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Rescue Mission, Homeless Shelter Pack In Record Number Of Visitors

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DURHAM, N.C. — The Durham Rescue Mission set a record this week that was nothing to brag about.

The mission housed 173 people Wednesday night, including 21 who slept on the floor.

The shelter usually houses about 120. Wednesday's crowd was just one sign of the increased need for beds that exists this holiday season.

Over in Raleigh, the situation didn't seem as bad. Nevertheless, finding a warm place on a cold night wasn't easy.

Homeless men waited outside the Wake County shelter. The shelter has 92 spots in its regular program, but because the temperature Thanksgiving night was below 32 degrees, the shelter took on 84 more people.

Those on the waiting list had to wait until 9 p.m. to be allowed in.

Representatives of another shelter in Raleigh, the Healing Place, came to pick up those waiting. But the Healing Place only accepts people who have been tested for tuberculosis. Many in Thursday's group hadn't been tested, so they had to keep waiting until 9 to get into the Wake County shelter.

Back in Durham on Thursday, the Thanksgiving spirit bubbled over as volunteers prepared a holiday feast for the homeless and others in need. The mission served 400 people a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Thanksgiving dinner at the Durham Rescue Mission has been a holiday tradition for 28 years. But rarely has the need been so great.

Dennis Harris said he feels lucky to have a job. But he can't afford to prepare a meal at home like the one he got Thursday at the Durham mission.

"It's sad that, in this day and time, people have to come for a handout," Harris said. "But it's just a blessing that the mission is giving."

The mission not only performs a wonderful service on Thanksgiving, but all year round.

The mission provided almost 48,000 lodging nights last year, 148,000 meals, 167,000 articles of clothing and gave away 2,000 toys to homeless or needy children.

As they deep-fried dozens of donated turkeys and stirred vats of vegetables on Thursday, mission volunteers said they also felt blessed.

The families didn't go hungry Thursday. But some slept on the street and may be forced to do it all weekend, because there's just not enough room here. That's why the mission is expanding.

The mission is renovating an old hotel it bought in August. When the Good Samaritan Inn opens in February, the mission will be able to house three times as many women and children.

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