Mangiacotti: Haven of Mercy provides physical and spiritual food, clothing, shelter

By Greg Miller

JOHNSON CITY -- The Haven of Mercy Rescue Mission provides spiritual and physical food, clothing and shelter for the men it serves, according to Jim Mangiacotti, who is in his sixth year as the rescue mission's director.
   "We have chapel here seven days a week, and they are required to go to that," said Mangiacotti, who is responsible for the operation of the mission and the thrift store, and providing food, clothing and shelter for the men served by the mission.
   About 17 different ministers from various churches in the community speak during the 7 p.m. chapel services.
   Three female preachers are included in the ministers who speak in the chapel services, and Mangiacotti would like to add more women to the list of ministers. "I don't feel that women should be excluded from the pulpit, because they have something to say, too," he said.
   To minister in a setting like the Haven of Mercy, a minister should be caring, "somebody with a big heart, somebody who is sincere about their commitment to the Church, to Christ and to the guys. If I can get somebody who fills those qualifications, I'm happy to get them."
   Haven of Mercy serves three meals a day at its 123 W. Millard Street facility. Breakfast is served at 7 a.m. Lunch is served at 12 p.m. Dinner is served at 5 p.m. "We make sure that there's enough food to feed at least 300 people," remarked Mangiacotti, who noted that the mission feeds "well over 1,000 people" on Thanksgiving Day.
   The building's capacity is approximately 75 people, and more men apply to stay at the facility during the fall and winter. Haven of Mercy serves clients from both the local area and from other parts of the country.
   The mission is once again starting its substance abuse meeting. Mangiacotti teaches the 6 p.m. Tuesday sessions, which are open to both the public and the men who stay at the mission. About 90 percent of the men who stay at the mission have a substance abuse problem, according to Mangiacotti.
   Some of those who utilize the mission's services also have mental illnesses. "We have guys who should be in psychiatric care, and for lack of TennCare or other insurance, they're in shelters," he said.
   Some of the men who stay at Haven of Mercy are enrolled in the mission's work program. Some of the men ride on the mission's truck to pick up donated items to sell in the ministry's thrift store. "The guys that are on that truck are allowed to stay here, deal with their own issues," Mangiacotti said. "They get a small stipend every week; it's really just cigarette money. They get their room and board, and they're allowed to stay as long as they want to or need to. When they feel they're on sound ground, they can move on."
   Unless they get a job, men are allowed to stay at the mission for seven days. "If they get a job, we'll allow them to stay long enough to earn some money to get their own place," Mangiacotti said.
   Most of the men "are pretty well motivated. They're sick of being on the street. A lot of these guys are coming in here for the chance to get on their feet and move on, get off the streets."
   Those who stay at the Haven of Mercy can get some medical attention at the Downtown Clinic.
   The Haven of Mercy Shelter for Women, 305 W. Watauga Ave., will be opening in the near future. "It's not a battered women's shelter," Mangiacotti said. "It's a shelter for women who have no place to go." Residents of the women's shelter will eat in the mission's dining room.
   Completed projects at the women and children's shelter include a handicap access ramp, reworking the electrical and plumbing systems to code, an indoor sprinkler system, and fire escapes and doors. Funds are still needed for painting and landscaping projects and the installation of a security fence. Doors Unlimited took care of the fire escapes and doors, as well as the fire alarms.
   The women's shelter will have 20 twin beds, one queen bed, and 5-10 cribs. "I'm going to have cribs available in each of the rooms, and that way the mothers can stay right with the babies," Mangiacotti said.
   Mangiacotti says he appreciates the help of all the pastors, churches, volunteers, those who donate merchandise or funds, as well as everyone else who helps the ministry to meet human need.
   The mission's annual budget is about $175,000. The Haven of Mercy Thrift Store on Broadway plays a major role in bringing in the needed funds. "We wouldn't survive without the thrift store," Mangiacotti said. A second thrift store is now open on S. Roan Street. Churches, businesses and individuals also do their part to keep the mission running.
   Donations may be sent to the Haven of Mercy Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 5490, Johnson City, TN 37603. For more information, call 929-0616.