Rescue Mission expansion grows in scope and cost; now includes Charis House

The new $20.6 million Rescue Mission will feature 325 beds and a second-floor deck and green space. (Courtesy image)
The Charis House will get 32 more beds at a cost of about $2.5 million. ( photo by Kevin Leininger)
Donovan Coley

When the Rescue Mission held a ceremonial groundbreaking last September for its new facility at East Washington Boulevard and Lafayette Street, the project was expected to cost about $20 million. But with construction scheduled to begin early next year, the budget has now jumped to about $23 million thanks to a planned simultaneous expansion of the mission’s shelter for women.

Charis House opened at 431 Fairmount Place in 2010, but the 78-bed facility is currently turning away as many as 50 otherwise qualified women and children a month because of lack of space, according to CEO and Senior Pastor Donovan Coley. As a result, plans now call for a 32-bed, $2.5 million addition to Charis House in addition to the planned four-story, 325-bed mission at East Washington and Lafayette that is now expected to cost about $20.6 million. Initially, Coley said, only the first, second and fourth floors will be finished; the third floor will remain a “shell” to be completed later as need and finances dictate.

Coley expects to begin a public fundraising drive in January after generating about $15 million during the “quiet” phase of the campaign. Funding sources to date include about $2.1 million in New Market Tax Credits awarded by the city, about $700,000 in affordable housing grants and the city’s $1.2 million offer to buy the mission’s current 114-bed facility on Superior Street for inclusion in riverfront development plans.

The larger mission will promote what Coley has called a “continuum of change” thanks to a resource center that includes on-site services offered by a variety of social-service agencies and a local university he declined to name. The added space will also allow the mission to more aggressively seek out the homeless dealing with mental illness, many of whom are often reluctant or unable to look for help on their own.

Although some have suggested the bigger, better mission will simply draw more homeless to downtown Fort Wayne, Coley insists just the opposite will be true.

“The homeless aren’t downtown because of the mission; the mission is downtown because the homeless are downtown,” he said, confident the mission’s enhanced capabilities for men and women alike will benefit the homeless and city alike.