MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - After nearly a decade of planning, a new Memphis Union Mission facility is breaking ground.
It's the Mission's largest project in its over 70 years of operation.
Leaders at Memphis Union Mission said the Bluff City is a giving town. The nearly $20 million they were able to raise to start building a new facility and serve the city's homeless and at risk is proof of that.
"To now be able to break ground on this thanks to the generosity of the city is a huge blessing,"Union Mission Director of Development Steve Carpenter said.
The Mission started a capital campaign back in 2012, but the search for more room started back in 2009.
Tuesday, the Mission broke ground on Phase 1, the largest of the three phases, of the project.
That will include the construction of a new building right next to its existing Poplar Avenue location with, among other things, a new kitchen and cafeteria, showers, classrooms and 114 new beds for the city's homeless.
Phase 1 will take about a year. When all three phases are complete, there will be 300 new beds.
"We very quickly fill up the beds at that facility," Carptener said. "We have to use floor mats. So we want to get to the point where we have a bed for people."
The Mission also has programs for recovering drug addicts. The annual Point in Time census and survey of the country's homeless population reports Shelby County's homeless numbers decreased significantly over the last six years.
But last year, about 1,500 were trying to use the city's shelters at night.
Carpenter said about 3,000 people use the Mission's services every year.
"For many years, every year now, the demand for our services continue to go up," Carpenter said.