Finding Home Again: Willie’s Story

Finding Home Again: Willie’s Story

When you need help, your best hope is to go home and get the help you need. For the homeless, finding help is a daily struggle. Finding home can be an even greater challenge. For Willie, recovering from drug addiction, returning to his childhood home in Savannah seemed like his only hope.

Willie moved to Chicago as a young man, spending 50 years working, raising a family, and giving back to his community. He worked in the hospitality industry and volunteered to teach baking skills at a local correctional facility. But he struggled with drug addiction and his life took a dark turn. Rehabilitation programs helped him get clean, but staying drug-free proved a larger challenge.

“Soon as I got out of rehab, there was a friend of mine there with some more drugs,” Willie said, “and I couldn’t get clean. As bad as I wanted to get clean, I couldn’t get clean.”

He and his daughter decided he should move back to his childhood home to make a fresh start. But when he got to Savannah, he was out of money and out of hope.

“Grace House showed me a light at the end of the tunnel,” Willie said.

Union Mission helped Willie by providing him a drug and alcohol-free shelter with supportive services to help him reach his goal of independent living.After his time at Grace House, Willie  moved to Beyond Grace, a transitional housing program that assists residents in becoming more self-sufficient as they move towards independent living.He has since moved to  safe, stable housing in the city of Savannah.

Willie continues to work as a Resident Assistant [RA] at Grace House, supporting staff and mentoring new residents in their journey to leaving homelessness behind.  His work at Grace House allows him to give back to those who have helped him and to pass that gift along to others. Thanks to those that have given generously to Union Mission, the help that Willie received is available to those who are still in need

Intern’s Corner: Health and Homelessness

Intern’s Corner: Health and Homelessness

The most serious and immediate impact of homelessness, being without shelter over one’s head, another very real impact of homelessness is lack of adequate nutrition.

Not everyone is privileged to shop for food at their local farmer’s market, Whole Foods or the “organic” section of the grocery store. Due to the way our food industry is run fresh, organic, produce is most often much higher priced than packaged and processed foods. Those who are homeless usually have no way of preparing fresh produce, therefore must rely on packaged convenience foods. Although canned and packaged food donations are always appreciated, they often lack the nutrients that fresh seasonal veggies and fruits have. Nutrients and antioxidants have two main health benefits, firstly they help protect the body from oxidant stress and diseases and secondly they help the body fight against these by boosting its immunity. Understandably we function best when we are fed a healthy diet; therefore those suffering from prolonged stress are most in need.

This is why Union Mission is thrilled to have just begun their newest community partnership with Local FarmBag. Local FarmBag is a subscription service that delivers fresh seasonal, produce to Savannahians weekly. Since they have partnered with Union Mission, they have donated crates upon crates of fresh veggies and fruits to UMI’s temporary shelters. Most recently, Maggie and I helped bring in a delivery of zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots; all of which will be incorporated in meals for Grace House (a shelter for men) and Magdalene Project (a shelter for women and children).

Just think of all the ways clients’ lives can benefit from other community partnerships that could help them with living in a healthier manner! If you are interested in helping end the struggle that those homeless face in trying to live healthily, please reach out to Union Mission and email us at

What Can I Do?

What Can I Do?


JUNE, 2016

Homelessness seems like a problem too large to fix – the number of individuals and families homeless in the Greater Savannah area seems overwhelming. Time and again, we hear people say “What can just one person do to help?”

There are lots of ways people can help prevent and end homeless in our community – helping a homeless child stay in school and putting them on the path to success is a powerful message of hope and support.

Back to school shopping is just around the corner. Soon it will be time for new shoes, new backpacks, pencils, and notebooks. We hope that as you shop, you’ll think about the more than one thousand homeless children in the greater Savannah area and add an extra backpack or notebook or pack of pencils to your list. Your support can make a difference in the lives of children and make this school year one that can change their life.

Homelessness is hard enough for adults, but for children it can be life changing. Children without a stable home can suffer from anxiety, depression, and other emotional and behavioral trauma that severely impact their development. Homeless children are twice as likely to have learning disabilities and have a higher drop out rate, leaving them without the skills they need to disrupt the cycle of poverty and leave homelessness behind for good.

Your support can help a homeless child start the school year off right.

School can be a haven for homeless children, offering stability and safety. Setting homeless children up for a successful school year can increase their chances of staying in school and helping to ensure a brighter future. The simple but meaningful gesture of school supplies can make a difference in the life of a homeless child.

Please consider lending a helping hand. Donations of new school supplies and new or gently-used school uniforms can be brought to Union Mission at 120 Fahm Street. Donations will be accepted until July 18, 2016 for the 2016-2017 school year.


Intern’s Corner: Welcome Kayla and Dylan!

Intern’s Corner: Welcome Kayla and Dylan!

Union Mission is fortunate to have the benefit of intern support throughout the year. Through our five program areas, Union Mission is the grateful recipient of the time and talent of smart young students. Starting this summer, we’ll be sharing their experiences with you in our new weekly column, The Intern’s Corner.

Our two interns this summer, Kayla Butsko and Dylan Carter, will take turns updating you on their experiences here at Union Mission, sharing what they learn and how they feel about working to prevent and end homelessness here in Savannah.

“I am thrilled to be interning with Union Mission as part of the Community Outreach team this summer,“ said Kayla. “I just finished my first year at Vanderbilt University and am double majoring in Human and Organizational Development and Economics. Having lived in Savannah my entire life, I had been previously exposed to Union Mission; however I was only aware of Grace House. After my first day I quickly learned Union Mission offers so many other services besides their shelter and housing program – they truly dedicate their efforts to help all aspects of clients’ lives.”

Dylan joins Union Mission as part of the Summer 500 program that gives rising seniors the opportunity to intern with organizations across the city of Savannah. In addition to being a Top Teens of American participant, a Boy Scout, and a church usher at Tremont Temple Baptist Church, Dylan attends Savannah Early College High School where he is dual-enrolled at Savannah State University.

“I didn’t know much about Union Mission when I started working here,” Dylan said. “Today is my first whole week interning here and I have to say I’m really learning a lot. Not only did I learn the history of Union Mission and the various programs they have to help the homeless, but I have also picked up skills I can use outside in the workforce.”

Dylan and Kayla look forward to updating you on their experiences here at Union Mission. If you have questions or want to send them a message of encouragement, please comment on our Intern Corner post every Friday on Facebook. We look forward to a productive and amazing summer working with these two talented students!