McCrory helps dedicate Rescue Mission’s Center for Hope

Feb. 13, 2013 @ 06:39 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday that one of his biggest struggles is “dealing with the breakdown in the system of delivery of services to those desperately in need.”

The governor spoke at the dedication ceremony for the Durham Rescue Mission’s new Center for Hope for homeless and addicted in the area. The $4.5 million center opened less than a month ago on East Main Street, with 88 beds for men, a dining room with a 250-person capacity, and a commercial-grade kitchen.

The Rev. Ernie Mills, who founded the faith-based nonprofit in 1974 with his wife, Gail, said mission leaders are already working on their next project. They’re planning a dormitory-style transitional housing construction project, he said. The building is proposed for East Main Street, near the nonprofit’s church building and center.

McCrory praised Durham Rescue Mission’s leaders for their work.

“We want to use your learning to reach out to other people, and teach us what we all need to do to reach out to all those who are underneath bridges or out on the streets,” the governor said.

The governor said he toured the center with his wife, Ann, who was making her second visit to one of the Durham-based nonprofit’s facilities. She had visited the women and children’s shelter, the Good Samaritan Inn, earlier this year as part of the governor’s inaugural festivities.

The mission has an addiction recovery program, and the governor said a challenge for him and other political leaders is the “terrible cycle of addiction and mental health.”

“I’ve had to make some very, very difficult decisions on how to fix a broken system to get to people who are desperately in need at this point in time, and join the coalitions of people who – the private sector and nonprofits – who really want to help these people, and these people want to help themselves,” he said.

McCrory’s remarks came a day after he announced his opposition to expanding the Medicaid program in the state through the federal health care overhaul. The N.C. House voted 75-39 Wednesday to tentatively approve a bill that would block the expansion, according to The Associated Press, and allow the federal government to operate an online exchange for private health insurance.

In a statement on Tuesday, the governor said that he believes, in light of recent Medicaid audits, that the current system is “broken,” and must be reformed first.

Jeff Shaw, director of communications for the N.C. Justice Center, a progressive advocacy and research organization, said McCrory has a “great opportunity” to not contribute to the breakdown of social structures.

Shaw called for the governor to veto a bill passed by the N.C. General Assembly that would cut unemployment payments and raise business taxes to help speed repayment of $2.5 billion owed to the federal government. Shaw also said that expanding Medicaid would protect half a million state residents and would be a “smart economic decision.”

“On a personal level, I think it’s wonderful that the governor is concerned with mental health and with the impoverished and destitute in North Carolina,” Shaw said, “but to truly address the needs of the poor, we have to recognize that vital public investments are the most effective way to prevent poverty.”

State Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, said not expanding Medicaid is depriving state residents of “much-needed services.” He said that’s part of the reason that he believes that, more and more, services of nonprofits like the Durham Rescue Mission will be necessary.

“In light of what’s (going) on over here, it’s even more important to have operations like the Rescue Mission providing services, because the safety net for the poor, homeless and other people in need is shrinking,” he said.

Woodard also said the Durham Rescue Mission has become a vital part of the community and provides essential services.

He said the Center for Hope offers a more comfortable setting for the community meals that the nonprofit provides at Thanksgiving and Christmas, among other times.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell, who cut the ribbon for the center with McCrory, praised the Durham Rescue Mission as a partner in the city’s revitalization effort in Northeast Central Durham. He said the nonprofit “has never asked for a dollar.”

The dedication also drew supporters of the mission, staff and residents, as well as members of its advisory boards.

Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe attended, and Bucky Waters - sports commentator, retired vice chancellor for development at the Duke University Medical Center, and former Duke basketball head coach – was one of the speakers.

Waters, vice chair of the nonprofit’s development board, spoke about the importance of the nonprofit in helping people overcome addiction. He also said the nonprofit’s programs help save tax dollars.

“It’s not a bed and breakfast,” he said. “Some of the residents tell me it’s (like a) boot camp, with a lot of love.”