Rescue Mission Sees More Homeless War Vets

UTICA, Dec. 16, 2009 -- The Rescue Mission of Utica is seeing an increasing number of people experiencing hunger and homelessness for the first time, including war veterans, according to a snapshot survey of 105 rescue missions throughout North America.

“Our food and shelter services are up 30 percent over last year,” reported the Rev. Bill Dodge, executive director of the Rescue Mission. “And 64 percent of people coming to our shelter have never been homeless before. That’s significantly higher than the national trend.”

Rev. Bill Dodge
Rescue Mission of Utica

He said the annual snapshot survey, conducted in October by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, puts the national rate for first-time homeless at 37 percent. The Association, he noted, attributes the rising numbers to soaring unemployment rates and personal financial turmoil.

“We’re grateful that we’ve been able to assist struggling families and individuals, and we are thankful to the community and the people who support us in this time of extraordinary need,” Rev. Dodge said.

Locally, the percentage of war veterans seeking help at the mission rose to 14 percent vs. 10 percent last year, with the vast majority being Vietnam vets. Nationally, the numbers are higher, with veterans comprising 23 percent of the homeless population. Of those homeless veterans, 29 percent served in Vietnam, 16 percent in the Persian Gulf, and 9 percent in Korea.

In other findings, the survey indicates that the overall age of those going to rescue missions is climbing. Those between 46 and 65 make up the highest age-group (38 percent nationally and 46 percent locally). In other words, Rev. Dodge noted, the size of the baby boom generation seems to be reflected in those at the missions.

On any given day, the Rescue Mission of Utica houses 130 people in its addictions crisis center, recovery treatment program, homeless shelter and mental health outreach. In 2008 it provided 5,292 nights of lodging just in its homeless shelter. Through November of 2009, the shelter already surpassed that number, heading to the 6,000 mark. Over the course of each month, the mission works with some 950 individuals by helping with financial budgeting, providing food and clothing, or offering shelter. In the course of the year, the Rescue Mission assists 1,000 men and women in their battle against substance abuse.

Celebrating Christmas
With Poor, Homeless

UTICA – The Rescue Mission of Utica is planning a “festive, family” Christmas dinner for the homeless, for struggling families and for anyone who may be alone on Dec. 25, announced the Rev. Bill Dodge, executive director.

“Everyone is welcome,” he said. “A special invitation is extended to those who might not otherwise have a place to go or the means to prepare a meal. Our goal is to provide a family atmosphere. People in need are often ignored by a bountiful meal and words of kindness in a festive setting are things for which they can be truly thankful.”

They expect to serve 900-1,000 dinners, including hot meals to shut-ins. To have a meal delivered to someone who is homebound, call 735-1645 Ext. 100 no later than noon Dec. 24.

“We are able to make this Christmas meal available through the generosity of our donors and community friends,” the Rev. Dodge said. “Meal sponsorships are accepted in any quantity, at a cost of $2.05 per meal.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring meals may contact the Mission online at, or by calling 735-1645 Ext. 103.

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