Crossroads Mission Avenue, which serves the poor and homeless in the Tri-Cities, has announced a $3 million capital campaign to build a homeless shelter for men in Grand Island. It hopes to complete its fundraising campaign by the end of the year.

Under the plan, Crossroads will renovate its current location at the former Beacon House to a 32-bed emergency shelter for men and add 24 new units that will serve as transitional housing for men. It also plans to remodel a 10-unit complex into housing for men. The majority of the men will be in a joint program with Crossroads, and a partnership with probation offices.

It also plans a Mission Avenue Thrift Store, which will be modeled after a similar thrift store Crossroads operates in Kearney.

Heading up the Crossroads campaign in Grand Island will be Ray and Jennifer O’Connor, owners of O’Connor Enterprises, and Gayle Bonnes, co-owner of Slumberland Furniture in Grand Island.

Jerry Bumgardner, Crossroads Mission Avenue executive director, said Crossroads has been serving the homeless in the Tri-Cities since the 1980s. Started in Hastings, it later expanded to Kearney.

Bumgardner has visited with city officials and agencies that serve the homeless in Grand Island. He felt there was a need to provide additional shelter for homeless men in Hall County.

He said, according to the Unsheltered Homeless Point in Time counts for Hall County and the Balance of State Continuum of Care, Hall County has “consistently identified the largest number of persons experiencing homelessness that are sleeping in unsheltered locations from 2015 to 2018.”

According to the campaign’s literature, in 2018, Hall County accounted for 63 percent of all unsheltered individuals during the survey. In 2017, Hall County totaled 78 percent of all unsheltered homeless individuals in the state. The vast majority of those homeless men are single.

Bumgardner said the shelter for men is needed as Hope Harbor serves women and children and the Salvation Army provides only overnight shelter for homeless men. At the Crossroads shelter, the homeless have a chance to go through a four-phase program. The program offers eight weeks of life-skills classes, daily Bible studies and community service each day. Crossroads also helps homeless men find jobs, get their financial concerns in order, and teaches them leadership skills that will support their self-sufficiency after leaving the program.

“We have heard the need, and we know the need and the community has reached out to us,” Bumgardner said. “It is something we are qualified to do, and the Lord has called us to Grand Island to take care of a need that exists in the community.”

Crossroads is a nondenominational organization.

“We are a Christian organization,” he said. “We come alongside agencies and churches to build the community. It is our desire to have a healthy community.”

Bumgardner said the Crossroads shelter for men complements the other services provided to the homeless in Grand Island. It has been working closely with existing agencies in Hall County that help the homeless for 25 years.

Last year, Crossroads served 829 guests, who stayed 44,791 nights and were served 135,373 meals. The average number of guests served by Crossroads per day was 123, with the average length of stay 54 days.

“We don’t want to (just) take care of them overnight, but to make sure that they are back on their feet and back in the community,” Bumgardner said.

In testimony given for the capital campaign, Grand Island Police Capt. Dean Elliott said, “We deal with homeless men on a routine basis. Grand Island absolutely needs the resources that Crossroads will provide. Crossroads will get a big welcome from law enforcement when the shelter opens.”

“In the 21st century, the empowerment of the poor and homeless is the prime imperative of justice,” said Ray O’Connor.

The poor and homeless are not problems to be solved and forgotten, O’Connor said. These individuals have the potential to be unleashed for the benefit of all society.

“Social welfare programs must aim at unleashing that potential so poor and homeless individuals can fully participate in the life of the community and live out the truth of their human dignity,” he said.

Bonnes said she has been a volunteer for Crossroads in both Kearney and Hastings.

“I was surprised that at least 90% of the homeless have jobs,” she said. “They just found themselves in poor circumstances. Transitional housing is very much needed.”

Bumgardner said the transitional aspect of the program is critical to Crossroads’ mission.

“We are not just giving them a cheap place to rent,” he said. “There is a reason why they are homeless. Our job is to teach and train them so when they go back out, they can be successful and be a vital part of the community.”

The property where they want to build and expand the Crossroads program in Grand Island is the former Beacon House at 1910 W. Ninth St. Currently, the facility houses 16 people. Crossroads purchased the property this year.

“We have a team in place right now that includes me, Ray and Jennifer, and a few other people from the community,” Bonnes said.

Other campaign team members include Brain McMahon, owner of Associated Staffing, LLC; Melvin Griess, owner of Representative Construction; and Jason Olderbank, owner of Cars for Less.

Bonnes said they are in the organizational phase of the campaign.

For more information or to contribute to the campaign, visit www.crossroadsmission.com or call Jerry Bumgardner at (402) 462-0210.

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