Where It All Started

Our Founding Story

In 2008, Mike Johnson, a Program Manager for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and a former Army Ranger, realized that those in UGM’s treatment program faced not just challenges with substance use disorder, but challenges finding community. They were isolated from society and felt misunderstood. Mike wanted to shake up that socialization factor, to find a way to break up their sense of reality and further enhance their recovery journey beyond the treatment program itself.

Mike Johnson

Looking at the looming Mt Rainier, he thought, “Why not climb that?” Many people in the UGM program had never been out of the city. Those who came from rural or hunting backgrounds had outdoor experience, but not climbing experience. One roadblock was clear, Mike had no mountain climbing experience either. 

He reached out blindly to Rainier Mountaineering for assistance and was connected to a senior guide, Art Rauche, who was willing to support a Mt. Rainier Climb. The planning began, and a vast amount of training and development was needed to go from “Let’s climb Mt. Rainier” to actually climbing Mt. Rainier.

Justine Kam, a Donor Relations Coordinator at UGM knew a donor, Mark Ursino, who was an experienced mountain climber. Justine approached Mark and asked if he would be willing to work with Mike on this idea. Mark told Justine, “Let’s set up a lunch with Mike, and if he’s not too crazy, I’ll work with the program.”

Mark Ursino, Founder

Mark and Mike’s lunch was a success. This meeting became the foundation of a partnership that made “Climbing Out Of Homelessness” a reality in 2011. The program was a way to take promising people and put them on an extraordinary path. The strong team dynamic was forged not only by those in the UGM program but with the volunteers who walked beside them. As a result, the graduates came back to give back. They became contributors and leaders.

Recovery Beyond Paradigm was created in 2016 as a non-profit foundation set up to sustain and broaden the Climbing Out Of Homelessness Program. In 2019 the foundation name was shortened to Recovery Beyond and the program name evolved to Climbing Out. These changes reflect a revitalized direction the organization is taking to bring healing to more people.

Today, Recovery Beyond is taking what it learned on the mountain to the streets by targeting the greater recovery community and other community partners. By keeping our program low-cost, easy to access, and marked by healthy-restorative relationships and holistic wellness, we are committed to growth and celebration. We empower each other to live vibrant, meaningful lives. We are a safe place where we work together to achieve our goals. Join us as a participant, peer lead, or donor. We are committed to healthy lifestyles for lasting recovery.

Check out the award-winning documentary, A New High, which dramatically illustrates the power of a supportive community and an audacious goal.

View the trailer for “A New High,” the documentary about the Climbing Out of Homelessness program

Stream now on 

Recovery Beyond and the Climbing Out  Program Featured by REI Co-op Journal and NowThis