The Salvation Army of Tyler provides shelter and comfort for the homeless all year round.
“As far as last year, we saw a 50 percent increase in people that were seeking our services,” said Vicki Hasting, community and corporate relations coordnator.
Now more than ever, people are losing their homes and having to turn to shelters for help. The Salvation Army is the only shelter in the East Texas area that offers shelter and hope to men, women and children.
“We’re seeing a lot more first time homeless people,” said Hasting. “A lot of them have jobs they’ve been working, but they’re having to make the decision whether to have the lights cut off or feed their family and that’s not a choice that people should have to make.”
There are two types of shelters available, the emergency shelter and the transitional shelter. The emergency shelter is open to people for a week.
This shelter is mainly for the people who don’t want to be in any programs or they just need a place to stay until they get settled. Most people only stay for a little while because they quickly get a job and get back on their feet. There can be some exceptions depending on the situation.
The transitional shelter is the main shelter. The people who stay longer get an actual room because they have agreed to stay and be a part of the pro- grams that are offered. There are sections for single people and families, 90-120 days is the typical stay.
One thing the Salvation Army is trying to do this year is homelessness prevention, which is helping people with utilities and rent. A grant from the government called
H.P.R.P, Homeless Prevention and Rapid Behaving Program, helps the Salvation Army with the funds they need to help others. The Salvation Army helps pay a months rent so that the people can get back on their feet.
“It’s much harder once people become homeless for them to get back where they were,” said Hasting.
They also try to help people that will be able to, with their help, succeed on their own.
“We’re very concerned here about not be- ing just a place to enable people. We want to help them succeed in life,” said Hasting.
Their mission is to try to help people not become homeless. If they do, the Salva- tion Army shelter houses 200 people. Right now they have 130. It usually stays this num- ber until the colder months then the numbers increase. There is also H.E.L.P.The H.E.L.P program stands for Holistic Employment Life Placement. The H.E.L.P personnel work with the people to help them find jobs, like if they need job training or education.
They’re required everyday to go out and look for a job. If they have children, the Salva- tion Army will provide childcare so the parents are free to focus on getting a job. They don’t house anyone who has aggravated assault or sexual assault convictions. They try to keep it really safe since they have women and chil- dren.
Another program the Salvation Army of- fers is Reconnect. This is the drug and alcohol Rehabilitation Program. This program can last 90-120 days depending on the person.
There is also a program called Home Sweet Home. The People who have gone through their programs and are ready to leave can apply
for it. The Salvation Army helps them get into a new home or apartment. The people at the Salvation Army have only one request and that is for people to not judge a book by its cover. They want to let people know that they tried the best they could to keep from being home- less.
One woman ended up at the shelter be- cause she and her husband lost their jobs. She isn’t receiving any help from the government but she is a part of the work program and has found a job.
“I think they need to come and just listen to people. Like I said, you never know when it’s going to get yanked out from under you. You can’t look at somebody and just form your opinion. You don’t know what the situation is. I had no clue until it happened to me,” she said.
Another woman has three kids; she had some problems with her husband and had to get away. She has family who are working on trying to get her out so she can have a place to stay.
“We deal with whatever life gives us. We deal with the cards that we are dealt. We do the best we can,” she said.
The Salvation Army also has holiday events, halloween carnivals, movie nights and for Christmas and Thanksgiving they have a community meal they serve. All of the kids that stay there get signed up for the Angel Tree and receive gifts.
“I want people to know that we’re here helping in almost every way people need help, from food assistance with our food pantry to disaster. Also, we’re a fully functioning church with all kinds of discipleship programs, Bible studies and children’s after-school programs,” said Hasting.
For more information please contact the Salvation Army at (903) 592-4361. Their office
hours are 8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Editors Note: The people that were interviewed wished to remain anonymous due to their circumstances.