Albany Rescue Mission director reacts to Wednesday's deadly fire

Albany Rescue Mission director reacts to Wednesday's deadly fire
Mike Gravette said many homeless people seek shelter in boarded up properties instead of shelters. (Source: WALB)
Mike Gravette said many homeless people seek shelter in boarded up properties instead of shelters. (Source: WALB)
Mike Gravette (Source: WALB)
Mike Gravette (Source: WALB)
One man, who police believe was living in the old Albany theater, died in a fire. (Source: WALB)
One man, who police believe was living in the old Albany theater, died in a fire. (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Wednesday morning's deadly fire was devastating news for one Albany homeless shelter director.

WALB News 10's Catherine Patterson sat down with the director of the Albany Rescue Mission.

Program Director Mike Gravette said while the news is painful to hear, it's not shocking. He said it's a constant issue, homeless people seeking shelter in vacant buildings and homes.

Gravette said now it's more important than ever to get the word out to homeless people about the resources available to them.

Gravette provided some spiritual food for thought in the chapel before lunch was served and said that it's not just food and shelter they provide, it's clothing, support and faith. All of those things make Gravette question why someone without a place to call home wouldn't seek help at the Albany Rescue Mission.

"Why someone would not, you know, our facilities are secure, they're locked at night," he said. "Being out in a building where there's no security, where you're subject to whatever. I don't know. If I had the answer, it would be a solution to an issue that's very problematic."

So after hearing a man who possibly lived in the old Albany theater died, Gravette said he was deeply saddened.

"Knowing that that individual could've been here. But for whatever reason, I don't know if he didn't know. But that's heartbreaking. It is," Gravette said.

Gravette believes there are probably two main reasons why homeless people seek shelter in vacant buildings.

One reason, he said, is because they're not aware of the available resources.

His second reason is that they do not want to abide by the shelter's or program's rules, like no alcohol, no drugs, no outstanding warrants or convictions for crimes of a sexual nature.

"We don't want anyone putting themselves in harm's way, knowing that the capacity is here for them to be here and out of harm's way," explained Gravette.

Gravette said with the number of vacant buildings in the downtown area, it's nearly impossible for the police to monitor each building for vagrants, so he called on the community to spread the word.

"How many are going to see this that are homeless? It would be fair to say that they're not accessible to TV, but somebody that is, that knows, get the word out. We're here, we're here. And we're here to help," said Gravette.

Gravette said Albany Rescue Mission can provide shelter for about 45 men and 25 women and children.

If you'd like to contact the shelter, you can call (229) 435-7615.

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