As our weather gets colder, leaders at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission are showing how changing their approach to fighting homelessness is helping more people.
"While we have 3,000 persons that we estimate, we believe there could be upwards of 5, 6, some have even suggested maybe 10,000 persons, many who are couch surfing, living in cars, and living in abandoned buildings right now," says the Rescue Mission's Pastor Donovan Coley.
Randy Reynolds was one of those homeless persons a year ago, unemployed, abusing alcohol and drugs, and bouncing in and out of jail.
"I didn't really have a purpose or a direction in my life so I was just wandering aimlessly, creating chaos wherever I went. And then I found this place and totally turned my life around. And how did it do that? For the grace of God, and the people here," he says.
During this National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Rescue Mission leaders want community leaders to embrace their philosophy that quality of place and quality of life should also include people who are struggling with homelessness.
"I think the tragedy is that in the great city of Fort Wayne, Indiana we talk a lot about attracting or growing to be one million people. And yet we're having difficulty addressing the needs of just a few hundred or thousands that we have here in our community," Coley says.
The new Fort Wayne Rescue Mission will not only offer more beds to get more people off the streets at night, but it will also offer more programming to get more people off the streets during the day.
"We are welcoming people to the Rescue Mission. In fact, we see a 900% spike in a number of people who are looking for programs. And so many people who normally would be outdoors are now here at the Rescue Mission," Coley says.
That's because instead of closing its doors during the day and forcing residents to go elsewhere, like the library or downtown businesses, the Rescue Mission is offering more resources in-house to men who've pledged to turn their lives around.
It will nearly triple its space to offer resources as well as beds at its new downtown facility at Washington and Lafayette.
Construction on the $17.5 million project could begin as early as next summer, when Mission leaders hope to be at 80% of their fundraising goal.
The Mission hopes to be moved into the new facility by Easter of 2020.
Rescue Mission leaders emphasize that the new building will not simply be a "bigger barn to house homeless people," but will better serve them with space and resources they'll need to get their lives back on track.