Albany Rescue Mission celebrates 20 years

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- The Albany Rescue Mission is coming up on its 20th year of providing hope and fellowship to the homeless and Larry Hample, founder of the Mission, said they hope to continue this work for many years to come.

Hample said the Albany Rescue Mission currently houses about 45 men and serves more than 7,000 meals a month at its Monroe Street location.

"We serve three meals a day, 365 days a year," he said. "No one ever has to go hungry."

Hample said the Albany Rescue Mission also has a center for women and children, but the location is undisclosed.

"About 10 years ago we started the women's mission," he said. "The are still a part of the Albany Rescue Mission, but they operate independently of us."

The Albany Rescue Mission began in 1989 when Hample began to take in homeless men into his home.

"Albany needed a place where they could stay," he said. "I had recently gotten saved and the Lord was pressing it upon me to try and help these homeless souls."

Hample said he divided his home in two separate areas, with bunk beds and a small kitchen in one and his lodging in another.

"I had as many as 15 men in my home at that time," he said. "We simply outgrew it."

Hample said after leaving the music business in 1990 to answer God's call, he had enough money saved to purchase the mission's current home at 604 N. Monroe St., which was being auctioned.

"I had the opportunity to buy this block and I took it," he said. "In the spring of 1992, we officially started the Albany Rescue Mission."

Hample said he and his homeless "guests" worked hard to renovate an abandoned apartment complex that was on the property that Hample had purchased.

"These guys have talent," he said. "I am always suprised by the skill that these guys have."

Soon after moving into the renovated apartments, the men began work converting a small building that was used for storage into a chapel that still stands.

A thrift store was also converted from a peanut warehouse. Mission residents began working at the thrift store which is still operated to this day.

In 1999, Hample said the women and children's shelter was opened.

Hample said throughout the mission's history, it has relied on faith and the generosity of individuals to support its mission for caring for the homeless.

"Most of our support comes from individuals," he said. "We do not receive any time of government funding or support, nor would we ask for it."

Hample said the mission has had its share of success stories among the thousands of men and women who have come through the mission.

"We don't hear from all of them (when they leave the mission)," he said. "But, yes, we have had some success stories."

Hample recounted the story of a man nicknamed "Montana" who spent a year at the mission more than a decade ago.

"Last year, I got an e-mail and it's from Jerusalem," he said. "It was from Montana and he was explaining how he became a missionary and was living in Jerusalem for the past 10 years."

Hample said many other individuals have been able to find career opportunities or were reunited with their families.

He said that the worst stories involve drug abuse.

"They'll give up everything to go back to it," said Hample. "We might have to put them out sometimes, but we don't keep them from coming back when they are ready to begin again."

He said the mission never gives up on its residents.

"Maybe we think an individuals not going to change," he said. "But because God hasn't given up on him, then we cannot give up on him."

Hample said the mission was recently granted permission to add extra space to its chapel. "It is really wonderful," he said. "Now we can serve more and people will not have to be crowded."

Hample said the mission plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary throughout the Thanksgiving holiday during its large feasts. He said that the mission has much to be thankful for and that God has always been the driving force that keeps the mission going.

"We can't take the credit we give that to the Lord," he said.