Meet Rev. John Anderson, CEO of the Bay Area Rescue Mission


Tell me about the work of the Bay Area Rescue Mission (BARM)?

One of the most important things we do is provide short-term emergency services to people in our community who are in desperate need. They might be homeless or have recently lost a job. We provide shelter, meals and other necessities of life like clothing and counseling. We help people change their lives.

What other primary services does BARM offer?

We also provide long-term recovery programs from homelessness and all of its causes. People come to us looking for help to change the direction of their life. We provide education, job skills training and teach other life skills, such as financial planning and dealing with legal issues. We basically do it all.

What’s unique about the long-term care program?

We try to add an element of spiritual foundation to help stabilize their lives. And our long-term support is designed to meet the needs of the individual. Some of the people who come to us for help are third grade drop outs. While others have doctorate (PhD) degrees. So what people need can really vary based on the individual who comes to us.

What’s your success rate?

More than 70% of the people who complete our program are never homeless again. They leave with a job. And they remain clean and sober and gainfully employed. We make sure they have the counseling and support needed to make a successful transition to living independently from the Rescue Mission. In the last 12 months, we have provided more than 87,500 bed nights of shelter and more than 800,000 meals.

How did you get involved with Rescue Mission work?

At one time in my life, I managed the data processing center for a major oil company’s operations in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. But at age 29, I was a cocaine addict. I made a lot of money but ended up walking away from everything looking for something that would add meaning and purpose to my life. I ended up broke and homeless on the streets of San Diego. I soon started working for the San Diego Rescue Mission and that transformed my life. I came there looking for a meal and a place to stay for the night and 8 years later became the CEO. I came to BARM in 1993 and became the CEO here in 2000.

What is your favorite part of your work?

Seeing lives changed. I have the best job in the world. I get to be involved in helping people dramatically change their lives. 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, we are helping our community’s most desperate and vulnerable citizens. People who come to us are truly looking to change their lives. We help them make the transition into becoming contributing members of our community.

What is it like working with Chevron?

We have a wonderful relationship with Chevron. A great example is the Chevron Food Drive which was started by a Chevron employee donating a single bag of groceries. Over the years, Chevron employees have donated more than 1.4 million pounds of food. The support from Chevron, not just the financial contributions but also the people who give their time, sends a message to those we help that people really do care about them and are pulling for them to change their lives.

What can people in the community do to help?

We value the power of people’s prayers and supportive thoughts. We need the help of 400 volunteers each and every month to accomplish the work that we do. Almost anything you can imagine doing as a volunteer we can offer here at BARM. Whether it’s providing mentoring, preparing a meal, painting a building, or anything in between. Visit our website and click on the “Get Involved” tab.