The Niagara Reporter

Religious Organization Takes Big Role In New Look Niagara Falls Economy

The old YMCA is now owned and operated by the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission. Religious organizations are taking a greater and greater role in the traditionally secular world of public policy here, as the city transitions from an economy based on manufacturing and tourism to one based on taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves.

For $325 a month and a $100 deposit, a man can get a 14’ x 8’ single occupancy room, with a built in dresser and a wardrobe closet, in the heart of downtown Niagara Falls, just steps away from the public library and Harry F. Abate Elementary School.

He’d have to agree to shared bathroom and shower facilities, but since many prospective tenants would have been institutionalized previously, this probably wouldn’t be a problem.

He’d also have to agree to not indulge in illegal drugs, get drunk, gamble, look at pornography or use profane language during his stay at what used to be the Niagara Falls Young Men’s Christian Association facility on Portage Road.

The old YMCA was sold and today it is operated by the Niagara Gospel Rescue Missions, a religious organization headed up Shaun Smith.

Smith is providing a valuable service in Niagara Falls. As more and more city residents fall into the common traps of poverty — alcoholism, drug and gambling addictions — they need somewhere to go.

According to Smith, in the fall of 2006, during a conversation with Tom McLaughlin, then Executive Director of the Buffalo City Mission, it became clear that Niagara Falls needed a greater infrastructure of emergency shelter care due to its increasing rate of homelessness and addiction.  The vision was solidified and by the spring of 2007 the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission was formed as a non-profit corporation.

The primary focus of this ministry would be to meet not only the necessary physical needs of the people it serves, but more importantly, address their core spiritual needs by sharing with them God’s purposeful plan for their lives, Smith added.

Starting out with just a mobile RV soup kitchen in 2007, Niagara Gospel Ministry was able to take over a small, unused church at the corner of 22nd and Linwood the next year. In 2010, the organization turned a former rooming house at 1023 Ferry Avenue into a 13-bed homeless shelter and then, in May of this year, the Mission bought the landmark, 110-year-old YMCA building for $1.

A Niagara Falls success story if ever there was one.