Leader, client talk about Modesto Gospel Mission
Oracio Adames sought shelter at the Modesto Gospel Mission in mid-November, the second time in three years spent on and off the streets.
He gets a bed, meals and help with job searching and other needs at the nonprofit on Yosemite Boulevard. It has helped the poor since 1948, funded by donations and driven by faith in Jesus Christ.
“If it wasn’t for them, we’ll be out there, lost,” Adames said on a recent morning at the mission. The 40-year-old has an artistic bent and was penciling a homemade thank-you note in the day center.
The mission last year sheltered 1,730 men, women and children and served about 185,000 meals to them and people getting other services. It saw 554 patients in the medical clinic and provided tutoring and other services to 152 kids in the youth center.
Clients might leave after one night’s shelter from the winter cold, or a few hours in the cooling center on a 100-plus day. Or they can stay for up to 18 months of intensive services aimed at getting them into their own homes and jobs.
“We’re going to impact that person’s life and navigate them back into society and active living,” said Executive Director Jason Conway, 39, during that same visit by the Modesto Bee. “I’m passionate about it because I lived it.”
Yes, the mission’s leader was once a client. Conway struggled with alcohol and methamphetamine in his 20s, when he worked a series of jobs such as construction and sales. Two weeks of living on the streets in 2007 convinced him to seek help at the mission. He completed the 18-month program, New Life, and joined the staff in 2008 as a service supervisor. He has been executive director since August 2017.
Shelter residents must attend religious services at the mission, but they need not take an active part, Conway said. The services are put on by a rotating list of Modesto-area churches, part of a volunteer corps that last year totaled 986 people.
The volunteers can plunge in deeply, such as those who provide one-on-mentoring to people trying to escape homelessness. They can help serve meals, such as the generous helpings of quartered rotisserie chickens, green salad, peas and mashed red potatoes during the Bee’s visit.
The chicken had been nearing its sell-by time at Costco, so off it went as a donation to the mission. It also takes clothing, toiletries and other items — $3.8 million worth last year.
The mission sends chaplains into parks to urge homeless people to take the 30-Day Challenge. That’s a month of shelter, meals and other help toward finding a home.
Adames figures he has been homeless for about 200 days over the past three years, in Stockton and his native San Francisco along with Modesto. He said he has been diagnosed with depression, attention deficit disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but has not qualified for disability.
Adames has a varied resume — bicycle messenger, mural artist, barista, drywall, tiling and more. He hopes to support himself again, but he also urges the public to have compassion for people on the streets.
“In life, there’s no 100 percent guarantee that there won’t be a catastrophe or a downfall or a shortage economically,” he said. “Something can occur.”
The mission generally does not allow pets, but Adames is allowed to keep his certified comfort dog, a bulldog-Labrador mix named Apollo.
The place is vital, he said, “to folks that are lost, that need the assistance, the comforting, the warmth. And God.”
Our Featured Agencies
Nov. 11: Cambridge Academies (Host House, Patterson)
Dec. 2: Turlock Gospel Mission
Dec. 9: Salvation Army
Dec. 16: Modesto Gospel Mission
To donate online, go to www.modbee.com/donate2bod