he took an honest look at his life choices, established relationships with others in recovery, and gained the tools for living life clean and sober.  Upon completion of the program, L.B.was hired by SBRM as the Program Technician, later transitioning into the role of Treatment Counselor, and, for the last two years, he has held the position of Men’s Program Director.  L.B. has completed the Alcohol and Drug Counseling Program (A.D.C.) at Santa Barbara City College, holds a CATC II State Certification and continues to further his education.

L.B. currently lives in Summerland with his wife Darlene and his nine-year-old son, L.J.  He enjoys working out, reading a good book, attending L.J.’s football games, and cheering for Alabama football (Roll Tide!).

Summer 2013 Newsletter

Please open your summer issue of Milestones and read stories of our graduates, and what they had to share about God doing the impossible in their lives.

Summer Newsletter 2013

4th of July Carnival

We are holding our sixth annual 4th of July Carnival for our homeless guests on Thursday, July 4 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.  The celebration will occur in the Rescue Mission’s parking lot located at 535 E. Yanonali St.

Independence Day at the Mission marks America’s birthday and so much more.  We are preparing a BBQ dinner to feed approximately 500 homeless men, women, and children.  Through the efforts of staff members and volunteers, there will be a carnival of games provided, raffle prizes, and music to entertain the guests.

Volunteer Appreciation

Our Men’s Recovery Program held a BBQ on Saturday to honor their volunteers.  There were 29 sponsors and mentors who came for lunch and fellowship.  Matthew Wilson and Tim Lynch, graduates of the program, came just to cook for everyone.  A big thanks to all of these volunteers who are helping our men rebuild their broken lives.

Angels on the Premises

We had a surprise visit from nine angels disguised as Girl Scout Troop 50786.  Francine Spear, who supervised the visit, said the girls collected all of the money they raised while selling cookies, and they bought enough boxes to distribute to 45 men in the Mission’s 12-month recovery program.  A big thanks to these generous and thoughtful scouts!

Dan Earned His GED

Jane and Dan

Dan just turned 31 this month and received his GED on Monday.  Over the last several months, he worked diligently in the Learning Center with our volunteer tutor, Jane Blair.  He shares, “It felt good to accomplish something, especially my high school diploma, which took me over 16 years to do.”

Dan has been in the Mission’s 12-month Residential Recovery Program for nine months and just entered the fourth phase of treatment, which includes finding employment.  “I’m applying for jobs, and I feel more confident that I’ll get a job now that I have my diploma,” he explains.  Dan intends to continue his education at Santa Barbara City College.  He is planning to take automotive classes that will give him the certification to complement the experience he already possesses.

Congratulations Dan!

Kids Rock

The first hint that a team of teenagers was coming to SBRM last night was the three young musicians setting up in the chapel. I knew right then that the homeless guests and I were in for a treat.

One of the perks of my job is being able to worship almost every night with our guests. Pastors, musicians and Bible teachers from many local churches come once a month (or more) to lead us toward Christ.

Last night, Santa Barbara Community Church High School Youth Group came out in force under the guidance of Youth Pastor Benjii Bruneel, just as they do the second Monday of each month. While the musicians warmed up, other teens helped set up and serve dinner to our 122 guests. After dinner, they mingled with guests on our patio and in the chapel until the service started at 7:00 p.m.

The high school students planned and led the service. Musicians Carter Hudson (guitar and vocals), Libby Baker (vocals), Emily Gilman (viola), and Dallas Flannery (drums) guided us through about eight beautiful hymns, interspersed with reflections and teaching by Tyler Bradford, Tanner Neal, and Baker Johnson.

The chapel pews and the chairs in the back of the room were full with people of all ages. It was such a blessing to me to see old and young hands lifted in praise, song and prayer.

Thank you, Santa Barbara Community Church, for sharing this evening with us and enriching our lives.

Jill Wallerstedt
Homeless Guest Services Director

A New Range

Daniel Osti, Food Services Supervisor

Daniel Osti, Food Services Supervisor

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is deeply grateful to All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church of Santa Barbara for the donation of new state-of-the-art kitchen equipment. In order to serve our homeless guests and recovery program residents, we offer five meal services a day in our dining room. Thanks to the new range and food processor they provided, the daily operation of our kitchen has improved dramatically. The increased efficiency and quality of food we are able to prepare allows us to further communicate God’s care for men and women who might otherwise go without.
Rolf Geyling

Good Neighbors

“Love others as much as you love yourself.”  Matthew 22:39

This can be said of Calvary Chapel who happens to be our good neighbor.  Pastor Lars Linton and his team drove a large truck into our parking lot yesterday.  They were bearing gifts from a bedding and sock drive in honor of our homeless guests.  We are so grateful to everyone who participated and contributed to the immense amount of items that were delivered.

Thanks neighbors for living the word!

Tom Moves Up

Distress rarely keeps a schedule.  At SBRM, we never know when a desperate person will arrive and what their particular need might be.  This is most evident during the night—when most of us are sleeping comfortably at home—where for the past year our Night Security Clerk, Tom Melody, has rarely worked an uneventful shift.

In addition to maintaining vigil over the entire facility so 175 people can sleep in safety, Tom has routinely been charged with responding to some of the most challenging circumstances:  individuals finding themselves without shelter; law enforcement trying to get someone to safety; sick people in need of medical attention; scared people desiring security.  We are so grateful for his faith, compassion, dependability and clear judgment in the midst of unexpected and severe needs.

This month, we celebrate how God has led Tom from being a guest in need of shelter, to being a volunteer assisting with our nightly services, to being the paid employee responsible for the facility, to being presented with a new “dream job” opportunity as the live-in caretaker at Rancho La Patera & Stow House.

Tom, we miss you already, but are so grateful for your dedicated service and excited for your new position.  We trust this will involve many more uneventful evenings than you may have gotten used to around here.

Rolf Geyling

“I was on the freeway off ramp, camped out there…”

I don’t think Kim ever really had a chance at a normal life.  You probably wouldn’t have either if your mom was an addict.  Kim’s mom was also a nurse, so drugs were all too easy to get her hands on.

“My mom was dependent on pills and was always giving me pain meds for anything,” she says, “so I became chemically dependent at a young age.  I used to party with my mom, so there were no repercussions.”  With a 25-pill-a-day habit, Kim could have overdosed and died . . . at any time.  Like I said, she never even had a chance.

When Kim reached her lowest point — when she was dumpster diving for food and living under an overpass, she turned to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission for emergency shelter and entered our Outpatient Program.  “I’m a totally different person today,” she says.  “I was on the freeway off ramp, camped out there, and the Mission kept me from living like that.  My life is just beginning, which is scary, but I have a lot of hope, instead of guilt.”

Kim is well on her way to recovery now.  She’s been clean for months, and in her own words, “My obsession for using is gone, and the anxiety is gone.”  She’s landed a job, and it’s a good one.  She can hardly wait for the day when she’ll be reunited with her one-year-old son.

Rosie is Restored

Rosie barely knew her daddy.  He went to prison when she was just a little girl.  She missed him fiercely, but it didn’t matter — he couldn’t be there when she needed him.  Rosie’s mom was addicted to drugs, so it fell to her grandmother to raise her.  Her grandmother was a good woman, but there was a void in Rosie’s heart that she simply could not fill.

Some would have deemed her hopeless.  That she even finished school was a miracle.  “I had pretty much dropped out,” Rosie says, and that was only the beginning.  Soon she was trapped in a downward spiral . . . where all she wanted was her next fix and a place to sleep for the night.  “I was the lowest of the low,” she remembers — “the most broken addict you will ever see or care to know…”

She was a wreck when she came to us — in every way you can imagine. “I don’t know if you noticed my scars up and down my arms,” she says.  “I was almost a goner from doing drugs.”

That was more than a year ago now.  We’ve seen Rosie blossom into a new woman — not at all the angry, fearful, and confused woman who, when she came to us, was “always looking over my shoulder.”  For the first time in her adult life, she’s drug-free.  She wants to become an x-ray technician, and she’s living in a place of her own.

An Easter Miracle

Leslie didn’t set out to destroy herself.  But by the time she came to us, she had lost all hope.

Leslie was just a pitiful shell of a woman when she got here.  “I remember standing at the mirror, looking at my arms, and my eyes, and just how sunken they were,” Leslie remembers.  “I didn’t recognize myself.  I stood there bawling, ‘Who is this?  Is this my life?’”

“I was too afraid to commit suicide, but I figured drugs would take care of that for me,” she recalls.  This Easter will be so different for Leslie.  “I had never experienced Easter for what it truly is,” she says.  “It’s just a beautiful experience.”  Her life has literally been raised from the dead — her health is back, she’s been restored, and she’s broken free from addictions that had her in a death grip.

Leslie graduated from the Mission’s 12-month recovery program on March 2, 2013.


Graduation Video 2012

We’re so grateful to Russell Shannon for capturing a graduation ceremony on video. Please enjoy these graduates from our 12-month residential recovery program, as they share their personal success stories.

Deron’s Deliverance

He looked like the kid next door.  He was quiet.  In his own words, a bit of a mama’s boy.  But there was more to Deron than met the eye — he’d been drinking since grade school.  By the time he turned 14, he was living on the streets.

“Wherever they would let a fourteen-year-old hang out and drink and use drugs, that’s where I was,” Deron remembers sadly.  He longed to fit in.  And he was desperate to dull his pain.  As long as life was one big party, he could forget how much it hurt to be part of a broken family.  After 27 years of poisoning himself, he realized that every crime he committed separated him from others.

Deron was back in jail and headed to prison for the seventh time.  He remembers, “crying yourself to sleep at night in a jail dorm with 70 other guys is not the most comfortable situation.”  When he was rejected by two other programs, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission accepted him into the 12-month residential recovery program.  His prayers were answered, “This really was no less than a lifeline thrown to a dying person.”

Deron graduated from the program on March 2, 2013, attends college, and has a good job.  “There is no way to express the difference this has made in my life.”  he says.  “I thought that I would die in my addiction.  Today I believe there is a different life ahead for me.”

Obituary for Christopher Allen Rittershaus

Christopher Allen Rittershaus, 48 of Santa Barbara, formally of Peabody, MA passed away unexpectedly on February 23, 2013.

Born in Alexandria, VA, he was the son of Glenda (Pierce) Rittershaus of Newburyport, MA, and Charles Rittershaus of Ventura, CA. He was raised in Peabody and was a graduate of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School in 1982.

Chris moved to California where he pursued a career in music. He was a musician who taught, composed and performed professionally. Chris also worked security at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. He loved spending time with his daughter, Kira, especially when they would write and perform music together.
In addition to his parents and his daughter, Kira, he is survived by his brother, Kevin Rittershaus of Lynn, MA and his wife Jamie and his two sisters, Kelly Rittershaus-Smith of Ventura, CA and Carolyn Rittershaus of Newburyport, MA. He also leaves several nieces, nephews, cousins, and many friends.

A scholarship fund has been set up for Chris’ daughter, Kira. If you would like to donate please mail donations to:
Olga Rittershaus
7170 Davenport Road, Apt 202
Goleta, ca 93117
In memo write CUTMA or for billpay routing #12223478 accr # 192691567. Please make checks payable to: Kira Rittershaus

A Fond Farewell

L to R: Rick Fogg, Rolf Geyling, Hershel Brewer

Last night, our board recognized Hershel Brewer and Rick Fogg as they ended their terms of service.  Over the 15 and 9 year terms, these men have seen our ministry through unique seasons and challenges.  While board members’ work of prayer, wise counsel, generous giving and diligent service is rarely seen, thousands of people have experienced God’s grace through Hershel and Rick’s long tenures.  We will miss all that they brought to our efforts but are grateful for their friendship and continued commitment to the men and women we serve at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.

Common Ground Santa Barbara Registry Week Comes to SBRM

Very early Tuesday morning, over 500 people throughout Santa Barbara County drove on almost-empty streets to meet others at “Logistics Centers” in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc and Santa Maria.  At the centers, we joined our team of four and were given maps, survey forms, gift cards, socks and cereal bars to take with us on our adventure to go out on the streets to survey homeless men, women and children who live in our areas.  We were all part of the Common Ground Santa Barbara Registry Week, an effort to count and interview as many homeless people as we could find on that morning and again on Wednesday morning.

Here at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission logistic center, I was joined by three community volunteers and 12 residents from our residential recovery program.  We didn’t have to scout the streets for people: we interviewed some of the 100 men and women who came in for breakfast at the Mission.  We started our interviews at 6:00 a.m., and at the end of our two days work, we had completed 70 surveys!

I was impressed by the sincerity and dedication of the five women and seven men from the Rescue Mission. They gave their time not only to do the surveying, but also to attend a training day.  Each of the men and women made an effort to show compassion and patience to their interviewee, and a few learned a lot more about their subject than was asked on the survey form. Five of them volunteered to come back in the evening to complete more surveys with our guests. I was so glad to have their help in this big task, and to see them giving  back to the community in such a tangible way.

The results from the surveys are being entered into a master database this week, and Common Ground Santa Barbara will be releasing the statistics this month.  We will be able to get a more accurate picture of homelessness in our county, not just how many people live in each city, but their age, health problems, how long they have been homeless, the primary reason they became homeless, their addictions, mental illness, and other pertinent information.  The surveys will also be ranked on certain criteria of “vulnerability” and the most vulnerable – meaning most likely to die if they continue their life as it is on the streets.  They will be identified and prioritized for services and housing.  I will continue to be involved in this process, linking our most vulnerable guests to the services that can help them.

Jill Wallerstedt
Director of Homeless Guest Services

Betty Alexander

The SBRM family remembers the life and legacy of Betty Alexander, who passed away on Tuesday.  Her 93 years were marked by a deep love of Jesus and the men and women we serve.  Our Alexander Learning Center is so named because of Betty’s tireless work as a pioneer literacy tutor during its formative years.  The treatment capacity of our Bethel House women’s recovery program was doubled thanks to her and Bill’s leadership as Co-Chairs of our New Beginnings campaign.  In addition to these recognizable efforts are countless hours of prayer, care, service and devotion that are known only to God.  As much as she may be missed, we rejoice that among those welcoming her into her new home are hundreds, if not thousands, of previously unknown souls she touched through her years of service through the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.

Rolf Geyling

Year-End Gifts

The IRS requires that gifts by check can be tax-deductible in 2012, as long as they are postmarked on or before December 31.  Credit card gifts mailed to SBRM must be receipted in the tax year received regardless of postmarks and the Mission is open on Monday from 8:00 – 5:00 p.m.  Credit card gifts made online until 9:59 p.m. on December 31 will be deductible in 2012.  Thank you for giving generously.

A Last Minute Gift Idea

Give the gift of life this Christmas!  This is the perfect present for the person who has everything.  We’ll fill in the blanks and send this card to the individual, couple, or family that you would like to honor.  Please be sure to contact me by Friday ( or 966-1316) to give this gift of eternal value.

Merry Christmas!

Rebecca Weber

Ask and You Shall Receive

We are so grateful for the first responders to our request for coats.  We’re preparing for our annual Christmas Feast this Friday and realized we had a shortage of warm coats to give away.  This is our most needful item for the gift distribution to our community members in need.  A big thanks to Unander Construction, Providence Hall, and One Warm Coat for providing warmth to the men and women who need it most.

Nancy Receives a Home for Christmas

Perhaps you have seen a woman pushing a large shopping cart of recyclables around the streets of downtown Santa Barbara.  Her name is Nancy Thompson, and all of us who know her or have seen her can rejoice that she is now housed after being homeless for 23 years.

As a woman living outdoors who also has health problems, Nancy was identified as one of the top 100 most vulnerable individuals in Santa Barbara County during the 2010 Vulnerability Index survey. When I saw her name on that list, I knew I needed to advocate for this remarkable, self-sufficient woman who regularly showers and eats at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.

Now, thanks to the Santa Barbara City Housing Authority, the wonderful women at the Doctors Without Walls/Santa Barbara Street Medicine Women’s Clinic, and all the rest of us who encouraged and supported her, Nancy has the keys to her own apartment. The Pathpoint support staff is going to help Nancy explore other means of earning her living after she settles in. Although she can pull hundreds of pounds of recyclables at age 57, she knows that a less strenuous and stressful job will be welcome as she ages.

Congratulations, Nancy, you have earned this!

Jill Wallertstedt
Homeless Guest Services Director