Jerry McAuley, a self-described “rogue and river thief,” was transformed while reading the Bible during his imprisonment at Sing Sing in the 1860s. After his release he married Maria, who shared a similar life experience.
In the shaky post-Civil War economy of the 1870s, New York City experienced a wave of European immigration, which placed a great strain on the city’s resources. There was more hardship and poverty than the city had yet witnessed, and there was no place for the poor to find shelter. In 1872, the McAuley’s began a shelter for poor New Yorkers. They were the first to open the doors of a religious institution every night of the year to the outcasts of society.
Alfrederick Smith (A.S.) Hatch, a Wall Street banker and one-time president of the Consolidated Stock Exchange (a predecessor of the New York Stock Exchange), befriended the McAuleys. He donated the first Mission building to the McAuleys and helped incorporate it as the McAuley Water Street Mission. A God-fearing man, Hatch’s love for what were termed “the undeserving or unworthy poor” allowed the McAuleys to realize their vision.
Jerry and Maria stood firmly on their faith in God, and worked tirelessly to help their community. Today there are more than 300 Rescue Missions in North America and many are the direct result of the McAuley vision. A number of our founding board members were also founders of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), which provides services to and oversight of its member missions.