Arlington Life Shelter
- What do you see as one or two of the greatest challenges to helping the homeless and the hungry in North Texas?
One of the biggest challenges is serving singles, as many people have a heart for families and especially children, but it takes special people to understand that everyone was once somebody’s baby. Also, in Arlington, a big challenge is the lack of public transportation.
- How would you describe your mission, and how are you specifically helping the homeless and the hungry?
The mission of Arlington Life Shelter is to provide short-term shelter and support services that help our neighbors who are homeless integrate into society and become contributors to a thriving community. We offer food, shelter and hope to those in need, with the goal of helping people no longer need assistance from shelters like ours in the future.
- Can you give us an example of a person (named or unnamed) who has benefited from your services? How have they benefited? If it’s appropriate, tell us a short story.
“I got the interview!” He beamed with pride as he gushed to share the good news with his Case Manager.
When he graduated last May, he had a degree in his pocket and debt on his back. Competing in the job market was tough, as youth and inexperience were not on his side. He flipped burgers through high school and college, but that wasn’t paying the bills now.
That’s how he found himself picking out second-hand clothing and strutting for the Resident Assistants that morning as he headed out the door to catch a ride. That night he busted the doors down with excitement as he exclaimed, “I got the job!”
Soon reality hit, though. With no car, poor credit and limited public transportation options, it was going to be tough to get back and forth to the new job in Irving. His buddy gave him a ride to the interview, but how likely was that to continue in the long run?
Still, he had to make it work. The buddy worked nearby, and they split gas money for a while. When that wasn’t working anymore, he talked co-workers into carpooling, meeting offsite so they wouldn’t know where he stayed each night. He was exhausted, but still worked the burger job some nights and every weekend. It was tricky but by using the shelter as the stopgap it is, he was able to save up his money. When he left Arlington Life Shelter, he drove his own car to his own apartment, able to make his own way in the world.
- Is there anything new that you are focused on for the coming year? Any new initiatives?
Usually we see the shelters empty out a bit after the cold weather, but this year we have been full almost every night. We’ve noticed an increase in residents entering the program with jobs, and they still can’t make ends meet. This year, we’ve started working even more with people to manage their money and make good long-term decisions so they can make the most of their resources. We know that solving poverty is more than just handing out food and telling people to get jobs. We are really working to help break through the mindset of poverty and we see successes as former clients come back to help as volunteers and donors.
- What else should North Texas residents know about your work?
Eighty-nine men, women and children left the shelter this morning — sack lunch in hand — headed off to school, work and job hunting.
Six went searching for an apartment, the newest clients referred for housing programs.
Thirty-three went off to jobs in our community — one caught a ride over to his job at the General Motors plant, others on their way to restaurant, day labor and office jobs. Ten slung their backpacks on and headed to AISD classrooms.
Eighteen hit the pavement to resume their job search. Another 12 gathered their meager belongings and hit the streets, not yet willing to believe they can change their lives and back to homelessness until the next cold night or hot day drives them to seek shelter. One exited this morning, spending tonight in his own apartment after saving up and getting clean. Last lunch sack in hand, he walked out the door and into his new life.