Salvation Army area commander Ethan Frizzell led a town hall meeting Wednesday evening that outlined new strategies the organization is using to help curb homelessness.
Frizzell’s presentation focused on managing families. The Salvation Army is planning to reopen its emergency family dorm, and he said the community needed to work together to come up with a strategic plan to best assist families in need.
Frizzell pointed to a lack of available, affordable quality housing as a major problem that needs to be addressed — not just through the Salvation Army, but also through the efforts of the community.
“It’s not acceptable to leave family in shelters,” Frizzell said. “It’s not the right solution, it’s not right to blame them when they’re still there.”
New strategies outlined by Frizzell begin with recruiting families who sign up to receive Christmas presents to participate in the Journey of Hope program. The program will include monthly family events, more intensive case management and efforts to increase employability. Just as important as getting people off the streets, Frizzell said, was keeping them from becoming homeless in the first place.
Frizzell also talked about the Salvation Army’s new shelter policies. One of the most significant changes is that the organization will no longer offer free shelter when it’s raining. Frizzell said too many people were gambling on the rain — hanging out on the streets near the shelter until as late as 3 a.m., hoping for a downpour.
On days with a 70% chance of rain at 6 p.m., the Salvation Army will charge people $3 to stay for the night. When there’s an 80% chance of rain, they will charge $2; a 90% chance of rain means the price will be $1.
When audience members suggested there should be no charge to stay on rainy days, Frizzell admitted he didn’t think this was a perfect solution. Still, he said, getting people in earlier and directly interacting with staff would allow the Salvation Army to work as more than a shelter, to help work with people to prevent chronic homelessness.
He also said there was value in having people providing for themselves, even if the price was only one dollar.
“I will not steal the dignity of a man to prevent him from meeting his own needs,” Frizzell said.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].