Open Doors, Open Hearts: City Rescue Mission Opens New Outreach center

The City Rescue Mission of Lansing has been providing food, shelter and hope for the Lansing community since 1911. On Jan. 21, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s helping hands reached out even more with its latest addition, The Outreach. The 3,000-square-foot facility at 601 N. Larch St. will provide showers, laundry, clothing, and a host of other resources and referrals to housing, mental health agencies and substance abuse treatment centers. 

“We provide a no-barrier shelter to our community,” said Mark Criss, executive director of the City Rescue Mission. “The reason why that’s important is because we’ll provide a safe haven for those who are chronically homeless who may not be qualified to go into shelter. We’re serving vulnerable individuals in our community, including those with behavioral issues that would make them unlikely to be accepted into a traditional shelter.”

The shelter was modeled after a neighborhood service organization, the Tumaini Center in Detroit. Named after the Swahili word for hope, the no-barrier, drop-in center provides shelter for about 120 people per night, according to Criss.

The City Rescue Mission provides 100,000 meals in an average year in addition to shelter and other assistance.

“Right now, the City Rescue Mission helps about 140 men, women and children a night between our two shelters,” Criss said. “This will be a third drop-in center, which will probably be two to three dozen.”

The project was inspired by Mark Bozzo, who provided a similar service called City Outreach Ministries about 14 years ago. After Bozzo’s passing in June, Criss felt compelled and obligated to continue what Bozzo had begun – and increase the scope of the community being helped.

“We wanted to make sure it was a 24/7 drop-in to meet the needs of the most vulnerable community,” he said.

The shelter will provide jobs for about eight full-time employees who will be at The Outreach. Operations Coordinator Daron Mackinder knows firsthand how much of a life-changing impact programs like these have. The recovering heroin addict and alcoholic has been clean for about three years but used to utilize the resources from Bozzo’s program and stayed in the men’s shelter at the City Rescue Mission.

Mackinder said the shelter was in search of “someone with some dirt under his nails” who could use real-life experience to help transform those in need of a change.

“I am really looking forward to being of service to the guests at The Outreach,” he said. “I am in no way a preacher or the most-versed person in God’s word, but I sure can say, ‘Hey, I was right here, I know what you’re going through,’ because I really have. If I can help one person to get some help and better their life, then everything I have went through to get where I am will be worth it.”

Criss is excited for The Outreach to be part of a supportive community.

“It’s amazing to see how we’re able to meet needs,” he said. “As the need grows, our supply grows with it. Fifteen years ago our budget was well under a million dollars, and we only sheltered probably about 40 people a night. Over the years, the need grew, but we were also able to meet that need.”

The City Rescue Mission’s budget is about $2 million a year, according to Criss, and 95 percent comes from individual or family donations. The remaining 5 percent comes from churches, organizations and grants.

“Our city is very much transforming when it comes to development, but also our guests that come through here on an annual basis,” Criss said. “Many are transformed by their needs being met – not just physically, but spiritually. It’s exciting to see we as a community can meet this need.”

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn received her degree in Journalism from Lansing Community College. She’s a concert junkie; living and breathing in both the local and national music scene. She is proud to call Lansing her home, finding a new reason every day to be smitten with the mitten.

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