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Union Gospel Mission

When you're living in a cardboard box underneath a bridge in downtown Seattle, a sandwich is a welcome sight.

The Union Gospel Mission says for many of our area's homeless, that sandwich can be the first step in the path to a future off the streets.

Richard McAdams has been homeless for most his life. He moved to Seattle a few years ago, hooked on drugs, and wishing he was dead.

"I was an IV drug user and I just lost a lot of hope," says McAdams. "I ended up out on the street on a cardboard box. I just didn't want to be around."

One night, he prayed for anything that would give him hope to continue living. About a half hour later, his prayer was answered when volunteers from Seattle's Union Gospel Mission stopped by and offered him some food.

"The search and rescue van stopped by where I was sleeping. They woke me up and gave me a sandwich, brought me into the Mission that night to sleep on a cot, so I joined the program," says McAdams. "I've been in the program about six months now."

Terry Pallas is the Director of the Men's Ministry. He describes the homeless situation as "desperate" and says there are a lot of people on the streets who are hungry and hurting.

"For almost 82 years now, Seattle's Union Gospel Mission has existed to serve, to rescue and to transform those in greatest need," says Pallas.

"There's almost 9,000 folks considered 'homeless' in the King County area. Certainly the downtown core of Seattle there's many folks out there just trying to survive today. As the weather changes, we're just going to see more and more individuals that are seeking shelter and seeking safety and certainly seeking a meal."

Seattle's Union Gospel Mission feeds more than 1,500 men, women and children every day and 175 homeless people fill their emergency shelter every night.

But that's just the start. The organization also offers other services aimed at ending the cycle of homelessness and addiction.

"We also provide domestic violence safe-housing, addiction recovery, we have many youth programs where we're trying to preventative work and maybe trying to reach youth when they're in a really difficult situation before they spiral out of control into addiction and gang violence," says Pallas.

McAdams says his road to recovery started with that sandwich. Now, he often goes out with volunteers in the Search and Rescue van, trying to get others off the streets. He credits the Union Gospel Mission for saving his life.

"The fellowship that goes on in that building not only with the guys in the program, but with the owners, the volunteers, the people that come in and help us out - if it wasn't for them I wouldn't have a piece of my heart. That's what keeps me going. I have that piece to where I can succeed in life and recover and stay away from drugs.