By Marissa Willman
Founded in 1971 as a soup kitchen, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission and its life-changing programs have grown into much more than a place for the homeless to find a hot meal. As the only emergency shelter in the area, CVRM provides beds, clothes and life-changing programs for the valley’s homeless and at-risk population.
On June 1st, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission will launch its “90 Days of Summer Relief” campaign to assist the valley’s homeless through the hottest months of the year. The summer program delivers water, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and lip balm to the Coachella Valley’s homeless. The program also works to provide awareness that the Rescue Mission offers a cool place to sleep, showers, drinking water, clean clothing and meals at no charge at its Indio location.
Through its overnight program, CVRM provides 75 beds, showers, fresh clothes and meals to those in need. And while CVRM provides daily provisions at no cost, the group also offers two long-term programs they hope to see utilized by their demographic. These two programs, New Life and Gateway, offer long-term solutions to people facing homelessness.
The New Life program is a faith-based, 12-month residential program that readies participants to become gainfully employed and secure a stable future. Through the program, participants can learn job skills, work toward a GED, attend life skill classes and ready themselves for stable, self-sufficient living.
For those who may have had a stable lifestyle but suddenly fell on hard times, CVRM offers its Gateway program. Gateway is a short-term program intended to help people get through sudden times of difficulty.
“If someone just lost their job and they’re down on their luck, they could stay [at CVRM for] up to five months,” said Greg Fisher, director of development at CVRM. In exchange for a bed and hot meals, the Rescue Mission asks Gateway participants to donate 15 hours of their time each week to the organization.
New mother Brenda Benitez, who moved with her husband to the Coachella Valley from Calexico last month, didn’t expect to live at a shelter when they made their move.
“We didn’t realize it would take so long to find an apartment,” Benitez said. By the time Benitez and her husband arrived at the shelter, the couple was expecting the birth of their first daughter at any time. Through Gateway, Benitez and her husband were able to buy time to locate an apartment and for her husband to find work while Benitez prepared for the arrival of her daughter.
“The only things I had for her when I got here were a few clothes,” Benitez said, “but when I got back from the hospital, everything was here.”
When Benitez returned to her room at CVRM after the birth of her daughter, she was shocked to find a new crib, swing, diapers, food and dressers filled with clothes. To give back, Benitez plans to stay involved with CVRM by volunteering, something the organization is always in need of. Volunteers are needed for all aspects of CVRM, from its administrative services to food prep to working at CVRM’s thrift store.
CVRM is also seeking donations to continue its permanent programs, such as the overnight shelter, and its seasonal programs, such as the “90 Days of Summer Relief” campaign and its upcoming backpack drive for desert youth heading back to school. In August, CVRM will distribute thousands of donated backpacks and school supplies to local children with the help of local contributions.
Fisher said it costs about $200,000 a month for CVRM to provide its services and the organization relies heavily on donations to continue its work.
To learn more about the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission or how you can help, call (760) 347-3512 or visit CVRM.org.