The Altoona Rescue Mission is trying to reopen its doors to help those in need after a halt in service has shuttered it since October.
The mission, located at 815 Lexington Ave., has been closed since the first week in October, Volunteer Business Manager Clair Chappell said.
The mission relies on free-will donations and collections from local Bible churches, board member Kent Fluke and Chappell said. It receives no government subsidies, Chappell said.
It also runs a thrift store, selling donated items such as clothing, dishes and small appliances.
The shelter, which has a capacity to serve 15, and the thrift store support one another, Chappell said. Money from the store helps fund the shelter and donated clothing has gone to men staying at the shelter.
"Our goal is to get the shelter up and running as soon as possible," Chappell said.
To help the rescue mission
Donations can be sent to: Altoona Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 3288, Altoona, PA 16603. Donations to its thrift store, located at 1308 Ninth St., also help fund the shelter. Altoona Rescue Mission thrift store hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. To volunteer at the thrift store or the shelter, stop into the store and leave your name and phone number.
The mission has faced difficult times. Its shelter was destroyed by fire in 2004, leaving the mission with a $36,000 debt, Chappell said.
The mission had only $200 in its checking account before closing, he said. With help from donations, the mission has regained some footing with $5,600 in its account, Chappell said.
The mission was behind on its mortgage, but is now caught up, Fluke said.
The house the mission's former superintendent, Richard McLaughlin, lived in is up for sale. If it sells, it can help pay off half of the mission's nearly $40,000 in mortgage that is left to pay, Fluke said. The house is listed for $29,900.
Any money raised now is going to pay the mortgage, Fluke said.
The mission, founded in 1927, is run by Altoona Rescue Mission Inc., Chappell said. It is an independent mission operated by a local board of directors. The mission was serving 100 to 200 men per year before it closed.
"It's certainly a good cause," he said. "It's a needed cause."
Fluke said he has had men come up to him and express a need to have it re-opened.
Altoona police used to bring homeless men seeking somewhere warm to stay in the winter to the shelter, Chappell said.
When talking to people who need a place to stay, there is a pressure felt to get the doors open again, but the money is just not there, Chappell said. Community members are also interested in it re-opening.
There is a real need, but not many people know of the mission, he said.
Searching for ways to get the shelter up and running again, they turned to Blair County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Hurd, who suggested getting the word out.
"Re-opening this shelter is not about getting homeless people off the streets because they detract from the aesthetics of our community," Hurd said. "It's about validating the type of community we really are. It's about demonstrating the element of compassion that each of us should feel for people who are struggling to put their lives back together."
In 1927, there was not a great need to offer shelter for women, but with that having changed over the years, the mission could expand in the future to help women and families, Chappell said.
The mission is looking for someone to run the mission, Chappell said. Ideally they'd like to have a married couple in the position. The facility can also house them, he said.