Homelessness is a tragic condition, one that strips its victims' dignity and reduces their lives to a constant struggle for survival. A by-product of homelessness has long been hopelessness, as society's victims were given little chance of escaping their station in life.
In Albany, however, the homeless are being given an opportunity to restore the dignity that life had taken from them. The vision of a unique, caring man, and the donations of concerned citizens and volunteers have launched a program whose goal is to eradicate this hopelessness and give the area's homeless a new chance in life.
"Street people" are a common part of cities like Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. But more and more men, women and children in smaller cities like Albany have turned to the streets: victims of poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse and broken families. Officials estimate there are at least 180 homeless people living in metro Albany.
Larry Hample, who came to Albany in 1960 when he was stationed at Turner Air Base, felt an overwhelming sense of sympathy and compassion for the homeless, helpless people he saw on the city streets. But, unlike most people, Brother Larry decided to do something about it.
"God told me I needed to do something for these homeless souls, and I responded to his call," Brother Larry says.
The result of that call is the Albany Rescue Mission, which houses homeless men, women, and children and feeds thousands of meals to the homeless each month.
"Society looks down the homeless," Brother Larry says, "but God doesn't. God loves them. And when nobody else can reach a desperate person, God can. That's what the Albany Rescue Mission is all about. We put it in God's hands, and He delivers blessings."
Since leaving his music business in 1990 to answer God's call, Brother Larry and volunteers at the Mission have housed approximately 30 homeless men a month and fed more than 4000 meals each month. Receiving no government or United Way funds, the Mission depends solely on the generosity of individuals and churches.
"We never know where our funding will come from," Brother Larry says. "We do what we're led to do, and God provides."
Brother Larry initially took men off the street and into his central Albany home. But he eventually bought an abandoned apartment complex, which was renovated by his homeless "guests." That building, at 604 North Monroe St., now houses 30 men and is the heart of the Albany Rescue Mission. The Mission then converted a small building in the middle of the block into a chapel and a peanut warehouse into a thrift store. Some mission residents work at the store. In late 1999, after much prayer and hard work we responded to another pressing need in the community. We finally began our Women and Children's ministry by opening a shelter for a much negleted but growing segment of our population.
While living at the Mission, the men and women take part in a "New Beginnings" program: 12 weeks for the men and 8 weeks for the women and children. After making a commitment to change their lives, residents in the program diligently study the Bible and attend three chapel services daily. They work at other times: either jobs they've obtained in the community or on Mission projects.
As with any venture of this kind, Mission volunteers have witnessed overwhelming successes while assisting others who continue their struggle.
"Sarge," a former resident was reunited with a family he hadn't seen in 30 years. When asked to return to Michigan with his family, he elected to stay "at home."
On the other hand, a graduate of the "New Beginnings" program had trouble maintaining a job, so he drifted to Atlanta to live with the "hard-core homeless" in that city. "I reached a point where I was suffering from exposure," the man said. "I was like the Prodigal Son in the Bible, but I had no real home to go to. My only home was the Albany Rescue Mission, so I came back here."
Serving over 50,000 meals annually and providing for the needs of the homeless are monumental tasks, requiring endless hours of work from Brother Larry and other volunteers and tens of thousands of dollars. But Brother Larry wants to do more, and with the help of a caring public he will be able to better meet the needs the area's homeless.
We need your help in several areas.
PRAYER: Everyone should pray to God that the needs of the hurting people in our community are met.
MATERIALS: Donations are needed to support our Mission Thrift Store and provide materials to complete our maintenance and renovation projects.
PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT: We need volunteers at the Mission Thrift Store, in our "New Beginnings" program, and the renovation of the buildings.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Any donations are appreciated. But, we especially need commitments for regular monthly financial support. Please send your financial contributions to:
Albany Rescue Mission
604 North Monroe Street
Albany, Georgia 31701
For more information call:
Ministry: (229) 435-7615
Thrift Store: (229) 431-1125