RochesterBeacon: Life on the edge

Mike Costanza with the RochesterBeacon writes about how homeless shelters and other charities in Monroe County, including the House of Mercy, struggle to maintain the funding required to provide the services they offer to the homeless and hungry in Rochester.

The nonprofits that serve Monroe County’s homeless and hungry depend upon a patchwork of funding to continue their work. Though they appear to be holding their own, there could be problems on the horizon.


Under such circumstances, those serving the county’s unhoused and hungry can find themselves stretched very thin. The House of Mercy Inc. offers a number of benefits for the needy, including the use of its 82-bed emergency shelter, which fills up most nights.

“We serve anybody that needs a place to stay,” says Kelly Finnigan, director of operations. “It’s really about a handful of days that we’re below 82 beds.”

When the weather turns cold, the House of Mercy sets up cots in its common areas and takes in as many as 110 people a night. Such high numbers can tax the facility.

“It’s just a strain on everything—on the facility, on the staff, on the volunteers, on our ability to help people and get them to move on to permanent housing,” Finnigan says.

In addition to sheltering the homeless, each day the nonprofit’s food pantry gives about 20 individuals or families some of the sustenance they need, and its soup kitchen serves about 450 meals. Both programs carry their own price tags.

“We get a lot of donated food, but we also have to purchase a lot of food to supplement that,” Finnigan explains. “It’s fairly expensive for us to run our kitchen.” 

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