History - Rescue Mission Alliance


History of the Rescue Mission Alliance

The Rescue Mission Lifeboat in the Erie Canal Basin behind City Hall, circa 1895

Syracuse Rescue Mission

Serving Others for More than a Century

Since 1887, the Rescue Mission has served people in need in Central New York. Beginning as an outreach to Erie Canal workers and the community that formed around them, we have been here to help through war and peace, economic booms and recessions, even the Great Depression. 

At the Rescue Mission, our doors are open to all. One of our original meeting invitations urged people to come as they are,
“Man or Woman, Boy or Girl
Rich or Poor, Black or White
Large or Small, Short or Tall…”

In its early years, the Mission spread the Gospel of Christianity and demonstrated it through humanitarian services such as meals and medical care.

In the 1920s, the Rescue Mission opened a Lodging House for transients and longer-term residents, and served thousands of meals. Although the locations have changed over the years, and our capacity has expanded, that tradition of sheltering and feeding those in need has continued over the decades.

In 1959, Clarence Jordan came to work at the Rescue Mission and soon took the helm of the organization. He introduced a number of new programs during his 40 years of leadership, including employment development programs and a network of Thrifty Shopper stores.


Today, the Rescue Mission provides programs to end hunger and homelessness in Syracuse, Auburn, Binghamton and Ithaca. Programs are tailored to the needs in each community.

In 2015, we completed our largest building project to date – the $7.2 million Alice C. Barber Day Center and Kiesewetter Emergency Shelter in Syracuse. The Rescue Mission will soon launch a $16.7 million project to refurbish our 68-unit adult home and create 60 additional permanent affordable housing units in Syracuse.