In the 1950’s, a woman known only as Miss Ledoux, saw a great need for a mission to aid the homeless in Wichita’s East Douglas district. Working with area merchants and the Christian Business Men’s Committee, Miss Ledoux set out to establish the city’s first homeless shelter.
From modest beginnings and through hard work, the Gospel Service Center opened on September 6, 1950 at 603 East Douglas in downtown Wichita. Martin Moody served as the first board president. Services were held each night with local churches providing the food. The Center had a total of nine beds.
In 1952 the name of the facility was changed to the Union Rescue Mission, Inc. Yielding to pressure from neighboring businesses, the Mission moved in 1954 to a larger facility at 130-132 North St. Francis, where it would remain for 50 years.
A period of remarkable debt-free growth followed which saw the addition of a medical and dental clinic in 1964 and the establishment of a thrift store shortly thereafter. In 1992, the Mission introduced its “New Life Program” (now known as “New Beginnings”) for men who wanted to change their lives. Many broken and destitute men have gained victory over their circumstances and addictions through this Christ-centered residential program.
Throughout its first four decades, the Mission had been exclusively a men’s ministry. But in 1998, the board authorized the purchase of a former rest home in north central Wichita and opened Haven of Hope for women and children in need of a better place to live.
A shortage of space in the downtown facility and a lack of women participants for Haven of Hope prompted the Mission board to re-examine its priorities in 2003. The board made a decision to close the downtown shelter and convert the Haven of Hope to accommodate an all-male population.
Today the Union Rescue Mission’s ministry provides nearly 300 meals every day (95,329 annually), fills more than 42,338 beds (and average of 116 nightly), and distributes upwards of $42,000 in free food and infant care items each year. And hundreds of men have made a saving declaration of Christ’s Lordship in their lives.
The Mission is governed by a 13-member board of directors and derives its funding solely from individuals, churches, businesses and civic groups. It does not accept government funds or United Way allocations.