Special Reports

A beacon of hope for people in need

A visiting evangelist named Gypsy Smith inspired the first Tacoma Rescue Mission.

Smith, a traveling preacher from England, held a 17-day revival meeting here in 1911. The event drew crowds and made front-page news. His sermons criticized churches for “coddling saints,” while the devil’s work continued apace on the city’s mean streets.

Smith’s preaching moved Tacoma churches and business leaders to join forces in 1912 to open a shelter for the city’s transients, where they could find food and spiritual nourishment.

Over the years, the mission operated at several locations, including 14th Street, Broadway and Pacific Avenue. This last location was purchased by the mission in 1939. The mission was to remain there for 62 years.

Following years of negotiations with the City of Tacoma, the mission moved in 2001 to its current location on South Tacoma Way.

The new building, known as New Life Square, offers emergency shelter, a substance-abuse rehab program, adult education, counseling, the Good Neighbor Cafe and other services, all delivered in the context of the organization’s Christian mission.

During the fiscal year that ended in June, New Life Square served more than 150,000 meals, accepted 101 men and women into its rehab program and taught an average of 52 students a month in its Challenge Learning Services program, which offers GED and job preparation classes along with other basic literacy and math skills.

The building’s architectural hallmark is a lighthouse, symbolizing a beacon of hope.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635