BUILDING COMMUNITY, ONE BURGER AT A TIME
On the Fourth of July, a Santa Barbara resident who knows what it is like to lose one’s home enjoyed a hamburger at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission with folks who are going through the circumstances he has overcome.
The resident, who gave his name as Mark Z., lost his home in 2015 after medical bills racked up. Struggling with mental health issues, dehydrated and much thinner than he typically is, Mark Z. arrived at the Rescue Mission, where he was taken in as a guest.
“I had a roof,” said Mark. “I had a place to stay, and I had good kinship here. It’s inclusive.”
The Rescue Mission’s 11th annual Fourth of July barbecue dinner aimed to bring the transient community together. The faith-based organization provides overnight summer shelter, emergency services and recovery programs such as a 12-month residential recovery for men and women. The Fourth of July event also is a way to help.
“The beaches get so crowded that our homeless neighbors who often spend their days and nights on the sand are pushed off the shoreline and left with nowhere to go,” said Rolf Geyling, president of the Rescue Mission. “So 11 years ago, we decided we’d create a place for them to spend the holiday.”
“People tend to marginalize displaced persons,” Mark Z. said, adding that he takes care to not use “the h-word.” Using metaphors and symbolism with ease, Mark Z. told the News-Press that it’s human nature to create the other, which derives fear. When the News-Press asked if he believes this fear is unfounded, Mark Z. smiled sadly.
“Yes and no,” he said. “There are people on the streets that disturb the peace.”
To Mark Z. he and others like him who lost their homes due to unforeseen circumstances (mud slides, a death or medical issues) were different from those who “disturb the peace.”
The 66-year-old Mark Z. said that he has been living in his own home in downtown Santa Barbara since 2017. Although he is no longer a resident at the Rescue Mission, Mark Z. remains involved with the organization. He said that he volunteers at the Rescue Mission and attends its other events as well.
The barbecue, which was free to the community, attracted more than 70 people, though a significant number were family members of the Rescue Mission’s employees. Mr. Geyling’s children were even performing musical medleys at the event.