Lexington Rescue Mission is the largest evangelical ministry serving homeless and formerly incarcerated people in Lexington, Kentucky, the city where I live. It’s a growing organization working with a growing population. But at the start of last year, things weren’t looking great.

LRM desperately needed a bigger office space. It needed more room to provide clients with career counseling, training, Bible studies, and prayer. Its outreach center, the building where LRM cooked and served meals six days a week, had caught fire and had been sitting closed for months as it underwent repairs.

In April of 2021, the mission hoped to relocate its administrative offices, meeting spaces, and food service to a historic office building. But residents in the surrounding neighborhood protested. They didn’t want LRM’s clients coming around, they said at a city hearing. What if they were dangerous? Or sex offenders? The city rejected the mission’s request to move in.

This year has been kinder. Sort of. The ministry purchased a large office building in a different downtown neighborhood, where it needs no special permission to run its outreach programs or expand its services. Nevertheless, neighbors resisted. They called special meetings and voiced concerns about loitering and litter. One resident threatened to move away if LRM moved in.

Laura Carr, the mission’s executive director, reminded them at a forum that, according to Census data, more than a third of their neighborhood lives in poverty. Many of their neighbors were in fact already LRM’s clients. The goal of the mission “is to create a beautiful community,” Carr said. “And part of the beauty of the community is caring for those ...

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