Michael Capponi is no stranger to the battles faced by those hoping to get their lives on track.
Now a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, the 40 was once drug-addicted and living on the streets of New York.
“I was a successful promoter and I got caught up with a lot of activities, drugs,” said Capponi, now the head of his eponymous construction firm “I got addicted to drugs pretty badly. I lost everything.”
His experience motivated him to lend a hand to those in need.
The Capponi Construction Group has partnered with the Miami Rescue Mission to expand the homeless shelter at 2020 NW First Avenue, revamping a new building and adding another 78 beds.
Capponi and others involved in the effort donned hard hats and toured the site, currently under construction, on Nov. 13.
“God plays a role in creating obstacles in life purposely, and makes you change your road and you learn from it,” said Capponi, who serves as chairman at Capponi Group Construction Group.
The Miami Rescue Mission purchased the $1 million building, located at 2031 NW First Court, which was supposed to be used as a music studio. The 7,000 square-foot building, originally used as a music studio, was purchased using a grant for homeless services administered by FHL Bank Atlanta as well as with gifts from anonymous donors.
The project is designed by Miami-based firm Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design.
In the past, Capponi has contributed to a new health clinic for the homeless, sponsored the Thanksgiving Day Banquet and donated a vehicle.
Miami Rescue Mission President Rev. Ronald Brummitt said adding the new building is a “miracle”.
“Over the last three years, we have seen an increase of men and women to our centers because of the economy, domestic violence, loss of jobs, evictions from homes,” he said We were like sardines in our buildings.”
Renovations started in September. The center is slated to open in February.
The new building, which will house men, and will also include kitchen area, general meeting and computer room.
“We want to do as much as we can,” he said. “This will have a long last impact in our community.”
The Miami center currently houses over 240 men, while the women and children’s center, which is two blocks away, has 40 women and 35 children.
The Miami Rescue Mission, founded in 1922, serves 1,000 people at its three campuses located in Miami, Hollywood and Pompano.
The Christian faith-based center also offers several programs to help the homeless find work.
Plans are also to expand the women’s center in the near future, said Brummitt.
Brummitt was homeless for two years in the 1980’s. He was involved with heavy drugs, living under the bridge and begging for food. In 1990, he checked himself into Miami Rescue Mission — and eventually became the shelter’s director.
Kenneth Gross, president and CEO of Capponi Construction Group , said difficult times have caused many to lose their homes.
“We have compassion and understanding of what is going on in society today and the opportunity this organization does is more than just a home,” he said. “It’s a meal, it’s an opportunity to grow into this society again. It gives us pride to be a part of that opportunity.”
Capponi, a Miami Beach resident, was a successful South Beach's nightlife promoter in the 1990's until he got involved with drugs.
He was homeless in New York for 45 days in 1996. Capponi credits his parents for his recovery after they sent him to his native Belgium to undergo rehab.
“That changed my life,” he said. “That’s why I dedicate my life to help those in the community.”