SPECIAL REPORT: Searching the Streets to Rescue the Lost

As a member of UGM’s Search and Rescue outreach, when Bruce Donohue ministers to homeless men and women sheltering in tents or abandoned buildings, he counts his blessings… because he’s been where they are. 5-7 days a week, Bruce Donohue heads out to minister to our homeless neighbors. UGM has three vans in service, one specifically for Search and Rescue use, and program graduate Michael Drumm recently joined the Search and Rescue outreach team.

“To start the day, I’ll heat up several pots of coffee and get them in some pump thermoses, get some coffee cups and load the van,” Bruce says. “We have a great demand for socks. People who live outside need socks all the time, as you can imagine.”

“I lived on these streets for a long time,” Bruce says. “I was those people. I understand their struggles. I feel like I found a way out through the grace of God and I want to point them to that.” Bruce found his way to a new life when he came to our Men’s Mission in 2004. After graduating from our New Life Fellowship program in 2006, Bruce began managing UGM’s donation center. He feels “super grateful” for his new role on the Search and Rescue team.

The initial purpose of Search and Rescue, Bruce tells us, is to build trust and relationships with our homeless neighbors. That often begins with a cup of coffee, blankets or warm clothing. Beyond that, he says, “I’m offering them an opportunity to come into our shelters or connect them with the right resources.” In fact, Bruce will gladly drive people back to the Men’s Mission or Simonka Place, even if it’s just for a meal and a shower.

“Obviously, addiction is a big problem,” Bruce says of the circumstances that keep many people homeless — and that led to his own struggles while living on the street. “They’re trapped in the exact same thing that held onto me for so long, so I know the best way to reach them is to have compassion for them,” he says. “I’m not out there to be judgmental. I just want to love on them.”

The deeper motivation behind Bruce’s efforts is “to create an opportunity for the Gospel. I want to connect people with the One who changed my life and that’s Jesus. How I count success is not how many people I get into the shelter, but how many hear Jesus’ name,” he says. “We pray together and it’s like a little connection to Heaven for them.”

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