A $1.5 million gift described as perhaps the largest in the last 15 to 20 years of The Lutheran Foundation's history will get construction of the new men's shelter of The Rescue Mission off the ground in upcoming weeks.
The money from the Fort Wayne faith-based foundation would allow groundbreaking and initial work to begin in the spring, said Donovan Coley, the mission's senior pastor and CEO.
The mission plans a four-story facility for homeless men at the southeast corner of Lafayette Street and East Washington Boulevard. A former auto dealership dating prior to the mid-20th century was torn down last year to make room.
Cost of the new shelter has been placed at $19.1 million. Coley said nearly 85 percent has been raised, and the mission now plans to start seeking money from the general public.
Marcia Haaff, foundation executive director, said the money is considered “an investment” because the foundation shares the mission's approach to addressing mental health issues as a “root cause” of homelessness.
The foundation's board decided about five years ago to become “more intentional” in its grants and fund projects that advanced the “spiritual, mental and physical well-being of all people,” Haaff said.
She called the $1.5 million “one of the largest investments in our history” and said the money comes on the heels of about $1 million in foundation funds given since 2015 to support counseling positions for the men's shelter and Charis House for homeless women and children.
Coley said the current campaign will expand the mission's space from 25,000 square feet to 80,000 and its housing capacity from 114 to 325 men when all four floors are completed.
The top two floors will remain unfinished, however, until after the first two are open, mission officials said.
The mission will name a “restaurant-style” dining facility where volunteers will serve meals to residents and a chapel to honor the Lutheran Foundation, Coley said.
Funds still being sought will be put toward assisting outreach and mental health, covering anticipated operating expense increases and supporting Charis House, he said.
Charis House is now turning away about 40 women and children a month, Coley said.
“This is very significant,” Haaff said. “We typically don't invest in this large a gift, but we see this as ... a way to get to the root causes of homelessness and end homelessness and see change over time.”
The money is earmarked for the building, she said.
Ben Gregory, mission board member, said after the morning news conference that about $16.1 million has been raised, with about $3.1 million yet to go.
The campaign figure including the Charis House is pegged at $23.1 million.
The agency plans a media campaign and direct appeal to its donor base, which includes area churches, for this year.
Coley said the mission houses 1,400 unique individuals a year and now has 90 in the shelter and 56 participating in programming.
The mission's board insisted that 80 percent of money in the agency's City on a Hill: Building Relocation and Expansion Capital Campaign be raised before scheduling groundbreaking, Coley said.
That event, he said, is now expected in April.