Jimmie Hale Mission
The Jimmie Hale Mission is a provider of meals, shelter and services to Birmingham's homeless population. The charity mission now provides on average over 160 beds over 500 meals per day along with chapel and Bible-based substance recovery programs, counseling and case management. Its annual budget is almost $8 million per year. It is supported primarily through private donations. The Mission operates four centers around the city.
The Jimmie Hale Mission was founded in March 1944 by James William Hale, a former alcoholic, and his wife Jessie as a storefront chapel at 2117 2nd Avenue North, the same building where Jimmie had once tended bar. In November 1944, Jimmie died and his 27-year old widow, pregnant with their child, took over operation of the fledgling mission. It was relocated several times until finding a home at 2403 3rd Avenue North.
Jessie was joined in 1954 by a railroad worker and Southeastern Bible College student, Leo Shepura, who became co-superintendent and stayed for 36 years. That Thanksgiving the Mission served its first meal. It remained at that site for 57 years. In Spring 2007 the mission relocated to the former Thomas School at 3420 2nd Avenue North.
Tony Cooper, former pastor of Midway Baptist Church in Gulf Breeze, Florida, became director of the Jimmie Hale Mission in 1990. At that time the organization had and annual budget of $350,000 and only five employees. Under his leadership the budget grew to $9.5 million and the staff was increased to nearly 180.
Cooper retired in 2019.
Shepura Men's Center
The Jimmie Hale Mission's primary location is the Shepura Men's Center, which opened in the former Thomas School on April 22, 2007. The long-vacant building, constructed in 1908, was donated by the city of Birmingham. The structure, which required $2 million for restoration and modification, houses 175 beds on three floors. A new multipurpose building on the site includes a dining hall kitchen and clothes closet.
Later construction phases on the 3.5 acre site will add a dedicated chapel, administrative offices and classrooms, and an outdoor recreation yard with basketball court. These projects are expected to cost around $3 million. In January 2009 the mission was awarded a $245,000 federal grant to assist in development of the education and administration building.
The Center's former 90-bed "Brother Leo Men's Center" downtown was sold for $500,000 to developers Ed and Leo Ticheli who planned to spend $5 million converting the building into loft condominiums and retail space.
Royal Pines Center
The Mission's Royal Pines Center in Bangor, Blount County, established in 1995, provides an intensive version of the 16-week addiction recovery program. Services are provided free of charge, with clients or their supporters providing donations as they are able. The facility has 28 beds and requires clients to participate in church services and work details in addition to classwork and counseling.
- This article is about the women's shelter. For the restaurant and bar on Morris Avenue, see Jesse's Place.
Jessie's Place is a women's and children's shelter located at 2305 5th Avenue North downtown in the Kenneth O. Owens, Jr Building. It was opened in March 1998 and is named after Jessie Hale Downs. The center accommodates 35 women and children, living dormitory-style. Individual families stay, on average, three to six months receiving remedial education, job training, counseling, and instruction in parenting and life skills in addition to food and shelter.
All women receiving services at Jessie's Place are required to attend church and those with incomes are required to include tithing in their personal budgets. For the sake of convenience, the shelter shuttles clients to one church service, at the Woodlawn campus of Church of the Highlands.
Stewart Learning Center
The Stewart Learning Center is a computer-based educational facility located at 2330 2nd Avenue North serving both the Men's Center and Jessie's Place. It was dedicated on November 15, 2001. A second satellite center is located inside the Royal Pines Center.
The Learning Center utilizes the NOVA career education program for individualized instruction. The course includes basic work skills and character development along with job searching techniques and problem assessment.
- Hayman, John (1998) Doing Unto the Least of These: The Story of Birmingham's Jimmie Hale Mission. Montgomery: Black Belt Press.
- Spencer, Thomas (January 14, 2007) "Address changes, mission doesn't." The Birmingham News
- Debro, Anita (April 23, 2007) "Mission accomplished: Jimmie Hale marks move." The Birmingham News
- Chambers, Jesse (October 21, 2014) "Jimmie Hale Mission director Tony Cooper and staff seek to help down-and-out clients fill 'the God spot'" The Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (October 20, 2017) "Does shelter require homeless women to attend megachurch and tithe?" The Birmingham News
- Jimmie Hale Mission website