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Transforming Lives in Jacksonville with the Trinity Rescue Mission

By S. Mathur

The Trinity Rescue Mission (TRM) was founded by the Trinity Baptist Church in 1962 on Bay Street, right across from the bus stop in downtown Jacksonville. This was where homeless arrived, fleeing the cold of the northern states.

Executive Director Rick Denny says, "Local homeless persons congregated around the bus station and transient homeless persons from northern states often took the bus to Jacksonville to flee bitter cold weather. The church saw it as its mission to feed, house and minister to persons there who had no home. Today, Trinity Rescue Mission is its own independent non-profit organization, although Trinity Baptist Church continues as one of our greatest supporters."

Since that time, like similar groups across the country, the TRM has seen the problems of homelessness and hunger increase. The causes have changed too, says Denny, "Mental illness, crime, economic factors, addiction and immigration issues are just a few of the many factors that contribute to homeless and huger. I can say with confidence that the issues causing homelessness and impacting the homeless are so much more complicated today than when Trinity Rescue Mission started."

The help that TRM provides begins with emergency housing and food, but it does not end there. Denny explains that "For an emergency services guest at Trinity Rescue Mission, immediate help is often found by the provision of basic human needs: a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, a hot shower and a fresh change of clothes. Hundreds of homeless and hungry people get these services every week at TRM on a night-to-night basis.

However, Trinity Rescue Mission sees the meeting of basic human needs as the starting point and not the ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is to build relationships with the people we serve to earn their trust and work with them in solving the complex problems which contribute to their homelessness. We do this with love and compassion."

To help people get back on their feet, TRM's Lifeline programs help them to deal with such problems as drug addiction, criminal justice system issues and health or mental issues. Grounded in religious faith, the Lifeline program "gives people the opportunity to apply spiritual principles in their lives, while at the same time hitting the "reset button" of life and start over in a whole new way," says Denny. Transitional housing is also offered to support to those seeking to change their lives. There is a separate Women & Children's Center, while single homeless men can stay at the mission.

The Freedom Farm Program was started in 1970 for men seeking to deal with their addiction problems. The rehabilitation program, located on a 52-acre working farm, has been very successful. Denny is justifiably proud of their achievements: "Our graduates from Freedom Farm are amazing. It is incredible sometimes as we look at our graduates re-enter the workforce or community and think back to how they presented at the mission on their very first night of emergency services. There are no better examples of the life transformation that takes place at TRM than our farm graduates. In fact, we are posting grad video profiles this month on our Facebook Page...you should check them out!"

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