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Corpus Christi Salvation Army opens new homeless center

The new Salvation Army Coastal Bend homeless shelter at 16th Street and Hancock Avenue in Corpus Christi is expected to open next month with the capacity for 120 beds for families and 12 for veterans. Staff photo by Amber Weems

When the doors open in June on the new Salvation Army Coastal Bend building, it will be able to house more than twice the number of homeless people as its current location. The Sara and Dick Rathgeber Center of Hope is located at 16th Street and Hancock Avenue. Its 29,000 square feet houses 120 beds for families with children and 12 beds for veterans. The Salvation Army is the only shelter in Corpus Christi that keeps families together as a unit.

“We’re excited,” said Commanding Officer Capt. Patrick Gesner. “It’s a vast improvement over our current facilities.”

The old facility at 513 Josephine St. in Corpus Christi can assist up to 20 families, 50 single men, and 10 veterans. It serves an average of 12,000 meals, 700 hygiene products, and 200 baby products a month.

The Salvation Army has had a presence in the Coastal Bend for 112 years. An international organization, it is the evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is Bible-based, its mission “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” It serves its communities after natural disasters and during times of economic depression, hunger, and poverty.

Also in the works is a new men’s shelter, which is currently in the design phase. The $4.5-million facility will have 50 beds and should be completed in two years. Until that shelter is built, the Salvation Army pledges to work with the city of Corpus Christi to find shelter for single men.

Meanwhile, Gesner and his wife, Lt. Laura Gesner, are leaving the Coastal Bend Salvation Army after four years at the helm. They will be taking up new positions in the Arkansas-Oklahoma Division. Lt. Gesner will serve as divisional secretary for Women’s Ministries, while Capt. Gesner will work as divisional secretary of Business.

Taking over the Coastal Bend will be majors Russell and Tracey Czajkowski of Texarkana.

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