Springs Rescue Mission to keep women's shelter open year-round to meet demand

By Jakob Rodgers Updated: April 13, 2017 at 9:53 am • Published: April 12, 2017 0
photo - FILE - Springs Rescue Mission plans to keep its women's shelter open year-round amid a crushing demand for bed space. (Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette)
FILE - Springs Rescue Mission plans to keep its women's shelter open year-round amid a crushing demand for bed space. (Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette)

Springs Rescue Mission plans to keep its women's shelter open year-round amid a crushing demand for bed space.

The nonprofit's move comes as it continues sheltering dozens of people on overflow sleeping mats every night at its burgeoning campus. There simply was no palatable alternative, said Larry Yonker, the nonprofit's president and chief executive.

"There was absolutely no capacity," Yonker said. "If we put them in the main shelter, which was designed for men and women, then that meant some men wouldn't get beds.

"This just gave us the opportunity to serve more people."

Yonker's decision ups the number of permanent beds at Springs Rescue Mission's campus off West Las Vegas Street to 200 - nearly doubling the city's year-round bed count from fall 2016.

The Salvation Army operates a 222-bed facility a half-mile to the north. But the Springs Rescue Mission's space is unique, because admission is based on behavior, not sobriety. Such a "low-barrier" approach has become increasingly common across the nation, because research suggests its more effective at addressing homelessness.

Demand for the Springs Rescue Mission's beds has been overwhelming.

The nonprofit created its 32-bed women's shelter in November by reducing space in its men's addiction recovery facility.

Originally, the women's shelter was meant to serve as a seasonal compliment to the nonprofit's new, 168-bed year-round shelter (which housed only men over the winter). And all along, the nonprofit's leaders planned to close the women's facility and combine the men's and women's programs sometime this month, once the threat of frostbite or death on bitterly-cold nights subsided.

But the women's program became too vital to end, Yonker said.

It often sheltered more than 60 people a night by accommodating extra guests on floor mats. On some nights, 70 women slept there.

Demand for men's beds also proved overwhelming. More than 215 people stayed at the facility Tuesday night - again, with sleeping mats needed once the facility's 168 beds filled up.

In all, 1,422 people have stayed at Springs Rescue Mission from November through March. Nearly a quarter of them were women - far more than Yonker expected.

He reiterated previous concerns that the nonprofit may need to find additional space to shelter clients.

"The causes of homelessness are getting more severe, which is economics and availability of drugs, and so therefore the population's growing," Yonker said.

Already, Springs Rescue Mission is fast-expanding its services.

In a few weeks, the nonprofit plans to open a homeless day center that includes showers, laundry services, computer terminals and space for other nonprofits to offer medical, dental and employment assistance.

By the end of 2018, Springs Rescue Mission also plans to create a massive new kitchen and dining room, a welcome facility and a 65-unit apartment complex.

"This is going to be a state of the art homeless resource campus - there's no question about it," Yonker said.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

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