Homeless, not hopeless: Whitney Place Rescue Mission

By Perry Russom

February 5, 2014 Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 5:13 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Before finding Whitney Place Rescue Mission, Dana Francis was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol.

"I'm going to be an addict for the rest of my life, but if I'm in a place, or I have friends that I can talk to that's going to help me get through it, that's the whole difference," said Dana Francis.

He's been staying at the Rescue Mission located 56-58 Whitney Ave in Binghamton for three months.

Before finding a bed at the mission, Francis was out on the street or found space to sleep in homes of people he didn't know. He was cold and hungry.

"The vision of the Rescue Mission is to be a catalyst for unimaginable life change," said Rebecca Rathmell, program manager at the Rescue Mission.

They provide transitional housing for 32 men. A third live in single rooms on the second flood and the others live in a dormitory setup on the first, like Francis.

"To lay my head down at night and feel safe and to feel welcome in a place, it's an amazing feeling," said Francis.

Since Whitney Place opened in 2010, it's provided housing for just under 200 men. Thirty-five of them have moved on to a place of their own.

Jeffery Swan hopes to join that list. He said his addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol almost brought him to suicide.

"I know that today, I have purpose and I have meaning," said Swan, who has been at the mission for eight months. "I didn't know that before. It's taken me an awful long time to realize that."

With the help of the Rescue Mission, he's now taking five classes at Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute where he made the dean's list.

"I've come to realize that I have worth and I have meaning today in life and I'm not wasting another moment of my life," said Swan.

At the mission, tenants have chores. They also hand out sandwiches outside of the Salvation Army on Washington Street in Binghamton.

"The mission is a safe place for men to get their mind, body and spirit together," said Reggie Jackson. He's called the mission home for nine months.

Classes for the men are held teaching them life skill courses like budgeting and nutrition.

The Rescue Mission isn't in the fight against homelessness alone. They work with places like the Volunteers of America Shelter and YMCA to help provide more long term stability for these men.

"If we're not all working together, then guys are just going to stay in the situations that they, that they were in," said Rathmell. "When they start to see their own self worth and they start to believe that they can choose better because they're worth better, there's not much like that."

This is part one in a series of reports on the homeless in Binghamton.

Click here to access Part Two: Homeless, not hopeless: The Search
Click here to access Part Three: Homeless, not hopeless: Beyond the label