Dubuque Rescue Mission: Serving the hungry and the homeless

Recently I had an opportunity to interview Rick Mihm, Executive Director of the Dubuque Rescue Mission, about the facility’s ministries for the hungry and the homeless in the area.

The mission has been in existence since 1932; Mihm is currently starting his twelfth year as its director. Feeding the hungry is their largest ministry: they provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day to men, women, and children. “We serve about 220 people a day,” said Mihm.

The mission also provides overnight accommodations for up to 32 men. Residents can stay for up to four months at a time. “If they are unemployed we work with them to find employment,” Mihm said. “If they’re unemployed they have to give 15-16 hours a week for their room and board … They’re assigned to help in the kitchen, mopping, dishwashing, serving, cleaning, cutting vegetables … or they’re assigned to custodial work upstairs … or assigned to the garden … or the stores. The rest of their time is to be spent looking for employment, going to appointments, going to mental health, going to AA or NA meetings, or seeking housing … They need to be out looking to move their lives along. This is an emergency shelter; this isn’t permanent housing.”

“If they are working,” said Mihm, “they pay rent. It’s $50 a week to stay here. It’s a minimal amount of money because it includes everything … If they are working 35-50 hours a week they can apply to one of our transitional houses up on Elm Street. They can stay up to two years there, but they have to be working. That costs $250 a month, which is still minimal … There’s four to five guys in each house.”

Homeless women in Dubuque can find temporary housing at the Theresa Shelter or else at the Maria House. Homeless children usually go one of those two places with their mother.

The Rescue Mission operates two thrift stores: one at its original location on Main, and one at Central and 10th Street. A few years back the mission started a bicycle repair shop. The mission’s residents, Mihm said, “depend on bikes to get to work and get to meetings.”

A garden attached to the mission provides food for visitors and residents, and field trip opportunities for at-risk youths from Prescott School and Four Oaks.

New Hope Farm, the Catholic Worker Farm south of town, is another ministry of the Dubuque Rescue Mission. It will be the focus of a future article.

The Dubuque Rescue Mission receives no funding from the federal government or from the state. It relies on the generosity of local people who care. The mission will gladly accept donations of any amount — no amount is too small.

The mission is always in need of volunteers. Students who are interested in volunteering should visit the mission’s website or get in touch with Mihm.

The Dubuque Rescue Mission is located at 398 Main Street in Dubuque. It can be found on the web at www.dbqrescue.com. Rick Mihm’s email address is mihmr@mchsi.com; the mission’s phone number is 563-583-1394.

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Daniel Willis is a copy editor and staff writer for The Lorian.

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