Holidays at a Homeless Shelter

What did Christmas look like in the past?
“I never had a Christmas… I did growing up, I had Christmas ‘cause my mom made it. But as I got deeper and deeper into my addiction, I didn’t care. Now, Christmas to me is totally different because it’s about Christ.” Lisa is one of many who have spent a holiday season at the Mission and away from home.
So, Christmas at Union Gospel Mission has perhaps been better than in the past?
“Oh, sure! Because I learned to get everything out that kept me in addiction… now it’s a lot brighter.”

In many ways, spending the holidays away from home is a mixed bag for residents. Chris, a former guest, explained that last Christmas at the Mission was his first away from family, “It’s very humbling to go through that.”
Jessaca from Women’s Recovery agreed, “At first, it’s sad because you’re away from your family; and I’m married, which makes it extra hard. But you get to see all the blessings that come here. And people are dropping stuff off just to be like, ‘I’m thinking about you and I care.’”
At the Men’s Shelter, Shane felt the community makes up for being apart from family. “The advantage is you’re around brothers in Christ here, who keep you accountable.”
In the past, many of the men and women at the Mission spent Christmas lost in their addiction. Accountability helps prevent relapse during what can be a difficult or painful time of year for those coming to our shelters.
“I struggled around Christmas time. I was just drunk all the time, and I didn’t care,” Lisa says.
Andrea, another Women’s Recovery participant, said, “I always provided for my kids, but it was unstable.” Andrea described the contrast between past holidays and Christmas spent at UGM. She said, “Christmas isn’t here yet, but just the taste we’ve already gotten, it’s probably gonna be the best Christmas we’ve had in years.”

Despite his disappointment being away from family at Christmas, Chris felt he was right where he needed to be to remain in recovery. “It is good…it’s necessary for right now. I have to give this up to get what I want, and that’s fine.”

What is it like not spending the holidays at home?
Lisa contemplated the question. “Home…well, to a point, this is home. I do have a ‘home’ out there, I see it, and I go there, but…I’m sitting here looking at that tree, thinking, this is home.”
The people, the generosity, the love, the accountability: these are what make UGM special during the holiday season and throughout the year. And you, the community, make the season brighter.
Thank you for partnering with UGM to create a place men, women and children can call “home” and for making the holidays an extra special time of year for all of our residents.

Merry Christmas!