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Demand for homeless shelter rises as temperatures fall

By NICOLE COBLER - SPECIAL TO THE ADVOCATE
Jan. 4, 2014 at 9:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 4, 2014 at 7:05 p.m.

Lionel Lane, 27, right, grasps a plate of food at the Salvation Army in Victoria.

Salvation Army programs

The Salvation Army offers several programs for those without food and shelter:

• The transit program allows men to stay for five days in a row, but they must leave for seven days before coming back.

• The work program provides housing to men for 90 days who are already working.

The stepping stone program offers daily classes for substance abuse and helps men become independent. Men must stay for 30 days without leaving and then may look for a job. They can stay up to 90 days.

The feeding program is geared toward families, seniors and handicapped people in need of food to get by during each month.

Source: Salvation Army Capt. Mark Martin

To help

To donate to the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, send checks to P.O. Box 3623, Victoria, TX 77903.

To donate to the Salvation Army in Victoria, send checks to 1302 N. Louis St., Victoria, TX 77901.

Wayne Snyder, 54, became homeless for the first time in October.

After driving to Victoria from Florida, Snyder became part of the Salvation Army's stepping stone program.

Snyder said being homeless has been a learning experience, but he doesn't regret going through it. He said he came to the city "for the love of a good woman."

"It's been a bit hard, but if you keep everything in perspective, I've learned how to make it in case this happens again and gives you a little more compassion for the people you see on the street who have it so much worse than I do," Snyder said.

The colder weather has not been a problem for Snyder, but he said he thinks Victoria has a huge need for another shelter for men.

With colder weather gripping the Crossroads, homeless organizations are working to meet the increasing need.

The shelter operated in Victoria by the Salvation Army has been full every night because of the recent cold, said director John Aschenbeck.

The shelter, called the House of Hope, has been filled consistently to its capacity of 25.

"If we have to, we'll even put people on the floor for the night so they're not in the cold weather," Aschenbeck said.

The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition plans to conduct a homeless count Jan. 23.

The count was jeopardized in December after the coalition lost $1,800 to fraud. No suspect has been identified, but donors have stepped up to help the count go on.

TDECU has replaced most of the missing funds, said coalition president Kim Pickens, and an additional $1,000 has been donated. The funds go toward the coalition's annual count, which monitors the level of homelessness in the Crossroads.

The homeless count had been conducted every other year since 2004, but it will now be done annually to improve accuracy, she said.

The coalition also is working with Restoration House Ministries to open a new women and children's shelter in March.

Theresa Klacman, director and founder of Restoration House Ministries, said the Dream House is being funded by Faith Family Church in Victoria.

Restoration Ministries has only one house, which is helping five women in emergency situations. The new house, which will serve as a homeless shelter, will be at 208 Marilyn Drive and will give about 15 women a place to live while they work.

Pickens said advocates for the homeless recognize more needs to be done.

"The need exists to have more emergency shelters," she said, "so we'll be meeting to work on a plan that's been talked about over the past year to open up additional spaces."

Snyder said he hopes to be out of the Salvation Army shelter in a couple weeks, but he sees the need for more shelter space, particularly for men.

"For the amount of men that are homeless in this town, there is definitely a need for a separate shelter," Snyder said. "I don't see nearly as many homeless women as I do men."

Although the Salvation Army allows only men to sleep in its shelter, dinner is offered to women and children as well.

Virginia Price, 34, has eaten dinner for three years at the Salvation Army with her husband, William, and three daughters, Serenity, 9; Ariana, 11; and Titania, 13. On Friday night, they joined three dozen others for a dinner of cheeseburgers, fries and ice cream.

"It's hard to find work when you don't have a car or a phone to use," Price said.

The family gets lunch from Christ's Kitchen sometimes and uses food stamps.

"It's never enough, of course, when you're feeding three little girls who are growing," Price said.

The family has been staying with friends because no shelter in Victoria offers space for men and their families.

"It's hard because we'd rather all stay together," Price said. "We've been lucky enough because we haven't been on the streets itself."

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