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Jamestown’s Union Gospel Mission is being transformed into something new and it’s back in the business of saving lives.
UCAN City Mission at 7 W. First Street, just off Main, will carry on the work, begun more than four decades ago as the Union Gospel Mission by the late and much loved Rev. John Steinhouser. The United Christian Advocacy Network, UCAN, will operate under the direction of Jim Quattrone in addition to his regular duties as Chautauqua County Deputy Sheriff.
“Our mission is the same as Reverend Steinhouser’s was. In our words, it is, ‘Reaching the least, the last and the lost,’” Quattrone said.
The mission will offer temporary housing in rooms for up to 17 homeless men, including two specially designated veteran’s rooms, and a wide range of counseling and re-training programs.
Helping Hands to the Rescue
“We had a soft opening on May 7th. More than 120 people came by to see what was happening,” Quattrone said. “This has been a community effort to renovate and revitalize the mission. I was pleasantly surprised by the support from businesses, churches, Mayor Teresi and County Executive Vince Horrigan. They have been awesome to work with. They are also helping us obtain grants to fix the exterior of the building. This building is about 160 years old.”
“Every year we donate one major community fixup project somewhere in western New York,” said Rod Jones, manager of the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store in Jamestown. “And this year it was the Mission.”
Jones pulled together a work crew from as far away as Wellsville and Olean, as well as Lakewood, along with retired local finishing contractor Stan Culver, to paint, dry-wall and repair “…just about anything that needed it. Local BOCES staff was a huge help, too.”
Building Almost Lost
After the Union Gospel Mission was dissolved, according to Quattrone, the historic, 160-year-old structure almost fell to a “reverter clause.” In 1945, the city signed the building over to a mission under the condition that it would go back to city ownership if it ceased to be a rescue mission.
“Jamestown was glad to welcome us,” Quattrone said. “Besides, they did not want to own any more real estate with a lot of old plumbing, heating and electrical issues. Private and church donations and foundation grants made it all possible. The Johnson foundation started with the seed money to get it going and then a number of others followed suit.”
The Mission’s Mission
“The biggest challenge we face on a daily basis is that men who come here are in crisis mode,” explained Scott Linden, the Mission’s program director. Linden is new to the area, having recently completed his Master’s Degree studies at Clark Summit University near Scranton, PA.
“Getting them calmed down, just one step at a time, just putting one foot in front of the other, is job-one. We don’t have to solve every problem in the first hour,” Linden said. “We offer them a peaceful place to work with somebody who cares, a safe place among brothers who are willing to help. They show up unsure what to do next.”
“It can be a tough decision even to enter this building,” Linden added. “They have to face the issue, ‘Is this what my life has come to?’”
We want to represent the good news that there is help. That is, after all, what the word Gospel means: good news. Sometimes it takes a step of faith even to ask for or accept help. Linden also freely shares that he has come through addiction recovery himself. He brings peer counseling and mentoring to the table, a proven advantage in the work of UCAN and MHA (Mental Health Association) at the Gateway Center where UCAN will also continue to collaborate.
UCAN Mission will offer anything from an “in-and-out” of the weather, overnight stay, up to short-term, mid-term, and long-term – probably 30, 60, and 90 day – programs. “That’s just the nature of this type of ministry” Linden said.
“We are in the business of helping people in whatever way they were struggling. This is now an adult male rescue mission and we are laser focused on that,” Linden added with an obvious passion for the work. “Men need to leave here in a better condition than they arrived.”
“We have rules and regulations,” Linden explained. “Some of these guys are used to doing whatever, wherever, and whenever with no structure in their lives and we have to help them recover some of that. Accountability is crucial. It makes everyone feel safer.”
“If someone comes in ‘under the influence’ of alcohol, drugs or whatever, we cannot admit them. That’s why we have the word ‘network’ in our name, United Christian Advocacy Network. We send them on to the newly developing and growing WCA program. We can then welcome them back and work with them when they are straight and sober. We have been trained in the use of Narcan at MHA, and will be ready if necessary, but it is not a standard part of our program here.”
The mission’s doors are open 24/7. But between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. entering and leaving are regulated with a locked door.
“We provide a simple breakfast, something like cereal and bagels, depending on what has been provided for us in donations. We also have evening meals provided by St. Susan,” Quattrone said. “They send over excellent hot food. A couple of local markets and restaurants also share day-end or day-old produce, baked goods and food with us. They are very good to us.”
It is a Christian principle to ‘bear each other’s burdens’ and we are here in that spirit,” Linden said. “We will have one weekly meeting of a traditional AA or NA 12-step type program. It is called All Addictions Anonymous. There will also be Life Recovery, We Believe and Clean-Sober-and-Saved programs which are Biblically-based.”
The day at UCAN City Mission begins for residents in the chapel and then moves to life skills, employability, financial counseling and anger counseling if those are needed. Relationship, reconciliation and peacemaking skill-building programs are also provided. These programs will be for the residents, but are also open to the general public and community oriented.
“The National Association of Gospel Rescue Missions establishes best practices for care of the homeless,” Quattrone said. “And we, like Rev. Steinhouser was before us, are a member. They respond to us within minutes to answer any question. They have also assigned us an experienced, professional coach for site visits, training of our board and myself, as executive director. It is an exceptionally strong network.”
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is a close-knit community of people who do what we do all across the country,” Linden added.
The Big Question
“I was arresting people as a sheriff, but there was really very little I could do for them beyond that,” Quattrone admitted. “I wanted to do more.”
Quattrone’s commitment to answering his own question began in 2007 when he studied with Chuck Colson in his Prison Fellowship Ministry, the Centurion’s Program. “Chuck Colson showed me that crime and homelessness are often about a person’s physical and mental needs. Sometimes meeting those needs has to come before they can have a better spiritual outlook and a healthier world view. When Jesus fed the 5,000, after all, he didn’t ask for a ‘membership card’ before he fed them.”
We have a board of more than a dozen well-known and respected community leaders that oversees us,” Quattrone explained. “And we are established as a 501(c)(3) corporation, contribution funded and grant supported. We are relying on people’s good hearts and financial support and gifts of products, furnishings and time.
The United Christian Advocacy Network has an ambitious plan to provide in partnership with area churches and the local community, a Transitional Community Resource Center and temporary/emergency housing in Chautauqua County to promote life-style changes with a Biblically centered ministry through mentoring, counseling, pro-social role modeling and the discipline of accountability.