Photo: University of Houston/ Parameters

It takes a village: How Mejean overcame homelessness and achieved her dreams of joining NASA

Reaching for the stars 

Mejean had always loved everything about space, NASA, and technology, but her dream to go to college kept getting postponed.

First, she began a career in law enforcement to help her family with finances, and then she became a mother of two. She always held on to her dream of becoming an engineer and joining NASA, though. She decided to pursue her dream shortly after becoming a mom.

Her family had always been “just okay” living paycheck to paycheck, but after Mejean quit her job to become a full-time student, things became harder for her family. Her husband, Ray, became the sole breadwinner.

Then tragedy struck.

Overcoming obstacles

Mejean was hit by a car. Ray quit his job immediately to take care of his wife and tend to her every need. At the time, Mejean was a University of Houston student pursuing a computer engineering degree. The bills began to pile up, and their finances spiraled out of control.

They lost everything.

“We didn’t have a car, and we had to depend on the bus to get everywhere,” said Mejean. “At one point, I had to make the decision, am I going to make it to class, or am I going to have enough money to eat?”

Eventually, the family could not pay bills or rent, and the electricity was cut off. They had to move out of the apartment they’d called home for eight years. That is when Mejean did a Google search to find a shelter, and she found The Salvation Army Family Residence. Mejean and her family moved into Family Residence, and things began to come together for the family.

“Everything we needed was there, and I don’t know if I would have had that anywhere else,” explained Mejean. “They talked to us about nutrition, meal planning, finances, and budgeting. I was even seeing a doctor regularly for the first time in ten years.”

Finding a safe place

The Salvation Army provided Mejean with a safe space to breathe, self-evaluate, and process everything that was happening. When Mejean was ready, The Salvation Army connected her with the United Way of Greater Houston who assisted the family with career placement, apartment down payment assistance, and furnishing their first apartment.

“What I remember most about Family Residence is how great they were with my kids. The kids loved their time there. They remember playing guitar with First Baptist Church, playing games, and going on field trips to Cirque du Soleil.”

Achieving the dream

Mejean was able to go back to school and went on to graduate in summer 2018, with a job waiting for her at NASA. Currently, Mejean is a Linux developer and configuration management analyst for NASA; she is part of a team located at the Johnson Space Center that programs and supports all of the computer systems on the Space Station.

“People think you are brave when you go things like this, but when you’re actually going through this, you don’t feel brave. When I moved into Family Residence, I was falling into pieces. But, I left Family Residence with resources and an entire village to help my family and I get to where we are now.”

To support the empowerment of families facing homelessness, please consider joining our Friends of the Army (FOTA.) When you’re a friend of the army, you’re a blessing to someone in need. Being a part of Friends of the Army means consistent support that helps neighbors who are struggling. Click here to learn more.

Why Jatavian Loves The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club Summer Camp

A place to make a difference

When the summer first began, Jatavian, 14, was one of the new kids at The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Houston – Aldine Westfield Branch. The facility offered a swimming pool, game, and tv rooms, basketball courts, numerous rooms for classes on art, music, and dance, and a chapel for Sunday morning church services.

Jatavian was nervous, but mostly excited because instead of sitting at home on the couch for the entire summer, he now had a safe place to spend the summer. Most of his friends and his siblings were far away on a different side of the city, where they were involved in sports. Jatavian wanted to be involved in something different, an activity where he could help make a difference in the lives of others. 

“I’m not from this area, so I walked in a bit shy because I didn’t know anyone,” explained Jatavian. “But after hearing about the opportunity to become a Junior Staff member, where I would be able to assist the adults with the younger kids, all of my shyness went out of the window. I wanted to help make a difference.”

Stepping up

By stepping up around the Club, helping camp staff with daily tasks, and assisting his peers with assignments, Jatavian was promoted to a Junior Staff member within a month. Now, he is well known around the Club for his dedication and passion for helping others.

“Our Junior Staff roles serve as an opportunity to help our older children feel more connected to the Club.  The kids gain valuable experience in leadership and peer mentoring,” said Erin Smith, unit director for the Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club. “Jatavian stood out to me because he took on tasks enthusiastically without being asked to do so, which let me know he would be perfect for this role.”

Friends forever

While being a Junior Staff member, Jatavian was also able to bond with other kids and form friendships that he will cherish forever.  

Jatavian is happy to walk away from camp this summer with new friends and experiences he will take with him into his first year of junior high this fall.

“I learned so much about being myself and working hard to achieve my goals this summer,” said Jatavian. “I am looking forward to taking what I learned and applying it in school this fall.”

 

 

 

Stuff the Bus 2019

With the school year fast upon us, The Salvation Army of Houston has teamed up with Walmart to provide children in need school supplies through our Stuff the Bus event. On August 3, staff and volunteers will be at 18 Walmart stores throughout Houston and surrounding areas from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. to provide shoppers with a list of suggested supplies and to collect their generous contributions. The average family in the U.S. plans to spend $117 per student on school supplies for the upcoming school year, according to Deloitte’s 2019 back-to-school survey. This proves challenging for families that are already struggling financially, especially those with multiple children. The simple act of providing school supplies to students in need gives them a boost of self-confidence and sets them up for a positive and successful school year. All donations made at Stuff the Bus campaign events will remain in the local community and will help The Salvation Army provide back-to-school support to local children in need. 

DONATE SCHOOL SUPPLIES

You can donate school supplies at your local Walmart — see the list of participating stores below. Or donate through our registry online by searching for “Salvation Army” and selecting from our back-to-school lists.

PARTICIPATING WALMART LOCATIONS

The following list is of local Walmart stores participating in Stuff the Bus on August 3, 2019, at several Walmart locations across Harris, Montgomery, and Fort Bend counties.

HARRIS COUNTY

  1. 235 N SAM HOUSTON PARKWAY HUMBLE, TX 77396
  2. 615955 FM 529 ROAD HOUSTON, TX 77095
  3. 726270 NORTHWEST FREEWAY CYPRESS, TX 77429
  4. 3450 FM 1960 ROAD W HOUSTON, TX 77068
  5. 10411 N FREEWAY 45 HOUSTON, TX 77037
  6. 13750 EAST FREEWAY  HOUSTON, TX 77015
  7. 24809 ALDINE WESTFIELD ROAD SPRING, TX 77373
  8. 150 W EL DORADO BOULEVARD FRIENDSWOOD, TX 77546
  9. 5200 FAIRMONT PARKWAY PASADENA, TX 77505
  10. 4900 GARTH ROAD BAYTOWN, TX 77521
  11. 9025 SPENCER HIGHWAY LA PORTE, TX 77571
  12. 3506 HIGHWAY 6 S HOUSTON, TX 77082
  13. 1111 YALE STREET  HOUSTON, TX 77007

MONTGOMERY COUNTY

  1. 3040 COLLEGE PARK DRIVE CONROE, TX 77384
  2. 1025 SAWDUST ROAD SPRING, TX 77380
  3. 21150 KUYKENDAHL ROAD SPRING, TX 77379
  4. 23561 US HWY 59 PORTER, TX 77365

FORT BEND COUNTY

  1. 345 HIGHWAY 6 SUGAR LAND, TX 77478

Search for an online registry to support local Salvation Army Stuff the Bus efforts from wherever you are! Simply search for “Salvation Army” in the Walmart Registry to shop our back-to-school lists and help families in need.

The Salvation Army Houston International Corps Boys & Girls Club Grand Opening

On Thursday, May 30, 2019, The Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command will proudly launch The Salvation Army Houston International Boys & Girls Club.

At The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, we believe that every kid deserves a great future. By providing a spiritual aspect to The Boys & Girls Clubs, we give children a strong, lifelong foundation to help them achieve their goals. We achieve this good with the help of so many who share our compassion.

Our most diverse Corps Community Center, with members representing 23 different nationalities and speaking 17 different languages, International opened its doors in 2003 in Southwest Houston.

International offers a wide range of services, including but not limited to adult education classes, a food pantry, and now the Salvation Army Houston Boys & Girls Club after school and summer day camp programs for youth. The Corps (church) Spiritual Ministry includes Sunday worship at 9:30 a.m. and weekly prayer meetings.

Our Boys & Girls Club programs and experiences focus on helping kids reach great futures. We prepare kids and teens for high school graduation, college and careers by building the skills needed to succeed in today’s globally competitive workforce.

We teach kids and teens how to be responsible, engaged citizens and innovative, resilient leaders through mentorship, accountability and modeling good behavior.

We are committed to helping kids and teens build healthy habits for life by making sure they’re active, engaged and able to make healthy decisions.

 

What: The Salvation Army Houston International Corps Boys & Girls Club Grand Opening

When: Thursday – May 30, 2019

6:30 PM

Where: The Salvation Army Houston International Corps

7920 Cook Rd,

Houston, Texas 77072

 

The Salvation Army of Greater Houston Among First to Receive Bezos Day 1 Families Fund Grant of 5 Million

Today, The Salvation Army of Greater Houston announced it has received a $5 million grant from the Day 1 Families Fund to support the organization’s housing, emergency shelter, rehabilitation, and social services programs for families over the next four years.

 

The Day 1 Families Fund

The Day 1 Families Fund aims to promote and support organizations that are doing needle-moving work to provide shelter for young families in communities across the country.

The Impact

“Salvation Army Houston works tirelessly to help those in need,” said Major Kent Davis, Houston area commander. “The funding from the Day 1 Families Fund will not only allow us to better serve families experiencing homelessness in the Greater Houston area, but will enable us to truly change the lives of those in our community.”

Salvation Army Houston recently overhauled their emergency housing programs for families by implementing a 30-day solutions model for ending homelessness. This new model incorporates regular meetings between clients and case managers, as well as job training, life skills, recovery, and health and wellness services, among others.

As a result of this model, Salvation Army Houston has reduced the average length of resident stay and has observed a reduced recurrence of homelessness in its system. For example, at The Salvation Army Family Residence, the average length of stay per family has decreased from 180 to 365 days to only 70 days, and almost no clients have experienced a return to homelessness.

In each of the emergency housing facilities, Salvation Army Houston meets needs without discrimination. In 2017, Salvation Army Houston served nearly 6,600 people in its emergency shelters, including veterans, young adults, survivors of human trafficking and people who identify as LGBTQ+.

Working Together to End Homelessness

The Salvation Army of Greater Houston is one of 24 nonprofits to receive the first Day 1 Families Fund grants, totaling $97.5 million. Recipients from around the country include: Abode Services, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, Community of Hope, Community Rebuilders, Crossroads Rhode Island, District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), Emerald Development & Economic Network (EDEN) Inc., FrontLine Service, Hamilton Families, Heartland Family Service, Housing Families First, JOIN, LA Family Housing (LAFH), Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS), Primo Center for Women and Children, Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA), SEARCH Homeless Services, Simpson Housing Services, The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte, The Salvation Army of Greater Houston, UMOM New Day Centers and Urban Resource Institute (URI).


About the Bezos Day One Fund
Founded by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, the Bezos Day One Fund consists of two programs: the Day 1 Families Fund that provides grants to nonprofit organizations fighting homelessness, and the Day 1 Academies Fund that will fund and build a network of pre-schools in low-income communities across the country. The Day 1 Families Fund’s vision comes from the inspiring Mary’s Place in Seattle: no child should sleep outside. A small group of expert advisors provided input to the Bezos Day One Fund team to select these organizations. The Day 1 Families Fund will be awarding grants annually. For more information, visit www.BezosDayOneFund.org/Day1FamiliesFund.

Refurbished Bellshill Corps - Salvation Army Today July 10, 2014

The Refurbished Bellshill Corps—Salvation Army Today, July 10, 2014

Commissioner William Roberts dedicates the refurbished Bellshill Corps in Scotland.

The Salvation Army of Winston-Salem, NC sets out to collect 30 cars in 30 days for those in need.

Salvation Army Today, June 26, 2014

Salvation Army Today, June 26, 2014

General André Cox has set the “Mind the Gap” challenge

General André Cox has set the “Mind the Gap” challenge, which Salvationists and friends can raise funds to send people from developing world to The Salvation Army’s 150th anniversary celebration in London next year!

sar.my/givemtg

Salvation Army Today General Cox Visits Atlanta

Salvation Army Today – General Cox Visits Atlanta

In this episode of Salvation Army Today:

General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox visits Atlanta, Georgia, USA and a Salvation Army Volunteer finds $125,000. Find out what he did.

Salvation Army Today, May 29, 2014

Salvation Army Today May 29, 2014

In this Salvation Army Today episode

The Salvation Army United Kingdom and Ireland territory is campaigning a fundraiser to make a huge difference in the fight against extreme poverty.

The Salvation Army of Chicago, Illinois is breaking ground on the Freedom Center.