Do Savannnah

Union Mission at 80 continues to house, feed the homeless

  • Bertice Berry (Photo by Tom Nutter)
  • Through Union Mission’s Magdalene Project, Khadijah and her son found help and a home. (Photo courtesy Maggie Lynn/Union Mission)

Union Mission at 80 continues to house, feed the homeless

10 Apr 2017



It has been 80 years since Union Mission opened its doors April 20, 1937, in Savannah. The Rev. George Akins started with eight beds, and in the chapel there were 30 seats.

“Now we serve hundreds of people,” said Maggie Lynn, community outreach coordinator. “It is the smallest thing that one does that can change a life.

“In 2016, we had 244 clients who left Union Mission emergency shelters for stable housing and 366 who were able to find stable employment. The key for us is stability. Just having a job isn’t good if you can’t keep it.

“… We have touched the lives of thousands of people throughout 80 years,” she said. “We hope to keep on doing it.”

Raising Hope is Union Mission’s major fundraiser, set for 6 p.m. April 20 at the Hyatt Regency — 80 years from the beginning. The featured keynote speaker is Bertice Berry, who will share her own inspirational message of hope and the importance of community support in ending homelessness.

“Dr. Berry is someone whose personal story exemplifies our belief that caring, committed community support can save lives,” Lynn said. “At one time she was homeless. With help from her community, she was able to complete high school and beyond.”

A native of Wilmington, Del., Berry earned a doctorate in sociology and now lives in Savannah. She was the host and co-executive producer of her own nationally syndicated talk show and is an award-winning entertainer, lecturer and comedienne with a serious message.

Berry believes community involvement is not limited to just “writing a check” and has taken an active role in supporting organizations that benefit those in need, according to She has donated all royalties from the sales of her books to organizations that help families in transition, raise funds for scholarships and provide resource information to low-income families.

The growth in homeless families is a concern now for Union Mission.

“In the greater Savannah area, information from the Homeless Authority shows that 4,224 people will be homeless over the course of a given year in Savannah,” Lynn said. “Of that number, 46 percent will be women and children under the age of 18. This year, we are trying to highlight the problem of family homelessness, and particularly women and children, because it does so often go unrecognized.”

Union Mission provides:

• Emergency shelter through Grace House for men and Magdalene Project for women with children

• Employment training and counseling services, including job placement and mental health counseling

• Permanent supportive housing

• HIV/AIDS supportive services through the Phoenix Project

Lynn considers how individuals might make a difference with the homeless.

“It’s not on you to complete the work, but you are not free to ignore it,” she said. “We all do what we can, where we can, when we can, but we should all be doing something. Homelessness is such an issue that is so large in scale.”


What: Raising Hope to benefit Union Mission

When: 6 p.m. April 20; purchase tickets by 5 p.m. April 14

Where: Hyatt Regency Savannah, 2 W. Bay St.

Cost: $125 per person; tables for 10 available

Info:, 912-236-7423