Homeless service closes over pipe break; meals moved to partner church

A ruptured sewer pipe forced a Lexington group that serves the homeless and the poor to shut its doors Thursday during one of the coldest weeks in some time.

The Lexington Rescue Mission's outreach center on Glen Arvin Avenue will be closed the rest of the week and possibly next week.

But it will offer its meals next week at a partner church, mission staff said Thursday.

The mission will serve meals from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Embrace Church, 1015 North Limestone. Embrace also will serve as a drop-in center from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday for people who need clothes and other assistance.

The nonprofit mission, which opened in 2001, discovered the sewage problem at its outreach center on Glen Arvin Avenue because of a broken toilet.

Jim Connell, executive director and founder of the mission, said "the pipe had basically disintegrated. We're looking at a very costly repair that will take several days to a week to a complete."

The mission typically serves 400 to 450 meals a week to homeless and needy people. With temperatures holding in the low teens this week, the mission's closure is ill-timed, Connell said.

"This couldn't have happened at a worse time, during a cold snap when our clients, many of whom are homeless and hungry, really need us," he said.

In addition to providing meals, the nonprofit provides rent, clothing and medical care. According to numbers provided by the mission, in 2014 it served 42,006 meals, provided free clothing to 600 people, gave emergency rent and utility assistance to 162 people, and provided free medical care to 444 uninsured people.

Other groups also provide meals, warming centers and/or 24-hour shelters. The city's cold weather plan calls for those warming and 24-hour centers to be open through Friday.

Lighthouse Ministries on Elm Tree Lane will continue to serve meals at noon and at 1 p.m. and might add a 2 p.m. meal if there is need, said Charlie Lanter, director of the city's Office of Homeless Prevention and Intervention. The Hope Center, Lexington's largest homeless shelter, also serves a noon meal.

Lanter said preliminary numbers showed about 500 people stayed overnight Wednesday at the city's shelters — the Hope Center, the Salvation Army and the Community Inn. That is an increase from December and November. For example, Hope Center reported 232 people at its shelter in November compared to housing 260 Wednesday night, Lanter said.