Rescue Mission plans to move, but stay in heart of Downtown Fort Wayne

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Last year Fort Wayne Rescue Mission served 1,300 homeless people, and room was tight. In 2014, 15 Finds out revealed the mission had plans to expand. Now, we’re getting a better look at what that expansion might look like after the Mission filed paper work with the Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.

Every night the Mission lays out about 20 cots after all the permanent beds are taken up. That number will easily double once winter comes. So, the Mission is filing plans to build a location to fit three times as many people. If the deal goes through, the Mission would tear down the current building at 400 E. Washington Blvd. and rebuild a 70,000 square foot space. That’s an upgrade from its now 23,000 square foot building on Superior.

The shelter now has 114 beds, many of those are cots.

“So, when we have to put cots out every night it’s time to make a move,” Rescue Mission Executive VP of Operations Richard Cummins said.

The move won’t be far and will keep Rescue Mission in Downtown Fort Wayne.

“We’ve been in our current building at 301 W. Superior Street since 1964,” Cummins said. “So, every closet has been used for functional space, and turned them all into offices and it’s just not bringing the dignity to the men that are homeless in our community.”

In August 2014, 15 Finds Out learned of plans to expand Rescue Mission while investigating the future of the Mission’s current space as riverfront development kicked into high gear. Some officials wanted the homeless shelter to be moved away from the center of Downtown.

“Never an option,” Cummins said. “Not a possibility.”

Cummins said they need to be where the homeless are which is downtown. Cummins expects the current building will be sold to the city for Riverfront development.

Mayor Tom Henry called it a win-win situation. In a statement he said: “We see this as a win-win for the community. The Rescue Mission is a well-respected and trusted partner. They will be able to grow and expand their services and we’ll be in position to have access to a location to further enhance the momentum and investment we’re experiencing in the core of the City.”

Before the purchase is complete the building needs to be zoned correctly. The Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals will hear the plan next month.

For now, the Mission is reaching out to its potential new neighbors.

“The people we’ve spoken to get the vision,” Cummin said. “They understand Fort Wayne requires healthy people to be a healthy place to stay. So, they know what we are trying to do.”

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