After 285 layoffs, Rescue Mission CEO worries about homeless needs in weeks, months ahead

Mar 26, 2020

The Rescue Mission of central New York, which provides shelter and meals to the homeless, has had to lay off 285 employees from its thrifty shopper stores and other departments, as all nonessential workers have to stay home and businesses have had to close. Dan Sieburg, CEO of the Rescue Mission, said its stores account for 60 percent of its annual revenue. 

“It’s terrible to do a layoff when everything was going really smooth and business was kind of booming,” Sieburg said. “It’s a little heartbreaking for me to have to do that. But it’s with the intent of getting us through this time period so I can get everybody back as quick as possible.”

There are 140 people in the shelter now, with the capacity of 180 beds. Sieburg said they are doing their best to practice social distancing by separating beds and lockers and spreading clients out. Each dorm room has about 20-25 beds.

“When you look at what the recommendations are, it is most difficult for the homeless,” Sieburg said. “You can’t isolate because you’re in a group of people all together. You can’t stay home because you don’t have a home. Most of the individuals have pre-existing conditions, so they for sure are at risk.”

The Rescue Mission is still serving three meals a day. Most people are taking meals to go. Some shelter residents can sit and eat, 50 people at a time in a new dining hall that seats 300, so everyone has their own table. Sieburg said they are seeing a bump in need, but he’s more concerned about the weeks and months ahead. They’re currently serving 500 meals a day and are able to make an additional 1,000 meals a day, if needed.