During the early 1900's Peoria had a number of shack settlements located on the south side of town, on the banks of the Illinois River. The river was used by the residents for drinking, cooking, washing clothes and bathing.
The shacks themselves were little more than lean-to structures to keep the rain off. Constructed of whatever material was at hand, plywood, tin, even cardboard.
The inhabitants of the shanty towns were not only poor, but had little hope of moving beyond their present physical condition.
Into this desperate situation stepped an 18 year old young woman named Helen Haien. Taking up the challenge to alleviate not only the powerful physical poverty, but determined to offer the spiritual Hope of Jesus Christ.
In 1925, Miss Haien opened a one room meeting house on South Washington Street and called it South Side Mission
She began a Sunday school ministry for the poor boys and girls of the area. Soon enough, adults, mostly mothers, came too. She also visited and took food to the families that lived in the shacks and other poor homes on the south side.
South Side Mission changed locations several times before building on the present campus at 1127 South Laramie Street. The Mission has grown in size and outreach as well. Moving from reactive to proactive, the Mission now cares for over 15,000 poor people each year through youth ministry, homeless shelter, food pantry, outreach, and career training ministries. We are honored to be a part of the Peoria community.
Miss Haien went home to the Lord in 1982, but all these years later, the mission of the Mission remains the same: To preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the poor and in His name to love, feed, house, clothe, and teach all those people He sends to us.