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Fayette charity on a mission

| Saturday, May 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Gallatin School Living Centre in Uniontown provides a bridge between emergency shelter and permanent housing.
Gallatin School Living Centre in Uniontown provides a bridge between emergency shelter and permanent housing.

Spring is more than halfway over, and several nonprofit organizations throughout the area are planning their summer fundraisers, including City Mission in Fayette County.

Serving more than 500 homeless families/individuals annually, City Mission's purpose is to provide comprehensive housing options along with support services to the homeless of Fayette County.

“Our housing programs range from emergency shelter to permanent housing,” said Irmi Gaut, director of the mission. “City Mission is dedicated to providing a warm, homelike atmosphere for all who pass through our doors, treating each one with compassion, dignity and respect.

Because City Mission is almost entirely funded through grants, the organization holds several annual fundraisers, which include a food-drive in March/April every year and a 5K Run/Walk. This race, called the Main Street Classic 5K Run/Walk for the Homeless is held in mid-August every year.

This year, the race is scheduled for Aug. 17 in downtown Uniontown. In addition to the race, the event will include a Chinese auction and a Kids Race with prizes and medals for the winners.

Registration can be completed online at or

City Mission began as a ministry of a local Uniontown church in the early 1980s. The church purchased the mission's first building at 226 E. Fayette St. and began serving homeless men.

Staffed with only volunteers, the shelter ministry was supported by the rental of two upstairs apartments, but after a few years, the organization realized that if it was to be truly effective in assisting homeless people in successfully transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency, it would need to be able to secure funds from a broader base.

City Mission then applied for and received its 501(c)(3) status which enabled them to pursue funding from state and federal sources, as well as private foundations.

With the donation of a building from Third Presbyterian Church in Uniontown in 1996, City Mission was able to begin providing shelter services to homeless women and their children.

Gaut said that shortly thereafter, the organization received a large grant which provided for extensive renovations to the men's shelter and doubled the size of the women's facility. It enabled City Mission to hire its first professional staff of social workers.

After a major capital campaign from 1996 to 1998, City Mission completed the rehabilitation of the former historic Gallatin School building at 155 N. Gallatin Ave. and converted it to the Gallatin School Living Centre — a 30-unit housing and service complex that provides transitional housing (housing up to two years) for formerly homeless families.

Gaut said this project alone doubled the size of the organization, which represented a significant step forward in City Mission's ability to truly meet the needs of homeless people, and placed the former school on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2002, City Mission, working with other local service providers, spearheaded a campaign to design and build a shelter for homeless youth. This program, called Home Again, provides housing and services to youths 12 to 17.

“The program serves runaway or homeless youth, youth placed by Children & Youth Services out of situations of abuse or neglect, children needing respite care placed by the Office of Mental Health, and children placed through the Juvenile Probation Office,” Gaut said.

Since 2007, City Mission has worked to develop eight units of permanent supportive housing — housing designed for people transitioning to permanent housing, but who need support services linked to their housing. Liberty Park Apartments, which has four units, opened in 2007; Sycamore Hills, which also has four units, opened in 2011.

City Mission still maintains the Men's Shelter, which has beds for 21 homeless single men. Clients are allowed up to a 60-day stay and help from an on-site social worker.

The Women's Shelter has beds for as many as 16 women/children up to a 60-day stay and help from an on-site social worker. All food, transportation and hygiene items are provided.

Home Again focuses on family reunification. If that's not possible, youths may stay up to two years.

Gallatin School Living Centre, which features 30 units of transitional housing for up to two years, provides a bridge between emergency shelter and permanent housing and comprises both housing and a rigorous program of services, including case management, property management, life skills and transportation. Clients are required to participate, and the program deals with root causes of homelessness.

Recently, City Mission embarked on a major capital campaign over a two-year period.

“The projects we want to complete include replacing both shelter roofs, completing some upgrades to the Gallatin School Living Centre, developing six additional units of permanent supportive housing designated as Stone Ridge Apartments, and developing and expanding existing services to youth to include youth ages 18-21.”

Gaut said they are still trying to raise funds for this project and finalize a site location.

“City Mission is more than just an agency providing housing and social services,” Gaut said. “We see our role as coming alongside the people we serve and helping to make their lives brighter and more hopeful.

City Mission can always use help from the community for items needed daily at the different shelters, including toiletry items, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent and fundraising in general to help support our shelter operations.

Donations are needed and welcomed at any time. Donations can be made via its website at, by calling its offices at 724-439-0201, or by mail to City Mission-Living Stones Inc., 155 N. Gallatin Ave., Uniontown, PA 15401.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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