Water Street shelter

Jack Crowley, president of Water Street Mission, stands among bunk beds in the current emergency shelter at the mission.

The sign attached to the exterior wall at Water Street Rescue Mission reads: “There is dignity in every life and the reflection of divinity in every soul.”

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Water Street Mission, 210 S. Prince St., will unveil a new 9,000-square-foot, 80-bed overnight emergency shelter that previously served as a warehouse. Known as Providence Shelter, it offers larger personal space, increased bathroom facilities, private showers, cellphone-charging lockers, a respite room for those who need down time before sleeping, laundry facilities and indoor storage for personal belongings.

When the new shelter opens on Dec. 8, it will replace cramped 70 bunk-bed areas for men and women that offered little privacy.

“We know when (people) come to us, they are experiencing some of the worst moments in their life,” said Jack Crowley, Water Street’s president.  “We want them to feel they are valued, they’re worthy of dignity and respect and they’re loved by God,”

Planning to turn the warehouse into a shelter began 18 months ago. It included input from staff members, professional designers and guests. Wohlsen Construction was the general contractor. Estimated cost of the new facility is $1 million, which has been paid for through donations.

“It’s kind of the next phase of our looking at our property and all of our facilities to reflect the same heart that we try to reflect in our ministry,” he said.

The new facility will house 50 women and 30 men. They will check in at a concierge desk before entering the sleeping area. The addition of a “respite room” gives people who return from an after-hours job a chance to relax before going to sleep.  

Providence is the latest in a series of improvements that have taken place at Water Street Mission. Three years ago,  the dining facility was renovated to make it brighter and more like a neighborhood cafe. Two years ago,  a new access center was added to make the initial intake process more efficient as well as  make it more inviting to guests. The day shelter has  been upgraded and as have bathrooms and showers in its residential area.

This is the third rendition of the emergency shelter. Crowley explained that the emergency shelter initially consisted of mats on a floor before expanding to the bunk-bed rooms.

He noted that offering guests more personal space is important. Many, he said, have endured trauma in their lives.

“We believe that an environment that communicates dignity is an important first step in building trust and beginning the process of restoration,” Crowley said.