Santa Barbara Rescue Mission focuses on rebuilding lives. Here are just a few stories.

Fernando Comes Full Circle


Fernando H.Fernando is the youngest of seven children. He grew up in Carpinteria where he attended school, but he started getting into trouble at an early age. Fernando had his first experience with alcohol at the age of five. As a teenager, he wasn’t drinking all of the time, but he often drank enough to pass out.

In high school, Fernando fell in love with a girl who would ultimately become the mother of his child. He struggled with confusion and an inability to get close to other people. The only place he could find comfort and belonging was in the gang lifestyle. It was also an environment filled with drugs and alcohol.

At the age of 25, Fernando started using meth and within two years he had lost his home, girlfriend and son. He landed in jail several times and hit rock bottom. He said, “With my addiction and all its consequences, I’d become one pretty messed up individual.”

On November 4, 2013, Fernando entered our 12-month Residential Recovery Program. At that time, he did not know the whereabouts of his son. Fernando reflected, “I learned to have faith, to surrender, to trust, and I finally realized that I’m not alone. God put me in a wonderful place.” Today he is spending every weekend with his son and he’s working full time.


“My new beginning in Jesus Christ has been my greatest inspiration.”

Debbie P.Debbie’s father was an alcoholic and she was deeply affected by his addiction. Debbie suffered many traumatic events and became addicted to drugs. She said, “Because of my addictive behavior, I lost the most precious gifts that God has given me, my family.” Debbie started using meth when she was 37 and became homeless on the street. She knew that she needed help but couldn’t find the strength to enter treatment.

Debbie’s daughter put her on a train, and she fled her addictive environment. On February 3, 2014, she arrived at the front door of Bethel House with just the clothes on her back. Debbie said, “This is a Christian-based program and my new beginning in Jesus Christ has been my greatest inspiration.”

Debbie is in her final phase of treatment and has been restored to her family. She has gained the stability to maintain the principles of recovery and plans to remain strong in her faith.

“I am so thankful for all that God has done in my life.”

Peter AuchenbachPeter vividly recalls how everything started going black for him at the age of 12 . . . “I began to have a lot of depression,” he says. “The joy of life was sucked out of me. I became uncomfortable in my own skin and remember feeling an uncontrollable sadness that would plague my days.” That hopelessness led to repeated drug overdoses, suicide attempts—and losing everyone who ever loved him. Peter says, “I wondered why I was ever born and prayed God would allow me to fall asleep and never wake up . . .”

As a graduate of our state-certified, 12-month, residential recovery program, he says, “The moment I walked in here I believe was when the Lord Jesus took over my life. I spoke to the director and within minutes I was accepted into the program. Talk about a miracle!”

Peter says, “I definitely had not wanted to stay, but I looked at my grandfather who drove me here, and said, ‘I guess I’ll see you in a year.’ In all my life, I had never seen my grandfather cry, but on that day he cried all the way home. He told me this was one of the hardest things he had ever done, but he was so proud of me.”

That’s Peter’s story. As a successful graduate, he smiles now, and says, “I’m so grateful for having this chance at a new life. I would never have been able to do this without the support from the Mission and the love of God.” Wondering aloud, he says, “I love being sober! And I am so thankful for all God has done in my life. And to those who donate their time and gifts to the Mission, you are my heroes.”

Peter graduated from our proven recovery program in January 2010, receives his B.A. in Psychology from Antioch University this summer, and has met and married the love of his life at a local church.

Mariah Finds a Future at Bethel House

600_9756Mariah’s parents divorced when she was very young. Her mother moved out and her father became a single parent of five. She remembers her childhood as being chaotic and she felt she was lost in the shuffle. Mariah wasn’t comfortable in social settings; yet, she could get straight As in school. Unfortunately, her desire to fit in was so strong that she would do anything to fulfill that need.

Mariah began to attend parties after she graduated from high school. She fell in love and became consumed with her new relationship. She now had a boyfriend and a new group of friends. “If I drink and use, I will fit in and finally be accepted,” Mariah concluded. Her new lifestyle led to homelessness and the county jail. She was ordered to a one-year program and applied to Bethel House.

Mariah entered the program last May. “My heart was still with someone in jail, so I wasn’t working an honest program,” she remembers. She was exited from the program but reapplied after 30 days. This was her turning point and she fully committed herself to recovery. Mariah has completed the program, and we immediately hired her to be our program clerk and provide night security at Bethel House.

“I look forward to my future!”

26Jason had a hard time paying attention in school and was diagnosed with ADD at a young age. He was good at sports and loved playing musical instruments. He remembers feeling different or “less than everyone else” and very alone within his own family. Jason was in junior high school when he took his first drink. “The sense of relief I felt was groundbreaking! All of my fears and discomfort were gone,” he said.

By the time Jason entered high school, he was also using cocaine, OxyContin, and injecting heroin with intravenous needles. He became homeless and resorted to stealing and selling drugs to support his habit. His mental health began to suffer because of the use of meth, and he went into a paranoid psychosis with auditory and visual hallucinations. Jason attempted to take his own life and thankfully was unsuccessful.

The criminal justice system ordered Jason to a six-month recovery program. Instead, he chose a one-year program and arrived at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on August 15, 2013. Jason says, “Through the help of the volunteers who come to teach us the word, I was inspired to seek and grow closer to God.” He believes the extended period in the program allowed him to get back on his feet and find his own path. Jason is now enrolled at Santa Barbara City College to pursue a career in health education and personal fitness.

“My wife left me, I lost my job, my car. I was destitute.”

KevinIn beautiful, sunny Southern California, Kevin thought he had it all, even playing high school football with John Elway. “I was like the life of the party,” he remembers. “The class clown type of guy. It was fun . . . until it got painfully worse. They say it is a progressive disease,”says Kevin about his alcohol and substance abuse, which began during those high school years. “And it finally caught up with me. I lost everything. I didn’t know where to go . . .”

“My wife left me, I lost my job, my car. I was destitute. It was horrible, the homeless scene out there: there’s drinking, people fighting, asking for cigarettes. Luckily my grown daughter knew about the Mission,” he says, and smiles for the first time in a long time. “I wanted to get into the Mission so bad,”Kevin recalls.“I came through the homeless line for days, then I got into volunteering,”he remembers—and it was just the lifeline he needed.

Perhaps most importantly, Kevin says, “I lost touch with God, but now since I’ve been here in a Christian-based program I’m finally getting that connection back.” Kevin’s on his way to a healthy, productive life because he found strength and hope in Christ at Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.


“I enjoyed coming here with my dad when I was a kid.”

As a boy, Travis came here to listen to his father’s band play music at the Mission.  But Travis isn’t a kid anymore.  His hunger, his hurt, and his homelessness are an adult nightmare…  For Travis it started early.  When he was just 12, he followed a few friends into drinking and substance abuse, and almost didn’t find his way out again.  “I reached a pretty dark place.”  And for 13 long years, that dark place was all he knew.

Travis says, “I’m a blackout drinker… at any time the consequences could be I would die.  Finally, I knew that if I didn’t do something drastic, I was going to end up just that way.”  That’s when he came back to the Mission for a meal––and stayed to transform his life. Travis says, “It’s overwhelming to go from homeless and detoxing to taking the action needed to pull yourself up by the bootstraps.  That’s why I’m so grateful for being able to fix my life at this place, with the perfect balance between structure and freedom.  There’s so much good Christian teaching to provide a context … and the resources to make the changes I need.  That is huge.”

Travis is reunited with his family and on track to receive full custody of his five-year-old son in just two months.  He is currently employed and clear of all legal charges.

Please listen to Travis’ graduation speech: 

Krista’s Calling


Krista started drinking when she was 12 and was able to keep it “under control” throughout her school years by drinking on the weekends.  At the end of her senior year, Krista was introduced to cocaine and speed, but these did not have the grip on her that alcohol did.  After graduation, she was unable to maintain her college education and went on a seven year drinking binge.

In June of 2005, Krista was hospitalized with pancreatitis and alcoholic hepatitis.  Unfortunately, this did not stop her and she plunged deeper into her addiction by adding meth to her drug use.  She was homeless and made several failed attempts at recovery.  When she came to Bethel House last year, she realized that she didn’t have a solid foundation.  “I didn’t have faith that God had me in His hands.  It wasn’t the first step that I had been struggling with, but it was step three which is making a decision to turn my life over to the care of God,” she said.  “It took some suffering and willingness to get honest with myself, take down my walls, and accept Jesus Christ as my savior.”

Krista is currently attending Santa Barbara City College and pursuing a lifelong dream of a career in wildlife conservation and management.

Tish Gives Back

Tish (4)

Tish made it to the Mission after lying alone and abandoned behind a building for five days, certain she would die there …

 Imagine those days and nights in the open filled with pain and fear! With emotion flooding her voice, Tish says, “After years of abuse, and no place left to go, I lay there detoxing all by myself … and there was a moment there I fully expected to be my last.  “But somehow I survived. And I knew that if God didn’t take me then, there was a reason for me to be alive. Two women I met told me about Bethel House at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.”

Today, Tish has turned her life around! She’s clean, sober, safe from the streets. And she’s even returning to the Mission today, not as a guest, but to give back—“I’m helping others,” she smiles, “And it’s helping me stay grounded too. To serve here keeps your compassion fresh.”

“Lili, please. You need to get help.”

Lily & Mom 2

Lili didn’t recognize the eyes staring back at her — burning a hole through her soul . . .  She was shocked.  She was pained. By the cutting glares.  But nothing compared to the shame she felt, when Lili finally realized that the menacing stranger glowering at her . . . was her own reflection . . .  It was a moment of clarity that, I’m sure, Lili will never forget.  A moment when she could finally hear the truth in her mother’s pleas — “Lili, please. You need to get help. You need help to get free.  Please, Lili. I don’t even know who you are anymore . . .”

 As a little girl, I don’t believe that Lili ever wished for her addiction.  I don’t think she ever hoped or dreamed that she would one day be an addict.  But it happened — before she even realized it was happening. It began with a single pill intended to soothe the blinding pain of a migraine.  However, that single pill sent Lili on a crash course of addiction that ripped apart her relationships and every shred of her self-respect.  With nowhere else to go . . . with no other options . . . and with the weight of the shame and guilt of her addiction on the verge of destroying her life . . . Lili came to Santa Barbara Rescue Mission for help — desperately hoping for a miracle.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to be at Santa Barbara Rescue Mission,” Lili says.  “The Mission has given me so many life-changing experiences.  I’ve been given a great miracle . . . another chance to live and a newfound faith in God. I believe because of this program.”

Today, the old Lili is gone.  And the new, transformed Lili is clean for the first time in a long time.  And she’s eager to begin her brand new life — with her broken relationships now mended.  And her mom . . . she couldn’t be prouder.

Ashley Rises from the Ashes


Ashley was born in Los Alamitos, California, in 1992.  Both of her parents struggled with addiction, and she followed in their footsteps.  She began using drugs in the sixth grade.  This eliminated the pain from the loss of her father, the lack of acceptance from her mother, and the sexual abuse suffered at the hand of her grandfather.  Ultimately, her drug of choice became methamphetamines.  “They ruined who I was and created a monster who thought she was invincible,” she remembers.

Ashley spent most of her adult life in the county jail and was facing an eight year prison sentence.  The court granted her the opportunity to come to Bethel House as an alternative to sentencing.  She was able to work through the anger and hatred that consumed her.  Now she no longer sees herself as a victim and will not allow herself to be victimized.  “I used to hate my grandfather; now I pray for him.  God has forgiven me so I can forgive him,” she stated.  Ashley shared her powerful testimony at her graduation this month and is determined to maintain her recovery.


Reflections from the Graduates

Please listen to the recent graduates express their gratitude for what they gained in our 12-month residential recovery program.

Peter’s Story

Two of our graduates share their personal stories at each graduation ceremony. This is Peter’s story of recovery.

Erika’s Escape from Addiction


Erika’s childhood was golden—full of love . . . laughter . . . and magic memories.  The family would gather from miles around. She would romp through the house with her cousins. All in all, it was the stuff of fairy tales.  But one day suddenly, the fairy tale ended. Erika’s parents divorced—and her world fell to pieces.

She went looking for love in all the wrong places.  She started using drugs. And then she lost control.  Family gatherings became a nightmare . . . Erika wasn’t welcome and she knew it—all she lived for was just one more fix.  And then one Christmas she landed in the hospital . . . her body so ravaged by drugs that she needed emergency help.  God in His mercy had a plan for Erika.  When hope seemed lost, He led her to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.

“It was the only opportunity left,” Erika remembers, “but it was the best thing ever.  I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about this place.”  She’s a whole new woman today.  Just listen to her—“I’m not a thief anymore,” she says.  “I don’t have needles in my arms. I love my life today.  I wake up every day with a smile on my face.  I can be a good friend.  I have a whole new relationship with my family.”

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!).

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!

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.”

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

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.”

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.