Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission Offers Hope, Healing and Help

Union Gospel Mission volunteers hit the streets

By Jonathan Sposato

Richard is out helping homeless neighbors almost every night.
Grant Hindsley

November 17, 2022

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Seattle Magazine.

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” Mahatma Ghandi

“Real Society” is a regular installment of the magazine to shine a bright light not on those who are already visible by virtue of birth or wealth. Instead, it creates space for those who are quietly doing the good work, real people engaged directly with our community. These are their society pages, our society pages.

When I first met Richard McAdams, I assumed he was a career health and human services expert much like many in our community working tirelessly to help the unhoused. As emergency outreach administrator at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, he manages flights of search and rescue teams that go out, day and night, 365 days a year, to search out and find those who are homeless, hungry and hurting. Stocked with blankets, food, clothes and hygiene kits, their vans are appropriately named “Hope,” “Love” and “Life.”

Richard describes his prior life as one of addiction while living on the streets. “I’d lost everything and was completely homeless.” On one momentous night, “I wished that I could just go to sleep and never wake up.” A half-hour later, a Union Gospel Mission search and rescue team found him sleeping on a piece of cardboard. They woke him, gave him a hot cup of cocoa, asked what was going on in his life and how they could help. Most of all, they showed Richard that people were still kind.

“That night I got involved with the mission and I haven’t left since,” he says.

Oris is a regular volunteer.

Grant Hindsley

A woman and her pet receive assistance.

Grant Hindsley

Volunteers Elton and Rose provide care and understanding.

Grant Hindsley

Oris fist bumps a homeless neighbor.

Grant Hindsley

Drug free for five and a half years, today Richard works at the Union Gospel Mission. He hits the streets almost every night, reaching out to those experiencing homelessness, often driving the very same search and rescue van that found him.

Hope is indeed lifesaving. Blankets, sandwiches, hygiene kits and clothes all help. But hope can sometimes be the very things that make the difference between someone giving up and renewing one’s belief that a life amongst others is worth living.

Both impressed and haunted by my own eye-opening experiences with Richard and the many compassionate volunteers at the Union Gospel Mission, we share this photo essay as a true “slice of life” of what the power of kindness can achieve on Seattle’s streets.

More than 13,000 people are homeless in Seattle.

Grant Hindsley

Richard, left, and Oris, serve Robert.

Grant Hindsley

Vans and volunteers drive to some of the darkest places in Seattle.

Grant Hindsley

Union Gospel Mission Search + Rescue vans drive throughout Seattle every night to provide supplies and care to men and women.

Grant Hindsley

How can you help? Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission started nearly a century ago by serving soup to the homeless and unemployed during the Great Depression. Today, it takes a highly relational approach to break the cycle of homelessness to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide 360-degree care for thousands of our homeless neighbors throughout the greater Seattle area.

The efforts work to restore dignity and help move people to healthy and housed lives. Many individuals go to UGM shelters, while others join UGM’s long-term recovery programs. If you are interested in helping, here’s how to volunteer:

So-called “vehicle ranching” has proliferated in recent years.

Grant Hindsley

Volunteer Elton embraes a homeless neighbor named Tracy.

The tattoo of Search + Rescue manager Richard.

Grant Hindsley

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