The Salvation Army is building a new homeless shelter downtown to house Veterans and soon women and children. ABC 31 Joel Massey spoke with the head of Alexandria’s Salvation Army about the ministry of the shelter and its future plans.
Kevin Miller is a resident at the shelter. “It’s a safe place you get fed you got a roof over your head. These are the nicest people I’ve met since I’ve been living up here.”
He is Veteran who served briefly in 79 and 80 then was discharged for medical reasons. He’s a resident at the Salvation Army’s homeless shelter.
“I used to live in Abbeville, and I ended up being homeless so to have a place to stay. I stopped in here and told them I was wanting to harm myself.”
Miller was in a very negative place and was suicidal in part because his son had just passed away.
“If it wouldn’t be for these people my plans were to go and meet Him. So the staff here just took me out of that negative funk and gave me hope and a reason to live.”
The shelter has two programs for Veterans, one for homeless vets and one for vets with substance abuse problems. There is a VA social worker who helps the vets with case management. There is a transient program and one called next step for the general homeless population. Major Tim Williford is the head of Alexandria’s Salvation Army. He talks about the motivation for helping the homeless of Cenla.
“Jesus said if you give a cup of cold water in his name to someone that’s thirsty that you’ve given it to him.”
There are more than 40 beds at the shelter, but it is operating at only 50 percent capacity because of Covid restrictions. The VA pays $65 to $72 per night for veterans and for the rest it costs $12 per night. The daily fee encourages the men to get a job.
“We really feel like that if we didn’t have them contributing something to their staying here I’d have hundreds of people that would just want to come here and live and never really do anything.”
February 4, they broke ground on a new $5.2 million facility. After being sponsored locally by Red River Bank, the Salvation Army was able to get a $750,000 dollar grant for the project from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. The rest of the money has come from donations.
“There’s some very, very kind people in the community that have given us millions of dollars, or hundreds of thousands of dollars and then we have other people in the community who have given us ten or fifteen thousand. We have some people who have pledged 100 dollars a month for five years. And I will tell you that those people who have donated 100 dollars a month for five years are just as important as those who have given a million dollars.”
The new Salvation Army homeless shelter will be 19,000 square feet and will have 49 beds: 17 male veterans beds and for the first time in 30 years 32 women’s and children’s beds.”
The long-term plan is to sell the current shelter as well as a warehouse, but at first both shelters will be operational until they are able to do a $1 million expansion on the new shelter and add 20 male beds. Williford describes the feeling of seeing a homeless person get back on their feet.
“It’s really gratifying when you see a person who has a housing issue and they come here and they’re able to get established and out back into the public and paying rent and paying taxes.”
Miller appreciates the help he and others like him have received.
“They do a lot of good for not just veterans but transients too you know they give them a place for them to sleep instead of under a bridge or in the woods. So, these people are really making a difference.”