Nathan Smith has a mission.
His goal, as the new chief program officer of Phoenix Rescue Mission, is to provide food, water, housing and programs for low-income families and struggling or homeless individuals in the Valley.
“We serve over a 100 household. They come in for food each day and we give them grocery carts of food five days a week,” said Smith, whose organization serves challenged populations in Goodyear, Avondale, Glendale and Peoria, .
The homeless outreach program has various sub-programs, which include “day-labor for individuals living on the streets, case management, housing, and criminal justice diversion,” Smith said.
The Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Glendale Works offers day jobs to homeless individuals who are paid $60 a day for four days a week. These jobs include beautification projects, such as cleaning parks and communities in Glendale.
The program’s Glendale offerings also include Hope for Hunger, which reaches into Peoria.
A graduate of Grand Canyon University and Avondale’s Estrella Mountain Community College, Smith has long been interested in helping the less fortunate.
He previously worked for Academia Church, Arizona Organizing Project, Mountain View Christian Church and has been with the Phoenix Rescue Mission for over six years.
In 2008, Smith along with a few pastors from his church, went on a mission trip to India. This trip, in which he worked in orphanages and schools in impoverished communities was the source of his passion for helping impoverished people.
“Really from that point I kind of knew that I was going to be spending the rest of my life working with people like this,” Smith said. “Life was changed forever.”
Out of a sense of purpose, he went back to India five more times.
Back home, he also helps Phoenix Rescue Mission with its bigger, site-based services, like its men’s and women’s residential recovery campuses, which are in the Central City South Phoenix area. This is a short-term, crisis stabilization shelter for people who are experiencing trauma like homelessness or domestic violence.
“From there, they can either go into our recovery program, which is anywhere from two to 24 months long or we place them in another setting if they just need a place to stay for a couple days,” Smith said.
The various cities fund Phoenix Rescue Mission for different purposes. For instance, Peoria officials are particularly interested in diverting homeless individuals away from going in and out of jail.
“The idea is to get them out of this situation because if they got into certain services, they might not be interacting with the justice system so frequently. So the city of Peoria has invested money in our criminal justice diversion program,” Smith said.
Solutions Program gives individuals the tools to have a steady income and stable housing, through vocational assistance that helps the individual achieve a sustainable income. That is followed by a three-month residential program to develop a re-entry plan and support system to prepare for independent living.
The Phoenix Rescue Mission is also expanding its Transforming Lives Center, a drug and alcohol addiction recovery center at 1801 S. 35th Avenue in West Phoenix.
“We really want to be about getting people financially sustainable and we want to do it in a way that’s collaborative with the community around us rather than us owning it all ourselves,” Smith said.
Phoenix Rescue Mission has programs in Goodyear as well, like the Hope Coach Mobile Outreach. There are four vehicles in this program, one of which is in Goodyear. The mission’s staff or volunteers drive around the Valley and distribute items like food, water and hygiene supplies to various homeless individuals and families.
Nathan Smith summarized what he and his organization hope to do for the West Valley:
“The goal of our programs is to put a dent in hunger, to put a dent in homelessness or addiction.”
For more information, visit phoenixrescuemission.org.