Charleston is lucky to have a place like Crisis Ministries.
Itís not just that the charity offers 135 men, women and children a place to sleep every night, or serves 200,000 meals to folks annually. Those things are important, but it is the other services Crisis Ministries offers that really make it invaluable.
The shelter provides health screenings and care for people who need it, alleviating the strain on local emergency rooms. The staff offers legal services to help deal with issues that lead to homelessness.
And most importantly, the shelterís employment and learning program trains people to get jobs, which can take them off the streets permanently.
And isnít that the goal here?Perhaps whatís most amazing about all that work is that the staff of Crisis Ministries does it in a cramped building on Meeting Street that used to be a Piggly Wiggly warehouse. But not for much longer.
The homeless are getting a new home.
A place for vets
This summer, Crisis Ministries will break ground on a new shelter.
At 30,000 square feet, it will be more than twice the size of the current facility and will become an attractive addition to an area of the upper peninsula that, frankly, could use a little sprucing up.
The new digs will cost between $6 and $6.5 million. Somehow, even with the economy on rocky ground, Crisis Ministries has raised $5.3 million so far ó mostly from private sources.
Now, $1.2 million of that comes from the feds by way of the Veterans Administration. Why them? Because one of the sad facts of life is that 30 percent of homeless people are veterans of the U.S. military.
In fact, while the additional space at Crisis Ministriesí new facility will largely go toward counseling, job training and health services, it is adding 26 beds just for veterans.
It is a shame that people who served their country need this kind of help, but itís good that they at least have some place to go.
Actually, the government ought to give more to this worthy cause.
Give a bit more
Crisis Ministries has weathered the recession without any major funding cuts.
Perhaps itís a testament to the work of Stacey Denaux, CEO of the shelter. She has kept her eye on the ball, and the bottom line, and made sure that the charity didnít become a charity case.
Now, Crisis Ministries has credit lined up to finish its new building ó this is going to happen. But it would be nice if Crisis Ministries could move into its new facility next year without the burden of a mortgage.
A lot of local activists are encouraging residents and businesses to chip in and finish Crisis Ministriesí fundraising campaign. They make some good points, not the least of which is that itís not only patriotic to help veterans, but also people just struggling to get by.
ďYou really want to help people who want to help themselves,Ē says Mickey Bakst, who organized Feed the Need to help feed the homeless a few years ago.
He was talking about the homeless, but the same applies to Crisis Ministries.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.