all the stories end happily. One of the men the mission tried to help
nearly destroyed it. Paul Wilkins, a former resident, set the 2006
Wilkins, who was
later diagnosed by a prison psychologist as a serial arsonist, was
sentenced to 60 months in jail for setting several fires, including
the February fire and an earlier smaller blaze at the mission, said
the Rev. Bob Emberger, the mission's executive director.
William Raws founded
the mission in 1892. When the program became too large for the building
that first housed it, Raws purchased a nearby mill and moved the
mission to its current location, where it has helped more than 700,000
men in its century-long history.
comes at a time when there is some tension in the neighborhood over
such programs. An effort to turn a nearby convent into permanent
apartments for homeless men met opposition from neighbors. The city
Zoning Board of Adjustment then refused a request for a zoning change
needed to open the apartments. A rehearing of that case is scheduled
"If the mission
tried to open brand-new today, the community would rise up,"
Simmons said. "People feel there are too many social-service
agencies in the area - but the need is here."
long history in the neighborhood - along with its supervision, security
and curfews - has helped its relationship with neighbors, said Susan
Mills Farrington, the mission board's president.
With word of the
reopening, men already have begun to stop by to find out when they
can sign up.
be offered in two phases, dictated by the strength of the mission's
fundraising in tough economic times. The rebuilding program was
funded by a combination of insurance, and donations. A $1 million
capital campaign called "Rising from the Ashes" is under
The mission is
$500,000 short of its goal. Until the funds are raised, the mission
will operate at half of its capacity, serving only 25 clients.
climate may also affect efforts to find jobs for the men, said Heather
Rice, a 28-year-old vocational counselor at the mission who began
volunteering when she was 13. Even so, mission staffers are moving
They plan to reopen
the thrift store that occupies the front of the building. (It is
one of two thrift shops operated by the mission.) And officials
are laying the groundwork for a $4 million campaign to open a similar
program for homeless women and their children called Hannah's Place.
"As a religious
institution, we believe God will provide," president Farrington
said. "And that's how we've felt all along."