Recovery Programs for Smaller Rescue Missions

When homeless addicts are unable to find lasting sobriety, they are doomed to a life on the streets. Thankfully, AGRM’s member rescue missions have responded by developing long-term recovery programs for indigent men and women with drug and alcohol problems. Sophisticated programs can be found at some larger rescue missions. Many have professional staff members who are social workers, case managers and certified addiction counselors.

Providing recovery services at the smaller rescue mission can be more challenging. In some ministries, a single chaplain is the only staff member who works with long-term residents. However, it is possible to bring recovery principles to those who need it. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Educate YourselfTake advantage of opportunities in your community to learn more about addiction and recovery. Learn about what is being offered at local colleges. Training events are also sponsored by groups like the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence and the National Association for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselors. City Vision University  offers courses through it’s online Addiction Studies degree program. Throughout the year, AGRM-sponsored training events are offered at several different locations. Information these and other training events appear monthly in the member newsletter, HAPPENINGS. Every mission, large or small, needs to set aside funds each year for such staff training.
  1. Use Community Resources — Most communities have a local NCADD office. Along with training activities, they usually provide free literature on addiction and maintain lending libraries with books and videos that can be used in rescue mission recovery programs. Both NAADAC and local colleges may also be used to find counselors-in-training to work with addicts at the mission.
  1. Use Christian Support Groups —The first requirement for anyone with an alcohol or drug problem who stays long-term at a mission should be frequent attendance at addiction-specific support groups. My first choice is always a group that is Christ-centered. Alcoholics Victorious is the AGRM- sponsored support group network. There are other Christian groups such as Alcoholics for Christ, Overcomers Outreach, and Celebrate Recovery, etc. Locate these and other Christian support groups meeting around the world at the Christians in Recovery web site. Where such groups do not exist, one option is to begin one. Ask stable believers with a few years of successful recovery in a non-Christian group, like Alcoholics Anonymous, to help get your group started.
  1. Using Other Support Groups AA, Ala-non, NA and other support groups can also be valuable resources. Some may even help by bringing a meeting to the mission. Some Christian workers have had bad experiences and assume that these groups are anti-Christian. This depends mostly on who is in leadership. It is best to have staff members visit meetings to get acquainted with local leaders before requiring residents to attend meetings or inviting them to conduct one at the mission.
  1. Resources for Recovery Classes A large assortment of materials related to addiction recovery is available through AGRM’s Resource Center. It can be found online at The Life Recovery Bible is a great reference tool for developing recovery-oriented Bible studies, chapel services, and devotionals. For structured classes, Power to Choose is a very useful workbook that is written in very simple language by Mike O’Neal, who was himself formerly homeless.
  1. Maintain a “Zero Tolerance” Policy — To maintain an environment that promotes positive change, the rescue mission must be a “drug free zone.” Therefore, all residents must know that, if they use alcohol or drugs, they will be dismissed immediately from the long-term program. This should be for at least one month, with the possibility for an evaluation for re-admission after that time period. They can be put back on the streets, demoted to the shelter, or referred to another program. Whatever option is used, residents need to know that the addiction is taken seriously.
  1. Reach Out for Help If you have additional thoughts or questions, please use the contact form.


Michael Liimatta is the author of two book and tape sets published by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; A Guide to Effective Rescue Mission Recovery Programs and First Things First.


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