Niagara Falls Reporter
Home | Archive / Search
APR 14 - APR 21, 2015

The YMCA building Given to Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission; Now What?

April 14, 2015

The dining room where three meals a day will be served.

Please click on the images below to see a larger image.
One of the racquet ball courts is planned to be the homeless dorm.
The completely refurbished kitchen will have the capacity to serve 1000’s of meals per week.
This racquet ball court will be converted into a dormitory for homeless men.
Large, mostly empty spaces in the Y will be put to use. This room will be the dining room.
At Christmas and Thanksgiving the Mission delivers thousands of free meals.
Volunteers gather to help prepare and deliver holiday meals - a gift to the community from Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission
Shaun Smith of the Rescue Mission says a prayer.
The Mission offers families food packages.
The building has 56 single occupancy rooms which will be rented.
Side view of building.
Aerial view of the location - blue dot marks building.
The facade of the YMCA building.

It’s happened.

There is a signed contract between the Niagara Falls Family YMCA and the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission to sell the four story brick building, located at 1317 Portage Road, that housed the YMCA in Niagara Falls since 1923.
If the closing date is met the Y will stop taking members in May and close in June.

The sales price for the 30,000 square foot building is "one dollar".

While save-the-Y-organizers are out getting petitions to keep the Y open (and there were 600 signors as of Monday night) trying to stop the sale, the contract is signed and is binding.

The Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission has plans for the building and have spent more than $10,000 in pre-closing planning and design.
According to sources familiar with the situation, the YMCA has been trying to sell or give away their building for more than a year, unsuccessfully courting buyers who, after inspecting the distressed property, passed on the opportunity of assuming the liability of the potentially obsolete building.

It was Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster who apparently made the introductions to a director of the Rescue Mission and a YMCA Director.
The people who want to save the Y should be clear that the Y wanted to close. They planned it well in advance.

The Niagara Falls Reporter spoke at length with the Executive Director of the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission, Shaun Smith, to hear his plans.
Smith was quick to say he is not an ordained minister and founded the mission for rescue work on the streets.

About eight years ago the Mission acquired a property on 1023 Ferry Avenue and began serving meals, holding Chapel services and providing a homeless shelter for men.

During the first eight years Smith never took a salary. He supported himself as a photographer with a studio in Buffalo. He lives in the Town of Niagara.
Starting this year, Smith will make his photography business a part time venture and become a paid, full time director of the Mission as it transitions into its new home on Portage Ave.

Smith is familiar with building maintenance and construction. He has built homes and knows what's needed at the old Y building. Ideally Smith says he hopes to raise and spend around a million dollars to repurpose the Y to what his Mission needs.

And Smith put it on the record - recorded with his permission - that the Rescue Mission will not take taxpayer money to renovate the property.
"We aren't seeking taxpayer money from the city, the state, the federal government, casino cash or anything. I'm a Tea Party type of guy. We want to be a blessing to this community not a burden."

Smith said the Christian Community makes contributions.

Smith said his board has plans in the works to get a non- governmental - no taxpayer money involved - Christian-centered grant, and that, along with fund raising efforts, suggest the plan is near financed.

Since the YMCA seems likely to be no more in the building, residents might care to learn what Smith plans.

"The plan is to offer food, shelter, daily chapel services, and residential life-recovery ministry," Smith said. The plan in more detail is this:



The Mission will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner every day to anyone who comes there. No one is turned away and one does not have to demonstrate poverty or produce ID, but there is a requirement that before dining guests must attend a half hour service at the Chapel.

According to design plans the dining room appears to be able to seat more than 150. Cognizant of the fact that there will be an extra group of 100 or more coming and going at meal times, Smith said the Mission's policy is to forbid congregating outside their doors.



On the third and fourth floors of the YMCA building there are 56 single occupancy rooms on average about 14' by 8' - with bathroom facilities down the hall.

Up until recently the Y had all 56 rooms rented mainly through referrals from social services.

When the Y made plans to sell the building, the board stopped taking in lodgers.

There are about a half dozen holdover lodgers who pay about $300 a month in rent.

The Mission plans to refurbish the rooms and rent them just as the Y did, renting them to those in need of inexpensive lodging.

Most lodgers, Smith expects, will be referred to them by the Dept of Social Services.

The Mission does not collect an extra stipend for taking these tenants.

The Mission charges rent, and while not taking government subsidies, the Mission will not refuse a person who is on welfare, provided they abide by the rules of the Mission. "We’re looking forward to carrying on the YMCA’s tradition of Christian community stewardship in the Niagara Falls Community through the single room occupancy program,” said Smith. “Our ministry can add value through compassion focused programs such as our daily dinnertime chapel services, Christ-centered 12-Step recovery programs, open Bible studies, and even special movie nights that are family-friendly. All of this with the goal of helping people to see their God-given potential in life – that they have great value and can be delivered from life’s toughest struggles and find freedom to live productive and contributing lives through Jesus Christ.”



The Mission's plan is to convert one of the racquet ball courts into a homeless shelter - dormitory style  - for about 20 men.

While the Mission could collect somewhere around $70 per night as a fee from the County for taking in homeless people referred by Social Services, Smith said the Mission declines the fee, but does take in people referred to them without charging the taxpayers. "That is not what this Mission is about," Smith said. "If we accepted money from the county, it would be a source of revenue and not a mission to help people change their lives. The vision the Mission has for the facility is for it to be a place where the local church and community can come together to love and serve people in need or at greatest risk, which is a growing population in Niagara Falls.

With plans to repurpose the YMCA building into a state-of-the-art facility, the Mission wants to create opportunities to collaborate with other service providers.

 “We would also like to set aside a portion of the building for creative social enterprise, create living-wage jobs, and job training designed to blend in with future economic development within Niagara Falls. Small businesses can also help create sustainable income for the Mission and become a win-win for all,” added Smith.

Other ideas include running Christ-centered activities such as AWANA (Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed), an athletic programs for at-risk children and youth in the gymnasium, helping to keep them off the streets.
The mission plans to close the pool since it does not fit in with the Mission's plan and "they are expensive to operate and maintain," Smith said.

The Mission is supported primarily through donations of individuals and over 30 local churches throughout WNY.

Supporters of the YMCA have called upon the city taxpayers to keep the YMCA open. However YMCA CEO Olin B. “Buddy” Campbell Jr. said that the building and its operations posted $450,000 in losses for the past five years.
About 30 members of Save the Y attended a recent council meeting to champion the Y's virtues in youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Council member Kristen Grandinetti said the city can assist in outreach but financial support will not be an option.

 Regardless of that, it appears to be a dead issue.

 The Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission is moving forward with their plans; the YMCA has wished to quit the building for some time, and the city council doesn't seem to desire to put the burden on city taxpayers to keep the facility open.

More importantly, the mayor himself brokered the deal that made the gifting of the building to the Rescue Mission possible.

There is no will from city officials to undertake the expenses of an organization that, operating for nearly 100 years, gave up the Ghost here.

(Next week, the Reporter plans to publish an interview with Shaun Smith giving his plans and his timetable in greater detail and explaining his philosophy of caring in Christian terms and how people either in need or who wish to help can get involved.)





Kicking Cahill to the Curb Now Beginning to Compute Dyster Getting his Reelection Ducks in a Row
Boy Wonder Undercoffer Leaves Council Secretary Position Dyster Getting Reelection Ducks in a Row.
Republican Newcomer Tompkins Running Along With Price for Council
Skurka to Speak on Shroud of Turin: Is it Real or Ruse?
Facebook Provides Trip Down Memory Lane for Falls Residents
Dyster to Raise Gay Pride flag In Ceremony at City Hall
Now it Can be Said: Dyster Sold Negligent Council a Lot of Garbage
A Week in Stupid Politics
Promoter Crogan Gearing Up For Arts & Music Festival Here
A Regal Entrepreneur Joe Calato Made His Mark in the Universal World of Drums and Drummers
Aquarium Project to Cost $15 Million; Penguins Simply Couldn't Care Less
The YMCA Building Given to Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission; Now What?
Virtuoso Announces Run For 13th Term on County Legislature
Lewiston Democrats Name Town Justices Sheeran and Gee as 'Citizens of the Year' Justices will be honored, Sunday April 26, at Country Club Bruncheon
ECC President Quinn Was Finalist for Partnership Job
Brochey Undecided About Running for Reelection, Lewiston Supervisor May Run for Highway Superintendent
Retired FBI Fire Arms Instructor Claims 'Armor Piercing Ammo' Bans as Ploy to Disarm and Strip Citizens' Second Amendment Rights OUR CONSTITUTION AND THE UNTOLD TRUTH
County Subsidy to Failing ECC Falls Short of Mark
Only in North Tonawanda
This Week in Stupid Crime
Pigeon Takes Flight for Hillary; Walter to Carry GOP Banner
Letters to the Editor
City Hall Jokes

Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina