A massive shortfall in funds threatens to close a center for homeless women and children, announced the nation's largest rescue mission on Monday.
The Hope Gardens Family Center, operated by Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, needs $2.8 million by June 30 or it will be shut down. The resort-like family center currently houses 34 mothers, 74 children and 23 senior women. All of the residents, including children, were formerly homeless.
"You can't cry wolf every time there is a problem, but this is a serious challenge," said the Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, to The Christian Post on Tuesday. "We are in danger of closing something down that we fought so hard to open and gave everything that we had, and that I had, to get it open."
The Hope Gardens Family Center opened in 2006, first housing senior women and then in 2007 taking in single mothers and their children.
In his 32 years of ministry and nonprofit work, Bales said he has never seen the financial crunch URM is currently facing. Donations have dropped 21 percent while demand for URM services has increased 45 percent over the past two years.
To meet the needs, URM has cut expenses wherever possible, including pay reductions and layoffs.
"We have also developed a long-run sustainability plan, but it will not fill the immediate gap in our funding and get us through the next few months," Bales wrote in an e-mail to URM supporters.
Out of the $2.8 million needed by the end of June, URM has so far raised $468,000. A total of $4 million a year is needed to operate Hope Gardens.
If the center does close, Bales said URM would try to find housing for the women and children in that same area, which is "very, very hard," he admitted. The ministry would also try to find other services for them, which Bales said is "almost impossible to find." And the last resort would be to move the Hope Gardens residents back to Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row.
Skid Row is located in downtown Los Angeles and contains the largest population of homeless persons in the United States.
None of the Hope Gardens residents, however, would be turned back to the streets.
Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row is already currently housing families. But the purpose of opening up Hope Gardens Family Center was to move the women and children to a place of "safety and hope" and away from the danger and environment of Skid Row.
URM is one of the oldest missions of its kind in America. It was founded in 1891 by Lyman Stewart, president and founder of Union Oil Company. The Christian rescue mission serves and houses over 1,000 people a day. During the winter, it houses 1,800 people a day. Normally, it serves 3,700 meals a day, and during the winter the number increases to nearly 5,000 meals a day. It costs about $54,000 a day to operate both the URM and Hope Gardens facilities.