Open since 1872, New York City Rescue Mission is the oldest organisation in the US to provide help to those who are struggling with homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse. Today, it offers 100 beds – 29 for long-term residents -, meals, clothing and medical assistance.
In 1872, McCully founded the New York City Rescue Mission, which is the oldest organization of its kind in the country. Since it’s opening, over 300 organizations have opened in the United States modeled after the NYCRM.
While the rescue mission opened over a century ago, according to their website, their central mission has never changed: “The objective of the New York City Rescue Mission (NYCRM), America’s First Rescue Mission, has remained the same since its founding in 1872: to provide spiritual hope, food, clothing and shelter to people in crisis in New York City.”
The mission offers a wide range of programs and services for people who are struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. The rescue mission has 100 beds (mats are added during the tough winter months), and residents are provided with meals, clean clothing, along with medical and social services. 29 of the beds in the mission are for long-term residents who are a part of the residential recovery program.
Joe Little has worked as the public relations manager at the rescue mission since 2003. Little made clear that while many things have changed since the mission opened in the late 1800’s, they continue to operate upon the same set of values as Jerry McCully.
“At the root of it all is general despair, hopelessness, anxiety with life, with people, the world, and the future. Those are the attitudes we see with the people who come in here. And we do the same thing our founder did in 1872, which is feed the hungry, give rest to the weary, and encourage the hopeless” said Little.
According to Little, the rescue mission is different from government-run shelters in several ways, the main one being the religious component of the mission. The mission is a Christian, gospel organization, which encourages its residents to get in touch with god and their spirituality. Almost all residents partake in a Bible study course while at the mission.
Along with spiritual practices, the rescue mission boasts an impressive collection of services and resources for struggling citizens.
“We have a twelve step residential program, which usually lasts 8 to 10 months. Along with that we feed upwards of 500 people a day. We have 350 individuals who eat here everyday,” said Little. “Along with addressing the hungry, we have 100 beds. We put down more during the winter months so we can get more people in off the streets. Every day in here there are guys turning their lives around.”
The mission is able to sustain itself and provide its services through generous donations from individuals and organizations in the community. Being a Christian organization, much of this funding comes from churches and synagogues. According to Little, around 15 % of their yearly 4.5 million dollar budget comes from churches and synagogues.
The mission has plans to expand its facilities in the near future so that more beds can be brought in and more struggling citizens can be helped transition into a functional life. This expansion is occurring thanks to a generous donation from a donor who recently passed away.
“We got permission from the city to expand. Then a donor recently passed away and left 5 million dollars for us. That jumpstarted our capital campaign to raise the money for building three new floors. Within a year we hope to break ground on those new floors” said Little.
While the mission works to provide its residents with the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, what they work hardest to do is inspire hope.
“You can feed someone all day and all night but if they don’t have hope than you will be feeding them for the rest of their lives. We try to give them hope. We look to help build their emotional fiber.”
Life at the New York City Rescue Mission
Andrew, as he asked to be identified as, can attest to the hope that can be found at the New York City rescue mission. He entered the mission as a man struggling with life, and has since turned things around entirely.
“I came in December 2009 and was going through some drinking and drug situations. I just knew my life needed to change. I came here, got reacquainted with God and Jesus, and I went through the program in nine months” said Andre.
Residents struggling with homelessness compounded with substance abuse problems are able to go through a recovery program to address their addictions. These programs are multifaceted and incorporate many different elements.
“In the program you do the work, you do the therapy, you do the classes. You talk to counselor and you go through the twelve step program,” said Andre. “You talk about the Bible and you talk to a counselor.”
After going through the program, Andrew was able to get back into working in security, a job he had held in the past.
“When I graduated from the program in December 2010, I got back into working security which I had done in the past. I’m doing more of that now. The past two months I have actually been doing some fire safety work, which is a step above the security work that I had done before.”
Along with getting back into the workforce, Andre says that during his time at the rescue mission he was able to relax, get away from distraction, and focus on one of his passions in life.
“I write screen plays. During my time here I have been able to work on my screenplays. During my time here I was able to complete one because there are no distractions,” said Andre.
During his stay at the New York City Rescue Mission, Andre states that he has been able to turn his life around. He attributes this success to the staff of the mission, and to God.
“The most important thing is to focus on God and Jesus and everything else will follow. The people and the staff here are very helpful. Especially Mr. Joe Little, he’s a great guy. But everyone is very helpful. They all definitely want to help see you through and help you make the transition back to life. All of my success is thanks to being able to stay here and get my life together.”