The Rebound Men’s Dormitory at Charlotte Rescue Mission once had a leaky ceiling, deteriorating floors from the 1930s and painted windows that dimmed the natural light.
The Rev. Tony Marciano, executive director of the nonprofit rehab center on West First Street, thought the atmosphere was dark, dingy and depressing. But a $400,000 renovation that will be dedicated on Sunday has given the dorm a bright, fresh look.
Leaks have been repaired, furniture replaced and blue paint scraped off windows.
“Now this place oozes with light,” Marciano said. “We’ve discovered light is very healing.”
Money for the renovation came from anonymous donors, along with gifts from Elevation Church, Matthews United Methodist Church and the Blumenthal Foundation, he said.
The renovation comes at a time when shelters in the community are exploring new ways to get disabled and addicted men and women help as quickly as possible, because they are the most at risk for dying on the streets.
In some cases, those charity programs include rental apartments and using money from disability and veterans benefits. But for many disabled adults, permanent housing is considered the solution, including facilities such as Moore Place and McCreesh Place.
Adults taken into these programs can remain indefinitely as long as they follow guidelines.
Founded in 1938, Charlotte Rescue Mission provides a free 90-day Christian-based residential program for men and women who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Women are housed in a separate facility on West Boulevard called Dove’s Nest.
The men’s dorm houses 151 residents, and the mission provides professional counselors clinically trained in substance abuse.
Marciano said that of the 500 men who come through the program each year, 47 percent graduate and are employable. A year later, 75 percent are still clean. Men who relapse can re-enter the program.
The mission’s first home was on Church Street. But it moved to West First Street in 1960 after purchasing the building from Humble Oil, which in turn had bought the property from Standard Oil.
Standard Oil used the 48,000-square-foot building as the company’s southeast headquarters for a time.
In the 1930s, before air-conditioning, the 4-inch glass block windows with grooves helped control heat. But secretaries complained of the bright light and the windows were painted over, Marciano said.
Removing that paint was “a painstaking process,” he said.
Another part of the renovation was reconfiguring dorm space from a military-style open barracks to roomy quadrangles with four men sharing the space. Walls are 5 feet high, instead of going all the way to the ceiling. The idea, Marciano said, was to create “a community of four guys.”
“When they first come here they feel isolated,” he said. “Now, this brings them together into a community.”
One of the residents, a 27-year-old man named Brian, who came into the program 45 days ago for alcohol problems, said the renovated dormitory was comfortable. He also liked the new living arrangement.
“You’re not all by yourself,” he said. “You have support from other guys who really understand what you’re going through. Now I’m being supportive of newcomers.”
Since coming to the mission, “I’ve gotten a spiritual awakening,” Brian said. “I’m going back to college. I don’t want to be back here ever again.”
Summing up the mission’s work, Marciano said it was about “transformation from the inside out.” And he said the newly renovated dormitory will help accomplish that goal. Staff writer Mark Price contributed to this story.