Daytona Program Eradicates Veteran Homelessness

Volusia and Flagler Counties in Daytona Beach, Florida announced last year that the homeless veteran population is officially at what the government terms “functional zero.”

According to social services director Anthony Deobil, the terms are defined as no more than four homeless vets in Flagler County at any given time and no more than 24 in Volusia County. The Supportive Services for Veteran Families program has allowed Daytona Beach to declare an end to homelessness among vets.

Federal funding started three years ago to fund an aggressive push to end homelessness among veterans nationwide by 2015. While the national goal wasn’t met, Deobil said The Salvation Army in Daytona Beach has been able to hold to it.

Through the Housing First, Rapid Rehousing program, Deobil said the veterans they encounter who are homeless are placed in some type of temporary housing within 48 hours and permanent housing within 21 days. “Housing is step one. But then we have to make sure that they have the skills and abilities to survive on their own so it might mean helping them find a job, getting them to mental health or medical services, assisting them with getting on social security, disability or VA benefits.” Deobil said the federal grants they’re administering to conduct the program have been a game changer.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gives the Daytona program a “surge” grant of $1 million per year for three years and the SSVF grant, $410,000 renewable annually.

“For the first time we got the money and talent we needed and with all those things together, we’ve been able to take these vets off the street and not just put them into an apartment – we are watching miracles every day,” he said.

Those miracles start with an encounter with the two-person outreach team. Deobil said the outreach team members were once homeless vets themselves, so they’re able to build a rapport of mutual understanding with the vets they meet on the street, at soup kitchens or in homeless camps. Once they check to make sure the person is indeed a veteran and that he or she meets the SSVF program’s eligibility requirements, the person is brought into either an emergency shelter, the Daytona Beach veteran’s transitional housing or, if there are no available beds, a hotel room for up to 30 days.

While there, they’re assessed to help identify any barriers to self-sufficiency. One of the six caseworkers devoted just to the SSVF program is a housing specialist who connects with local landlords. The Salvation Army pays for the rental until the veteran is self-supporting, usually within three months, although some have been in the program for as much as nine months.

They help the veterans connect with the VA for any disability or veteran’s benefits, medical or legal services, drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs if needed, and help them find skilled work according to the assessments they complete. One of their success stories had been the “local homeless vet” that everyone around town knew and never thought he’d escape the streets. He had an alcohol addiction and was homeless for 20 years. But he’s been in a rehabilitation program for nine months and, in addition to his VA benefits, he’s able to collect an income because he bought a lawnmower and started his own lawn care business in the neighborhood where The Salvation Army helped him settle.

One of the hallmarks of the program, according to Deobil, is how much they walk a veteran through even the most basic requirements of sustainability. Once a vet is placed in an apartment, the SSVF team meets him or her there with a host of cleaning supplies. Deobil said it’s not because the apartments need cleaning; they’ve been prepped already by the landlord. But they host a cleaning party so that they can help him re-learn how to clean if he needs to. And after being in the apartment for a month, staff members show up with cookie baking supplies and they make cookies together. During that time, the vet’s ability to cook and provide meals for his or her family is assessed.

The Daytona Beach Area Command can then help them get any training they need through the classes they offer – cooking, budgeting, cleaning, etc. To date, 830 households have been helped, which translates to about 1,500 people, including the veterans’ spouses and/or children. The stabilization rate is 97 percent, so Deobil feels that the impact is definitely long-term.

“Years ago in social services if we met a homeless person we used to say first we have to help them with their issues; then when they’re stable enough, we can put them into their own house. Now it’s different; we know if we take somebody off the street and put them into an apartment and we start speaking hope back into their life, they begin to change their attitude and all of a sudden they start wanting to change and they want help,” he said.

Some of the vets they help are asked to volunteer with the Battle Buddies program. It allows vets to give back to other vets escaping homelessness, and it lets the case management staff know that the vets they help are still self-sufficient and in stable housing.

One of Deobil’s favorite success stories is a veteran who was considered the problem vet. He was resistant to change, complained frequently about the caseworkers and didn’t want to do what was asked of him. About two weeks after he was placed, the vet came to see Deobil.

“Quite frankly, I thought he was going to complain about something. He held a key up and said, ‘Do you know what this is?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s the key to the apartment,’ and he said, ‘No, it’s much more.’ He said, ‘If it rains tonight, my stuff’s not going to get wet, nobody’s going to steal my stuff because it’s locked in my apartment and if someone writes me a letter, it is going to come to me because my name is on the mailbox. This key means I’m somebody again.’ It’s a powerful story; this program is so life changing.”

Dallas EDS Teams Respond to December Tornadoes

As the extensive cleanup and repair work continued in the North Texas communities hit by the Dec. 26 tornadoes, accessibility became increasingly difficult. To address the problem, The Salvation Army mobilized two catering trucks and two Polaris UTVs facilitating the delivery of meals, snacks and drinks to even the hardest hit areas.

Neighborhood streets in the communities of Garland and Rowlett were busy with the sounds of heavy equipment including city dump trucks and bulldozers removing rubble and debris while roofers worked alongside insurance companies on homes. These operations resulted in extremely congested neighborhoods. The Salvation Army Bryan College Station and DFW catering trucks were able to successfully maneuver through the streets to deliver meals, snacks and drinks to grateful residents, workers and volunteers.

Dwayne and Diane Walters, volunteers from The Salvation Army in Bryan College Station, began their deployment on Saturday, Jan. 2. “We’ve been serving in this same area since Saturday and are getting to know some of the people,” said Diane. “The residents and workers are so happy to see The Salvation Army pulling up, especially when we crack open the sides of the truck and start serving. For lunch today we’re serving Salisbury steak and au gratin potatoes.”

Four mobile feeding units provided drinks, snacks and meals, along with emotional and spiritual care in Garland, Rowlett, the Ovilla/Glenn Heights area, and Sunnyvale.

Meals were served to survivors, first responders and volunteers at the Granger Recreation Center in Garland as well as at a Garland police command post.

Resource centers provided residents with emergency financial assistance along with cleanup kits, hygiene products, blankets, work gloves and other cleaning supplies. Additionally, Salvation Army case workers met with tornado survivors to learn of their specific needs for long-term recovery.

The Salvation Army in Texas reached out to Midwest Food Bank, a long-time disaster partner, in the hope to add emergency food supplies to already established relief operations supporting those who have lost so much as a result of the recent storms.

“Midwest Food Bank has been a great support in recent times of disaster in Texas, including the widespread flooding that hit the state in the spring,” said Alvin Migues, Texas disaster service director for The Salvation Army. “The Salvation Army supplies the boxes and Midwest Food Bank provides all of the food, often filling the box with additional items including Bibles.”

Trafficking in the Homeless Community

By Captain Monica Seiler

When I was a child, I was homeless. In fact, it was through this circumstance that my family first came into contact with The Salvation Army. Thankfully, we were not homeless for long, nor do I have many bad memories from that experience.

Sadly, the same is not true for my friends who are homeless in Murfreesboro, TN, where I have lived for almost four years. This community is a kind and giving community, but human suffering is palpable.

This past Friday night, after dark, I had the privilege to do some homeless visitation with people in Murfreesboro who are living in their cars in a Walmart parking lot, under bridges in tents, in the woods in makeshift shacks, behind big retail stores, and even in an abandoned boat next to a fast food restaurant. In my community, many others are couch surfing or sharing extended stay motel room costs for a warm, safe place to sleep.

Homelessness seems like it is everywhere in this growing, vibrant community and I fear it is not slowing down anytime soon. None of this is news to me. What is new is the growing number of women who are homeless and alone, making them vulnerable to so much more than the average woman.

I learned that some camps rent out tent spaces to others, for safety reasons. If women need a “safe” place to stay and have no way to pay for that space, they are trafficked among the homeless community. In exchange, they are allowed to keep a tent at the camp.

I met three women on Friday night alone in three different camps where this is the case. The idea is that the other men and people in the camp will protect them and keep them safe from the larger homeless community in exchange for the woman bringing in some sort of income, whether it be cash, cigarettes, food, supplies or drugs. These women, and men, too, are being trafficked and feel they have no way out.

They do not have identification. They do not have resources. They are voiceless.  No one sees them and no one cares. They feel utterly worthless and any hope they may have had has been stolen from them.

I believe that it is our responsibility to show these vulnerable people that they are loved. We show them this by being intentional in building relationships with them so that when God ordains it, they can be rescued.

I’m reminded of the founder’s vision of the lost where people who have been rescued from the waves rest safely upon the rock of salvation, meanwhile forgetting that there are others still fighting to swim in the stormy sea.

Countless people are drowning in front of them, but instead of looking down to lend a hand to help pull them out, the rescued are more concerned with their own comfort and security.

May the same not be so of us! May we be a people willing to get our hands dirty to help rescue those who are dying in front of our faces. May we be the hands of Jesus as we help to rescue those in the bondage of trafficking.

Guitar Center Donates $5 million in Merchandise

The effort to strengthen musical programs in local corps just got a boost. The Guitar Center donated $5.2 million in musical merchandise to The Salvation Army’s four U.S. territories. The merchandise includes mixers, lighting controllers, microphones, guitar effect pedals, guitars, basses, keyboards, drums, speakers and other items.

The entire donation filled 14 40-foot trucks. The allotment to the USA South filled seven 28-foot trucks which were unloaded at the North-South Carolina Division’s disaster warehouse in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Each division will receive 16 pallets of merchandise, and Evangeline Booth College will receive a portion as well.

The divisions picked up their allotments in mid-January. Bernie Dake of the territorial Music Department coordinated the sorting and distribution of the goods, and Daniel Delaney was hired to organize the merchandise for distribution to the divisions.

 

Photo by Keri Shay for SAConnects Magazine.

First We Will Conference Committee Meetings Held at THQ

Earlier this month, the Territorial Women’s Department assembled a diverse team of women from across the territory to plan the general session meetings for the We Will conference, to be held in Orlando in September.

Meeting in the women’s department board room at THQ on January 11 and 12, many of the women had come into town for the ReEffect conference and remained for a few extra days while others were local to Atlanta. For two days, they collaborated around a communal table, sharing food, prayer and ideas that will shape the first women’s leadership conference this territory has ever seen.

“We are standing on the shoulders of the women officers who have gone before us,” Lt. Heather Dolby said.

That sentiment was echoed by other collaborators who referenced the early days of bold female leaders in The Salvation Army in discussing how this conference should unfold and its ultimate goals.

“Their ceiling should be our floor, we should be pushing forward,” Hillary DeJarnett said.

Each meeting was represented by a long sheet of paper taped to the wall where the planners wrote the names of songs, bible verses and worship notes that they thought would correspond with that day’s theme.This territorial event aims to provide women the opportunity to engage in worship, conversation and fellowship.  Empowerment, not entertainment, is its purpose.

Interested delegates will have to apply for admission and, if accepted, pay to attend. The hope is that those who do come will be fully invested and engaged in the sessions and will return to their corps and communities with a sense of empowerment.

“This conference moves us to a place of recovering our legacy,” Diffley said. “Catherine Booth didn’t wait to be empowered, she didn’t wait for permission.”

Many in the room expressed concern for the aftermath of the event, when women return to their communities to build on what they have learned.

“I don’t want to create a new program that becomes a burden,” Captain Maureen Diffley said. “We want to focus on leadership and recognize that women are capable of doing things. We’ll see where it takes us as an army.”

The application submittal period opens in March. For further updates, check back here and visit SA Women’s Ministries on Facebook.

Wake County NC’s Project FIGHT Receives Award

 

The Salvation Army of Wake County, NC’s Project FIGHT (Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking) co-hosted a press conference on January 11 with Partners Against Human Trafficking (PATH) NC to raise awareness about multiple initiatives that are being taken across the state to put an end to human trafficking. Representatives of several local human trafficking organizations and area churches were present for this special event.

Project FIGHT was presented with the Survivor Care award at a special event held by the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission last year. The program, founded in 2011,  provides case management, outreach, awareness and education about Human Trafficking. Since its inception, it has helped more that 140 victims of trafficking and has trained 4500 people across the state.

“While the work is exhausting, it is a privilege to be a part of something much, much larger than ourselves,” said Christine Shaw, Director of Social Ministries for The Salvation Army of Wake County. “I am humbled by God’s provision and planning.  I am humbled by everyone’s perseverance to endure such difficult work.”

More information on Project FIGHT can be found here.

 

ReEffect 2016

The Territorial Youth Department hosted the biennial ReEffect Conference at the Atlanta International Corps in Doraville, GA, January 8-10. This year’s theme, ReVision, called on attendees to see the invisible and to question their perceptions of others.

Well-prepared speakers led workshops and sessions that sparked conversations among delegates on racial reconciliation, the Syrian refugee crisis and the school to prison pipeline. The weekend was bookended by southern salvationist speakers Captain Andy Miller III and Commissioner Phil Needham who challenged those present to take back what they had learned to their corps and communities by putting it into practice in their local ministries.

On Saturday afternoon, some delegates separated into teams for integrated missions opportunities in the Atlanta area while others journeyed to the Sweet Auburn Historic District in downtown Atlanta to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

During the Sunday morning closing session, Commissioner Needham summarized the lessons of the weekend in a final call to see others in a new way and to love them, even when it isn’t easy. “If you don’t see as Jesus sees, you can’t love as he has called us to love,” he said. “If you see in the wrong way, you won’t love as you’re called to love or you won’t love at all.”

For more information, pick up a copy of the next issue of Southern Spirit, out January 30, and click through the photo slideshow to see select moments from ReEffect 2016.

Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium Held in Atlanta

The Salvation Army USA Southern Territory held its first Social and Ethical Issues symposium Jan. 7, 2016, titled ReFocus: Seeing the Possibilities.

Facilitated by Major Susan Ellis, territorial social and ethical issues director, ReFocus was an optional ReEffect pre-conference for delegates interested in fighting human trafficking. Co-facilitators of the conference included Captain Maureen Diffley, program specialist for Women’s Ministries, and Hillary DeJarnett, territorial coordinator against human and sex trafficking. The pre-conference was broken into three separate tracks: corps ministry, social services and demand reduction.

Corps ministry delegates heard speakers such as Patrick Trueman, president and CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, who also was the keynote speaker. He spoke about a culture that’s being broken down by the normalization of pornography, a major contributor to sex trafficking.

Trueman said that even children have become the exploiters through popular middle and high school practices such as sexting. The danger, he said, is that it creates a mindset of sexual entitlement and is “a revolt against God Himself and His wise laws.” The middle and high school adolescents who are sexting become the college students who engage in a hookup culture – they become the sex buyers, and the trafficking industry gets fueled.

Other speakers in the corps ministry track included Dotti Groover-Skipper, the Florida divisional anti-trafficking coordinator, and Cadet Tricia Smouse, who previously served as the human trafficking program coordinator for The Salvation Army in Central Ohio. Each led sessions about the unique characteristics of working with victims of human trafficking and how to effectively advocate in your corps community as well as outreach to the victims. During lunch, Jason Pope, technical advisor for the Salvation Army World Service Office, spoke on overseas projects that combat trafficking and restore communities.

The social services track led delegates through a ladder of care with topics ranging from taking care of social services staff through self-care, a continuum of care for service providers, how to empower survivors through trauma-informed care and how to effectively run programs using federal funding and diversifying program funding. Speakers included Julie Shematz, social services director in Tampa, Florida; Priscilla Santos, program coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Anti-Trafficking Services program in Orange County, California; the team from Haven ATL led by Melba Robinson, director, and Dorsey Jones, case manager, and Keisha Head, a survivor and nationally recognized speaker on human trafficking.

Delegates who chose the demand reduction track learned about how to respond to the demand for commercial sexual exploitation from within the church, from a community approach and through law enforcement advocacy. Speakers included Patrick Trueman; Corporal Alan Wilkett, Pasco County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office; Pilar Dunning, program manager for the Salvation Army’s STOP-IT program in Chicago, Illinois; and Anne Kerr, TrueNorth Freedom Project founder and CEO, who gave practical resources and tips for helping the church engage in the fight to end demand for sex trafficking.

 

Disaster Response in Texas

As the extensive cleanup and repair work continued in the North Texas communities hit by the Dec. 26 tornadoes, accessibility became increasingly difficult. To address the problem, The Salvation Army mobilized two catering trucks and two Polaris UTVs facilitating the delivery of meals, snacks and drinks to even the hardest hit areas.

Neighborhood streets in the communities of Garland and Rowlett were busy with the sounds of heavy equipment including city dump trucks and bulldozers removing rubble and debris while roofers worked alongside insurance companies on homes. These operations resulted in extremely congested neighborhoods. The Salvation Army Bryan College Station and DFW catering trucks were able to successfully maneuver through the streets to deliver meals, snacks and drinks to grateful residents, workers and volunteers.

Dwayne and Diane Walters, volunteers from The Salvation Army in Bryan College Station, began their deployment on Saturday, Jan. 2. “We’ve been serving in this same area since Saturday and are getting to know some of the people,” said Diane. “The residents and workers are so happy to see The Salvation Army pulling up, especially when we crack open the sides of the truck and start serving. For lunch today we’re serving Salisbury steak and au gratin potatoes.”

Four mobile feeding units provided drinks, snacks and meals, along with emotional and spiritual care in Garland, Rowlett, the Ovilla/Glenn Heights area, and Sunnyvale.

Meals were served to survivors, first responders and volunteers at the Granger Recreation Center in Garland as well as at a Garland police command post.

Resource centers provided residents with emergency financial assistance along with cleanup kits, hygiene products, blankets, work gloves and other cleaning supplies. Additionally, Salvation Army case workers met with tornado survivors to learn of their specific needs for long-term recovery.

The Salvation Army in Texas reached out to Midwest Food Bank, a long-time disaster partner, in the hope to add emergency food supplies to already established relief operations supporting those who have lost so much as a result of the recent storms.

“Midwest Food Bank has been a great support in recent times of disaster in Texas, including the widespread flooding that hit the state in the spring,” said Alvin Migues, Texas disaster service director for The Salvation Army. “The Salvation Army supplies the boxes and Midwest Food Bank provides all of the food, often filling the box with additional items including Bibles.”

The Salvation Army contacted UPS for help in delivering the 768 food boxes over the New Year’s weekend.

“UPS were delighted to help and they moved mountains to get a driver from Coyote Logistics, a UPS company, to the Midwest Foods warehouse in Peoria, Illinois, by 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve,” said Migues. “Incredibly, the delivery truck arrived and 24 pallets were unloaded at The Salvation Army warehouse in Arlington on Friday night.”

By Dan Childs