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A Look Back: The Men's Industrial Home

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mens_home125 Years of Salvation Army History in Central Virginia; Men's Industrial Home - A Look Back

In April 1905, The Salvation Army in Richmond opened its Men's Industrial Home at 409 ½ West 4th Street. This Home, under the direction of Captain and Mrs. Wehrli, offered men and opportunity to earn their lodging and generate income to finance the program.

The men at the Home were provided work experience, food, shelter, clothing and references; and in many ways, most importantly they were seperated from their primary vice, alchohol.

Sometime in 1906 (no records indicate exact date), the Home is moved to a new location at 2021 East Main Street and then, ultimately, in May 1907, The Salvation Army closes its Men's Industrial Home.

No home for men exists in Central Virginia until October 1919, when a Men's Industrial Home reopens in Richmond at 506 East Leigh Street. Commandant William Clifford is the officer in charge. This Home, built in the early 1800's, was at one time home to former Virginia governor, John M. Gregory.

Former home owner Virginia Hawes described the home and neighborhood as, "quietly, but eminently aristocratic," in a February 27, 1955 newspaper article.

After World War II, the Men's Industrial Home introduced formalized social work, therapy and addiction treatment and throughout the years resembles what many know now as the present day Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center.

"A man is neither homeless or hopeless when he has been received at the industrial center of The Salvation Army," Vera Palmer, Richmond Times Dispatch reporter, wrote in early March 1952.

The same article also reported that, "Men usually arrive at the center dirty, unshaven and ragged, and often gaunt from hunger....many are ex-convicts, while others are physically handicapped...some are merely too old to get jobs and others are plain wanderers."

On any given day, this Home would assist between 40-60 men and reports indicate that there were several occasions where Salvation Army officers and staff had to turn men away because the Home was at 100% capacity without room for even one cot.

Each man's length of stay would vary depending on what led them to the Home to begin with.

While at the Home, the men were offered work therapy and the community's donations of discarded and unwanted materials such as clothing, rags, shoes, furniture, radios and numerous bric-a-brac items would be turned into useful articles for sale through the men's skills in carpentry, painting, upholstery, radio repair and more.

These repairs were made in the Home's trade school, which opened in early 1952. The school consisted of a radio shop, bicycle shop, furniture and toy repair shops. The teachers at the school were all men who had lived at the Home in the past, and men would graduate from the program after at least one year of skills training. These men would then be recommended for outside employment by The Salvation Army officer.

The Home aimed to be self-sufficient through the sale of items as well as use of donated newspapers, which would be shredded and then sold as packing materials. One report indicates that every year the Home would collect 4,500,000 pounds of newspaper a year.

In early July 1955, a three-alarm fire swept through the warehouse section of The Salvation Army Men's Industrial Home. The fire was contained to a bailing machine, fork lift and stacks of waste paper, and damage reports were estimated to be between $60,000 to $70,000.

In 1966, the Men's Industrial Home on Leigh Street was closed for good when The Salvation Army's brand new facility, The Adult Rehabilitation Center, at 2601 Hermitage Road was completed and opened and ministry became the current model for longer-term residential treatment.

The core of the program remains the same, work therapy and community donations of goods for later sale at a Salvation Army Family Store.

"In a changed world, there are some things that don't change," Commissioner Glenn Ryan, Salvation Army Territorial Commander, said during the new facilities dedication.

"Men still need friends, shelter, food, clothing. Men need God too. No man is complete without Him. The purpose of this place is to give men opportunity for a change of life."

"We dedicate here, not only a place of self-help, but a place of soul-salvation."


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