Project leaders broke ground on the construction of Phase One of Merced County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope at 129 Cone Avenue in Merced on Aug. 11.
In the words of Mark Mayo, Rescue Mission board chairperson, who spoke at the ceremony, the groundbreaking marked a milestone in the Mission’s goal of providing “food, shelter, clothing and some hope” to people “in tough situations,” whose “relatives have given up on them,” and who, “having burned every bridge, are tired, lonely, confused and in pain.”
Dr. Bruce Metcalf, executive director of the Rescue Mission, is thrilled the Village of Hope construction is underway because it means existing programs will expand and there will be new programs and more people in need will be able to be served.
He told the Times, enthusiastically, “We have five bridging houses in Merced and one in Los Banos, and we’re trying to get more. The local sheriffs or police departments identify people they need to get off the street, and they refer them to these houses. In addition, the Rescue Mission has a contract with the County of Merced to run the new Navigation Center, a unit for 75 to 100 people that will open in November or December.
“The bridging houses are all over the county, but the Navigation Center will be in the City of Merced. When the new Village of Hope facility is built, there will be 11 or 12 bridging houses spread out all over the county, as well as the Navigation Center.
“When we finish the new Village of Hope campus, it will have 130 to 150 beds. We already have 150 beds in houses all over the city and county, so when Village of Hope is built, we will have between 250 and 300 beds.”
He shared, “I pastored churches for 38 years before I retired. The last one was Hilmar Covenant Church, and I was their pastor for 28 years. This is my retirement job, and I’ve been here 9-1/2 years. I see people’s lives change, and it makes me want to come to work every day. It’s an exciting place to work because you see wonderful things happening in people’s lives.”
At completion of Phases One and Two, the five-acre Village of Hope campus will consist of the following:
(1) A 10-unit apartment building for homeless veterans.
Dr. Metcalf explained, “Veterans have been in our various programs, but we have never had a building just for homeless veterans. Some were not able to get back into society because there were things war did to their brains to mess them up and they were not able to get help. These people who are coming off the street who are using or might have mental or behavioral health issues need a transitional way to get to something permanent. So we will help them get what they need and transition them back into society.
(2) A 10-unit apartment building for homeless families with young children.
Dr. Metcalf told the Times, “Right now, we have three houses with families that have young children. The 10-unit apartment building will be an expansion of that program.
(3) Separate men’s and women’s facilities to house 32 men involved in the faith-based program, Hope for Men, and 20 women involved in the Hope for Women program.
“We have 20 full-time and 20 part-time staff people. Ninety percent of our staff has gone through the Hope for Men or Hope for Women programs.
“Hope for Men and Hope for Women will be on the campus. Currently, we have two houses for men and one house for women. Those programs will go onto the new campus. It’s for people who need to get off drugs or alcohol, get a new mindset, and work through some things in their lives so they will be ready to relate to their families, get a job and be a part of our community.
“They are in classes for four hours every morning five days a week, and every afternoon, they’re required to do two hours of community service. In the evening, they’re in classes again. It is a very structured program which helps them transform their lives.”
(4) A 20-bed facility for homeless pregnant women.
“There are ladies who are pregnant who have been alienated through broken relationships or drugs or for other reasons. They are on their own and have no place to go. Once the women have their babies, they might be eligible for the apartments for families with young children, and from there, we can get them completely on their own.”
(5) A building with 32 beds housing Hope Medical Respite Care, where homeless people discharged from Mercy Medical Center can recuperate.
Sharing about the type of needs the Respite Care program will meet, Dr. Metcalf told the Times, “A fellow who was at the ceremony graduated from our program, and he and another graduate now have a handyman business. At one point, he tried to take his own life. He went through the Behavioral Health program and was then referred to our Respite Care program. Then, he went to our men’s faith-based program. He graduated from that program and did some part-time volunteer work for the Mission. He now has a full-time handyman business and is supporting himself. This is one example of someone who was using, was despondent, and tried to take his own life, but after going through our programs, he is running his own business and is a house manager at one of our bridging houses.
“In the Respite Care building, there will be a commercial kitchen and a dining room that can seat 100 people. Tim Adam, our Chief Operating Officer, has a degree in culinary arts and will help to administer a program to teach cooking skills so people can get jobs in restaurants. He also has a certificate in drug and alcohol counseling, and is working on a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He is a graduate of our program. The Hope for Men, Hope for Woman and pregnant women’s home participants can come to the Respite Care building and participate in the culinary classes to help them get jobs.”
(6) A building with a chapel, offices and classrooms.
“The building with classrooms, offices and a chapel will be multi-purpose. There will also be a computer lab in that building. The Hope for Men and Hope for Women and pregnant women’s home participants will use that building for instruction and computer skills classes.”
Dr. Metcalf concluded, “The Rescue Mission staff members that have gone through the programs are so excited about what God has done in their lives, and they want to share it with others at Village of Hope. They have such a motivation to help others. They want others to experience the success they’ve experienced, and that’s a driving force that helps the Mission be successful.”