Durham Rescue Mission opens new center in style

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:08 PM

When 41-year-old Demetrius Porter thought about being able to sleep in a bed Wednesday night instead of on a concrete floor, his face lit up.

The quality of life for Porter and dozens of other homeless men changed dramatically Wednesday, when the Durham Rescue Mission opened its $4.5 million Center for Hope.

The center, next to the Christian shelter’s church building on East Main Street, has been a dream of the mission’s founder for years.

That dream came true with the recent completion of the building, which has beds for 88 men, a large dining room with a 12-foot television screen and a commercial grade kitchen.

It was a night to remember as more than 100 people with empty stomachs but full of hope for the future were treated to sirloin steaks, fried chicken, free haircuts and big-screen entertainment provided by the Duke-Wake Forest basketball game.

Until Wednesday, many homeless men at the shelter had to sleep on the floor, because there weren’t enough beds.

“The only thing I can say about sleeping on the floor is that every night, I knew I had something to look forward to,” Porter said.

Porter has been in and out of the Rescue Mission and on and off drugs and alcohol for the past 10 years. But this time, he believes, he’s clean for good.

“When I saw the new building, I was like: ‘I’ve got to be a part of this’,” he said. “It’s time for me to stick and stay.”

“What I’m learning here is how to be a man,” he said. “It’s time to put away childish things.”

Another shelter resident, 21-year-old Jeremy Broughton of Roxboro, was on the street until he found the mission a month ago.

“I was doing a lot of drugs,” he said. “I didn’t eat much food.”

His identical-twin brother, Josh, came to the mission a year ago, and Jeremy saw how the experience changed his life for the better.

“He’s been trying to get me to come here, because he knew about the drugs and that I wasn’t doing well with my life,” he said. “I saw a lot of positive changes in my brother, and so I decided to come here.”

Jeremy has been clean for a month, and said his life is now full of joy.

“This place is just working a miracle in me,” he said. “Out there, I wasn’t concerned about anybody. But here, I love everybody, and I’m trying to fix my life.”

The Rev. Ernie Mills and his wife, Gail, founded the mission in 1974. It offers long-term shelter, counseling and vocational training to an average of 350 men, women and children each day.

They expect the Center for Hope to live up to its name.

“I am just overwhelmed at how nice the building is, and how the donors wanted to make it nice for the homeless,” Ernie said.

Mills said he often thinks of his father when reflecting on the center’s main purpose.

“My dad was an alcoholic and a sharecropper,” he said. “And we want to treat the homeless like I would want to treat my dad. That’s what we want to do.”