EUGENE, Ore — The Eugene Mission is trying a different approach as homeless numbers continue to grow and, it seems to be working.
This Saturday, the Mission celebrates the first graduates of its Life Change program. A year ago, the Eugene Mission implemented the 24/7 holistic program, transforming the Mission from a homeless shelter to a wellness shelter.
Eleven members will graduate, seven men and four women. Another 31 are currently enrolled in the year long program where they live apart from the general population at the Gideon House. Each member puts in 20 hours a week working at the Mission and learning job skills. In addition, they put in another 30 hours with classes, studying finances, overcoming drug addiction, improving relationships all while focusing on the Bible.
“There is great demand in this city, in Lane County, to expand this program,” said Jack Tripp, Executive Director of Eugene Mission. “We truly believe there will be hundreds of individuals in this program.”
“My story is, I came to the mission two years ago struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction,” said Mike Grimes, a graduate of the Life Change program. Grimes now lives in his own apartment and enjoys his morning cup of coffee. It’s a time for reflection; he thinks about where he’s been and where he’s going. “How cool it feels to wake-up, not sick or hung-over. That’s the best part of the morning for me.”
Part of the Life Change program is assimilation back into the community. Nonprofits including White Bird, Catholic Community Services, Goodwill, Sheltercare, Veterans Affairs, Willamette Family, St. Vincent de Paul and many other organizations and churches have paved the way. They’ve helped the graduates with resume-building and job interview skills, but will companies take a chance?
Ask and you will receive. Jeff Sherman, president of Ridgeline Pipe and former University of Oregon football star, and NFL player signed up for the challenge.
“I like it. We love to participate, be a part of the community and give people second chances who have a real desire to change and we need good people,” said Sherman.
Grimes is currently employed at Ridgeline. Another four graduates have secured jobs at area businesses working for owners who believe in the change that Jack Tripp knew was possible.
“Jack is a business guy, like myself, I can relate to. He thinks not just with his heart. He knows the numbers he needs. He knows the difference he can make and he’s got a plan,” said Sherman.
Four other Life Change graduates are in the job interview process. Another two secured disability and housing and one has a full scholarship to Lane Community College.
As for Grimes, he says his life has changed and he’s optimistic about the future, “It was just the next phase in my redemption. My restoration in life.”