Tina Russek Transcription

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, we wanted to be sure that you could listen to the podcast with your eyes. Following is the transcript of the interview with Tina Russek, who is the gifts-in-kind manager at the L.A. Mission in Los Angeles, CA. 

JEREMY [narration] :
Hi everyone and welcome to the In The Shoes Of podcast, where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view; just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspective. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.
Have I mentioned that I love L.A.? Seriously, I dig that place. I dig all aspects of it; it's like a microcosm in and of itself. One part of L.A. that not everybody can probably dig, but you know, I dig it, is Skid Row. I don't dig it like you know, like, "Oh, what a fun place to visit. Let's go have a great time in Skid Row and you know, whatever." But I like to go there and just, it gets real. Gregg the camera guy, and I, we went over to the L.A. Mission and talked with Tina Russek. She's the gifts-in-kind manager over at the Mission, and she gave us a tour, talked a lot about what the Mission is all about. So, check it out.


JEREMY :
What's your background again, then?


TINA :
So, I had my own radio show called Tina Talk on KRLA for several years - Girl Talk radio. I also have an extensive background in hotel catering, and that was always in catering, never rooms. So party planning, event planning, all the socials, the bride, and the bridezillas, all that - I did that for years, but that gave me all this background with kitchen and banquets and doing party planning and events, so that was great. I also had a background in sales and I won a Salesman of the Year a couple of years with a company called TV Fanfare, and it was supermarket advertising - there's nothing harder. Talk about making a no into a yes. And that now applies to me going out as a gifts-in-kind manager saying, "All that bread that you don't need, because you have to take it off the shelf, would you give it to us?" You know, and so I bring in the non-monetary donations. It's been amazing that God and His Grace and Magnificence would say, "Oh I have such a great plan for you." And here I was, you know, at one time in the palatial mansions of Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, designing closets and organizing, and yet the closet companies were so awful to their designers, you know, and if you didn't already have a following and you could have these people just say, "I want you here. Boom - your designs I'm buying it--" And I found myself feeling like I'm working so hard for nothing. And I screamed out,  I said, "Lord, what do you want me to do? I have all this talent. I look lovely; I'm very well-accessorized. Where do you want me?" and he said, "Anne Douglas Center." "Our church is very busy down there, isn't that like Los Angeles? Oh Lord, isn't that on Skid Row? You must be thinking of someone else." You know? And so, I came down here and I fell in love with the women because this is a house of second chances. We are actually designated as a church. 


JEREMY :
Oh really? Okay.


TINA :
Our 501(c)3 is actually a church. And so, we have been serving Skid Row for over 80 years and, we're not the oldest, and we're not the largest, but we do feel we're the best. Our program is called Fresh Start. We are an in-house residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and we have 446 beds. Most of these people have been in their addiction 10, 20, 30 years, living in a cardboard box with a needle in their arm, ruining their family's life. And now it's like, if this is their last, last, last, last chance, we feel, as faith-based, the only way you're going to get through this is through God. We're not a 12-step program, but we do have the Chicago School of Psychology here also. So, it's like, where did all this start? Was it a bad Thursday? No, this is years of abuse. Years. And it's also, when I say we save--we don't want to save a person, we save a family. We save a family, because that person, in that addiction all those years, has borrowed the last dollar, has stolen the last car, has ripped off grandma's brooch, has done everything, you know; the parent that has disappointed the child over and over again, now the kids coming in, "You know what, I can't trust her anymore." And that is part of our rehabilitation - reuniting the family and getting someone involved with the church and getting them a job, because we’re kind of a one-stop shop. We also offer biblical training; their education is here with our Urban Training Institute. U.T.I., which is very successful. Everyone that leaves our program upon graduation, and this is a 13-month program for the computer illiterate. And then we also have a career center.


JEREMY :
Oh wow, I love that. One thing, before we even take off and go along, I want to know what your thoughts are and what kind of misconceptions are--I kind of feel like there are a lot of misconceptions in America in how we view it - when we're on the road and we see someone begging for change. A lot of people probably are like, "Ugh, scammer," or whatever. What would you tell the rest of us?


TINA :
You know, there are so many different phases and levels of homelessness. I would say the most common issue would be mental health. And of course, addiction. Once you're in your addiction, whatever level of dignity, whatever level of shame, is gone. You will do anything to get high. So that will tear that person apart. And of course, their family. So, once you say, "I'm going to give up my home," you know, "my money, my job, I will give up my children," you're a goner. And so, to get out of that addiction, everyone says you have to hit bottom, and you do. Everyone has a different bottom, and sometimes they say, "I can't do this anymore." And, by the grace of God, an angel comes along and says, "I have ever been to the Los Angeles Mission?" And we have those stories, where there is like, literally some guy had the last thing on his body. He was totally ripped off, beat up, was laying there without his shoes, and he had, like, a token for the bus. And he's on the bus and he's sitting there, and this is a true story. And you know, he's riding like this, "I'm a mess. I've lost everything. I'm scum, maybe I'll just kill myself. I'm going to kill myself, that's what I'm going to do. I'll get off the bus - why I'm on this bus?" I mean, totally disoriented. This guy comes and sits down by him, kind of chilling out, listening to some tunes. He goes, "How are you doing?" He says, "I think I'm going to kill myself." He says, "You're having a bad day. Okay, you know what I think we should do? Let's go to Los Angeles Mission." "Well, what's that?" "Well you know what, let's just go there, I'll introduce you to one of the chaplains." "I don't like that. A chaplain, you mean it's religious." He goes, "Well you're going to kill yourself so, give up one day. You know, give it a day, you know." And so, this guy who was impoverished, who's, you know, literally ready to slit his throat or something, sits down with one of the chaplains--oh I have digressed. So, he gets off the bus and he turns to the guy, and the guy's gone. It's like he just evaporated. You know, all they see is the guy walking into the Mission. He goes, "Oh thanks for waiting for me." So, he's in the Mission, and before he knows it, he's talking to a guy, another chaplain named Keith Newton. He goes, "Hi, I'm the intake chaplain. You want to talk for a minute?" He goes, "Nah, I want to kill myself." He goes, "Let's do that later, okay? Let's talk. So, what's going on?" And this guy says, "You don't understand. I've done it. I've had it. I've ruined my life because--" "You know what we need right now?" He goes, "No, what?" "Ice cream!" he goes, "Let's go get some ice cream!" So, they go across the street to the Green Apple Market, and as they're getting the ice cream there's the guy that he met on the bus. He goes, "I went through the program. I have a job now. I’m getting my family back. I love the Lord, God, with all my heart. You're going to go through this program." He said, "No, I'm going to kill myself." "Go through it one day and talk to me tomorrow." Anyway, the guy graduated, has a brand-new life and he says, "It was the Holy Spirit. There was no reason why all that would happen. It's not by chance; it's by design." And so, there are people that are definitely down in there. There are people that choose to be in their addiction, and some people- and many people will die. They'll die on the street by exposure, by the hand of another, by suicide, by overdosing. But you know what? It is a choice; we are born with choice. And the thing is, when you do want to turn it around, you have a plethora of help around here. The missions are here. This is--this is where the rubber meets the road. So, when you have someone that says, "I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready yet. I'm going to go to that sermon. I'll have that meal from the Los Angeles Mission. I'm not ready yet. I'm smarter than this. I don't need a god. I don't need-" and then suddenly boom - something hits them and they're going, "Well, maybe I do need a god... Maybe I do need something." So, I always want to say, "How is it working for you in the tent? I'm sorry, in the cardboard box. How's that working for you?" You know. So, you see this transitional person who has done everything wrong.

JEREMY :
Do you find that it's primarily drug abuse?


TINA :
Ninety percent of it. You know what, even living out in the elements without any shelter will make you crazy. There's still a huge issue with alcoholism. Huge. There are the drugs, there are the designer drugs, there are the drugs that one whiff will kill you because they're mixing it with rat poison.


JEREMY :
And who knows if the, you know, the mental illness is like, a direct result of taking the drugs, or if it's the other way around.


TINA :
The chicken or the egg.


JEREMY :
The chicken or the egg - exactly! Yeah, which one is it? Doesn’t really matter I guess, at that point in time.


TINA :
The beauty of our program, too, is that we do have like a sixty-three percent success rate. So that, when people graduate in five years they're still clean, sober, with a family, involved with the church, and have a job. This is not my expertise, but you know, when you kind of get over that four- or five-year hump of "I'm sober now..." Do people fall from grace? Yes, they do. But the people that are our poster children from this program say, "I will never do anything to jeopardize my sobriety. I am a recovering alcoholic. I'm a recovering 'fill in the blank'." There's every -ism there is out there. And when you see that person that's clean and sober and happy, it's like, "What was I thinking?" But that was their journey. So, you want to see my mission?


JEREMY :
Yeah, let's  do that. Let's walk and talk.


JEREMY [narration]:
As a reminder, we'll be taking a tour of the facility and we will have audio for it too, but with the visual aspect, obviously, you'll have to use your imagination for a lot of it and I'll be cutting some of it out that's, you know, obviously irrelevant - you need to actually see it. So, just letting you know.


TINA :
This is our executive floor. So, we have the president up here and me, because you know, we're like this. This is our Hall of Fame also, with all of our graduates. You'll notice that back in the 20s and 30s, it was like, old bums and winos. Well, that changed dramatically when the drugs came in--when the designer drugs, and then the domestic violence, and women were leaving the home with literally the shirt on their back, a kid on their hip, and their handbag, and literally racing for their life. So then, as we walk down the hall, you're going to see that women are suddenly populating the area. And this is our Career Center and our Career Center is - we get a lot of entry-level jobs.


JEREMY :
So, do you have a separate place for just families then?


TINA :
Good question. We do not. We do not. Now, Union Rescue Mission has more of a--they're a bigger mission, they have a family piece. They have a shelter. We have 200 beds for shelter status, but those tickets are only good for 15 days and then you give them up for five. And we're trying to be a little bit more of a mission without walls, but we only have so many beds and we do want to process the, we call them students because they're always learning something, they're always in school, and you know, eventually we go to a cap and gown. Some of these adults. this the first thing they've ever completed in their life. And some of them are highly degreed. So, you've got every kind of mix you can think of. And this is Processing--our data processing.


JEREMY :
So, in your own words, how would you say, if you were to describe the perspective of someone before coming to the mission and the perspective after they get out, let's say after a year, what are the differences there? What are the fundamental differences?


TINA :
I think they have the foundation. They now have the foundation to believe and build on. They have a faith. No one leaves this mission without knowing the Bible. I feel that they have regained their dignity and... If they want those kids and they want that family back, they're going to have to work for it. And I have so many stories of redemption and so many stories of, I mean to witness around here is remarkable. And you know, it's not like, "Oh, you know, I had a couple of bad years. I don't know what went wrong." You know, when people come here usually this is the last, last, last, last time at the rodeo and they're going to--they have to fight for this. No one's going to hand it to them. We will feed and clothe them and we will give them a place to live and give them a second chance and they will be loved. And so many people, by that time, do not feel lovable. They've been living in their denial for so long. And of course, in their addiction. This is our express elevator. Oh yes. Is it still Monday? Criminy. And I'm giving you the freight elevator, so, you see all the glamour.


JEREMY :
I love it. Yeah, I'm all about that glamour.


TINA :
There's so many stories of redemption. And I think that's also the beauty of what we offer. Oh, here it comes now.


JEREMY :
Are there any stories where people come out and they actually do well but they still haven't accepted the faith, or maybe they went to a different faith, or...? Because you know, this definitely sounds like it's Christian or-


TINA :
Well, we're Christian. We're Christian, yeah. We will accept anyone in here. This is our ball and our ballgame. So, you're going to hear this sermon, and if you choose to be whatever you choose - Jewish, you know, our Jewish brothers and sisters. That's fine. But you know, we are giving you this second chance and it will be with our program. And a lot of students go, "Oh yeah, they may be doing pretty well. But let me tell you how I'd run the program." Yeah, we're not going to go there, okay? So, we are on one 157,000 square feet of four floors and a basement. We have a Spanish chapel for the Spanish community, before they are given their meal they are going to hear a sermon. It's never killed anybody yet. So, we assume that you're just going to grin and bear it. Our information center is part of our serving  the community. It's not just the students within our four walls. And we have an opportunity--when you're homeless you don't have an address, so they use our address for the GR, government relief.


JEREMY :
And so, to dig into your past a little bit. That sounds so ominous - dig into your past - but when did you come to the faith? Was it always that way or like, when you were in the palatial...


TINA :
Yeah, the palatial mansions, you know, and everyone ripping me off with my designs. I'm screaming out to Jesus - I was raised in a church, so it wasn't anything necessarily odd, but it was--it was knowing that I had a calling. It was just waiting for 'it'. And then I'm going to Skid Row? Oh my gosh, it's so... When I look like this, you must be kidding. And then it was like, "Oh I definitely have to dress up the place." You know? Can we sneak through real quickly darling? Thank you so much. Excuse me.


JEREMY [narration] :
What you're hearing in the background there are metal detectors. In order to enter the building, you have to go through one of those. I think for obvious reasons, right? And we had to go through it just to get outside as well. It's actually kind of surreal being in Skid Row, especially when you compare it to the Hollywood-esque glitterati imagery that L.A. is often associated with. And I'm not even saying that one is better than the other. I love going to Skid Row, but I also dig Hollywood.


TINA :
So, this is our courtyard. We also have four major street events a year - Easter, the end of the summer block party where we present 1,000 backpacks full of school supplies to the kids.


JEREMY :
And so, how many people are here actually at any given time?


TINA :
You know it's hard to say. For example, we serve 1,600 meals a day. We have like, what is it, four breakfasts, four lunches, three dinners. And so, it's very structured. We have to have--everything is constantly rolling. Constantly in movement. But what's great is that we want to offer haircuts, we always offer underwear. This is huge, and socks. 


JEREMY :
It's something that most people just don't think about. A lot of people don't think about, you know?


TINA :
It's very, very, very difficult to even wrap your mind around the general necessities - a toothbrush! That's why I always ask my donors to create an assembly line of hygiene kits and throw in a nice white pair of socks, and your toothbrush, and your toothpaste, and hand cream because your hands get so chafed out here.


JEREMY :
Let's say somebody would ask, "Well, what's the solution to all this then?"


TINA :
You know, there is not a one-word solution. We need the housing. Some people don't even want to be in four walls, if they're so feral that they actually feel that they're going to be better outside, because they think they’ll be taken advantage of, they're going to be violated in some way, shape, or form. And so, it's offered I think, it's always program and education. And once they can dry out and, you know, there are some people that are--they have to be ready. It's like dragging anyone else, you know, kicking and screaming into a program - it's not going to happen. They've got to want to come by their own volition. But, I would say ninety percent of it is drugs. Well, and again you know, I'm not an expert. I'm not an expert, but it's got to be the mental health issue and the drugs.


JEREMY :
Let's say there’s a place in Siem Reap in Cambodia they, all of a sudden, have a homeless problem - I know nothing about it, but let's... Hypothetically, what would be your advice to them? Considering that it's like, it's totally different--and my question to you is almost twofold; I kind of want to know what your thoughts are on the differences between homelessness in America and L.A.


TINA :
So much of it is just housing. And yet even with the housing, I have to go back to 'it's not just giving them a place to live' because they're still going to use, you don't want to put women in a situation where they're just going to be in another room where they can be raped and violated, you know? So, it's really, it's back to the education and the program and drying them out and giving them purpose. I mean, even just finding your own happiness in your own identity is such a struggle with some of these folks. You know, that's why it's, for us, it's all about Jesus - sorry. Oh, I can talk about everything else, but not...?


JEREMY :
Well no, you can talk about anything you want. You have free reign, actually, in this. This is all about, you know, your perspective.


JEREMY [narration] :
So, after I let Tina know that it was totally okay for her to talk about anything under and behind the sun, including Jesus, we then walked over to the chapel where these sermons were held. 


JEREMY :
Can I go up there and play the drum set? Seriously, I love the drum set. Yeah, so, this is where like everybody goes before going to get a meal?


TINA :
Yes, they're going to hear the sermon. And a lot of them just absolutely pass out because they've been up all night. You know, either in their addiction or just so someone else doesn't kill them. Or their bodies just ravaged with so much...


JEREMY :
And it's just, "Finally, I have a safe place - I don't have to actually worry and watch my back all time."


TINA :
Exactly. And we have all of our graduations here. We have three graduations in here February, June, and October, and we graduate any number from--I think our smallest group was about twenty to thirty-three. Men and women - there's not a dry eye in the house.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Oh, I'm sure. Yeah, they'd be very extraordinarily touching.


TINA :
It's the families that said, "You're not going to drag us into the pit of Hell, we're leaving now." And then when they see them, you know, have a personal revival.


JEREMY :
It sounds to me like you've kind of found your ultimate purpose in life to them. You know, in doing this; would you say that that's true? That this is your purpose?


TINA :
There's nothing like kind of--Hey girl. How's my girl? How are you today? 


STUDENT :
Good.


TINA :
Are you good? Okay, have a kiss. Take care of yourself.


STUDENT :
Oh yeah, you too. Good to see you!


TINA :
But you're okay?


STUDENT :
Yeah, I'm fine. Thank you.


TINA :
Take care, okay? 


STUDENT :
Oh, Miss T!


TINA :
Yes, what honey?


STUDENT :
I did want to tell you about something.


JEREMY [narration] :
For obvious reasons, I've edited out the conversation that Tina had with one of the residents, as it was private, right? Tina, of course, still had her lapel mic on and the recorder was doing its thing.


TINA :
This is where they're really going to take a minute. And this is our dining room. 


WORKER :
Our dining room, this is where we serve 1,600 meals a day. Hey.


JEREMY :
Hey, it smells good! I got to say, it smells really good.


TINA :
In fact, if you want to break for lunch, you could do that too. We have all the students work the program--it's a work-therapy program, so that they are working the kitchen ninety days, working the grounds ninety days, working facilities ninety days, and then they get a certificate for that. This is-whoa! This is a full service stainless-steel kitchen. Everybody works in this program. I will be back. I hope you can save me a plate. I will be starving.


JEREMY :
You have volunteers to come out and help out in the kitchen, right?


TINA :
We have a huge volunteer department. Yeah, we have about, I think, ninety-five on staff to run this entire mission. And then we do depend enormously on our volunteers, and a lot of charities do. Because you know, it's just doing... Stuffing envelopes and that type of thing, it just really helps keep the lights on.


JEREMY [narration]:
We then ran into someone who was going through the program for a second time.


TINA :
Rodney, darling, how are you? Are you good, my friend? Are you okay? He was in the program and fell from grace and he's back.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. Is that kind of a normal occurrence?


TINA :
It happens. But I'm just glad they come back. Yeah, I know a lot of them. And he graduated with honors, I mean you know. Just because of the time, let me take you over to the Anne Douglas Center. We're not supposed to be walking across here, but do you know who I am? But, c'mon. And I go--by the way, when I when I first got here I wasn't a pastor, but as manager I said, "I don't want people to call me Tina. You're not going to call me Miss Russek, but call me Miss Tina or Miss T." Well, Miss T stuck. So yeah, so then I go by--then they started doing 'Misty', then it was 'T-Dawg', then it was 'TT", 'Gangsta T', then 'OG T - Original Gangsta T'. It went all on. So, one guy, I have to tell you this. So, this guy was working the dock and he walked into my office, used to be right in there because I was a facilities manager for the Anne Douglas Center and he says, "You know what, Miss T? I've watched you and... You're a lady. I don't know women that have been ladies in my life. My mother, she beat me. She was nothing more than a crack ho. And I hated her and I ended up beating up a lot of women in my life." But he says, "But you're a lady, so may I call you Lady T?" I was like, "Well, if you want!" I was probably sobbing at the time. He was so sweet; it was so sweet.


JEREMY :
I think I like that one the best.


TINA :
Yeah.


JEREMY [narration]:
After listening to this again, I realized how, despite the gravity of the man's words, we were able to joke a bit about the playful nickname of Lady T. I guess that's just Skid Row life - can't be sweatin' everything, right? Especially those things that are in the past.


TINA :
This is the Anne Douglas Center for Women. This is actually composed of twenty-five beds—twenty-seven beds, it is 25,000 square feet. I was here and, with the background I had as a closet designer and I could draw the scale and I could help the architects, I was very involved with remodeling the Anne Douglas Center for Women. And so, this was really, oh. Miss Barbara? Hello. We have gentlemen on the floor. I should have told him. Let me just tell them. Excuse me.


JEREMY [narration]:
Lady T then went in and announced that there would be gentlemen entering the premises. Does she know who we are, I mean, 'gentlemen'? Anyway. Obviously, guys are not usually allowed in there, but this was a special circumstance. So, thank you Gina. Thank you, Staff at the Anne Douglas Center. Really appreciate you letting us cruise through your home right there.


TINA :
And the elevator is still out of order. The stairs are our friends. 


JEREMY :
I like friends. 


TINA :
Yes. You know, it's like--I do this in six-inch heels, so I don't want to hear any grumbling. 


JEREMY :
Oh no. Are there any differences between the facil--I mean, obviously there's going to be some differences between how the men's facility is run and the women's facility? But what--are there any?


TINA :
You know what, not really. I mean, the men have a few more privileges. This is a very structured program. It's not like you're in-and-out, see you in a couple of days. You have to earn your passes. It is a four-phase program. As you progress in the program, you're given more privileges, but men do have a little bit more just because they're men. But, you know, you're out here where, you know, anything awful can to happen to a woman. 


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, of course.


TINA :
So, we are protective. We have the living room. And when I was the facilities manager here, I said, "For a year we are your family and for a year, this is your home and you better take care of it." And so, it was really a great opportunity to really bond with the women and hear their stories and see their transformations. It was really remarkable. And you know, and of course, so many of these women have kids and they want those kids back.


JEREMY :
Of course, of course. I imagine it's a bit heartbreaking to hear. You know, and that's probably an understatement.


TINA :
Oh, it is. It is. This is our beauty parlor, salon, and laundry room. When we had the last few requests for proposals go out, we had this one architectural firm step up to the plate and they sat down and the two architects were Melissa and Kristen and they said, "Oh no, no. We should have this room popped out four more feet. We need to make beauty salons; we need to make stations. We should definitely have the women feel comfortable, where they can be female again, and work with their sisters, and primp with the hair and the makeup." And I said, "You had me at 'hello'." They got it. And so, when I was working with them and we decided to just make this definitely a home - I want this to be more residential versus institutional. Because of all the, you know, the metal furniture. And so, we wanted to soften it up a bit. And the girls really do love this space and, by the way, this is named after the Anne Douglas Center for Women, of course, the wife of Kirk Douglas who turned 100 last year and we are now celebrating her 25th anniversary this month. Or is it next month? I know it's actually--well, it's actually her--when they dedicated this space, it was February 14th, 1992. So, on Valentine's Day, this is always a very special day to celebrate her kindness and generosity.


JEREMY :
That's really cool. Yeah, I remember reading a little bit about that.


TINA :
Yes. Yeah, they are extremely generous and very philanthropic.


JEREMY :
And so how many--what's the ratio like, between how many males and how many females, you know?


TINA :
Well, just for an example we have 446 beds and 27 of those belong to the women. The women population is obviously smaller on Skid Row, but unfortunately, it's growing. And as I said, one of the newer populations would be an entire family - a father, a mother, and a child. They do live in cars, they do live in every conceivable--I mean, the tents, perhaps you noticed the tents. Out of control. So, but you know, there's all the dynamics of politicians and what they do allow and what they don't allow and you can impede a doorway. You know, it's just--and the fact that we are the Homeless Capital of the World because--well, of the United States, because of our weather! You can actually live outside almost year-round.


JEREMY [narration]:
Can't argue with that. That's where I go! SoCal weather is off-the-hook nice.


PA SYSTEM :
Ladies, it's lunch time. Please join us; thank you.


TINA :
Okay, she's so sweet.


JEREMY :
That's so cool. Oh, is there a dog in...?


TINA :
That's actually a playhouse. 


JEREMY :
Oh, it's a playhouse! I'm sorry, I thought it was a doghouse from the back. 


TINA :
This is where--we have this family room, which has actually been designed for a mother and her kid. This would open up into a sleeper and the mother could be with their kid to reunify and have a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and learn to trust each other again. And the child could go play out, you know, safely on the patio, and then Mom could watch some videos. But she was separated from the rest of the population of the building, so they could have that private time together and that's been very successful.


JEREMY :
You mentioned politics a little bit earlier. From an operational standpoint of the mission, does politics come into play more than you would like it to or…?


TINA :
I think, you know, with Measure H and HH and all that--


JEREMY [narration]:
Measure H is a sales tax measure to fund homeless services and prevention in Los Angeles County. And voters on March 7th, 2017, approved it. So, pretty cool.


TINA :
I think the city is trying to work on the problem. It's just, this is just not a one-word answer. It is so layered. But once that person, I'll tell you one thing, when we have someone in and out of the program that's successful, they are the best disciple in town. Because they, you know, they are going to spread the word and you can see that they, again, when they come together with that family and as I said, we don't just save a person--hi there. We don't just save a person; we save a family. And it's pretty remarkable. And during our graduation--Sheila, oh, Miss Sheila, a volunteer director. She's amazing. And Jeremy and Gregg, our lovely cameraman.


JEREMY [narration] :
We ran into a very sweet lady by the name of Sheila for just a bit before she had to get on with her work. Seriously, she was there and then when I glanced over, she was gone. So, then we headed back to Tina's office and we started talking about the people who worked there and, of course, about the residents, or 'students', as she called them. It always circled back to them because, well, that's the whole point of the Mission, right? It's all about helping those people out.


JEREMY :
What are some of the most remarkable stories you've heard? I mean, I'm sure they're all remarkable in their own way, but what are some stories that stand out to you?


TINA :
You know, I'll tell you. There's a graduation we have the Anne Douglas Center Honors Evening which, because the women are women, we have a separate graduation sort of affair in the Spanish chapel, a ceremony for that evening-- a get-together, a little reception, where three, four, or five women can witness to an audience and usually their families.


JEREMY [narration]:
Now if you're not religious, and specifically not Christian, then the use of the word 'witness' may be a little bit vague to you, which is totally cool. And I thought it was kind of a colloquial religious thing, but turns out Merriam-Webster Online has a definition for witness. You know, among all the various uses of the word. This one is '5a: something serving as evidence or proof' and '5b: public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction'.


TINA :
One story was so great because Stephanie was up at the microphone giving her story and her witness. And it was like, she says to her mom, "You raised my babies. Can you ever forgive me for what I did to you? Can you ever forgive me?" and she says, "This has been a gift from God to be here; I will make this up to you." And you hear this little baby say, "I love you Mama!" And she says, "Honey, I'm coming home." It was like, {inaudible squealing}[00:32:28] . And stories like that. I mean literally, and she's done very well and she's been totally reunified with her family, so you know, between our serving the community, between me dabbing my eyes, it's like, every day there's something that is so remarkable. I mean, when I first got here, a wonderful woman who's now retired but we're still very, very close, Barbara said, “Prepare yourself for miracles. It's like there's no other explanation." We've had people die flat on their back come back to life, and we've had people also pass away here because their body couldn't take anymore. And finally, they could take the time to take that deep breath and their body just finally failed, which always just tears your heart out of your chest. But they now are at peace. They didn't die on the streets with a needle in their arm, or by the hand of someone. It's just a remarkable place to be. There's no, you know, it's like, we have our little grumpy-grump days. But, you know, to see this kind of redemption and this opportunity to see lives changed, and to see a kind of happiness and inner joy. And it's not about making the big bucks, and it's not about driving the new Mercedes, you know? You see joy here, and even on the streets, when some of the folks who just kind of hanging out and walking by and say, "How are you doing?" You know, and they just say, "Thanks for even talking to us," and I say, "Well, you're a child of God. What's up?"


JEREMY :
[laughs] What's up? I'm Lady T, by the way, you may have heard of me. I don't know. Okay, so, I know you have to get going. One final question: can you just give us a maybe a synopsis of how you see life on this planet? Any perspective that you can give us about how you perceive life would be really-


TINA :
I think that's an outstanding question. I think so much of life is giving back. It's not--it's not boiling down to 'give me, take me, buy me.' It's because when you feel so blessed and your cup runneth over and when you've been saved or I've seen the face of God, you know, I have to go out and I don't care if it's at a soup kitchen, I don't care if it's wrapping up eating utensils with a little napkin and a rubber band. There is something about--the greatest thing is touching another human life and I feel blessed beyond my personal, wildest dreams. I've got a great life and I can't imagine working any place else because if God has given me those gifts, and God has given me this opportunity, and I can say to someone, "You know what? I believe in you. You stopped believing in you, but I'm going to keep believing in you." And you know, for that person to say, "Alright, I'm going to give this one more chance. This is my last, last, last, last chance.” And you are surrounded by miracles. And I think that's where you find the greatest joy in life. And, you know, especially if you're counting your blessings. And I believe that if you really stop thinking about yourself and your little problems, even if they're big problems - and we have some huge problems in life - but if you say I'm going to stand on my faith and by God's grace and biblically, His Grace is sufficient enough. And so, when you start saying you know what, the minute you start giving more to the next person, you start saying, "Wow. Not only I've been blessed, but I'm feeling a little bit better about life." There is a lot of good in life; there's a lot of bad. But I believe that the good--the bad is trying to keep up with the good. That, you know, the bad is there - and of course, the bad is what we report on. But when you see someone really, truly saved and it's like they they've got something that everybody wants. That inner joy. So glad you could be at the Los Angeles Mission.


JEREMY :
Thank you so much. I seriously appreciate - I appreciate that so much. Yeah, it's very beautiful what you're doing.


TINA :
Well, you may come back. Am I a mess? Am I a total mess?


JEREMY :
You are not a mess, no. You're fine. Thank you so much. 


TINA :
Thank you so much for coming and for caring.


JEREMY :
Of course.


JEREMY [narration]:
Whatever it is that you believe - whether you're an Atheist, Christian, Agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, Jainist, Muslim etc. etc. I think we can all agree, at least I hope we can all agree, that when Tina was talking about living life for others gives us the most abundant life, she is speaking some hardcore truth there.


TINA :
So, they've got your car parked here so, I don't know.


JEREMY :
[laughs] Oh, that's alright. We can walk more. You know, we're not wearing heels or anything. See you Tina, thank you.


JEREMY [narration]:
Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of In The Shoes Of. If you like or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show. Until the next time, see you later.