Willie has a history of commitment to people, to work, and to his country. When he left the Army in 1987, he had served for 12 years. He married and had five children, four of whom eventually joined the military. He also had struggles. By the time had was 35, he’d had 3 strokes and a heart attack, all related, he says, to his addiction to crack cocaine. He divorced. He had problems with work related to his addiction. He says he finally hit bottom, which was what he needed to make the changes necessary to get sober. Although he has been clean of drugs for 5 years now, he ended up homeless after the combination of some poor financial decisions and the end of a relationship. Willie obtained a job soon after arriving at Austin Street Center and has been working 5-6 days a week at a car wash, saving his money and working towards getting a place of his own again. That day is happening soon! He praises his Austin Street Center Case Manager who has helped with connections, resources, paperwork, locating support groups available outside of his work hours, and transportation, and he adds, “Case Managers here really are concerned about people.”
“There is a rainbow, a beautiful ray of sunshine, at the end of this.” These are words spoken by Austin Street Resident Lenora as she talks about life as a woman experiencing homelessness. Married for seventeen years, and currently separated from her husband, she recalls, “I had a job. I paid the bills. I was the one who took care of everything.” She has hobbies that she greatly misses. “I love to refurbish furniture. I love to plant. I love Home Depot.”
On a bus recently, Lenora heard several other passengers make remarks as the bus passed people who appeared to be homeless. Lenora asked them, “What does homelessness look like?” After a bit of discussion with her fellow passengers, she told them that she is homeless—and they were stunned.
Lenora says, “I’ve fallen, but I’m not going to lay there. I just need a hand up. Do I cry about it? Yes. Do I talk with a counselor about it? Yes.” She meets with her case manager regularly, has updated her resume, and meets with Texas Workforce Commission while she looks for work. She finds comfort in writing, and in offering encouragement to other residents of Austin Street.
Lenora finds it difficult to talk about her loved ones. She mentions that is was tough growing up with a mom diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has a daughter who lives in a suburb of Dallas, but neither has transportation to visit the other. With tears in her eyes, Lenora says that she has grandchildren she hasn’t seen in more than a year.
Austin Street Center exists so that Lenora and others like her can live in safety and receive the help they need to move toward the “beautiful ray of sunshine” at the end of their homeless experience.
For Jerry, the road of mental illness and homelessness has been a long-traveled one. When discharged from the Army in 1975, he was already showing symptoms of what was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. Jerry returned to Oklahoma, where he has family, but wasn’t able to keep a job. Hoping to find better employment opportunities than those in the small town he was leaving, Jerry came to Texas. The problems continued however. Each time he got work, he lost it. He has never been able to have his own place, and has spent his adult years off and on in shelters, staying with friends, or on the streets. Now 60 years old, Jerry just moved into his own apartment – his first one ever! His frequent smile widens even more when talking about having a place of his own, thinking about watching football on TV, and having his own kitchen table for the first time. He knows he needs continuing support with his illness, but is thankful that he will finally have privacy, dignity, and some simple things that others take for granted.
John a single parent and a father of five came to ACO in desperate need of help. John was laid off from a Corporate America position where he had health benefits, substantial salary and what he believed was stability. John believed shortly after his lay off he would bounce back quickly into the same industry he left or something similar. One month turned into two months, three months turned into six and six months turned into a year. After exhausting all of his options and being unable to survive on unemployment benefits John reluctantly came to ACO.
He met with an Emergency Assistance Case Manager for financial assistance for his mortgage. John was offered additional services such as food from ACO’s food pantry, clothing and appliance from ACO’s Resale Shop and Personal hygiene and care items from ACO’s Care and Share program. Overridden with shame John replied, “No thank, please give those items to someone who needs it.”
John’s Emergency Assistance Case Manager encouraged him to partake in the services empowering to reap the benefits as a tax payer. John continued to refuse the majority of the services but agreed to shop in the food pantry. ACO’s front desk staff made John an appointment and sent him on his way.
The next week an ACO volunteer from the Food Pantry informed the Emergency Assistance Case Manager of a client that refused to shop in the pantry and returned his appointment card to the food pantry staff. The volunteer handed the Case Manager the card and it was John.
The Case Manager contact John to meet with him in person again to discuss the situation, John agreed. At the meeting John revealed feelings of overwhelming shame, guilty and deep frustration. Having a Bachelor’s degree and unable to feed, clothing and possibly house his children was degrading for him. Sharing his circumstances with a social service agency was belittling and shopping in a food pantry for the first time was devastating.
After meeting with ACO’s Emergency Assistance team John gathered the courage to get the help he needed. John began receiving services from our food pantry, resale shop, emergency and professional development. John went from earning $0.00 a year to $10.00/hr. to $39,000 yearly. John is not finished; ACO’s Transforming Lives program will fund John to obtain a Project Manager certification to boost his career and move from poverty to self –sufficiency!
Amanda, a 25 years old single mother of four wears many physical and emotional scars as a result of domestic violence came into ACO in need of financial assistance to prevent homeless and hunger in her family’s lives.
Amanda works 40 hours a week, earning $17.00/hr. to care for a household of 4. Although she has a full time job, each month she makes payment arrangements with multiple bill collectors to maintain her utilities, pay rent with late fees all while attempting to avoid overdraft fees from her local bank. Amanda is what we call the working poor.
Amanda is employed with a reputable company, makes more than minimum wage but not enough to financially maintain her household. Amanda earns too much money to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid but not enough to feed her hungry children or pay the outstanding balances on the medical bills that cause her credit score to decline at a rapid rate.
Although, she possesses a great deal of professional experience, one of Amanda’s major barriers to escaping poverty is education. A high school diploma and a few college credits, lack of disposable income and the inability to maintain her family’s basic needs (food, water, and shelter) prevent Amanda from achieving her life’s goal of becoming an RN.
Amanda knew if something didn’t change in her life, she could never escape the grasp poverty has on her life! Imagine having to choose between food and shelter and education! It’s hard to imagine isn’t it! No one should have to make that choice, especially when very resource you need is the resource that can change your life for the better.
Through ACO’s comprehensive services, Amanda is received financial assistance to avoid homelessness and more! Amanda walked into ACO to resolve a temporary crisis and walked out with long term change!
Amanda now receives emergency assistance for utilities to assist her in building a savings account to plan for the future for her family, a Financial Advisor to help her budget her income, food from the food pantry to feed her children 3 meals a day, Financial Literacy to reduce debt, clothing, shoes, household appliance and furniture from the resale shop and tuition assistance to complete her education and fulfill her dream to become an RN! Allen Community Outreach is not just giving a hand out, we give a hand up!
Angie visited the bank to make her usual transaction for the week and realizes her PIN number doesn’t work. She enters the bank lobby and speaks to a representative only to find she is not an authorized signer on the account and the funds she once had access to; are no longer available. After such shocking news, Angie calls her husband only to find that he is in the process of filing for divorce and she has a limited number of days to move out of their family home.
Angie, possessing a high school education and a few college courses under her belt doesn’t know where to start. She has been out of the workforce for 10 years!
Anxiety ridden, desperate and confused Angie, learns how to apply for a job through ACO’s Professional Development program, pay her bills online through assistance from ACO’s Emergency Assistance Case Manager, and open a bank account through ACO’s Financial Literacy classes. Through ACO’s emergency financial assistance program she is able to maintain her home until she obtains employment. Through ACO’s Client Choice Food Pantry she is able to feed her family healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables from community gardens, Whole foods, Sprouts and much more! She is able to obtain clothing, appliances and shoes for her children through ACO’s Resale Shop!
Angie learns to navigate her way to maintain her home in a way she never knew she could! She obtains a job as a waitress earning a little over $2.10/hr. an hour plus tips to take care of herself and two children. Working double shifts only helps her to pay enough on her mortgage to barely avoid foreclosure. Angie has made it a long way but it still isn’t enough. Angie needs a career not a job, but that only comes with higher education or a certification in a lucrative field of study.
Angie enrolled into ACO’s Transforming Lives GED program and has recently passed two sections of the four parts of her test. Angie has a long way to go, and is willing to go the distance! Through ACO’s comprehensive services she can obtain all of her needs in a one stop shop. ACO helps change lives, circumstances and mindsets! Angie not only changed her circumstances through comprehensive services, but changed her “I can’t “mentality to “I did”! ACO gives a hand up not a hand out!
An urban pioneer, responding to the unmet and emerging needs of the homeless and at-risk of Dallas for more than 40 years. THE STEWPOT Donate Today
Raymond* has been a client of The Stewpot’s Representative Payee (Rep Payee) Program for a little over a year. The Stewpot Rep Payee Program provides free caseworker assistance to persons suffering from mental illness, chemical dependency, or physical disabilities, and who are unable to manage their federal benefits independently, including Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability.
For the past six years, Raymond has lived at a local shelter and his struggles with mental illness have led to him being hospitalized on a number of occasions. Recently, however, he was able to secure an apartment through another local nonprofit and has been there for about a month. He continues to come in to The Stewpot weekly to meet with the caseworker who is his designated Rep Payee.
Since she has been working with him, his Stewpot caseworker has noticed a profound change in him. He has gone from being unkempt in appearance to being more polished and confident. The man who used to avoid eye contact now smiles when he sees her.
Even though he is now housed, Raymond will continue to participate in the Rep Payee program as it is key to his ongoing stability. A relationship of trust has been established and, together with the support he receives from the staff at the nonprofit who helped him secure housing, The Stewpot Rep Payee Program will help him move forward and maintain housing stability.
James* came to the Stewpot as a homeless client in need of a Texas ID. Our on-site caseworkers helped him acquire it, and during the course of their meetings told him about the STREETZine program which offers temporary employment selling a homeless newspaper produced by the Stewpot.
He started selling the paper and, because he was such a loyal vendor, was asked if he would like to become a Vendor Sales Representative (VSR). James came in faithfully every week to fulfill his VSR responsibilities, and when there was an opening for a new instructor to teach orientation for new vendors, was asked if he would like to take the position.
The caseworker in charge of the STREETZine vendor program reports that he is the best instructor we have ever had. Since first coming to the Stewpot three years ago, he has secured an apartment through a supportive housing program and continues to lead the orientation class and introduce other Stewpot clients to the STREETZine program.
*Names have been changed to protect the clients’ privacy
It’s an emotional time for new parents Rachel and Karl. Their sweet baby girl, Kamryn, was born just this past May. With such a big change in their lives, having your support through your generosity to the Arlington Life Shelter has meant so much to this small family.
Rachel says her family’s problems began when Karl, a pipeline worker, lost his job of 12 years. To make ends meet, he found work as a commercial truck driver. But his time with the company ended suddenly when he was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that totaled his only work vehicle. At the same time, he and Rachel – almost at her due date – were staying with a relative and needed to find a new place to live.
Thanks to your gifts, Karl and Rachel were able to come to the Arlington Life Shelter just in time for Kamryn’s arrival. They were given a safe place to live while caring for their newborn and preparing to get back on solid footing. Karl and Rachel know it won’t be long before they’re in a place where they can provide for Kamryn on their own. The couple has been overwhelmed with gratitude for how the community has responded to Kamryn’s debut into the world. Your support — fills Rachel and Karl with hope.
Rachel can’t say enough what your generosity has meant to her family. “God bless you,” Rachel says. “We would not have had a place to live without your donations.”
Families Are Safe, Thanks to You
You wouldn’t know by looking at her that Stacey is homeless. She’s so full of hope and cheer despite all she’s been through that she is often mistaken for an Arlington Life Shelter volunteer rather than a Shelter resident.
But the truth is, Stacey and her three children — KayLeigh, J.J. and Devin — have been here since the end of 2015. Left homeless after Stacey suffered a series of major health setbacks, the family stayed in motels, then with family. When Stacey’s last option was for her family to sleep in their van, she knew she needed to find help — fast. After a quick search, she found the Arlington Life Shelter, which, she hoped, would be a safe place to start over.
Stacey wasn’t misguided. Upon arriving, each family member was given their own bed and sense of safety and belonging they hadn’t felt in a long time. And Stacey’s teenage daughter, KayLeigh, has even been able to keep her violin skills sharp by practicing in the quiet of the Shelter’s library. Every family deserves a safe place to live, and your gifts make this possible for countless children, women and men in our community. Stacey is one of the many you’ve already helped, and she’s beyond grateful for all you’ve done. “Thank you,” Stacey says, sincerely. “I can’t say thank you enough.”
The Gooden Family
What started out as a few leaky pipes resulted in Derwin and his wife, Frances, losing their house and most everything they owned.
“After paying for repairs and water bills costing over $800 a month, she lost her job and then I lost mine,” Derwin explains. “We quickly went through our savings and before we knew it, two cars disappeared from the driveway.”
“Repo.” Frances whispers.
After living in hotel rooms with their three kids, ages 5, 8, and 16, the couple turned to Dallas LIFE. “I heard about it from a woman at church.” Frances recalls. “She said it was a good place for children and families.” “We really believe that when we came here, it was God controlling our steps,” Derwin adds.
Since arriving at Dallas LIFE six months ago, both Derwin and Frances have earned jobs at the shelter – he as the assistant manager of the convenience store, and she as the second floor supervisor.
Their children have also adjusted incredibly well here. “They fell right into it!” Derwin laughs. “There was one thing that really helped the transition and that was putting a name to our family. We took our last name, and put “TEAM” in front of it. No matter what we do or where we go, we do it together, as a team. And they love that closeness.”
With the help and support of Dallas LIFE, all three of their children are involved in after school activities and their oldest son is about to begin his first job. He’s caught on super quickly in his training. “They told him that training for the job usually takes about 13 weeks. For him, they said it would only take three weeks.” Derwin beams.
Both Derwin and Frances are in the Homeless No More Recovery Program. When asked to name their favorite program class, neither of them could name one. Instead, they named five. “They’re not preaching at you. They’re giving you life lessons, things that are going to help you on your walk with God.” Derwin explains. “AND I’ve gotten my CDL, so my job options are going to be great as well.”
Frances nods before adding, “I know that there’s a purpose to the program. It helped me to see a lot of things that I didn’t see before, and helped me grow in ways that I didn’t think I needed to.”
One thing that both Derwin and Frances made perfectly clear is that they will not keep their new found success—and faith—to themselves.
“When we were established in a home we used to say we need to go give back and volunteer. We need to take our kids and show them how the less fortunate live. We never did. Now both agree that we will give back to Dallas LIFE,” Derwin states. “God uses us as seeds. He blesses us with certain things, but those things are meant to bless someone else with, not for us to hold onto. Our cup is already overflowing.”
Derwin then raises a hand. “I gotta say one more thing. There should be a Dallas LIFE everywhere.” How great that would be!
Reginald closes his eyes and recalls his favorite memory: playing a nine-foot grand piano at Radio City Music Hall in 1985. He hums a tune to himself, moving his fingers over the cool desk top and letting them traipse over the imaginary keys. He smiles, pauses, and then opens his eyes to resume the interview.
At the time Reginald played at Radio City Music Hall, he was attending West Point and serving as a musician to the choir. He remembers playing all along the east coast and working with prominent gospel writers. He also recalls taking it all for granted.
“In 1985, I left West Point. Then in 1995, I was diagnosed with aids. In 1997 I was in a car accident and in 1999 I found out that I had avascular necrosis in both of my hips and my shoulders. Basically, they were deteriorating.”
In 2000, Reginald received disability and in 2002, he qualified for a series of surgeries to replace his hips and shoulders. However, he didn’t have his first surgery until 2007 because he had a developed an addiction; first to pain killers, and then, to crack cocaine.
“The pain I experienced made me a sitting, sleeping, working, 24/7 monster,” Reginald begins. “I got to a point where I didn’t know what to do. I started with pain killers and then went to cocaine to help fight the pain, but then addiction caught hold.”
In 2011, Reginald came to Dallas LIFE and while at the shelter he suffered a brain aneurysm. “Then my aneurysm had an aneurysm.” Reginald adds, explaining that while in the hospital a second aneurysm was discovered directly over the first one.
Months after he was discharged from the hospital, Reginald left Dallas LIFE without completing the recovery program. He explains that during this first stay he had gone through the motions, but never “fully surrendered”.
After leaving the shelter, Reginald stayed clean for over a year before resuming his cocaine use. For the next three years he continued using drugs and made a living playing music for churches.
“I’m a preacher’s son. I could fake a lot of things and I got really good at it,” he explains. “They all thought I was right there with them, but the entire time I was in the middle of my addiction. If I left one church, another one would immediately hire me.”
In March 2015, Reginald’s addiction was at an all-time high. “The Lord was saying to me, ‘Enough is enough’. I kept picturing Bob and Mary Ann Sweeney at Dallas LIFE. I kept seeing their faces and finally I thought, ‘I need to go back’. This was the only place I walked away from and stayed clean for a year and a half. Dallas LIFE was where I wanted to come back to. I called and left a message. A few days later I checked my voicemail and heard the voice of my angel, Mary Ann Sweeney.”
According to Reginald, he returned to Dallas LIFE in August of 2015 and changed his approach to the program. “This time I completely surrendered to God. These eight months have been the most fulfilling and enjoyable months of my life. They haven’t been easy, but they have been worth it! God is good, God is just awesome! All I can do with my little ole self is sit down and watch God do His thing!”
After graduating from the Dallas LIFE Seniors and Overcomers Program, Reginald has a long list of things he hopes to accomplish!
“I’ve started laying the tracks for an album. It’s called, The Songs Momma Used to Sing. I’ve also written books to help teach people music, one is a 104-page book just of Christmas songs! Eventually I plan to get my degree in music, but my biggest dream is to open up my own music studio.”
Now that he has fully surrendered to God, we have no doubt that Reginald can accomplish anything he sets his mind to!
“The hope that I could not find, the strength that I could not find, the motivation to stop using drugs that I could not find–I finally found it, at Dallas LIFE.”
“It was devastating to my children when I relapsed. I never thought I would be back at that point again. I thought I was done, but drugs are powerful.”
Farria has battled addiction her entire life. Two years ago she was living with her husband and their four children, working a job she enjoyed. Then, after being six years sober, she relapsed. Her husband, eighteen years sober, relapsed with her.
“Our drug abuse took us down really, really fast. It took us to the level of poverty. We ended up losing our home, our belongings, and our family got separated. Drugs brought me to the point where I had nothing.” She recalls.
After relapsing, Farria spent one month in detox at the Carrollton Springs Treatment Center. There her counselor referred her to Dallas LIFE.
“I came here in October of last year and I dug a little deeper. I found out what was causing me to relapse,” Farria begins, “Drugs brought me to having nothing, but since coming to Dallas LIFE I’ve regained my dignity, my sanity, my self-esteem and most importantly, I’ve regained my relationship with Christ.”
Farria continues, recalling her time at Dallas LIFE with a smile and fighting back tears of joy. She talks about her favorite class, God’s Beauty Inside and Out, taught by Mrs. Johnson.
“She teaches us about God loving us for who we are, regardless of what we’ve done in life. She says that no matter what we’ve been through or what we’ve done, that God loves us and forgives us and that if we don’t love ourselves, then we can’t love anybody else. He’s forgiven us so we need to forgive ourselves.”
Farria is now scheduled to graduate from the Homeless No More Recovery Program in August 2016 and when asked if her family will attend the ceremony, she replies, “I know they will! Everybody is rooting for me! They tell me how proud they are of me. My kids have said, ‘Momma you really have yourself together this time’.”
After graduation Farria plans to further her education and become a drug counselor. She explains, “I feel like that’s why I went through periods of drug abuse, so that I can help the next addict stay clean. There are a lot of people suffering and if they just had someone they could call or someone they could cry to, they may not go out and use. I believe that I can help save another addict.”
According to Farria, graduating from Dallas LIFE will mean that she can accomplish something, that she doesn’t have to give up or give into drugs. For Farria, graduation means, “I made it.”
“If I had not walked through these doors I would probably be somewhere under a bridge if not dead. If I hadn’t walked through those doors I would not be sitting here discussing my sobriety. Dallas LIFE saved my life.”