With a long tradition of service and compassion toward the poor, the Rescue Mission has become an integral part of the Milwaukee community. According to the Mission’s Web site, it yearly reaches 300 of the neediest children in Milwaukee and provides shelter for 200 men daily. Last year, the Rescue Mission sheltered nearly 1,000 women and children.When asked about the true aim of the Milwaukee Rescue’s Mission, Executive Director Pat Vanderburgh simply replied that the Mission provides necessities and “wants to give people direction.”
Although simplistically stated, this goal is much more intricate than it appears. The Mission and its staff work tirelessly to give spiritual and material help to the homeless and poor of Milwaukee.
They currently operate three different programs: Safe Harbor, a men’s shelter; Joy House, an emergency shelter for women and their children and Cross Trainers, a tutoring program for children and a brand new school.
Safe Harbor is the Rescue Mission’s oldest and most traditional program. In the winter, it has the capacity to offer 250 men emergency shelter, said Vanderburgh. The Mission also offers a long-term residential program, which lasts 18 months. For the first year, men receive educational support and job training. Then the Rescue Mission helps find residents a permanent job, as well as transitional housing.
Joy House is for single mothers with children. Typically, women are at the Rescue Mission for four to eight weeks, said Vanderburgh. They usually spend at least two weeks taking classes in money management and other life skills. The Rescue Mission is unique because they let mothers and grandmothers keep their children with them during their stay.
Cross Trainers is the Mission’s newest program. According to the Mission’s Web site, it began as a tutoring program for children in the surrounding neighborhoods who are an average of one to two grade levels behind other children their age.
Volunteers work with children and teenagers to raise their grade level, as well as inspire them with the desire to achieve. This is with a program in which Marquette students commonly volunteer.
Recently, the Rescue Mission began its own choice school, Cross Trainers Academy. The school currently houses kindergarten, first and second grades. The Mission does have plans, however, to add third grade to its curriculum and possibly more grades after that, said Vanderburgh.
The Rescue Mission continues to grow and develop after roughly 110 years in existence, as a result of its dedicated and caring staff.
Cross Trainer’s Tutoring Coordinator, Brittany Vilar, shared that in her experience, the children “just need someone to love them and be consistent with them. The tutors are important because they show the children that someone cares.” The volunteers, as well as the staff, are essential to the purpose and goal of the Mission. They make it what it is.
Today the Rescue Mission is known and recognized for its service to the Milwaukee community through hope and compassion. What was born out of a challenge to local Christian businessmen in 1893 has grown to become Milwaukee’s largest homeless shelter.