The Union Mission Ministries is a 501(C)3 nonprofit Christian organization, founded in 1892 to care for the poor and homeless in the Hampton Roads community. Today it provides three meals a day, toiletries, clean clothing and a safe place to lay ones head for over 375 men, women and children daily. Case managers assist in helping people lay out a plan for their futures, obtaining disability and veterans benefits, finding jobs and permanent housing. In addition, job and life skills training is offered through classes in computer skills, budgeting, finance, parenting, overcoming addiction, getting ones G.E.D, obtaining literacy, setting healthy boundaries, resume writing, interviewing, dressing for success and other life skills. Once physical needs are met, emotional and spiritual counseling is provided to help people overcome their homelessness and better care for themselves and their families.
In addition to the Union Mission Men’s Shelter and The Women and Children’s Shelter, the Retail Training Center offers job skills training and provides jobs in its warehouse and Thrift Store to those in the Union Mission program. Camp Hope Haven provides a week long overnight summer camp experience to over 650 children each summer absolutely free, and Hope Haven Children’s Home provides a home for children from troubled families. In addition to the homeless and those at Hope Haven we provide food, clothing, furniture and household goods to hundreds of poor in the community every year. At Christmas, our Hope for the Holidays campaign provides boxes of food, turkeys and toys to needy families as well. Last year we provided 1,023 boxes of food to 870 families and toys to 864 children all through donation. The Union Mission Ministries has never received any state or federal funding but relies solely on the generosity of the community.
Carrie Hewitt is 56 years old. She’s had the kind of life many of us can’t imagine living. She dropped out of school in the 7th grade, left home at age 14 because her parents abused her physically, emotionally and sexually. She got married, had a baby and lived with his mother until the marriage failed four years later. “We were too young and didn’t know how to do anything. He didn’t want to work so I cleaned houses but the job never lasted long.” She kept her son until he was nine when he left to live with his father. He’s now 40 but she hasn’t seen him in over 20 years.
On her own at 19, Carrie turned to drugs. ‘I did heroin and crack; all the really hard stuff for twenty two years and then I just stopped. ‘It was hard coming off that stuff, but I asked God to help me and he took the needle away. I’ve been clean now for twenty years.”
Carrie never found a place to live but knew how to survive. She took odd jobs cleaning and worked at a car dealership for awhile living in one of the cars on the lot for four years. “It was hard when it got hot. I had to sleep with the doors open to get any air. One time they found me in the road with heat stroke.” When it was cold sometimes a church would put her up for a week or two. For the last seven years Carrie slept under bridges, in the bushes, anywhere she could find.
Last July she says, “I was tired and couldn’t do it no more. I wanted to see if God could do it better.” She had heard about the Union Mission Women’s Shelter and decided to give it a try.
“It was wonderful from the first day. The staff kept telling me to give my life to the Lord. I was scared at first but I stood up on August 12th and got saved. I won’t forget that night. I always did everything my own way but now I’m doing it His way.
While living in the shelter, she took classes and attended Bible studies while the staff helped her deal with several mental and physical health issues and helped her get the medication she needed and disability. She got her own apartment December 28th and was so excited she slept on the floor the first few days despite the staff urging her to wait until they could get her some furniture. She says, “You people do it from the heart. Everyone is always so loveable. They even love me and no one ever did before. They taught me patience and love. I have two bibles and read them every day. I don’t even want to get a TV. This is the best place in the world.”