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Union Gospel Mission. (Photo: UGMSAC.com)

Sacramento Union Gospel Mission is Saving Lives of the Homeless and Lost

A successful homeless program involves work, commitment, accountability and sometimes tough love

By Katy Grimes, January 13, 2022 12:07 pm

Union Gospel Mission Sacramento takes in dozens of drug addicted homeless men every year, helps them get sober, educated, acquire skills, learn jobs, and graduates them back into society. They could teach cities and counties how to do this.

Faith. Hope. Charity. And discipline.

The Globe met with Pastor Tim Lane who runs the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Sacramento. He gave a tour of their facilities, and we talked for two hours about the work they do at the Mission, and why it works.

Pastor Tim Lane at a Chapel service at Union Gospel Mission. (Photo: UGMSAC.com)

He explained: “To see God take someone from the hard life of homelessness and the streets, and reintegrate them into a warm, loving, community of fellow believers.”

As they say on their website, they have been “restoring dignity to broken lives for 60 years by providing meals to hungry men, women, and children.”

Union Gospel Mission offers food, clothing, showers and beds to the homeless living on the street not yet ready to join a program of change. The in-house life-changing program is only for men, but they hope to be able to provide a similar program to women some day.

“We feed 8,500 to 9,000 meals a month to the homeless, and even continued during COVID lockdowns,” Pastor Lane said.” During Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the mission prepares 440 food boxes to families unable to adequately feed their children, and they give away 300-holiday food boxes with all the trimmings.

They take donations of clothing and household items, and collect, sort, and distribute this clothing and necessities 365 days a year in their men’s and women’s clothing closets.

Union Gospel Mission women’s clothes closet. (Photo: UGMSAC.com)

Pastor Lane said he is often accused of “supporting” the homeless as some sort of “advocate.” While he said he loves all of them, in or out of the program or on the streets, they don’t have the right to live on the streets doing whatever they want.

Of the Mission, “We are not a welfare state. We don’t hand out tents, and they should not be allowed to live on the streets anyway,” Pastor Lane said. Notably he added, “We are responsible for the sidewalk (legally), but aren’t allowed to move tents. I don’t believe in letting them live on the streets. I’m not some homeless advocate.”

Once in the Union Gospel Mission program, Pastor Lane said there are rules the men must abide by:

  • No drugs or alcohol
  • No smoking
  • No pornographic materials (or Victoria Secret catalogues stuffed under the mattress)
  • The men must attend daily Chapel services nine times a week, twice on Friday and twice on Sunday.

Upon successful completion of the probationary period, candidates will proceed to:

  • Bible-based Twelve Step Course and Heart of Addiction Workbook
  • Anger Management Course
  • Weekly Counseling with one of our Chaplains
  • Assigned duties to serve the homeless community
  • Aftercare with attaining jobs, schooling, finances, reconciliations, transportation, and housing

As for personal appearance requirements during the on-site program, the men must:

  • Shower and shave daily, keep appearance trimmed and neat.
  • Proper footwear must be worn at all times.
  • Dress appropriately for Chapel; collared shirts are the ONLY SHIRTS ACCEPTABLE. All shirts with buttons must be buttoned up. Long pants must be worn.
  • Men may wear shorts, swimming trunks, and tank tops may be worn but are restricted to after business hours.
  • Men must be present for prayer over the meal or they will not be allowed to eat.
Union Gospel Mission. (Photo: UGMSAC.com)

“We’ve gotten this screwed up idea that it is someone else’s fault. We will not allow them to make excuses,” Pastor Lane said. And the men are required to help assist in the daily operations of the Union Gospel Mission with assigned jobs each.

The Mission explains: “One of these jobs will be assigned and the program man is accountable to be at that job during its hours. It is your responsibility to know these policies and procedures. You will be tested. We hope that your stay will be the beginning of a long fruitful walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Lane said once one of their men graduate from the program, “they are not pushed out the door into the world as some sort of test of their hard-won sobriety. Typically they learn additional skills that help them re-acclimate to a normal life or move to Grace Haven Annex when they get a job or enrolled in school.” Many continue on and work at the Union Gospel Mission while preparing to re-enter society.

We discussed that the government concept of “protecting” or “shielding” the homeless by allowing them to live on the streets and suffer.

And this is the problem with “low barrier” shelters, which have no rules for the homeless, and no accountability for their behavior. What will change in their lives if they are not held accountable and responsible, while seeking treatment? Living in a city-approved tent-camp on the sidewalk, stealing for drug money, does not encourage life-altering change.

Pastor Tim Lane’s Union Gospel Mission program works. And they take no government money.

Union Gospel Mission recent graduating class. (Photo: UGMSAC.com)

However, the Mission was forced to shut down during COVID – as if what this faith-based organization does for its residents and the homeless is not “essential.” While they still fed the homeless, they could not allow them to take showers or sleep there. So Pastor Lane brought in portable, self-contained showers, and set up as much outdoors as possible. They also re-opened the public chapel ASAP.

Pastor Lane said they took the shutdown as an opportunity to address badly needed renovations. And it’s a good thing they did. The renovations and updating turned into a ground up renovation and restoration in the residents’ living quarters.

UGMSAC cafeteria. (Photo: UGMSAC.com)

We toured the kitchen and cafeteria, and newly renovated shower room, bathroom areas, laundry rooms, dormitory sleeping quarters, and meeting rooms, updated with industrial grade wall, floor and shower materials designed to help prevent bacteria, infestations and outbreaks, while providing long-term energy-efficient insulation and protection. It is very nicely done while being fully functional.

While we talked, “Mike” came by to say hello. We chatted for a few minutes, before he headed out. Pastor Lane said Mike was once living on the streets, but because he had an incredibly strong work ethic, always had work. He joined the UGM program, graduated, and now works there.

The message of hope, charity and redemption oozes out of every wall, office, classroom, chapel, table, bed, and room of the Union Gospel Mission, and of the people who make it work.

“It’s not how you start the race,” Pastor Lane said, “it’s how you finish.”


Learn more about the Union Gospel Mission.

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9 thoughts on “Sacramento Union Gospel Mission is Saving Lives of the Homeless and Lost

  1. Looks like a good program. We certainly need more of these programs with strong leadership and conservative values.

  2. Los Angeles’ version, as I’m sure I have mentioned before, is the amazing L.A. Union Rescue Mission led by the Reverend Andy Bales. Wonderful work done there. Has been life-saving and transformative for SO MANY. More than 100 years of service.

  3. God bless them!
    They were forced to shut down because they were not considered essential.
    Go figure but pot shops and liquor stores were allowed to stay open!

  4. Gavin should use the model of this program with his “fight homelessness” billions to create more of the same instead of remodeling hotels. Thank you to all those who dedicate their time to this program! You are greatly appreciated by many.

    1. Yes he should, Stacy. So should Mayor Yoga Pants Garcetti, and Darrell Steinberg, and London Breed, and all the rest of these phonies. But they don’t wanna! Why? Because they and their “friends” BENEFIT from tortured souls on the street.

      Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of L.A. Union Rescue Mission, has tried, and still tries, to work with the City of L.A. and the Mayor and the L.A. County Board of Supes to pass along what works. For instance, he has specifically suggested how they could get more bang for their buck with the barracks-type housing that the Rescue Mission uses, which costs $10K a bed, instead of their model of luxury apartments for $700K a unit (and up) or tiny homes or “Project Roomkey” hotel and motel rooms, which just make the problem of addiction and alcoholism and mental illness worse because the addicted just sit in their new housing and do more drugs and alcohol than ever and go more crazy. What has been the response from these politicians and bureaucrats? “No thanks.” And “we can’t use faith-based programs.” Even if that were true, which it isn’t, it’s just an excuse, what is “faith-based” about those suggestions? NOTHING. What does it tell you that they reject these models? It tells you that our “leaders” have their own addictions: To money, power, and to the Homeless Industrial Complex.

      Don’t get me started, the school districts refuse to follow models that work, too. I’ve seen with my own eyes the absolute rejection of the excellent models offered. It’s simply not in their interest to fix the mess or improve things EVEN A LITTLE for the benefit of the students they are supposed to be serving and teaching. It makes me SICK. These people have the means and power to do SO MUCH and all they can see to do is make things worse.
      But you know all of this already…..

  5. For those who might believe that the state should not be monetarily or otherwise, supporting faith-based programs like this one, I would point out that there are MANY non-faith-based programs just as effective; which are build on the same conservative principles.

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