NewsHomeless Corpus Christi: Crisis on our Streets


SALVATION ARMY: Feeding the soul, and the stomach

Posted at 11:49 AM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 15:33:12-04

The Salvation Army is known as the place to go if you need a hot meal. But according to those who eat there it's not just hot -- it's good.

"I believe your station did a story a few months ago about the quality of the food here and how people tell the news this is the place to go for a meal," said The Salvation Army's Capt. Patrick Gesner. "So we're excited. They do a great job. It's not an easy task, feeding as many people as we do."

The Salvation Army is open 365 days a week, and meals are provided to anyone who needs them on every one of those days. Even holidays.

"Christmas Eve, we do a Christmas Even lunch," Gesner said. "The public is invited to lunch. Same thing on Thanksgiving Day. We have three of our cooks those days. We have fruit salad and a full-course meal."

Food might be one of the things it does best, but it does so much more for the community.

The local Salvation Army headquarters is located at 520 Josephine St. The Salvation Army was founded in England in 1852, and is an evangelical arm of the universal Christian Church. It has been a presence in Corpus Christi since 1908.

It serves as a refuge for help, and a place where individuals and families can get back on their feet.

"Usually, everybody that comes to us for assistance comes and gets entered as an emergency client," Gesner said. Meaning if they didn't come to us, they would be homeless. They would be on the streets."

Once they've been with the Salvation Army for a few weeks, Gesner said, the organization begins the task of vetting clients and identifying their needs.

"We say 'What program is a best fit for you? Do you need to get into housing? Are you a veteran?' " he said.

If the client is a veteran, they go to a specific part of the building with other veterans.

"We try to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place by helping them financially," Gesner said. "But if they do, we have a residence here for veterans as well."

The residence includes a lounge specifically for veterans, as well, thanks to grants. Cheniere also has donated money to upgrade the furniture in the veterans' lounge, as well as its TV.

"It's going to be very nice, and we are grateful to them and their love for our veterans and our country," Gesner said.

Families that require help from the Salvation Army are kept together, which is a point of pride for Gesner.

"We're the only shelter in the Coastal Bend area where the children are not separated from their parents," he said. "Other shelters don't have the ability to house the children in the same room with them. For example, if you have a 15-year-old boy and a dad, they go to the single male population and a mom with a 6-year-old would go to the women's. Here we keep them together."

A family gets its own room with a bathroom. Gesner said families typically stay anywhere from two weeks to as long as a year, depending on whether they qualify for transitional housing.

They get three meals a day, and tutoring for students is even provided by volunteers who have been background checked, in the media/library center.

"If parents get off work late one thing we would hate is if a child still has homework to do, they're not able to spend mother-daughter-father-son time, so we work on getting homework done here," Gesner said. "And if they just want to read -- we keep it here. It's always monitored. It's always safe."

Volunteers even sign up to help and host birthday parties for the children, Gesner said.

The buildings currently housing the Salvation Army have been around since the 1950s, Gesner said, which is why it's working on building new facilities on Buford. A replacement for the current family and veterans section currently is under construction.

"And in a couple of more years, we'll have phase two starting, which is the single men's dorms (going) up," Gesner said. "We need them. It's time to replace them."

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