From Rescue Home for Women to Sunshine Rescue Mission
The roots of Denver Rescue Mission are found in a rescue home for women, started by Rev. Joshua Gravett, pastor of Galilee Baptist Church. In 1892, the shelter opened near 31st and Lawrence in the home of two women from Gravett’s congregation. The Rescue Home soon merged with the Florence Crittendon Mission and Home for Women in late 1892. With a shelter available for women, Gravett and his church began plans for a men’s shelter, which they opened as a faith mission under the name Living Waters Mission at 1822 Larimer Street.
Approximately 20 years later, Jim Goodheart, a former Living Waters Mission guest, became director of the Mission and changed the name to Sunshine Rescue Mission. Under his leadership, the Mission expanded to include three buildings and two lots located at 1820 to 1824 Larimer Street. At the same time, a dormitory for transients, called Sunshine House, was opened at 1640 Market Street. By 1922, the Mission’s annual budget was approximately $35,000 with more than 3,000 overnight accommodations provided each month.
Because of his success, the Board of Directors sold the Mission to Goodheart for one dollar in 1924. Three years later, Goodheart was hospitalized for a breakdown, and in 1930, the Mission was closed and sold to pay debts.
Denver Rescue Mission Re-birth
Soon after the closing of Sunshine Rescue Mission, Rev. Gravett and a dedicated group of volunteers rented space and reopened the Mission at 1120 Eighteenth Street. They named this new outreach Denver Rescue Mission.
In 1940, the Mission purchased a one-story building for $6,000 at 1818 Larimer Street. Nearly 20 years later, under the leadership of Rev. Truman Thompson, a new building was built behind the original one. The 7,500 square-foot facility included two stories complete with kitchen, dining room, garage, and dormitory. The total cost of the new building was $33,000. One year later, the Mission opened its first medical and dental clinics.
The Urban Renewal Administration paid the Mission $76,000 for its Larimer Street facility in the summer of 1970. Before the facility was torn down, the Mission purchased its current downtown facility, the Lawrence Street Shelter, at the corner of Park Avenue and Lawrence Street for $120,000.
From 1967 to 1985, Rev. Leroy Bradrick guided Denver Rescue Mission. Then in 1987, Rev. Del Maxfield became Executive Director and initiated the next phase of growth.
In 1988, the Mission acquired Mercy Farm in Wellington, Colorado and renamed it Harvest Farm. This 209-acre working farm grows food crops for the needy, provides long-term rehabilitation for 72 men in the New Life Program and serves as a rural outreach.
In December 1988, the Foothill Capital Corporation of Dallas donated a building to the Mission at 2544 Champa Street. Brad Meuli—current CEO and volunteer at the time—was instrumental in helping the Mission acquire and renovate the property for the specific purpose of creating a long-term transitional facility for single mothers and their children. After intense renovation, Champa House was dedicated in June 1990 with accommodations for nine mothers and up to 16 children.
Lifeskills, Education & Career
The Mission started its first computer-based Literacy and Education Center in 1989. This award-winning program provided men and women with the opportunity to improve their academic skills and practical life skills. In 2007, the LEC was renamed Lifeskills, Education and Career modules, which are now available at all our program facilities: The Crossing, Champa House, Harvest Farm, and Fort Collins Rescue Mission.
Administration, Program Support, and Ministry Outreach Center
In December 1991, Cowles Media donated a building located at 3501 East 46th Avenue to Denver Rescue Mission. This 37,000-square-foot building became the Ministry Outreach Center, housed administrative offices and served as the central warehouse for food, clothing and furniture.
In January 1998, Pros with A Purpose became a family outreach ministry at the Mission. It was founded by former Bronco, Mike Horan, and his wife, Kim, and ministered exclusively to homeless working families. In January 2000, it was renamed Family Rescue Ministry, and is currently part of the Mission’s Family Services Programs.
On January 1, 2001, Brad Meuli became President and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the Mission.
On May 2, 2005, the Mission purchased a former hotel on Smith Road and named it The Crossing. This 94,000-square-foot building significantly increased the Mission’s ability to serve families and individuals.
In September 2005, New Life Program participants were moved from the downtown shelter to The Crossing, and the program for men in Denver grew to 130. In October 2006, The Crossing officially opened. After extensive renovation, this facility is now home to the New Life Program for men in Denver, the STAR transitional program for families in need and the New Life Post-Graduate program. It also serves as temporary living quarters for interns and visitors, and offers respite beds for homeless men and women just released from the hospital. In addition, The Crossing offers a safe place for children to learn, play and grow at The Denver Broncos Youth Center and the outdoor playground. Program participants are taught life skills, and case management is provided to families and individuals looking forward to a life of self-sufficiency.
Increasing Overnight Shelter Capacity
In September 2005, renovations at the Lawrence Street Shelter were completed. Remodeling the shelter and moving the New Life Program to The Crossing has allowed the Mission to increase its emergency shelter capacity at Lawrence Street to 315 people each night.
The renovation included more showers and bathrooms to improve service to our overnight guests. We continue to offer three hot meals a day as well as client and medical services at the Lawrence Street Shelter.
Family Services Programs:
In November 2005, the Family Services was developed to incorporate our three family and transitional programs:
STAR Transitional Program: Provides affordable transitional program for up to 90 homeless families. In addition to living at The Crossing, each family is matched with a case manager to guide them toward permanent housing and self-sufficiency.
Family Rescue Ministry (FRM): Provides assistance for permanent housing and mentoring for homeless working families and disabled families. Partners families with mentor teams who provide relational, spiritual, material, and social support to help them rebuild their lives.
Family Refugee Services (FRS): Provides housing assistance and other services for refugee families. In addition, families are paired with mentor teams who provide support for refugee families in their transition to a new life in the United States.
Fort Collins Rescue Mission:
In November 2012, Denver Rescue Mission acquired Open Door Mission in Fort Collins, just nine miles from Harvest Farm, and renamed it Fort Collins Rescue Mission (FCRM). FCRM now provides beds for up to 80 homeless men and women each night and manages the Steps to Success Program—a short-term program offered to help people become productive, self-sufficient citizens.
Relocating the Ministry Outreach Center
Around the same time, an expansion project for I-70 purchased the Administration and Ministry Outreach Center at East 46th Street. The Mission began to look for a new location for the Ministry Outreach Center and Administrative Offices. A warehouse on Holly Street was purchased in December 2012, providing 15,000 more square feet than the previous warehouse, and the Mission purchased Pilgrim’s Rest Church in October 2012 to serve as a new site for the Administrative offices. The Administration & Education building is located directly across the street from The Crossing and provides a campus-style environment for the Mission.
Administration & Education Building
In 2013, Denver Rescue Mission’s leadership learned that I-70 would be overhauled between Washington and Colorado Blvd. Because of this, our existing Administrative building fell under eminent domain and was purchased by CDOT.
In May 2015, construction on the new Administration & Education Building was complete and the offices moved from 3501 E. 46th Ave to 6100 Smith Road in Denver, across the street from our largest facility, The Crossing, and three blocks from the Ministry Outreach Center. The new location gives the Mission a more campus-like atmosphere.
The building houses offices for Programs, Administration, Finance, Development, IT, HR, and Maintenance. The first floor is an in-take center for the Mission’s programs including Family Services. There is also a large education center with classrooms for a variety of uses including New Life Program classes.
Lawrence Street Community Center
In June 2014, the Mission acquired the property adjacent to the Lawrence Street Shelter for the purpose of creating a community center. The goal of the Lawrence Street Community Center is to provide a safe, drug- and alcohol-free place for people experiencing homelessness in our community to go during the day. Demolition of the existing structure on the property occurred in August 2014, and construction began in January 2015.
On November 23, 2015, the center opened to the public. The building features a large dining room which can accommodate 288 people at a time and a courtyard that serves as a queuing area for men and women waiting to access various Mission services. Showers, bathrooms and washing machines offer people who are homeless a dignified place to wash up, and safe drinking water is available. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served each day to anyone who is hungry, and the Lawrence Street Community Center also provides ADA access, which the Lawrence Street Shelter was not able to accommodate.