In Dallas: A Room with a View for the Homeless
The Salvation Army’s 161,000 square-foot Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, located northwest of downtown Dallas in the heart of the human services and medical district, is the largest multi-use facility in the Army world. The center, now in its 30th year of ministry, is named after the father of Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler, a civic and philanthropic leader and long-time Salvation Army Advisory Board member in Dallas. Thousands of people each year find the spiritual and practical help they need at Carr P. Collins.
A myriad of programs and services are available at the center and through its Salvation Army Harbor Light Corps, all of which help individuals and families transition out of homelessness—a key area of focus for The Salvation Army in many downtown Dallas locations. Six hundred people find shelter every night at the center through the Men’s and Women’s Shelter Care program and veterans programs.
Shelter Care Program
LaTonya was involved in a gang as a teenager growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. Her activities inevitably led to her being arrested and sent to prison.
“When I was released I moved to Dallas. I didn’t have anywhere to live,” said LaTonya. “A lady told me about The Salvation Army and so I went there for shelter. I ended up staying there seven months—three by myself and another four after I got my nine-year-old son back.”
Arriving at The Salvation Army with only the clothes she was wearing, LaToya had no idea about the range of programs and services available at Carr P. Collins. In addition to providing her a safe, warm place to sleep, within the first few days she received meals, clothes, shoes and a bus pass.
“I was able to attend life-skills classes like financial literacy and budgeting. The parenting class helped me the most,” said LaTonya. “I wasn’t raising my son the right way. The class taught me how to communicate with him. On Sundays, chapel time became a special time for us. It was always a time for me and my son to read the Bible.”
LaTonya now has her own apartment. She has been attending GED classes and plans to go to college to continue her education. Her son is doing well in school and participates in youth sports at the Salvation Army Cedar Crest Community Center.
“Through the grace of God, I was able to get myself together. The Salvation Army showed me what a real family is like. There was actual love from the people there. I had never had real love. Through The Salvation Army, I found who I am.”
For more than 2,500 men, women, and children each year, many with stories similar to LaTonya’s, The Salvation Army offers the first steps to self-sufficiency. The Shelter Care program meets the basic needs of those struggling with homelessness by providing safe shelter, nutritious meals, showers, clothes and use of laundry facilities.
Having low-barrier, minimal eligibility and entry requirements to the emergency shelter is key to the success of the program, as is engaging those experiencing homelessness with additional services that can help long-term.
Another critical component is offering emergency shelter clients continuous nights of stay. The majority of homeless shelters operate on a “first come–first served” basis when assigning nightly beds. The fact that clients at Carr P. Collins can be assured of a bed for multiple nights in a row significantly decreases the anxiety of those waiting to access the shelter. And working with the same individuals night after night makes for improved staff engagement as well. Shelter residents are eligible for up to 30 days of continuous stay, during which time staff work to connect them to additional services and programs that keep them moving toward self-sufficiency.
Emergency shelter clients requesting additional support meet with intake staff to identify immediate needs and goals, such as obtaining state identification, a tuberculosis test or other health services. Through this process, the staff learns if clients have appropriate housing plans for when they leave the shelter. Clients without a plan or who need more intensive case management services can receive a more in-depth assessment like screening to determine eligibility for the longer-term transitional programs Thrive and Step-Up.
Thrive and Step-Up Programs
The Thrive program addresses the needs of those who are working or work-ready. It serves 25 men and 22 women and children at any given time. There is no set length of stay. The average duration is four to six months. Clients participate in case management, financial literacy classes and life skills classes to prepare them for independent living. Job skills training and placement is available through the Social Enterprise program and community collaborations.
The Step-Up program
can accommodate 50 men and 22 women and children, with an average stay of six
to nine months, and supports those who are disabled due to mental illness,
medical conditions and/or substance abuse. Clients in Step-Up participate in counseling and educational groups in addition to life skills and financial literacy
classes. Case management focuses on medical, mental health, and substance abuse
treatment through links to treatment providers, assistance with
accessing benefits and help finding permanent supportive housing.
Programs for Veterans
The Salvation Army Carr P. Collins Service Center is proud to offer temporary housing and supportive services for male and female veterans experiencing homelessness. The program has a capacity of 110 veterans at a given time and served 282 individuals last year. Participants can stay for up to two years. They work to achieve stability and self-sufficiency in a safe and stable residential environment that provides for all basic needs.
The program offers two types of assistance for veterans: a two-year transitional housing program for 74 veterans and a six-month residential program for 36 veterans. The two-year Grant and Per Diem program primarily serves veterans who are working or work-ready and whose medical and/or behavioral health issues are stable. The six-month Health Care for Homeless Veterans program focuses on addressing the needs of the most vulnerable homeless veterans and those with significant behavioral health concerns.
Danny had struggled with homelessness for several years after leaving the military. He stayed with friends in various shelters and spent many nights on the streets before finally arriving at the door of The Salvation Army Carr P. Collins Social Service Center.
Veterans such as Danny are referred by the Veterans Administration (VA). They find a safe place to call home for up to two years, three hot and nutritious meals a day, clothing, individual case management, life skills classes and much more.
Danny attributed alcoholism, depression, drug use and his divorce as the primary contributors to his homelessness. Shortly after getting settled in at the center, he met with his case manager who from then on worked with Danny every step of the way. Together they set short and long-term goals.
While staying at the center, Danny worked diligently on his recovery and took steps to stabilize his depression. He took care of his legal issues, which included unpaid child support and traffic tickets. After making great progress in the first five months, he entered a compensated work therapy program at the VA for some initial job training. Danny was later promoted and given a job as housekeeper at the VA activities center before receiving full-time employment at the University of Texas Southwestern Hospital.
Danny moved into his own apartment with a stable job and
more than $2,500 in savings. While he is no longer in the center’s veterans
program, Danny has built a community for himself at The Salvation Army. He
continues to come back to volunteer and support his fellow veterans.
Life skills classes led by staff members and volunteers are available to all clients. Topics include budgeting, stress management, HIV/STD education, coping skills, substance abuse/relapse prevention and job readiness. Those enrolled in the six-month Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program receive individual and group counseling to help veterans develop the coping skills to successfully manage their behavioral health. This recovery–oriented approach focuses on peer support and relapse prevention plans to help those battling addiction.
The six-month veterans program at The Salvation Army Carr P. Collins Service Center has been recognized by the Veterans Administration as being the most successful HCHV program in the nation, with 92 percent of participants successfully completing the course.
“The center is a safe haven for the disenfranchised, the forgotten and the least of these. Last year alone, the Carr P. Collins Social Services Center provided shelter to more than 3,100 homeless men, women and children,” says Executive Director Blake Fetterman. “These individuals and families often come to us feeling broken or helpless and they trust The Salvation Army to take care of them during the most vulnerable time in their lives. It’s an amazing experience to see their transformation as they are nourished in mind, body and soul through the love, support and care they receive here."
The Carr P. Collins Social Service Center has been a place of hope and the promise of a better tomorrow for hundreds of people every day in Dallas over the last 30 years,” says Fetterman. “We are excited about the opportunities of continued service to men and women, children and families at their point of need, all given in the name of Jesus.”
Philip Burn is the communications director for The Salvation Army in the Texas Division.