Schmidt’s role expands in The Salvation Army’s social service work in Atlanta

By: David Ibata

Having successfully led The Salvation Army Red Shield Services shelter in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, Sergeant Janeane Schmidt is now seeing her duties expanded across social services in the metro area.

“I’m excited because I’m thinking of all the potential of sharing my experiences to help others,” said Sergeant Schmidt, recently named the director of social services for The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta. “But it’s a little bit daunting thinking I’ll be responsible for trying to standardize all of our services of The Salvation Army in metro Atlanta.”

Sergeant Schmidt came to The Salvation Army in 1991 as a client of a drug and alcohol recovery program in New Orleans, Louisiana. She took the Soldier’s Oath the following year, moved to Atlanta in 1996 and has been working with Red Shield Services ever since.

Today, she oversees a program that provides housing and community programs for men, women and families, including housing facility programs, financial emergency services and a food pantry. Red Shield Services has 320 shelter beds, a staff of 50 and many volunteers.

Sergeant Schmidt implemented a “Vets on the Move” program in 2004, and it has grown to become a national standard utilized by the Veterans Administration. She also developed strong guidelines for positive behavior in the shelter, with expectations consumers will create a “home” for themselves, no matter their length of stay.

The Salvation Army in 2012 recognized Red Shield Services nationally as the award-winning program in the Southern Territory for Program Excellence and Achievement. Sergeant Schmidt and her husband Sergeant Dan Schmidt, chaplain at Red Shield Services, in 2018 were recognized with an Award for Exceptional Service from the Metro Atlanta Area Command (MAAC).

While Sergeant Schmidt continues overseeing Red Shield Services, she said her new position will have her “looking at anything that’s grant-funded to ensure we’re meeting expectations and reporting requirements, and not asking for money that we can’t spend out.”

The sergeant said she expected to spend most of her time in the Financial Emergency Services office, which emphasizes homelessness prevention – utility assistance, rent and mortgage assistance, food pantries and, in some units, medical assistance.

Caseworkers in the field will continue to report to their respective corps, and Sergeant Schmidt will be available to provide training, feedback, advice and recommendations. But her focus will be on programming. Here, the most pressing need currently is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now, we have all this CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding coming into our offices,” Sergeant Schmidt said. To date, The Salvation Army in metro Atlanta has received $800,000 for Red Shield Services; $400,000 for its operations in Gwinnett County; $300,000, for Cobb County; and $100,000, for DeKalb County. The monies are primarily for homelessness prevention.

“We have to get our hands around these grants,” Sergeant Schmidt said. “These have very specific deadlines for spending out the funds, and very specific uses for those funds.”