Rescue Mission Nets $500,000 for Expansion

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"There are parts where you have to have a good imagination," said Mark Criss of the Lansing City Rescue Mission, walking through the former Maplewood School Wednesday.

So imagine this: An old schoolroom there transformed into a day shelter for homeless women and children.

The group's renovation effort is getting a boost thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, a non-governmental group that gets its funding from other banks in Michigan and Indiana through the Community Reinvestment Act.

The day shelter will be the first part of the building to be complete.

"So they can come during the day to get biblical counseling, job skills traning," Criss explained. "Next door will be a chapel."

Upstairs, classrooms will be divided into living space for women and children.

"(It will be) real similiar to a hotel," Criss said. "When you walk in your have your bathroom plus sleeping quarters as well."

All this space -- 31,000 square feet in all -- will double the number of beds for women and children provided by the mission.

Criss, the group's executive director, says the space is needed.

"We turn away phone calls every day," he said. "It's such a heartbreak to have to tell somebody, 'no' or, 'call back next week.' "

Right now, the mission is at capacity, housing roughly 55 women and children in homes it owns in the city.

Dorothy Hopper is one of those 55.

"I'd be on the streets, literally with nowhere to go, after a divorce and losing my house and having no family really," Hopper said.

The new facility would have a dorm for single women like Hopper and even a facility for women addicted to drugs and alcohol -- a service the mission now only offers for men.

The grant means the mission has 75 percent of the money it needs to finish the expansion, which includes a relocated mission "Free Store," and eventually, offices for the group.

Now, it needs an extra $300,000 to finish the facility: money the mission has faith it will find.

"God lays on people's hearts to give," Criss said.

Giving just as the mission gives to people like Dorothy Hopper.

"I did get a part-time job and I'm on the voucher list to get my own place, so in a matter of time, I'll be on my own," she said.

It's an outcome the mission hopes to provide for countless others when the new Maplewood facility opens in two phases next year.