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HomeNewsAfter 20 years, Andy Bales withdraws from Union Rescue Mission

After 20 years, Andy Bales withdraws from Union Rescue Mission

As single women seeking shelter from the dangers of Skid Row begin to overwhelm the Alliance Rescue Mission, Rev. Andy Bales filled the chapel of the religious center with cribs.

When Los Angeles County gathers a committee of 50 stakeholders to prioritize a new sales tax to fund homeless programs, Bales mercilessly went against it, saying that half of the money should go straight to organizations like to get people off the streets and help turn their lives around.

And when the time came to declare an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bales, a amputee, did it in cinematic style, rolling his wheelchair down South San Pedro Street between twenty pots of boiling oil full of turkeys to search for. Thanksgiving dinner 2021 of the mission.

Bales’s nearly 20-year run as the face of Skid Row’s direct services to the poor, an advocate for faith-based services and a thorn in the road to homelessness policy of the Skid Row. Great government is coming to an end.

Bales, 64, announced Friday that he will step down as chairman and chief executive officer of the mission later this year.

Pastor Andy Bales wears a vest, mask and brim hat at an event

Originally from Des Moines, Pastor Andy Bales said he plans to return to start a new role working with inner-city students.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

“My wife decided to inform me last October that she was moving back with her grandchildren to Des Moines, and I could go with her if I wanted to,” he said in an interview. “I took a big sip. She didn’t calm down at all, so I had to inform the management that I was moving.”

He said he would make an announcement soon so the board could conduct a thorough search for a replacement.

Bales isn’t retiring – he took a job in Des Moines working with inner-city kids on a before and after school feeding and education program.

“I have some unfinished business with helping the neighborhoods where I served 34 to 24 years ago, in my hometown,” he said.

Originally from Des Moines, Bales was teaching at a Christian school there in 1985 when he decided to dedicate his life to serving people living on the streets. He was ordained in the First Federal Church in Des Moines in 1989.

Currently living in Pasadena, he and his wife, Bonnie, a nurse, raised six children and adopted 25. Bales, who has Type 1 diabetes, lost right lower leg due to flesh-eating infection he got it on Skid Row and then had to have his lower left leg amputated.

Pastor Andy Bales approaches a dog with a vest labeled "mental support"

Bentley, the emotional support dog, greets Pastor Andy Bales during the October health fair in Los Angeles.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

He was appointed mission president in 2005 and became chief executive officer in 2007.

Union Rescue Mission, founded in 1891 to distribute food and clothing from gospel wagons, is a privately funded homeless service provider today located in a five-year building. Floor in the center of Skid Row.

Under Bales, the mission built an international funding base and developed a series of faith-based rehabilitation programs that provide long-term housing with medical and legal support as well as training. create life skills.

In 2011, Bales won his board of directors approved for the Gateway Program, which instills a “greater sense of responsibility and dignity” by charging a small fee for long-term shelter. Participants pay $5 a day and are encouraged to deposit $2 into savings.

Bales also led the development of two satellite programs – the 71-acre Garden of Hope campus in Sylmar, which provides shelters for single women and children and permanent housing for older women, and Angeles family home, a 74,000 square foot facility that provides long-term rehabilitation programs for families.

The pandemic put Bales to the most severe test when the mission was first experienced The COVID epidemic broke out on Skid Row.

“I went through the Great Recession; That was tough enough,” Bales said. “COVID is the most dangerous moment in leadership. We all joined hands and stepped up and did the essential work – turning us into a small hospital.”

The outbreak occurred within days of an employee’s death. Gerald Shiroma, who became a mission controller after graduating from the third floor transition program and still lives at the mission, virus infection at the end of March 2020. He died at the County-USC Medical Center.

“Losing a teammate is the heaviest blow,” Bales said at the time.

A large tent that Bales installed before the pandemic to add extra bed space has become an impromptu sorting center for the county’s efforts to prevent the disease from spreading through the shelter system. homeless.

After the outbreak in March, the mission converted its meeting room and cafeteria into an isolation space and moved the women to the 5th floor of the dormitory.

As Bales predicted at the time, some of the changes are permanent. Bales said Friday, continuing with pandemic protocols, the mission has reduced capacity from about 1,000 to about 700.

No crisis or policy change has dampened Bales’ adherence to a confidence-based recovery. As federal homeless policy shifts to “housing first”—directing people from the street to permanent housing—and “harm reduction”—removing barriers such as abstinence as conditions for housing—Bales doubled down on the mission’s transitional restoration model.

He blamed the long-term housing strategy for letting people out on the streets for years because there wasn’t enough housing. He also criticized what he saw as anarchy for those who found homes, with some residents continuing to use alcohol or drugs.

A tireless advocate, Bales was in Washington earlier in the week lobbying for legislation that would shift 30% of federal homeless assistance funds from “housing first” to what he calls as “additional housing”.

Pastor Andy Bales wearing a brimmed hat and wreath

Pastor Andy Bales and his wife, Bonnie, a nurse, raised six children and adopted 25.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

In 2021, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger appointed Bales to a vacant seat on Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency management committee, says that, while she’s in favor of “housing first,” she hopes he’ll provide a street-level perspective. Bales, who attended Friday’s committee meeting, will step down from the position upon leaving LA

“Reverend Bales embodies what it means to be a public servant,” Barger said in a statement Friday. “Skid Row isn’t for the faint of heart — it’s one of the harshest environments I know. Reverend Bales was a light in that darkness, who tirelessly set an example of how to help those suffering on our streets with respect and dignity.”

Sarah Dusseault, a former LAHSA commissioner who mentors Supervisor Hilda Solis, praised Bales’ dedication.

“I’m glad he’s going to have another phase in his life,” Dusseault said. “He gave his all, including his health, to this work.”

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