Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rescue Mission Expanding Its Capacity; amid a Down Economy, More People Are Seeking Assistance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rescue Mission Expanding Its Capacity; amid a Down Economy, More People Are Seeking Assistance

Article excerpt


The Jacksonville homeless shelter that has helped so many people start over is getting a new lease on life itself.

Renovation is under way to expand shelter and program space at the City Rescue Mission. And the improvements to the physical building on State Street are expected to boost occupancy by 50 percent at the shelter in time for the season's coldest weather.

The extra beds can't come too soon, as hourly wage losses, job cuts and foreclosures have left more people in need, said Bill Duguid, the City Rescue Mission's chief operating officer.

Overall, the mission has seen a 30 percent increase in the need for services since early this year. The number of families with children waiting in the food line for a meal has doubled; overall, 400 people often line up for meals where 250 used to stand, Duguid said.

Every day, the shelter - as do most around town - has to turn away men and women who need a place to sleep that night.

Still, donors have stepped in to meet the demand, Duguid said, leaving the mission as one of few nonprofits that did not have to lay off staff this year. And despite the recession, the organization had been saving money donated by individuals, foundations and trusts over the years to pay for the $265,000 in renovations.

Although to some its name suggests otherwise, City Rescue Mission is not affiliated with the city. Because it is faith-based, it operates without government funding and relies on private donations, grants and trusts. Chapel and other elements of Christianity are key elements of the mission's programs.

Reginald Strong, a New Life Inn resident who is in the mission's recovery program, said he's excited about the changes.

"When you're feeling closed in, sometimes it affects your mood," he said.


After losing his job, the military veteran's drug abuse and life on the streets had him coming to the "end of the road," he said. There was a time when Strong, 38, thought he was too good to go to City Rescue Mission. And he didn't know it had a rehabilitation program.

Then he found himself there. Since July, he has worked to become a better father and gone through 12-step and Christian classes.

"If they could change one more life in the way they changed mine, that would be great," Strong said.

That closed-in feeling will ease with the renovations, which will expand the space without adding a square foot to the building. Instead, the contractor is knocking down interior walls to make for larger spaces that have room for more bunk beds and lockers. The number of beds will increase from 125 to 185 by December, Duguid said. The bathrooms will become more water-efficient and able to accommodate more people. A remodeling is also planned for the kitchen.

Sitting at a busy intersection on State Street near the bus station, the mission recently erected a fence around part of the property. …

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