Shelter to expand

They begin lining up mid-afternoon each day along D Street at Bonanza Road: dozens of the city’s homeless, hoping for a hot meal and a warm bed for the night.

The nearly 40-year-old Las Vegas Rescue Mission accommodates as many of the down-on-their-luck men and women as it can. Sometimes there just isn’t enough room.

“We are at capacity every single night,” said Ken Sprenkle, the mission’s executive director. “We are hurting for space.”

But Sprenkle, who gave up a career in finance a couple of years ago to work at the mission, says things are looking up with a planned expansion breaking ground today.

The 10,700-square-foot expansion will include a new kitchen and new dining, multi-purpose and exercise rooms. It also will give the mission space to add 50 shelter beds to its nightly stock.

It’s a big deal for the faith-based mission that started decades ago as a humble storefront where six local businessmen provided sandwiches and blankets to the homeless.

The mission now covers more than four acres, has a $1.5 million annual budget and houses 180 people each night, about 100 of whom are longer-term residents enrolled in its addiction recovery program. Those in recovery are asked to commit to living at the mission at least a year, do regular chores and save money toward their eventual transition out of homelessness.

The mission’s $2.5 million expansion includes transforming its 50-year-old dining hall into extra emergency shelter space. Funds for the project came from grants and private donations, including a $1 million grant from FHLBank of San Francisco’s affordable housing program.

Sprenkle says the expansion, which he expects to be completed by mid August, is a step in the right direction.

But he and others who work with the homeless say 50 extra beds is really just a drop in the bucket, when you consider that about 11,500 homeless people live in Clark County.

“It’s good to hear we have 50 beds coming by August, when it’s really hot,” said Linda Lera-Randle El, director of the Straight from the Streets homeless outreach program. “But we need thousands more.”

Lera-Randle El said the greatest need is for housing for families and couples, who often must separate to enter traditional shelters.

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