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Rescue Mission

The basic plan is for a large dormitory-style place for homeless people to come to live and work, that also has a store and a workshop for repairs. People in the community who have old things that they don't want anymore would bring them to the warehouse. Things like broken toasters, TVs, radios, old computers, old furniture, clothing. People from the community would come in to volunteer training the residents in various repair skills, such as reupholstering. The residents would choose to learn whichever skills they have an interest in learning. So there would be a reupholstering group, a refinishing group (or they could learn both), there would be people learning how to repair electronics, or electrical appliances, or computers, to learn to sew/mend clothing, maybe even learn drycleaning (because donated clothes often need drycleaning). Then these repaired items would be put into the store. The "residents" would sell the items and the proceeds would go to the support of the operation, the building, food and supplies. Besides providing a safe place for the homeless to live, it would also be a valuable service for those in the community who cannot afford new items, and are in need of buying rehabilitated items for a cheap price at a one-stop place all week long, besides providing a place for people to take items they do not want any more but are too good for the trash.

The basic plan is NOT a unique or an original idea of mine. Something like this was done in Trenton, NJ, 30 years ago for many years, called "The Rescue Mission". I don't know if it is still in operation. This idea would take a lot of donated money to get started in order to buy a good size property, to build a large place that is a combination store, living quarters, many large workrooms, and a warehouse, etc. and furnish it. But once in operation, it should be self-supporting.

The need for money for food supplies could be alleviated if many area churches were to take one night a month to bring in dinner, like they do for many homeless shelters. If there is money left over from sales in the store, after ALL the expenses are paid, it could be put into savings accounts for the residents so that when they leave they can have saved up enough to rent an apartment and get started. However, even if there is no left over money after expenses, those residents who learn new skills and build up experience can get jobs and continue to live in the dormitory until they have enough saved enough to move out (through a required regular deposit overseen by the administration), to get an apartment and become self-supporting. They would need to pay some of their earnings for their room and board since they are no longer working at the mission. As many progress enough in their skills to start their own businesses or get hired as professionally skilled workers, other new homeless people could come in to take their places.

Those who cannot learn new skills can sweep floors, or some other easy task. There would be no time limit on residency, although each resident's case manager would be making sure progress is made, if possible. Opportunities for speech therapy, learning reading and writing and basic math should also be provided. Some would work in the kitchen for breakfast and lunch (if churches provided dinner). There would be a job, or several functions, for each resident, appropriate to their abilities.

Part of my plan, which I don't know whether the Trenton mission had, would include ministers, perhaps seminary students needing a practicum experience, some of whom would live there with the residents. There would be a chapel with a time of devotion/meditation (vespers) nightly,with 5 minute sermonettes, and on Sundays there would be regular church services (perhaps held in the auction room and open to the public). It would be a living, thriving community. They could even use the same group room to view rented video cassettes of movies (when the movies come out as videos)-- as long as it doesn't conflict with the devotional times (nothing else should be scheduled during devotional time).

I would include among the volunteers people who can counsel like psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, experienced ministers, and career counselors, even physical therapists, and many working on their "practicum" experience in any of the fields. There would be both "group therapy" sessions and also individual sessions, for people who needed them.

There would be classes of all kinds offered. Maybe even someone like me, whose talent/skill is artwork, could lead a painting class. The paintings could go into the store, or, if the resident wished to "pay" for the canvas and paint, on the resident's wall. They can "pay" for supplies by having their earnings reduced for the amount. Of course, then there would have to be another group who is doing picture framing, and enough money to pay for the equipment needed for both classes.

Also, some of the residents could receive training and raise more money by hiring out into the community as "clean up crews", or landscaping maintenance crews, or housepainters, etc. Perhaps, since they would be charging less than the professionals, they could limit their services to non-profit organizations and poor people, so that regular businesses providing those same services are not run out of business or they could openly compete. These are my own ideas, but I assume they have already been thought of and used somewhere.

Pat's Unique Plan
An expansion on this idea, and totally my own idea, is to also provide a wing to the building for the community to bring items to have "garage" sales on Saturdays for a fee. I envision a long wing, with a wide center aisle with room-size iron-grating doors rolling up to open into cubicles or rooms on each side of the hallway (like a shopping mall). Near the entry is the only furniture in the room: a counter with a cash register. At the far end of the cubicles or rooms, there is a solid pull down warehouse door opening onto a private loading dock. People can rent their cubicle (of varying widths, set up their cubicle from Wednesday through Friday with their garage sale items, and open for sales on Saturday. What doesn't sell can be donated to the mission's store (but would not be required to be). The renters would have Sunday to remove any items they wished to keep, or they can just leave things they don't want in the cubicle and the residents will go through the stuff on Mondays and Tuesdays, taking some to the repair shops and some directly to the store, sweep the cubicle up and be ready for the next renter on Wednesday.

It would be good to have a "food court" where food vendors can come in to sell food to the visiting community (and pay rent). But, if not, there could be just the one big dining room with a buffet line which can be used AT BREAKFAST and LUNCHTIME by both residents AND visitors, but the visitors would pay while the residents would swipe their ID card. Visitors could not use the dining room at dinner time because the churches will be bringing dinner for only the residents. But that's not a problem because garage and yard sales end by 4 p.m. anyway. And the residents' store could close at 5 when all patrons would leave the vicinity. The renting vendors would have an hour to pack up and leave (or a little longer if they needed it).

I picture the vendors and renters being given a key card, like a hotel or motel has, to open and lock their own gate (same card opens both ends of their cubicle) so that there is no problem of theft from previous renters having had a metal key duplicated to break into someone else's cubicle later.

The floor plan
I envision the physical building to be T shaped, except the central line of the T is thicker and probably not as long as the cross section. The patrons (shoppers, vendors and garage sale renters) only use the main floor, and do not have access to the dormitories. Volunteers would have controlled access to the repair rooms. Therapists and teachers would have controlled access to community discussion/class rooms only.

A large parking lot fills the area above the cross of the T (mostly in front of the store), with the entry to the complex at the apex of the cross of the T and the column--a wide entry with lots of glass doors. The central entry room would be an open area with seating and little tables for meeting or waiting to meet people, and snacking. Maybe a fountain with a waterfall in the very center, possibly with food court cubicles and/or vending machines on the perimeter of this room. On the left there is the wing for the garage/yard sales. It is a wide long hallway, looking like a mall hallway, with open cubicles on each side. The renter/vendors would be supplied with a small simple register to keep track of their receipts by their door opening. They would not only pay a fee to use the cubicle, but, because the fee is reasonable, they would be required to also give 10% of their sales. (This protects cubicle renters from paying a higher fee for their cubicle than they make in sales.) There would be loading areas on the outside perimeter of the cubicles.

On the right of the central entryway (the opposite arm of the T) is the mission store, which would be divided into types of merchandise like a Sears store or Target would be, with registers near the door like a grocery store or Target, but with one bank style line (so no one gets stuck in a problem line). Or perhaps two lines, with one being a 12 items or less line.

Behind the store is the warehouse/receiving area for people to bring their donations. I envision the warehouse large enough to store items while they wait to be analyzed for categorizing for repair work or pricing, and the warehouse should be also connected with doorways directly to the store for items that have been priced and are ready for display. The warehouse should have a good size elevator to take things upstairs for repair. This elevator should be near the apex so that it can also be used as a secondary elevator for wheelchairs to the dormitories in the event the primary elevator malfunctions.

At the far end of the store wing, like a hand on an arm, is another (smaller) loading dock where people can come to pick up their large purchases. This dock is kept separate, and well marked, from the other loading dock so the purchased items don't get confused with the donations.

Straight ahead of the main entry, in the center leg section between the hallways, there is the large dining hall, with the kitchen beyond it, and meeting rooms, theater/assembly room. And a loading dock for food supplies out the back door of the kitchen. Churches bringing food can enter there so they don't need to carry food through the front entry through the dining room. Offices for the management of the complex, and renting of space would be between the dining room and the central Entry. Opposite the offices would be the staircase and elevator (for wheelchairs) to the dormitories. So, you see, the T shape would have the cross section being longer and bigger than the support column of the T.

Upstairs, over the garage sale wing, is a dormitory of small individual rooms with community bathrooms for men. Above the warehouse and store are the various repair workrooms.

Above the big entry on the second floor is an open area with a balcony view to the fountain or waterfall below, with tables and chairs along the balcony for game playing, puzzle building, or conversations over a cup of coffee. Above the dining/kitchen facility is the chapel, and some other rooms, like exercise/meeting rooms, offices, sofas for group sessions or conversations. Maybe a room with a fireplace as the resident's community living room. Note, there could be a little conversation nook in each dormitory too, for all women or all men conversations in pj's.

The women's dormitory of small rooms and community bathrooms, with strong precautions to make it safe from intrusion, would be on the third floor above the men's. Possibly, another area could be included as a third floor over the central wing and/or the store, for married couples in larger rooms, and families in suites.

Evening Procedures
After dinner the residents would have a choice of free time to play games, watch a video movie, watch TV, be a part of a group therapy session, or an exercise class, just talk or whatever. Then all functions end and people can either go to bed or go to a devotional period which could be in the community living room or the chapel. I suppose it would be fair to provide a room for other religions to have a devotional of their own. I am unsure since I see this as a non-denominational Christian operation, without government funding. As a volunteer operation, accepting volunteers of other religions, we could provide appropriate devotional times and places for Judaism and Islam, while keeping the mission primarily Christian. But I wouldn't want to open it to cult groups.

Possible additions to the plan

If we include housing and playground equipment for homeless families, we could add a day care with playground that can be used both by resident's children and the children of shoppers. For legal purposes, this day care would have to be staffed by certified people.

Plans could also include a large theatre room for use as an auction house (or theatre for the kids when there is no auction scheduled) during the day, and a theatre at night, and a sanctuary for Christian services on Sunday mornings.

List of benefits:

This rescue mission would contribute services by providing:
a place for the larger community to bring items where they can be recycled and reused,
a place for the poor to buy necessary items for less money,

a safe place for the homeless to live and work and be a part of a community
a place for the homeless to get counseling in psychological and/or spiritual matters, and hear the Word of the Lord,

a place for the homeless to get job training, experience, and an affordable place to live while earning money to become independent

a place for people of the community to volunteer their talents and/or skills, and to serve the Lord, especially church groups, and

a place for seminary, psychology and social work students to get their practicum experience.
and, if the outside services are included, it provides a less expensive clean up or landscaping service for those who cannot afford the regular prices

With the addition of the yard/garage sales corridor, it also provides a place for the community to sell used items, or even Craft items they have made, while providing the community an enclosed, covered one-stop place to go to find used items that are inexpensive, both at the yard sale wing on Saturdays, and all week at the store.

The problem with this idea is that it all falls through without 1) the enormous start up money, and 2) a steady supply of skilled volunteers. If enough money were brought in from sales, teachers could be hired to teach the skills, and people hired to manage the operation, but this would severly cut into any surplus money to put into savings accounts for the residents.

Obviously, I am a BIG dreamer, and have spent too much time thinking about something that is not likely to happen, unless I win that 50 million dollar lottery (which will be hard since I rarely buy lottery tickets), and find a community full of volunteers. But I dream on.