At an ABC7 Listens event in Contra Costa County, ABC7 News learned about an organization in Richmond's dangerous Iron Triangle neighborhood that's a beacon of hope for homeless and drug addicts around the Bay Area.
Walk into the doors of the Bay Area Rescue Mission and you know right away that it isn't your typical center serving the homeless and drug addicted.
"Trying to do everything on your own is not going to work, you need god," Bay Area Rescue Mission worker Michael Cardenas said.
Maxine Mars became homeless after abusing alcohol, methamphetamines and crack for nearly 30 years. She says she found the Rescue Mission and god in 2006 and is now a counselor there.
"I get to be a sounding board for the ladies who've gone through the same things that I have," Mars said.
"Thirty years ago, I was a homeless cocaine addict myself," Bay Area Rescue Mission Director John Anderson said.
When Anderson speaks people really listen. But not just because he started out as a successful businessman.
"At age 29, I spent $56,000 a year on cocaine and my life was falling apart. I walked away from everything and I ended up homeless on the streets of San Diego," Anderson said. "Job skills training, education, family skills, life skills; we're helping people so they have the tools, so that when they're ready to leave the Rescue Mission they can be successful," he added.
Sherwin Harris came here from Oakland in 1994 after losing it all to drugs. He remembers exactly where he was sleeping when he decided to change his life.
"I came here really not seeking a program, just a place to stay, a place to rest my head," Harris said. "I thought I would go and have another run, but the lord had other plans for me," he added.
More than $8 million worth of food, clothing and other items come to the Bay Area Rescue Mission each year. Aboout one-third of that they keep and the rest goes to other charities or directly to individuals in the community.
"We weathered most of the economic challenges fairly well, but recently the donations have really dropped off to the point that we had to lay off five of our staff members and cut back on expenses the best that we could," Anderson said.
Anderson says a quarter of the staff is made up of graduates from the recovery program and like Mars what they bring to the program is invaluable.
If you would like to help the Bay Area Rescue Mission you can call 510-215-4555 or go to the Bay Area Rescue Mission website.