Sallie House and Children’s Village play valuable role in the community
By: Brad Rowland
The Salvation Army excels in sheltering and transitional housing, and St. Petersburg, Florida, exemplifies that excellence, offering a unique set of programs that serve a considerable need in the community.
The Sallie House, which began operation in 1990, exists as a safe haven for children up to 17 years of age who have been removed from their home because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. The physical structure operates in dormitory style in conjunction with local and state authorities, with the Army providing a place of respite for young people in need.
Coinciding with that purpose, St. Petersburg in 2003 opened a second program called Children’s Village, featuring a neighborhood of single family homes for longer-term residents. Formerly, the program was a mainstay in keeping children for lengthy periods of time, including instances in which youth stayed until reaching adulthood. In recent days, a programmatic shift in focus in local government has a resulted in children often being placed with a relative or family associate, with The Salvation Army providing a continuum of care until that event occurs.
“One of the things that has made The Salvation Army very unique in the child welfare arena, with these two programs, is our ability to accept large sibling groups,” said Randi-Lyn Farrell, director of development. “When families are disrupted and are in crisis, traditional foster homes cannot accommodate four, five and six siblings at a time … With both programs, we are able to foster large sibling groups at one time, and we also have the unique situation of having dual programs that can create additional openings to keep families together.”
The Children’s Village provides a foster parent in each of four separate homes on property owned by the Army, with only six children dwelling within each. The Sallie House also features that kind of 24/7 monitoring, though following a more typical sheltering model. Holly Harmon, social services director, oversees both operations, with separate program managers supervising the individual outlets.
Youth in the programs are also provided with optional character-building opportunities in coordination with the St. Petersburg Citadel Corps, with Captains Chris and Heidi Farrell serving as corps officers. Children may be regular participants in Sunday school and worship services when they desire, and crisis management and Christian counseling are available to them as well.
Though having these dual programs is rare, if not unique, in the ministry of The Salvation Army, their existence within the St. Petersburg community proves to be vital, and this comprehensive level of care serves as a model.