Jackson, MS (March 18, 2021)— Thankful that the projected severe tornado outbreak of March 17 was not as destructive as expected, The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi (ALM) Division has been serving pockets of need after yesterday’s severe weather.
Laurel, MS: The Salvation Army Laurel Corps provided snacks and drinks for 70 people at the Jones County Safe Room at the request of local officials.
Birmingham, AL: The Salvation Army Birmingham Area Command provided lunches, snacks, and drinks to residents impacted in Chilton County.
Dothan, AL: The Salvation Army Dothan Corps received a call asking for assistance for a senior citizen whose home was devastated during the storm. They responded to the call by providing water, boxes, blankets, and spiritual care.
Jackson, MS (March 17, 2021) — As the threat of a significant tornado outbreak looms, The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi (ALM) Division prepares to support relief efforts as needed across the division. Salvation Army mobile feeding units are on standby throughout the ALM Division, and crews are ready to serve when called.
“The Salvation Army ALM disaster response team is equipped and ready to respond in every county and parish within the three states. As always, The Salvation Army stands ready to serve, doing the most good in our communities and responding with love and compassion when disaster strikes,” Captain Howard Tate, The Salvation Army ALM Division representative.
The Salvation Army encourages everyone in potentially impacted areas to take every precaution and heed local officials’ advice and local warnings.
It has been a year since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. As we all reflect on the challenges of 2020, The Salvation Army would like to shed hope and light on this dark commemoration and share how we have continued to serve on the front lines, helping our neighbors in need.
In 2020, The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi served 261,658 people and saw the following increases in services provided:
- Disaster Assistance (People Served): up 4,355%
- Grocery Orders: up 42%
- Home-Delivered Meals: up 204%
- Personal Comfort Kits: up 84%
In challenging times, we’re more committed than ever to serving all with love, kindness, and hope. Last year, The Salvation Army consistently served throughout the pandemic and amid the most active hurricane season in recorded history. We continue to serve our struggling neighbors’ needs during this unprecedented time and will continue to serve our neighbors’ needs in the years ahead.
“This past year has indeed been like no other. As I reflect on 2020, I’m proud of the work The Salvation Army in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi has done to help our neighbors in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the back-to-back hurricanes we’ve experienced,” stated Major Kent Davis, The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Divisional Commander. “We will continue to fight the good fight for years to come and look forward to continuing working with donors and volunteers to serve our neighbors in need.”
An uncertain winter weather forecast materialized throughout the ALM Division during the week of February 14, 2021, resulting in back-to-back winter storms. Road conditions became treacherous, with overpasses and bridges beginning to ice. An all-time record was reached with seven consecutive days below 35 degrees, and on most of those days, temperatures were below freezing. The first storm system crippled much of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, resulting in road closures, traffic accidents, and power outages. Tens of thousands of residents were without power at the peak of the storm system, and many are still dealing with water pressure issues. The Salvation Army is committed to serving the most vulnerable members of our community, so our 24/7 cold weather shelters remained open as necessary to provide a safe environment.
Volunteers were recruited to comfort clients and assist shelters with public feedings.
“Those volunteers are living, breathing human beings who choose to be with the guests who are hurting, who are troubled in life quite often,” said Major Bradley Caldwell, Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Commanding Officer. “That person just sitting with them, and just hearing their story, giving them a smile makes a difference just as much as the food and the shelter do.”
“We have people that have found their way here and others who have been directed here by police or the hospital,” added Lieutenant Jamaal Ellis, Shreveport, Louisiana Corps Officer.
“We are here to serve.”
The Shreveport Corps also set out to find homeless people on the streets and coaxed them to come inside by offering hand warmers and hot chocolate.
Many regular shelters were full since COVID-19 restrictions cut their occupancy in half, so Corps turned to placing cots on whatever floor space they could find — socially distanced six feet apart.
“If anyone needed shelter from the weather, they could take refuge with us. We are here to serve,” stated Captain Wendy Deuel, Florence, Alabama Corps Officer.
“We’re moving stuff around. If there’s any space that we can safely put someone, we’re going to find it. If that means moving furniture around so that we can lay down another cot, that’s what we’re doing. We’ve had to repurpose a room just so that we can make that into a place where people can stay,” Lt. Ellis added.
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. Click here for more information on how The Salvation Army is helping your community.
Jacquela and her daughter became homeless at the beginning of 2020 after a home foreclosure. She turned to live with a church member but could not continue those arrangements after a month, so she had to find a new temporary home. She was referred to The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama Area Command’s Family Haven Emergency Shelter and immediately moved in. A month later, the pandemic hit, and she lost her job. The Salvation Army continued to encourage her through months of interviews and bouts of depression. Her stay at the shelter was extended due to the pandemic, and her social workers continued to provide hope and resources. Jacquela also had outstanding utilities that she needed to pay off before moving forward with the housing process to ensure she didn’t end up in a similar situation after finding a new home, so the additional time helped her catch up with financial planning. Although thankful for The Salvation Army, Jacquela found herself ashamed of her living conditions.
“Staying in a shelter was embarrassing and shameful to me. At one point, I was looking for extended stay places, but things like that would have put me in a worse situation because I’d constantly spend money on top of money,” Jacquela shared.
“My family still doesn’t know I’ve gone through this. Whenever I would face time, I’d make sure my background was discreet so no one would know,” she added.
Her daughter was in a car accident that totaled their only form of transportation, so Jacquela had to use the money she was saving to replace the vehicle. Her caseworker was understanding and extended her stay even more. Jacquela eventually found employment again as a family engagement coordinator for a nonprofit organization and began saving for a new home.
“They saw that I was trying to do the right thing. The Salvation Army was there as a support system. They gave me time to do what I needed to do and didn’t just kick me out because my three months were up,” Jacquela shared.
“My biggest dilemma was finding housing because I wasn’t able to do the traditional thing of finding an apartment because I was under bankruptcy, so whenever a landlord would look at me on paper, I was financially destitute. I wasn’t able to rent normally, so I was forced to try to find an individual landlord to try to work with them. The same situations I try to help families out of with my job, I now found myself in,” Jacquela added.
A Salvation Army employee learned of her troubles finding housing and connected Jacquela with an individual landlord who had properties. She met with the landlord and explained her situation, and they were willing to give her a chance. Jacquela moved into her new home in June 2020. The Salvation Army helped with the first month’s rent to allow time for Jacquela to get ahead with her other finances.
One of the hardest parts of living in the shelter was watching her daughter deal with high school senior year stressors during a pandemic, without the comfort of permanent housing. The entire situation was difficult for Jacquela’s daughter; All senior year celebrations were canceled, including prom, and on top of the stressors of not having her own home, she had to prepare for college. Thankfully, Jacquela was able to plan a graduation party at the shelter to create some type of normalcy for her daughter.
Forming tears, Jacquela shared, “When I lost my house in foreclosure, I lost everything. Not just my house. We literally only had some suitcases. We were vacating the house, but someone broke into our home while we were moving out. We basically left our home with the clothes that we could put in one or two bins. When we left the shelter, we had to start completely over. We lived here for about two months without furniture. We had nothing six months ago. My daughter has been a trooper with me. We go in and are making our house a home—just part of my testimony.
“It is only by God’s grace and mercy. Anything that anyone did is because he put His hands on it, and I believe that He did open doors for us and continues to open doors for us. That is how we survived. I’m thankful.
I want people who may be in the same situation that I was in to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of. I thank God for the fact that I was able to live in the shelter and save money.”
The Salvation Army of Columbus has provided utility and food assistance throughout their community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families have leaned on the Army for assistance during this time due to job loss and health issues leading to unexpected financial responsibilities. Here are just a few of the many testimonials of Columbus residents.
A family of four visited the Social Services office for assistance with their electric bill. The father, the sole provider for the family, had just received a text message from his employer stating that his services were no longer needed. He’d held this position for four years and didn’t receive an explanation for losing his job. His unemployment application had been on hold for months due to the pandemic, leaving him and his family in dire need of financial assistance. The Salvation Army was able to fully pay the families’ utility bill through the CARES Act. Food from the pantry and diapers that were donated via the Walmart Salvation Army Registry were also provided.
A mother of two contacted the Columbus Corps concerning her need for utility assistance. She worked full time for a factory and was laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She’d never asked for assistance prior to the pandemic and hadn’t anticipated needing it. She’d been relying on her weekly $235.00 unemployment check for a while, barely getting by. When the government increased the allowance to $600 she thought things would turn around for her family, but she quickly lost control of her expenses after that allowance was reduced again. Between household upkeep, bills, and food she just could not keep up. The Salvation Army was able to provide groceries for the family as well as cover their utility bills through assistance from the CARES Act.
An elderly woman visited the Columbus Corps Social Services office for assistance with her electric bill. She’d recently moved into a new apartment and could not afford the rent due to her fixed income. She’d originally planned to split rent payments with her daughter but was abandoned with the burden when her daughter made arrangements to get a place of her own. She only receives $613.00 per month in Social Security and the rent is $400. She had nowhere else to go. This apartment was the cheapest she could find in her area. The Salvation Army was able to assist with her utility bills with funds provided by The Emergency Food and Shelter Program and provided her with food from the pantry.
For more information on how The Salvation Army is assisting the Columbus, Mississippi Community, visit https://salvationarmyalm.org/columbus/.
Dominique and her three children came to The Salvation Army Birmingham Area Command in 2018 to seek refuge from a verbally and physically abusive relationship with an ex-boyfriend. Because she had witnessed her mother being killed by her stepfather early in life, Dominique knew she had to do something to prevent repeating the cycle. Determined to keep her kids safe, she formed a plan to start a new life.
“Believe it or not, some of the best sleep I’ve ever had was at The Salvation Army. I had peace.”
Dominique and her children were living with her father, stepmother, and sister when an altercation occurred between herself and her youngest son’s father. When presented with the chance to leave, she took it. Dominique found out about the women’s Center of Hope shelter at the Salvation Army in Birmingham. She and her children moved in and began preparing for their new lifestyles.
“Being in a shelter was different. My kids didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t know what to expect,” Dominique stated. “Believe it or not, some of the best sleep I’ve ever had was at The Salvation Army. I had peace,” she added.
Dominique stayed at the Center of Hope for four months before finding permanent housing. During that time, she joined The Salvation Army’s Education and Workplace Development program. The program helps individuals sustain employment through job readiness as well as life and educational training.
“My teacher was constructive. She had us write down our goals. My goal was to go back to school for real estate, and that’s what I did. I had help along the way, and whatever I asked for to better myself, The Salvation Army helped me. They offered assistance with school, my children, and extracurricular,” Dominique shared.
“It took me longer to finish the program because of being in and out of court concerning my domestic abuse case, but my counselors were patient and encouraged me. Kudos to my caseworkers. They tag teamed and helped me get everything I needed with going back to school. They were there for me all the way,” Dominique added.
“To come back with my kids I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ It’s crazy how things circle back around.”
Dominique was able to realize her dream and obtain her Real Estate license in 2020. However, as soon as she began to build her client base to start a new career, the COVID-19 pandemic put everything on hold. Even with two jobs, she struggled to pay her rent. Thankfully, she was eligible for The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 financial assistance program, which has helped pay her rent and utilities throughout the pandemic.
“It’s been a big adjustment, being a mother of three during the pandemic. My middle son started having more behavioral problems, and we’ve been going to the doctor and therapy all year. He was diagnosed with ADHD, and learning this during the pandemic is tough,” Dominique shared.
Having to turn to The Salvation Army for assistance again, Dominique reflected on previous times when The Salvation Army helped her. Staying at the Center of Hope in 2018 wasn’t her first encounter with the Army. Her mother abandoned her at The Salvation Army when she was an infant. Dominique was entered into the foster care system where her grandfather was able to locate and adopt her.
“To come back with my kids I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ It’s crazy how things circle back around,” Dominique stated.
“I just want to give God full credit because He’s the one who did everything for me and turned my whole life around. I didn’t do anything. There’s nobody but God who has brought me through this,” Dominique added.
The Salvation Army of Shreveport has provided a second chance for a homeless woman and her three granddaughters. They turned to live in a graveyard when faced with homelessness at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They now live at The Salvation Army Merkle Center of Hope, where they’ve celebrated Christmas and are being assisted in building a safe, independent lifestyle.
Twyla was living in Arizona when her daughters contacted her, saying that they could no longer care for their children and wanted her to take custody. She quickly made arrangements to move to Shreveport, Louisiana, to care for her three grandchildren.
“Their mamas weren’t acting right. They told me I better come get them, or they’re gonna just walk out,” Twyla shared.
Twyla immediately filed for full custody of her three grandchildren, ages nine, eight, and five, when she arrived in Shreveport. She was told that she could stay in one of her daughter’s homes to care for the children, and her daughter would move in with a boyfriend. After getting settled, Twyla’s daughter changed her mind and stated that she and the boyfriend would be living in the house, so Twyla and the children would have to find elsewhere to live.
The family ended up sleeping in the woods and abandoned houses, but Twyla couldn’t find comfort in those situations.
“I have no family here [ in Shreveport] except two daughters who are only about drugs and thugs. We had no place to go, so I started thinking about the safest places for us to live,” Twyla shared.
“I thought to stay in a graveyard because we’d slept in abandoned houses with no windows, mostly in bad areas. I didn’t get any rest. I’d sit up because I was scared. One time we slept in the woods, and it was the same thing because there are so many drug addicts and alcoholics out here roaming all night, hunting people to prey on. I knew this graveyard was over here, and I thought, ‘You know, most people are scared to walk through a graveyard at nighttime.’ That’s where we went, and that’s where we felt the safest. We never saw anybody except the groundskeeper and we didn’t let him know we were staying there. We left in the daytime with our backpacks and came back at night. Most of the time, we’d go to the gas station across the street and just sit on the curb at the side of the building,” Twyla added.
Twyla used her food stamps and to grab food from the gas station. She added herself to the waiting list for a suite for her and the girls at The Salvation Army. When she received the call that there was a vacancy, she immediately headed over to secure her space.
“It was hard, but my grandbabies are my life. I have to speak for them. I don’t want my babies in the system. Once they get in the system, it’s hard to get them back. I live for them. I’m going to take care of them until I have my last breath. Regardless of what I have to do,” Twyla stated.
Twyla and her grandchildren have been living in transitional housing since March 2019. She’s working with Hope Connection to set up permanent housing. Everything is in place but moving slowly since COVID-19 cases are increasing.
“As long as my babies have a warm bed and aren’t relying on gas station food, I have all of the time in the world to wait. We do not lack anything here,” Twyla stated.
“If it wasn’t for The Salvation Army, I really couldn’t tell you where we’d be. This place has really blessed us. This place is a blessing. People need to keep doing what they’re doing. Keep donating. If you’ve never been homeless or walked in my shoes, then you don’t really know what it’s about,” Twyla added.
Ms. J and her seven-month-old baby came to The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama’s Family Haven after spending a week sleeping in her car. Although she had been homeless on one other occasion as a child, she was reluctant to be living in a shelter. She and her infant son were newly homeless and were not aware of the social services available in the community. Ms. J was relieved after visiting the Family Haven, and she gladly moved into the shelter.
In addition to homelessness, Ms. J had many needs. Her vehicle was undependable and uninsured, she and her son were battling numerous chronic health issues, and she had no earned income and was in debt, including delinquent gas and electric bills, which would become extreme barriers to future housing options. Ms. J was diligent about developing and implementing a savings plan based on her TANF allotment until she could find gainful employment.
The Family Haven connected Ms. J with Housing First and helped her complete applications for several privately owned homes and income-based apartments. At first, it was a frustrating process. Many properties had an extensive waiting list. Ms. J continued her stay at the Family Haven past the standard three months. Although her physician recommended that she not work and apply for disability, Ms. J was determined to become self-sufficient and care for her family. Finally, she was able to secure employment and stable childcare.
Ms. J was accepted at one of the housing complexes of her choice but could not sign her lease until her delinquent utilities were paid and established in her name. Fortunately, The Salvation Army was able to assist her with the outstanding bill. After four months of staying at the Family Haven, Ms. J and her child moved into permanent housing with a subsidy.
Ms. J used her time at the Family Haven wisely by applying for housing, saving money, and finding ways to eliminate her debt. Her diligence made her a perfect candidate for The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope initiative. Since participating in this program, Ms. J has gained more stable employment, established mainstream banking, and purchased a new vehicle. The program will follow Ms. J for the next two years helping her to eradicate generational poverty.
1450 Riverside Drive, Jackson, MS 39202