NYC Rescue Mission Expanding

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Three new floors will more than double capacity and increase services

The NYC Rescue Mission has been serving the city's homeless population for over a century, but an upcoming addition is set to expand its services in completely new ways, allowing it to provide an overnight shelter for women for the first time.

The Mission's addition of three new floors to its facility at White and Lafayette Streets in downtown Manhattan is set to wrap up in mid-2014.

The addition will increase the mission's bed capacity from 98 to 250, and will include 30 beds for women, who take meals but have never been able to stay at the shelter before. The expansion will also allow the Mission, which began in 1872, to double its Residential Recovery Program - a faith-based 12-step program that focuses on improving participants' lives in the long term - from 29 to 60 men.

The remaining 160 beds will be used for nightly guests.

The expansion will also enable the NYC Rescue Mission to enhance its learning center and medical services program.

Officials at the NYC Rescue Mission first thought about expanding over a decade ago, but never had the financial means to do so. About four years ago, they were left $6 million in a will from a benefactor who passed away.

"The bequest gave us the confidence that we would be in a position to actually increase the size of the mission," said Tom Hall, director of development for the NYC Rescue Mission. "What gives you confidence other than the money is the fact that since the recession in 2008, we've not seen a decline in people coming to us."

The mission started an $11 million capital campaign fund in November 2010, anchored on the $6 million they were given in the bequest. The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York donated $2.7 million, and other funding came in from foundation grants and individual donors. The mission is now only $800,000 short of their $11 million goal.

Hall said there hasn't been an empty bed since 2008, regardless of the season. Construction at the mission also limited the amount of beds they could provide from 98 pre-construction to 43 while the expansion is underway.

Hall said NYC Rescue Mission officials believe the temporary sacrifice is worth it. "In the short run, we're restricted in how many people we can accommodate overnight, but in the not-too-distant future we're going to have substantially more than we had before the construction started," said Hall.

The construction has not affected the amount of meals the mission is able to provide. In June, the mission served 342 hot meals per day and gave the equivalent of 278 meals in supplementary groceries for a total of 620 meals per day.

Demand for homeless services has greatly increased since the recession, said Hall. "There are a variety of reasons, the economy being probably one of the major ones," he said.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, NYC's homeless population is over 50,000 people, including 12,000 families and 21,000 children.

While the mission's main goal is to get people off the street, their Resident Recovery Program is focused on long-term improvement in the quality of life for participants. Only about 15 of every 100 participants ever finish the program, but with the expansion the mission is hoping to double that number to 30 graduates a year.

"We're principally directing our efforts at helping people off the street, getting them an overnight place to stay and getting them fed," said Hall. "Out of that, some of those people are comfortable with us and knowing who's on our staff and they've come to a point in their situation where they'd like to try to turn their lives around."

While the RRP is not open to women at the moment, the mission plans to start identifying women who may do well in a recovery program at a different shelter.

"All our steel is up," he said. "Now it's a matter of filling in the floors and encasing what we have and then going on and doing the interiors, but it seems like April or May of next year is in the cards."

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