No Job, No Home
Not everyone who comes into the Union Gospel Mission has a drug
addiction. For Robert
Lindstrom, a recession and bankruptcy were enough to turn him out on
the streets. When he
turned to UGM for shelter and work, he found much more.
Robert says his life has been like a series of stones thrown in a
pond: Throw a stone in a pond
and the ripples expand, each one leading to the next. If you try and
stop the ripples, you only
make waves. To Robert it seems that the “stone in the pond” has been
thrown more times
than he can remember, so that mud and dirt could never settle and give
him a clearer vision of
things the way they are.
As a young man, Robert moved with his wife from his hometown of
Spokane to Portland. After
his marriage and his job ended in close succession, he fell back on
his artistic talent to scratch a
living on the streets of Portland until he managed to get a job at a
sporting goods store.
Robert excelled at his position and advanced in the career ranks. His
hard work paid off and he
was asked to help set up a new store in Federal Way. In 1988 he made
the move north, and for
two decades Robert continued to assume more and more responsibility.
He thought his future
was secure, but his plans unraveled in a matter of days.
In early 2009, G.I. Joes filed for bankruptcy, and Robert’s supervisor
told him quitting would
likely be his best option so as not to lose his accrued benefits. But
Robert didn’t realize turning
in his resignation was the next stone to ripple his pond; the decision
left him ineligible for
unemployment benefits, even after 20 years with the company. At the
same time, Robert was
told without rent money he had two days to move out of his apartment.
With nowhere else to go, Robert was back on the streets. He found a
park to sleep in and again
turned to his artistic gifts to earn a living. Robert sold portraits
hoping to earn enough money to
get back to Spokane and reconnect with his family.
One early morning Robert woke up to the baton of a police officer
hitting him on the shoes.
He was told to leave the park and given a ticket for criminal
trespassing. He stuffed it in his
pocket and ignored it. Soon he found shelter in exchange for doing odd
jobs and continued to
sell his artwork on the side. Wanting to be honest about his income he
visited the IRS office in
Olympia, where he was given a refund that covered his journey home to
Arriving in Spokane in the summer of 2009, Robert’s first goal was to
find his family. Soon he
found out that in his absence his mother had died. Heartbroken, he
visited his mother’s grave,
expecting to see gravestones for the rest of his family. He assumed
they had all died and gave
up hope ever seeing them again.
Again Robert turned to his artistic talent to make a living on
Spokane’s streets. He soon found
that wasn’t a viable long-term option. Having heard of the Union
Gospel Mission, Robert
decided it was his best choice, and he came here in July 2009.
Robert proved himself a hard worker. His assigned chores at UGM
put him in the kitchen, and
he soon was supervising there and then in the laundry room.
During his stay at the mission a new program was introduced, now
called the Employment
Ready program. Robert became one of the first selected to sign up for
the new program, which
focuses on getting people back into the workforce. Within a few weeks
he began work at the
Union Gospel Mission Thrift Store.
Robert says working there he realized he had found his new family.
Soon the management
at the store offered to hire him full time, in spite of his criminal
trespassing ticket that had
hindered Robert’s other job applications. Robert felt like things had
finally swung in his
direction, in the right direction. Little did he know that the biggest
surprise was only a few
One day a man came through his checkout line at the store and told him
his face looked
familiar. He asked if Robert was part of the Lindstrom family. When
Robert said yes, the man
told him he knew his brother Phillip and quickly left the store.
Two days later a familiar face came through his checkout line.
Immediately Robert recognized his brother Phil. It had been almost 30
years since he had
seen his brother. Days later his sister Connie drove up from Colfax
and was also reunited with
“It makes me delighted looking back,” Robert says. “Before I had no
family, nothing, I thought
everyone was dead. But because I was with the Mission, if I hadn’t
been here ... well, now I
have two families, the Union Gospel Mission and my real family. I’m
part of something again!
How do you think that makes me feel?”
Robert thanks God for UGM and the Thrift Store. “I’ve learned more
about Christ working at
that store than I have at any church.” With joy in his eyes, Robert
says coming to the mission
was the best thing that ever happened to him. Even with other job
offers, there is nowhere else
he’d rather be. Every day he cherishes being with both his earthly and
“God has taken me as I am, knows everything I’ve done and when he
calls, I’m coming to him,”
Robert says. “I’m one of the flock.” Although the ripples of life have
not been easy, Robert says
he is grateful for where each one has led him. Even if another stone
is thrown in the pond, he
knows God is in control and will give him the strength to face each
day and stand firm in his
This week Robert, Phil and Connie are moving into a home together to
be a family once again.
Robert’s also starting a website and copyrighting his artwork to start
his own business on the
Without the mission, Robert says he may never have found the hope and
faith he had been
looking for. He’s filled with gratitude and repeats the words of the
hymn “Just As I Am”:
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.