Salvation Army's emergency shelter help 'invaluable' for man who had no home, no income

Michael Leggett works on chores at the Salvation Army shelter in Quincy. Leggett is leaving the shelter after an extended stay to live with family in Fort Madison, Iowa. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: May. 25, 2013 9:46 pm Updated: Jun. 9, 2013 2:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Michael Leggett is walking, talking proof the services provided by the Salvation Army can change a person's life, especially when it comes to helping with emergency shelter and related needs.

Leggett never dreamed he would find himself left with absolutely nothing and homeless.

There was a divorce, coupled with two spinal surgeries and additional health problems that relegated him to a situation where he was unable to work and without insurance. Finally, he had a nervous breakdown.

For a while, he lived with family members, but the inability to work or earn any income strained those relationships.

There was literally nowhere for him to turn for assistance.

"I had no home, no income," Leggett said.

A friend mentioned the Salvation Army.

"The help I got there was invaluable," Leggett said.

The story of Michael Leggett -- and others like him -- will be celebrated Thursday with the formal dedication of the new Salvation Army John Gardner Stevenson Emergency Shelter and Family Services Center at 501 Broadway.

The 4 p.m. dedication will recognize key donors and local organizations that helped make the $2.08 million project a reality. The site actually opened March 22, but Thursday's dedication will allow the community to come together and celebrate the new center that has allowed the Salvation Army to combine its shelter and family services into one building, rather than at two sites on opposite ends of town.

"Not every (Salvation Army) location has a shelter, let alone one that is as unique as this," said Maj. Andy Miller. "This is the only shelter within 100 miles of Quincy that provides for families, single men and single women." Miller, along with his wife, Maj. Cheryl Miller, oversee operations at The Salvation Army's Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

Delivering the dedicatory address on Thursday will be Lt. Col. Richard VanderWeele of the Salvation Army's territorial headquarters in Chicago.

"We are fortunate to have both the (family services and emergency shelter) facilities coming together," Miller said. "To be able to combine both is more economical as well as (practical). We're very proud of this."

Leggett was one of the first to experience assistance at the new site. He said the Salvation Army helped him reorganize his life, get a medical card and worked with him to get the compensation for his disability he was entitled to from the state.

For the first time in a long time, there was a horizon in Leggett's future.

"It's hard to find a new career at 55," but he is optimistic and is now working toward that.

Leggett formerly worked at an Iowa correctional institute and owned his own business on the side. He now is in the early stages of putting together a new career and lifestyle.

"I feel like my life is heading in the right direction again," Leggett said. "It is a great feeling."

He plans on returning at some point to help out at the Salvation Army, either as a volunteer or in some other capacity -- a sort of pay-it-forward effort to say "thank you."

"The people at the Salvation Army helped me tremendously," Leggett said.

The new Salvation Army facility came in under the original $2.2 million budget. The renovated building formerly housed the Inman Gallery.

"The efficiency in operation this new facility will provide will be tremendous," said Chad Rodgers, local Salvation Army director of operations who oversees both the new Emergency Shelter and Family Services site and the nearby Kroc Center.

Rodgers said it will be easier to use the combined resources of the two sites. The Kroc Center, which houses other Salvation Army services, programs and offices, sits just southwest of the Emergency Shelter and Family Services site.

The new building had been in the planning stages since 2008.

The emergency shelter area of the renovated building can house up to 16 people with rooms specifically dedicated to single men, single women and families. The building also houses the Salvation Army's family services operation and food pantry.

During their stay, residents of the shelter are required to look for a job if they are unemployed, to save money to move into a place of their own, and to meet with a caseworker on a regular basis.

The goal of the shelter is to provide a comfortable, safe environment for the residents who are in transition. Meals, laundry facilities, phone calls and other needed items are all provided for those staying in the shelter. A normal stay in the shelter is 30 days, but could be longer or shorter, depending on the client's situation.

The shelter serves the greater Adams County area plus any transients who have come to the community and found themselves in a homeless situation.

The emergency shelter and the family services offices had been in leased buildings far removed from each other. The Family Services Center most recently was operating out of the former Adams County Health Department at Sixth and Broadway.

The emergency shelter had been on Quincy University's North Campus at 18th and Seminary Road. Buses were used to assist people to the shelter, about 2 1/2 miles from the downtown offices.

Maas Construction was the principal contractor for the new facility, which measures 9,960 square feet and was the second major undertaking for the Salvation Army in two years. It follows the construction of the $24.5 million, 98,000-square-foot Kroc Center, which opened in September 2011.

When construction of the new facility began last fall, there was still money that needed to be raised -- about $250,000. Donations covered the needed gap, and there were no delays in the project.

The project was made possible through available Salvation Army funds, private and civic donations to a 2011 fundraising campaign, and a loan for an undisclosed amount.

None of the money that was available for construction of the Kroc Center could be used for the shelter and family services center project. According to the terms of Joan Kroc's designated bequest, no Kroc dollars may be used for direct service to clients, such as food, clothing or shelter, or for construction of transitional housing or emergency shelters.

For more information about the new Salvation Army facility, contact Chad Rogers at (217) 233-5630 or Heidi Welty at (217) 222-8655.