Blog Archive:

Christmas Feast

We will be holding our annual Christmas Feast on Friday, December 21 in our dining hall located at 535 E. Yanonali Street from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.  Our staff and a team of volunteers will serve meals to men, women and children.  We’re able to serve up to 400 people in need through charitable donations of food items and gifts from the Santa Barbara community.

The holidays can be a joyful time, but a lonely time for those that are struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction.  We offer hope and a new beginning, so many of the graduates of our 12-month residential recovery program started here with a simple holiday meal.

Volunteers are still needed to help serve! Please contact Lizzy MacRae at 966-1316 ext. 107.

Creative Holiday Giving

From left, Rolf Geyling, Mari Mender, and Sable Layman.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are joyful times here at the Rescue Mission thanks to the regular stream of friends who make special efforts to care for the homeless and addicted.  Today we were grateful for a visit from our dear friend Mari Mender of Prudential California Realty who initiated a community drive for pillows and blankets.  We are in constant need of these items, and we’re so glad that our guests will feel the love when the put their heads down on a brand-new pillow.

Many thanks to Mari, Sable Layman, Mission Linen, K-Mart, and everyone else who took part!  If your family, friends, office or church would like to join in the fun, please contact Rebecca Weber at

A Profile on Courage

Tom was a victim of child abuse and grew up deathly afraid of his father.  As a teenager, he began running away from home and ended up in juvenile hall.  He felt a sense of security for the first time in his life and was finally receiving the attention he had been seeking from his dad.  When Tom was the age of 16, his parents divorced and he stayed with his mother.  She didn’t have any money or job skills, so they moved into the projects of East Oakland where they survived on food stamps and welfare.  In his new neighborhood, Tom learned how to fight, sell drugs, and steal cars.  By the age of 20, he had an eighth grade education and no future.

At this time, Tom was introduced to heroin by his brother and found relief from fear, pain, and rejection.  Within a few years of heavy drug use, he received his first prison sentence.  “At first prison frightened me but after many trips it became my comfort zone,” Tom remembers.  He served time in San Quentin, New Folsom, DVI, and Corcoran State Prison with a combined total of 22 years behind bars.  “I destroyed three marriages and was never there for my children,” he said, and came to the conclusion that he would die in prison.

Tom landed in the Santa Barbara County Jail on a parole violation, and he heard about the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.  He remembers, “I came to the Rescue Mission with the clothes on my back.  I had no self-worth, no value in myself or my life.”  He received compassion and clinical treatment at the Mission and began his recovery.  Tom said that he learned the importance of self-disclosure and “sharing the secrets of my past allowed me to rely upon and believe in the integrity of another human being.”  He credits his recovery to the new relationship he has with God and said he found Jesus on Easter Sunday.

Tom received his certificate of completion from the 12-month Drug and Alcohol Treatment Recovery Program at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on Saturday, November 3, 2012.  He delivered the speech for his graduating class and closed with these words, “I have lost many battles with this disease called addiction, but I believe in the end I will win the war.”

Winter 2012 Newsletter

Please open your issue of Milestones.  You will see splashed across the pages of this newsletter–stories of men like Bobby and Kristian, and women like Gina who have been transformed.

Winter 2012 Newsletter

Turkey Drive

KRAZy Country 105.9 is holding their first ever turkey drive to benefit the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.  The donations will help us feed those in need this Thanksgiving.  Just come drop off a frozen turkey to GRAHAM Chevrolet, Cadillac, SAAB at 301 South Hope Ave. in Santa Barbara this Saturday from noon until 5:00 pm, where Tyler will be broadcasting live!  While you’re there, enter to win a TV from Alliant Home Entertainment!

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is accepting turkeys, canned food, and monetary donations in preparation for the holiday season.  Donations may also be dropped off Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the Yanonali St. office.

Out with the Bugs!!!

Between all of its programs, the Rescue Mission has 200 people sleeping under its roof every night of the year.  This requires a significant investment in our physical plant and, on occasion, major attention to maintenance issues that arise.  Addressing these while trying to continue the services people depend on can present an additional challenge.  We had such an instance recently when the building that houses Sober Living, the Outpatient Program, Homeless Health Clinic and Learning Center needed to be treated for termites.

Thanks to the Santa Barbara Foundation, Jhonny’s Pest Control and our team working diligently to address all of the logistics involved, we’re grateful that we were able to get this major project done to insure that these vital services will have a sound home to operate in.  Not to mention, it made for a pretty memorable photo.

Rolf Geyling

The Art of Recovery

The News-Press attended one of our therapeutic art classes at Bethel House and published this excellent article:  The Art of Recovery

Dave Meredith 1958-2012

We are mourning Dave Meredith’s passing this week.  In a life with more struggles than many face, he modeled an infectious gratitude and joy.  We will miss his friendly presence but picture him now running and dancing on his new legs.  Peace, comfort and rest in Jesus, dear brother!

Rolf Geyling

P.S.  A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. in the Rescue Mission’s chapel.  Please come and remember Dave with us.

Lori was the last person you’d expect to find at SBRM.

Lori was the last person you’d expect to find at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.  She used to have a great job and a comfortable home.  She had a college-age daughter she was incredibly proud of.  But Lori also had a secret:  While recovering from a knee injury, she’d become addicted to prescription painkillers.  On the outside, she’d always been the picture of success.  But on the inside –– to say that Lori was a mess doesn’t begin to describe it.  Little by little, she lost everything…her job, her home, and every shred of her self-respect.

Lori finally reached the point where, she says, “I decided that it would be a good idea to drive my car into a brick wall.”  She knew she needed help and her first stop was the emergency room of a local hospital.  Not long after, Lori entered our 12-month residential treatment program.  “I went kicking and screaming” she remembers.  “I still don’t know how I got here.  It’s God.  I was just so against it, yet I just kept being compelled to follow through.”  Lori graduated from the program in July and recently went back to school to finish her degree in psychology, and the future just keeps looking better.

Kristian is a Survivor

Kristian’s parents divorced when he was five, and he and his brother went to live with his father on a Hare Krishna farm.  He reflects “I never really fit in anywhere we moved to because my dad made us look and dress like Hare Krishnas, and my experiences left me full of fear, anger, resentment and confusion.  I didn’t even start first grade until I was nine, so all of these things combined caused other kids to excessively pick on and make fun of us which resulted in my constantly getting into fights, getting kicked out of school, and getting in trouble with the law.”

Kristian’s drug use left him out of money and homeless in Isla Vista.  He was arrested and in jail once again.  This time he requested an opportunity to recover at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.  He remembers “I really wanted to change my life but was out of ideas and had nowhere else to go.”  He was given an opportunity to invest in the Mission’s 12-month residential treatment program instead of serving a one year sentence in the county jail.  “There is a night and day difference that has happened to me, and I now have a peace I have never known before and hope for my future” Kristian said.

Ready for some fun on the 4th!

The weather this week here in Santa Barbara is building the expectation for lots of fun and memorable Independence Day celebrations.  One of the most special will take place at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission where we’ll hold our 5th Annual 4th of July Cookout and Carnival.  As the holidays can be particularly challenging for those struggling with homelessness and addiction, we provide a place of warmth and welcome.  We are looking forward to providing food, games, music, prizes and surprises from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.  Our prayer is that the hundreds who join us will feel God’s love, care and concern.  Happy 4th!

Rolf Geyling

New Mattresses!

There’s a lot that goes into maintaining a facility that provides over 61,000 nights of shelter each year.  That’s what made for such an exciting week as we were able to replace all of the mattresses in our Yanonali facility—a larger undertaking than one might think.  But thanks to the enthusiastic help of our Men’s Program residents, there were plenty of hands available to unload 140 new hygienic, innerspring mattresses out of the 53ft truck, carry them up the stairs into the dorms, do some necessary cleaning and upgrading of bunks, and get 140 old mattresses into a dumpster.

As far as anyone around here can remember there hasn’t been another time where we endeavored to do this, which is why we are so grateful for those who are so generously committed to the men and women we serve.  First and foremost, we thank the Williams-Corbett Foundation for underwriting the cost of this extensive project.  Thanks to Mission Linen Supply, we were able to put new sheets on our new mattresses.  Hydrex Pest Control helped us with a thorough treatment of our dormitory while we had everything cleared out.  As some of our bunk beds needed to be replaced, our friends at the Los Angeles Mission provided us with some replacements they had in storage.

We truly wish that no one would need to make use of the emergency services we provide.  But given that they do, it’s our prayer that they’ll be able to rest comfortably and cleanly thanks to the generous concern of partners like these.  Many thanks!

Rolf Geyling

P.S.  If you’d like to join in on the fun, we’d love to put new, clean pillows on each of our 140 beds.  We’d be happy to receive them at 535 E Yanonali during regular business ours.  God bless you!

Porfirio’s Transformation

A life consumed by addiction was the only life Porfirio had ever known.  His dad was a drug dealer.  His much-beloved sister had overdosed and died.  “I was in gangs and doing crazy stuff.  Drugs ruined everything and I lost everything.”  When they couldn’t take it anymore, even Porfirio’s wife and 6-year-old son gave up on him and left.  That should have gotten his attention, but it only made things worse.  “I was addicted and couldn’t stop,” he remembers.

People like Porfirio usually die if they don’t get help. And he could easily have become another tragic statistic.  But God intervened and he was arrested.  Some might celebrate this but it only creates a revolving door.  Instead of prison, he was given a chance to come to the Mission and that was the turning point.  Porfirio found the courage to face his addiction, and the life skills that are helping him overcome it.  He no longer wanted to end his life –– he surrendered it to Christ, and he’s a whole new man.  He secured employment while in the program and graduated in March.  Today he is a loving father to his five children.

Pam’s New Life

Pam had a good life, a beautiful home, and a husband she loved deeply.  Until he started abusing her…and she had to flee for her life.  It was the hardest thing she’d ever done.  Before Pam knew it, she was alone…on the run…and living on the streets.  It was brutal.  She lost everything.  Her family didn’t know if she was dead or alive.  But that was nothing compared to the nightmare that ensnared her when, like so many who seek to escape from their pain, she started using drugs.

When we first met Pam, she was a shell of a woman.  “I didn’t think anybody cared about me,” she says.  “I was scared.  I was broken.  I was not able to trust.”  She knew she needed help.  Through our state-certified recovery program for women, Pam received professional counseling, spiritual support, and help to heal her pain.  “It forced me to look at things in my life from my past and my childhood that I didn’t want to look at,” she explains.  “I had the most amazing, patient counselor, and she showed me that I needed to confront those demons in my past.  I learned that, if I would allow Him, God could take all of those horrible things that happened to me and use them as a stepping stone in my life rather than a stumbling block…  I was totally broken, but my whole life has turned around.”

Jeff’s Miracle

Jeff grew up hard and much too fast.  He never knew his dad and his friends were his real family.  When he was just 12 years old, they introduced him to drugs.  It is a miracle that he even finished high school.  All that mattered to him was getting high.  He’d find a job…and then he’d lose it.  Before long, he was sleeping in a tent in the forest at night.  He still shudders at the memory of the noises…”the rats running…the wild animals and stuff.”  In the midst of all of this he became a father.

The birth of his son was the happiest and worst day of his life, as he put it “I was happy that I had a beautiful baby boy but scared that I could no longer control my drug use and drinking.  If I couldn’t be a father to my son, who was I?”  Jeff was arrested and found himself in court.  He said “I was facing a lot of time and didn’t know what I was going to do.  I did the one thing I knew how to do…pray.”  Jeff applied to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission while he was in jail and was accepted.  He entered the path to healing, restoration, and the hope of a new life in Christ.  Jeff became equipped with a biblical foundation and practical skills that will keep him from slipping back into his old lifestyle.  He found a good church and, a few months later, a job that he’s kept.  Jeff is a walking, talking miracle.

Mentor Lunch

You can’t spend much time around the Rescue Mission without hearing the mantra “Recovery Happens in Relationships”…because it’s the truth.  An important part of the work God does in our program involves surrounding men and women with people who genuinely care for them and are committed to them and their recovery.  These volunteer mentors from the church community here in Santa Barbara spend one-on-one time and convey God’s love and care through the time they spend with individual residents.  Many mentor relationships extend beyond our program and become life-long friendships.

Rolf Geyling


I recently experienced the joy of watching, Sarah, a long-time homeless woman find housing.  She has been staying at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission off and on since 2010.  A few weeks ago, I saw wonder on her face as she looked around her own apartment with a private bathroom, kitchenette and patio.

I played a role in this success through my work as the Homeless Guest Services Supervisor for the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.  Sarah and I became acquainted during her stay at the Mission, and I helped her through some rough spots. She also became friends with one of our volunteers, Cheryl Smith. Cheryl and I provided a sounding board and support system to our homeless friend so that she could remain stable in our overnight women’s dorm.

It takes more than one agency or individual to see someone into housing, so I am so grateful to be part of the Housing Placement Taskforce that emerged as a part of Common Ground Santa Barbara. We began a year ago by identifying the most vulnerable homeless men and women in Santa Barbara County, and are now working to house those who ranked from 1 to 100 on the survey.  The Housing Placement Taskforce includes Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara City Housing Authorities, doctors, psychiatrists, jail personnel, shelter providers, lawyers,  public health nurses, and others who collaborate to locate and assess the homeless people on the list, and then to help them through the housing application process.  Sarah was number 51 on the Vulnerability Index and with my advocacy was assessed as being the most ready to go into housing at this particular complex.

After years of trying to help house other homeless men and women before the Common Ground effort, I am amazed at the speed at which we were able to assist Sarah.  There are still many people who will have to wait years to find housing in this county; but we are making progress in assisting those who are suffering most to find the housing and supportive services that will, perhaps, change their lives forever. I’m hopeful that Sarah is not the only one—there are currently three men at the Rescue Mission who are in line to be housed, one at the beginning of April.  I consider myself very blessed to be a part of this process.

Jill Wallerstedt
Homeless Guest Services Supervisor

Year-End Giving

Please note, the IRS requires that gifts by check can be tax-deductible in 2011 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.  Credit card gifts made online until 11:59 p.m. on December 31 will still be deductible in 2011.  Thank you for giving generously!

The Note on the Envelope

This time of year is marked by acts of care and concern as our community reaches out to those who struggle.  The office sees a regular stream of people stopping by with food, clothing and Christmas gifts.  Each day’s mail delivery brings encouragement as we see so many generous people blessing the homeless and addicted through gifts large and small.   One gift caught our attention recently as it came with a simple note from “Heather” written on the envelope flap—so small that we almost missed it.  It read:

“25 years ago I arrived in SB homeless.  I remember having Thanksgiving with you at the Mission.  Thank you for the good work you do.”

Our hearts are filled with gratitude: over a place that’s been reaching out to those who struggle for almost 50 years; over a neighbor who remembers receiving timely help and now wants to give back; over a community that continues to give.  With more people than ever approaching us for assistance, our prayer, as we extend grace to them, is that they too will move out of need and on to fulfillment and self-sufficiency.  May there be lots of “Heathers” in our midst and may God lead them to places where seasons when they needed assistance are but a distant memory.

Rolf Geyling

Turkey Drive Update

Left to Right: Jim Spencer of Jordanos, Rolf Geyling, and our helpful residents.

Each year we set an ambitious goal for our Holiday Turkey Drive—this year we’re hoping for 900 to meet the increased number of people approaching us in need.  We thought we might have stretched a bit too far as we only had 165 by the end of last week.  Then Monday came and the day was interrupted by a steady stream of surprises—many times it was one turkey at a time, but other times it was 10, 38 or 42 at a time.  We saw over 100 turkeys come in and we’re praying that this would continue.  Each turkey means good nutrition and a warm welcome for men, women and children in need of hope.  Please continue to remember them as you go about your holiday preparation and know that just because Thanksgiving may be past, we’ll still gladly take turkeys!  Many of our friends watch for discounts after Thanksgiving in order to bless those who struggle.  Thanks to all who have and continue to participate in this effort.  Let’s keep those turkeys coming!

Rolf Geyling

The Winter 2011 Newsletter

Please read this issue of the Milestones newsletter and hear about how Dave, Brenda, and Jay found help and hope at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.

Winter 2011 Newsletter

Prayers are Answered

In the last issue of our Milestones newsletter, we specifically requested prayer for two stackable ovens –– costing $6,000.  We received a phone call from a longtime donor who gave us the full amount.  The ovens were installed last week and have dramatically improved our efficiency.  We serve dinner to 45 men in our 12-month residential treatment program and approximately 150 – 200 homeless guests every evening.  It was very difficult to do this with only two antiquated ovens, and it certainly limited what we could offer our guests.  Patrick Pastoret, our food services supervisor, said “It doesn’t take as long now to cook with these new ovens.  In the past it took upwards of two hours to bake four turkeys, with the convection ovens it’s less than one hour to cook 16 turkeys.”

Thank you for praying for us!

Summer Newsletter

You will find pure inspiration in this issue of Milestones, as you read about the amazing changes that take place inside the walls of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission every single day.  Summer Newsletter 2011

Touched by Angels

The Bible tells us to entertain strangers because they may be angels.  We had a close encounter with two special visitors this week.  Abby and Kayley sold some of their possessions and homemade brownies.  When their parents asked them what they would like to do with all of the money they made, the girls said they wanted to give it to “poor people.”  It was just before closing on Wednesday evening, when they arrived with their plastic bags full of well organized currency.  We were so impressed with their generosity and even more amazed after we calculated it––a large gift to the Mission!  We’re sad to see this special family leave Santa Barbara, but we’re so grateful for their parting gift.

4th of July Carnival

We are very busy at the Mission making preparations for our annual 4th of July Carnival on Monday, July 4 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. We will roll out the red carpet for homeless men, women and children.  Rolf Geyling, president of the Rescue Mission, summed it up best by saying “Poverty doesn’t take a vacation so neither do we.”  This has become our mantra for the holiday demonstrated by staff members and volunteers who show up to convert the parking lot into a carnival of games, provide a BBQ dinner, and socialize with our guests.  We’re looking forward to embracing and celebrating with those who would otherwise be forgotten on this special day.