CHICAGO – The Pacific Garden Mission is the oldest continuously operating rescue mission in the United States. George and Sarah Clarke originally opened PGM in a small storefront on Chicago’s South Clark Street. 2020 marks the beginning of the mission’s 143rd year of transforming the lives of the city’s homeless and destitute.
The transformation starts with offering a warm place to sleep at night, nutritious hot meals, accepting all who enter as God’s highest order of creation, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From its beginnings near Chicago’s “Whiskey Row,” PGM has been dubbed “The Hobo Church” and nicknamed “The Old Lighthouse.”
Former major league baseball star, Billy Sunday accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior at the doorstep of the mission. From that encounter, Sunday went on to become the most noted evangelist of the early 20th century.
PGM now occupies a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly, 15,000-square-foot facility on Canal Street. The mission can accommodate 1,000 people on any given night and an additional 400 in emergency situations. The dining room is equipped to serve 1,800 people per meal. With a full house, that’s more than 5,000 meals per day.
Medical care is available for overnight visitors and long-term residents. All have access to showers, clean clothing, a barbershop, and a beauty salon. A 600-seat auditorium serves as a place of worship. It also serves as the production center for the production of “UNSHACKLED,” the mission’s radio broadcast. “UNSHACKLED” tells the dramatized, true stories of people whose lives have been transformed through their experiences at PGM. They are, as the mission describes them, “True stories that make you face yourself and think.”
“UNSHACKLED” is broadcast by more than 3,000 radio stations around the world. It is the longest-running radio drama in history.
Those who wish to do so may remain as residents, which requires a commitment to stay and participate in PGM’s Bible education program for a minimum of 60 days. In addition to attending daily classes, residents are given work assignments. The lessons and the steady work help to restore structure and discipline into lives where it has been lost.
The resident program changes after eight months for those who stick with it. The focus shifts to training and career development that prepares them to become gainfully employed and dependable people.
During the past year, PGM ministered to an average of more than 1,100 people each month, sheltered more than 300 women and children per night, and served more than 1,500 hot meals per day.
The Pacific Garden Mission is open 24/7 every day of the year at 1458 South Canal Street to care for the needs of Chicago’s homeless men, women, and children, and to teach them that Jesus Christ can transform their lives.
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- Encyclopedia of Chicago, Pacific Garden Mission
- Architect, Pacific Garden Mission
- Pacific Garden Mission, Official Website
- Wikimedia Commons, William T. Ellis LL.D [Public domain]