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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Lynn Calhoun, who has been clean for almost two years after 35 years of addiction, talks with attendees of Monday's kickoff for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission.

  • Speaker Dave Ward, who lost family, job and home in his battle with opioid addiction decades ago, now works as a consultant for The Rescue Mission.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 1:00 am

Spotlight on homelessness

Rescue Mission joins effort to raise awareness, find solutions

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Dave Ward seemingly had it all – a good job in the 1980s in his native state of Texas, making $80,000 a year.

Then came the opioids and other substances that Ward was using – until he decided to flee from the suppliers of those drugs to Fort Wayne.

He became estranged from his daughter and son. And Ward left his lucrative job. He took a minimum-wage job at a fast food restaurant, but he could barely afford the clothes on his back.

“I was sleeping outside,” said Ward, 62, who still has a soft Texas drawl though he's been in northeast Indiana since 1986. “I had lost everything except my McDonald's uniforms.”

His was among three stories of homelessness shared Monday at The Rescue Mission, 301 W. Superior St., where the charity's leaders kicked off National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

The Rev. Donovan Coley, the homeless shelter's CEO, outlined a five-point mission designed to raise awareness of homelessness and help those in trouble. Monday's mission: Learn.

“It's all about putting the spotlight on what's happening to a lot of people in the community,” he said. “It is when a person runs out of healthy relationships; that's when they are more prone to becoming homeless.”

Coley estimates there are at least 3,500 people who are homeless in Fort Wayne. Nearly 554,000 people are homeless in the U.S., according to data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

In a news conference, Coley announced that Ambassador Enterprises has pledged $500,000 to a capital campaign aimed at constructing the previously announced new $23.1 million facility at East Washington Boulevard and Lafayette Street. The money represents the matching portion of a $1 million grant to The Rescue Mission from the Foellinger Foundation.

Work is expected to begin on the 80,000-square-foot building in April, and it's expected to open in 2020.

The Rev. Gary Erdos of Trinity English Lutheran Church announced that his church would donate $15,000 to the charity to hire a counselor to help residents move on from homelessness.

“Homelessness is not just a fluke but a deep and abiding problem that needs deep and abiding solutions,” Erdos said. “This is one way that we would like to help.”

Ward credits The Rescue Mission – where he now works – with helping him get his life on track. Lynn Calhoun, 53, credits the charity with saving her life.

She arrived at the shelter's doors two years ago, after more than three decades using various drugs that left her without friends, family and a home. Now she's recovering, she said, and learning to live without the drugs.

Same for Cora Kellogg, 47.

“Nobody wants to be homeless,” she said. “Sometimes it just happens.”

Information about daily missions related to National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is posted on The Rescue Mission's website, www.therescuemission.net/NHHAW.

mleblanc@jg.net