To help

Volunteer or donate to Crisis Ministries by going to charlestonhomeless.org or calling 723-9477.

A welcoming, cheerful environment is a key element of the new 30,000-square-foot Crisis Ministries building on Meeting Street scheduled to open in the fall.

An abundance of natural light flows through floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining area.

In contrast, the current homeless shelter building is dark, old and dirty, said Amy Zeigler, vice president for development.

"We just wanted to have a completely different environment here," she said.

Last year, Crisis Ministries helped about 2,000 people get off the street. In its new headquarters, the nonprofit will continue to grow.

"We really wanted to make it a bright place. We believe people need a place that is uplifting," Zeigler said.

The organization is asking for the public's help to raise $1.5 million needed to complete the $7.7 million project.

"We really need the community to help," she said.

The new building doubles the size of the current homeless shelter, which has a cramped, bunker-like feel.

It is where Marcus Miller, 24, turned his life around with the help of Crisis Ministries staff. Miller said that he had a bad attitude and was always fighting with people.

"This place helped calm me down a whole lot," he said.

Miller works in the kitchen, where he has acquired skills he hopes to use in the job market. He has lived at the shelter for seven months, saving his money to get back on his feet. He wants to spend more time with his 4-month-old son.

The new building includes space for the 70 beds Crisis Ministries provides for single men. Amenities include a cellphone charging station.

"If you don't have a phone number, it's hard to look for a job," Zeigler said.

Currently, the shelter has 14 beds for male veterans. It will add 26 more beds for vets at the new facility.

Women and children are housed in the 40-bed Family Center, which was renovated in 2009 and includes a dorm for six female veterans.

In the new facility, there will be more space for staff offices, the kitchen and the health clinic.

"It will be like visiting your doctor's office," Zeigler said.

On-site dental services will be available, she said.

People waiting outside for help will no longer have to stand in the rain because there will be a covered space for them, she said.

"It's really about being able to better serve our clients," she said.