The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope is the only homeless shelter in Alabama’s Shoals area that has its own facility. Room at the Inn, the only other program in the area that provides shelter for the homeless, has temporarily postponed operations during the COVID-19 pandemic due to most of its volunteers being senior citizens, a high-risk population. This has resulted in numerous homeless individuals being left with nowhere to go, so the program organized for Veterans Memorial Park to be the designated location for the homeless to reside. A more permanent arrangement would be needed soon, so the City of Florence and the Homeless Care Council asked The Salvation Army to help.
Fortunately, twelve residents of the Army found permanent housing in March, creating space for incoming residents. The Salvation Army welcomed the homeless community from Veterans Memorial Park onto their property to give them a home during these uncertain times. Residents who may feel uncomfortable sleeping inside due to the virus have set up camp in the facility’s backyard. Those who choose to camp outside still have access to the facility’s amenities, such as laundry, showers, and meals. Portable toilets have also been installed for their convenience.
These circumstances have brought Florence together as a community. The city has provided portable toilets and picnic tables to assist with social distancing and the increase in residents. Area restaurants, businesses, and organizations have provided tents, tarps, blankets, toiletries, games, and food to assist with the new living arrangements. Hospital workers also came to the shelter to provide COVID-19 testing to all current and incoming residents to ensure everyone’s safety.
“We have a lot of land, so why not turn it into a home for someone who doesn’t have one? Now they have a place to go where they are welcomed and comfortable,” stated Shoals Corps Officer Captain Wendy Deuel.
“The residents are excited. Someone came to me and told me that they finally feel like they have a home, and that brought me so much joy. I’ve told residents that The Center of Hope brings new hope and a new beginning for them,” added Captain Deuel.
Living at The Salvation Army during this pandemic is a second chance for residents, many of whom hadn’t had showers in months before coming to the shelter. Residents attend daily rehabilitation and case management classes, where they are encouraged to discuss their lives and personal goals. Residents are also able to play sports and other games in small groups.
“The community has been a huge help. It has been a blessing to be able to work with other churches and organizations. We appreciate their help during this process,” stated Captain Deuel.
Financial donations are the best way to meet the evolving needs and to support relief efforts. To support The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 response efforts, please give now.