Rafael Sarango with YARC member.

Who are the Invisible Faces of the Homeless?

I met Amid* last year at our Young Adult Resource Center (YARC). At age 19, Amid stood nearly 6’8”, was jovial, and incredibly wise for his age. He was well spoken and dressed like any other young adult. Once we talked a little more, I learned he aged out of foster care and had nowhere to stay. He had been sleeping on the streets for a few weeks and had not had food for almost 24 hours. He had been wearing the same clothes for a few days and was carrying all his worldly possessions in his backpack. He simply had no other options but to survive on the streets.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless Houston, an estimated 2,000 youth live on the streets of Houston every year. The last survey of the homeless conducted in January 2017 found that over 630 young adults, aged 14 to 24, are living in a shelter or in places not fit for human habitation. You would never know by looking at him, but Amid is just one of the many invisible faces of the homeless in Houston.

Surviving on the Streets

Unfortunately, Amid’s story is no different from the hundreds of kids we see each year in our programs. In survival mode, these young adults are forced to break into abandoned buildings to find shelter, huddle behind bushes, or seek buildings where there is no security to find refuge. They usually band together in order to protect themselves. While one sleeps, the others stand guard.

Life on the streets exposes them to incredible risks. They witness murders, are exposed to abuse or are themselves victims of abuse and robbery, and are recruited for human trafficking. Survival mode kicks in. Out of hunger, they go in stores to shoplift food. If the weather becomes unbearable, they trade sex for a place to stay the night. They sell drugs and stolen goods for money. They drown their emotional griefs with substance abuse.

Leading Factors of Homelessness

Dr. Sarah Narendorf from the University of Houston and Dr. Diane Santa Maria from The UT Health and Science Center in Houston conducted a “Homeless Youth Risk and Resilience Survey” at YARC and Covenant House, a shelter for homeless youth, and found one of the leading risk factors for becoming homeless is experiencing trauma from an early age.

Over 26% of young adults experiencing homelessness have been sexually assaulted, and 40% state they’ve been physically abused. One out of five young adults have attempted suicide, and about the same amount declare need for mental health assistance. The accumulation of trauma these young lives have experienced is unfathomable.

Desire to Overcome

This is the reality of the invisible faces of the homeless. Despite all these hardships and obstacles, we have learned at YARC the one commonality they share: their resiliency and desire to overcome. These young adults are hopeful, and what they need most is our love and support. At YARC, our first priority is to build trust. We do so by providing them a safe environment and meeting their immediate needs first. When ready, our case managers’ first priority is to connect and support young adults to gain and sustain housing.  We also help connect these young adults to other mainstream supports. Our goal is to help these young adults overcome the obstacles that have kept them on the streets and be able to move on to reach their full potential.

Invisible No More

As for Amid… we discovered he is a savant, an amazing artist, and a voracious reader. He speaks fluently six languages, self-taught. Through YARC, we were able to connect him to housing and provided support during his job search. Today he is not only working and living in his own apartment, he is also attending community college with the hopes of becoming a school teacher.

At YARC, we meet young adults like Amid every day. They are not a statistic from a survey. They are not one more tally on a count. They are young men and young women who have their own unique talents and hardships. They all have dreams and the right to achieve them, just like you and me. And each staff member at YARC feels blessed to be able to meet these extraordinary individuals, one on one, to learn how we can help them out of homelessness and on to independence.

*Name and photo changed to protect privacy. 

About the Author:

With over 10 years in math and science public education and creation of the first immigrant high school, Rafael Sarango has a long history of leadership in serving those most in need. Sarango has directed the Young Adult Resource Center (YARC) for the past four years, since its inception. In 2016, Sarango received the National Jefferson Award and the Comcast Hispanic Hero Award due to his passion for helping young adults get off the streets of Houston into safe and affordable housing.

Jeremy Williams with veteran at the Harbor Light Center.

Why Veterans face Homelessness and How The Salvation Army Helps

Being a soldier with the United States Armed Forces is a badge of honor.  From the uniform they wear to the pride you hear in their voice when speaking of their service, veterans are proud to have served their country.

Facing Hardships after Service

But not all soldiers discharged from the service come home with stories of glory. Depending on how their time in the service was spent, military life can bring a veteran back home a changed person. Today, the transition from military to civilian life is faster than it’s ever been. A veteran can be fighting on a foreign battlefield on a Tuesday and shopping for groceries at home on a Thursday. For those veterans who are not able to make a smooth transition back to civilian life, like those who lose their job or are evicted from their home, The Salvation Army’s Veteran programs are here to help.

As a Case Management Specialist with The Salvation Army’s SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families) program, I serve the veteran population, specifically those who are living on the streets, staying in a homeless shelter or at risk of losing their home. I am working with these men and women every day, helping them get back on their feet or a new start in life.

While there are benefits available to veterans, not everyone who serves is eligible to receive them. In order to obtain a VA pension, you had to have served a minimum of two years of active duty. Many veterans I have worked with have one year of military service, and are facing serious substance abuse issues and physical disabilities. If they are fortunate, they receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and it may be $700 to $1,000 a month. On that income, the veteran is one financial setback away from losing everything.

How The Salvation Army Helps

For veterans who are experiencing homelessness, The Salvation Army helps them find  permanent residence, teaches them ways to increase their income, and works with them to to develop and maintain a budget. The Salvation Army can also help by negotiating with a landlord to avoid eviction. We also offer case management to help plan for financial stability moving forward. By doing this, we are helping veterans obtain, maintain and manage life on their own.

I want the veteran men and women I work with to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Lessons I Have Learned

Thanks to my work with veterans at The Salvation Army, I’ve learned many valuable life lessons. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Once you sit down and get to know these veterans and hear their stories, it is incredible to think how much they have been through.

Programs like ours that provide assistance to veterans in our community are essential. Working with The Salvation Army is my way to show veterans, men and women who served our country, that they are not forgotten… there is support for you. So when I can help a veteran find housing and financial assistance, I am showing them that their time was not served in vain.

About the author:

Jeremy C. Wiliams has been with The Salvation Army for four years, three of those with Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. Williams has been working in the Social Services, non-profit world for over 10 years. Prior to his work with The Salvation Army, Williams served as a Health Case Manager with AIDS Foundation Houston. Williams has a Bachelor of Science in Health Education from Texas Southern University.

YARC staff & volunteers

YARC and Tony’s Place Join Forces to Assist Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness


The Salvation Army’s Young Adult Resource Center (YARC) has recently begun a new and important collaboration with Tony’s Place, to serve young people who are experiencing homelessness.

Two Non-Profits Under One Roof

The two programs will move from their current locations to share space at their new campus at 1621 McGowen Street in July. (This location is right next door to our Family Residence women and children’s shelter.) Each program will maintain its separate identity, while providing services that complement those of the other.

“The Salvation Army’s mission is to serve those most in need without discrimination, and to meet the need of its local community,” said Major Kent Davis, Area Commander for The Salvation Army of Greater Houston. “Through this collaboration with Tony’s Place, we will be able to provide more services to the young adults who reach out to us for help.”

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to advance our mission of serving LGBT youth,” says Al Amado, Tony’s Place Board Chair. “The Salvation Army’s YARC program has been at the forefront of caring for the needs of youth experiencing homelessness for many years and has been a community thought leader in this area.”

New Location for YARC

Following its move from its current location on Caroline Street, YARC will reopen at the McGowen campus on Monday, July 10th. YARC will be open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After moving from its original location on Montrose Boulevard at the end of June, Tony’s Place will reopen on July 14th at McGowen.  It will be open Friday and Saturday from 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Two Groups, Similar Missions

The two groups share similar missions. YARC connects young adults ages 18 to 25 who are experiencing homelessness to housing, education and job training. Other services include emergency meals, job coaching and tutoring.

Tony’s Place started as a drop-in center for LGBT youth up to 24 years old who do not have stable housing.  Its services to members have included hot meals, showers, laundry, clothing and use of computers. Tony’s Place is named for the late community leader Tony Carroll.

Collaborating For Good

“We stepped in as new players in the area, focusing on LGBT youth, and YARC has consistently been a wonderful strategic partner. With our tighter collaboration at the same location, we expect to be able to provide targeted, case management for our members instead of just providing basic services under a drop-in center model ,” notes Tony’s Place Board Chair Amado.

“Being on the same campus leverages the resources of both organizations, and that helps our clients more, while maximizing our resources. This now gives us the ability to tailor our programs and focus exclusively on the special needs of LGBT youth.”

“We are looking forward to not only being able to help even more young adults experiencing homelessness, but also be able to provide them with even more resources than before, thanks to this collaboration with Tony’s Place,” shared Rafael Sarango, YARC Program Manager.

For more information about The Salvation Army’s Young Adult Resource Center, YARC, click here or call 713-658-9205. To learn more about Tony’s Place, click here or call 713-678-0733.

5K participants

Another Successful Christmas in July 5K!

Thanks to everybody who joined us at our Second Annual Christmas in July 5K + Kids K on Saturday, July 8th in Downtown Houston. The event started and ended in front of The Salvation Army’s Area Command, located at 1500 Austin St.




The 5K began at 7 a.m., where Justin Stapleton, Meteorologist with KPRC Channel 2, served as our Master of Ceremonies. Major Kent Davis, Area Commander for The Salvation Army, also thanked all the runners before the race for participating. The Kids K began at 9 a.m. All race participants received a race bib, a festive tee, a finisher’s medal, and entry into the post-race party.

Proceeds from today’s run will benefit the programs and services offered year-round at The Salvation Army of Greater Houston, which include four homeless shelters, six corps community centers, two social services offices, two senior affordable living apartment complexes, a college preparatory program, emergency disaster services, and more.

For more information about the Christmas in July 5K, please visit our race website ChristmasInJuly5K.com.

Little girls participating in ZAC Camp

Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club Hosts ZAC Water Safety Camp for Third Consecutive Year

In continuation of a national partnership dedicated to bringing water safety education to the communities that need it most, national water-safety organization, The ZAC Foundation has selected The Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club, 2600 Aldine Westfield, to host the Foundation’s award-winning ZAC Camp for a third year through its grant program.

Since it began, ZAC Camps have taught more than 10,000 children and families the importance of water safety nationwide.

ZAC Camp at Aldine Westfield

The 2017 Greater Houston ZAC Camp will host campers Monday, June 26 through Thursday, June 29 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Open to campers, family, and friends, the ZAC Camp will conclude with a special award ceremony that will take place at 12:00 p.m. on June 29 with special invited guests from the Office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Office of Congressman Gene Greene, Safe Kids representative Cynthia Stubbins, Galveston Beach Patrol, Coast Guard, among others.

If you would like to register for ZAC Camp at Aldine Westfield, please call 713-695-3388.


What is ZAC Camp?

ZAC Camp – named in honor of 6-year-old Zachary Archer Cohn who drowned as a result of being entrapped in the suction of a swimming pool drain – is part of year five of a national partnership initiative undertaken by The ZAC Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to bring lifesaving water-safety skills to thousands of Club members (aged 5-9) across the country.

The Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club was selected through a rigorous application process and chosen based on its commitment to advancing water safety locally.

What does ZAC Camp offer?

The ZAC Camp program combines in-pool swimming lessons, safety classes with First Responders, and classroom curriculum based on tenets of water safety taught in a children’s book co-authored by Zachary’s parents – The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim.  By week’s end campers are equipped with critical tools to lead them on the path to safe swimming, including: fundamental stroke training, emergency preparedness and response, and basic lifesaving techniques.  The ZAC Foundation will also donate a copy of the book to each camper, allowing campers to spread the messages to friends and family.

Importance of Water Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause in children 5-14. Risk of drowning is highest in minority populations with the fatal drowning rate almost three times that of Caucasian children.

In Texas, drowning has claimed the lives of 38 children in Texas thus far in 2017, with most occurring in a pool. Many of these deaths are preventable if proper water safety measures are taken.  ZAC Camps aim to reduce these statistics through community engagement and education.

About The ZAC Foundation

The ZAC Foundation was established in 2008 by Brian and Karen Cohn after the loss of their 6-year-old son Zachary Archer Cohn in a pool drain entrapment in their backyard swimming pool.  Through education and advocacy, the Foundation has educated more than 10,000 children and their families on the importance of water safety and is dedicated to continue preparing more for a lifetime of water safety.  To learn more about The ZAC Foundation, connect with us on Facebook and thezacfoundation.com.


When Helping Hurts the Homeless

How to Help the Homeless Without Hurting Them

We have all been sitting at a red light when a person approaches our car asking for money or food with a sign that states, “I am homeless.” Our heart strings are pulled and we give that dollar, change, or food we may have in our car. Is this really helping them? Won’t they be in the same predicament the next day or even the next week? In fact, the situation is oftentimes worse than we can imagine, and our efforts end up doing more harm than good.

Homelessness has reduced drastically over the past several years due to the Housing First initiatives of The Way Home and Social Service Providers here in the Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery County areas; however, the poor and homeless are still amongst us. There are ways to help the homeless without hurting them or being counterproductive to The Mayor’s City Ordinance against panhandling.

Three Ways to Help the Homeless:


The Salvation Army, along with other local homeless agencies, provide food, shelter, laundry services, and access to mainstream benefits such as healthcare and permanent supportive housing. Without your monetary donations and support these agencies lack the resources to serve those in need.

Click here to help individuals and families out of homelessness and into housing: http://salvationarmyhouston.org/donate-now/


Write your local and state representatives and ask them what they are doing to reduce homelessness in the community. BE A VOICE FOR THE INVISIBLE!

Click here to find out who your local representatives are: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx


When you encounter a homeless person, let them know that The Salvation Army has a shelter for men, women and families in and near Downtown Houston. The Salvation Army also has a shelter in Montgomery County. You can also visit the Coalition for the Homeless Houston’s website to learn more about other homeless agencies you can refer people to.

You may say what if they don’t use it, but once you have extended the helpful information, the responsibility is no longer yours to bear.

Click here to learn more about The Salvation Army’s homeless shelters: http://www.salvationarmyhouston.org/homeless/

Our objective is to provide homeless persons with a HAND UP not a HAND OUT, to meet their basic needs so that they can develop to their full potential and become productive members of society again.


About the author:

Loretta Ray is currently the Lead Case Management Specialist at the Harbor Light Center and Red Shield Lodge. Her career with The Salvation Army began back in 2009 at Sally’s House as a Receptionist, eventually moving up the ranks at Sally’s House to Statistician in 2011 and Caseworker Specialist in 2013. Concurrently, Ray obtained an Associate’s Degree in Counseling and Human Service Technology in 2012, a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 2014 and is currently working toward a Master of Social Work.

Ray also has a personal connection to The Salvation Army, having stayed at Sally’s House women’s shelter from August 2006 to March 2007.


Three Days of Revival with Oscar Roan

You are invited to three days of REVIVAL with former professional football player and gifted speaker Oscar Roan.

Oscar Roan is an outstanding preacher with a message that reaches everyone in the audience. Oscar was a stand-out football player at SMU and UCLA and was successful as a receiver for the Cleveland Browns and LA Rams.

He is first and foremost a spellbinding preacher of the Word.

Revival Meetings

We are pleased to invite you to a wonderful two nights of revival meetings at the Pasadena Corps on Thursday, June 1st & Friday, June 2nd, at 7:00 p.m.

The Salvation Army Pasadena Corps is located at 2732 Cherry Brook Lane, Pasadena, Texas 77502.

On Thursday, we will be joined by Nazarene First Church’s Pasadena Praise Band and on Friday by the Harbor Light Choir and the Pasadena Corps Band.

We are concluding with a Sunday meeting at 11:00 a.m., where The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center’s Praise Band will join us. There will be refreshments before and after the meeting.


More about Oscar Ronan

An inner city kid raised in a rough area of South Dallas, Oscar Roan, like so many others, dreamed of success in athletics as the road to fulfillment in life. Oscar worked hard at making his dreams a reality.

College years brought Oscar great recognition for his athletic ability. By the time he was a  junior at SMU, he could see his dreams coming true.   Everything seemed to be going right, but success and recognition weren’t enough.

Married now, Oscar was having problems with his wife. He had developed a serious drinking problem and was asking questions about meaning and purpose in life that he couldn’t find
answers for. Oscar came to Christ through an evangelist that told him that God loved him and had a plan for his life.

Oscar went on to fame and honors with the Cleveland Browns and LA Rams as a receiver, setting records.

A powerful and gifted speaker, Oscar is sought from coast to coast for his spell binding preaching. Don’t miss these great meetings!

World War I - Serving Doughnuts To Troops

The Salvation Army celebrated the very first National Donut Day in 1938

National Donut Day occurs on the first Friday of June. But did you know that The Salvation Army was the first to celebrate the first ever National Donut Day?

The Salvation Army during World War I

The Salvation Army in Chicago celebrated the first National Donut Day in 1938 to help those in need during the Great Depression and to commemorate the work of the “Donut Lassies” who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.WWI_Doughnut_Girl

In 1917, The Salvation Army began a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France during World War I. About 250 volunteers traveled overseas and set up small huts located near the front lines where they could give soldiers clothes, supplies and, of course, baked goods.

Donut Lassies

After discovering that serving baked goods would be difficult considering the conditions of the huts and the limited rations, two volunteers – Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance – began frying donuts in soldiers’ helmets. These tasty treats boosted morale and won the hearts of many soldiers.

Nicknamed “Donut Lassies,” the women who served donuts to troops are often credited with popularizing the donut in the United States when the troops (nicknamed “doughboys”) returned home from war.

The donut now serves as a symbol of the comfort that The Salvation Army provides to those in need through its many social services programs. The Salvation Army still serves donuts, in addition to warm meals and hydration, to those in need during times of disaster.

National Donut Day

Facebook_Profile_GivingIsSweet_600x600On Friday, June 2, 2017, The Salvation Army of Greater Houston will be partnering with Shipley Do-Nuts to celebrate National Donut Day. On Friday, from 5 a.m. to 12 noon, Shipley Donuts will give away a free glazed donut with any purchase at their locations in Houston. And a portion of the proceeds will benefit the programs and services offered year round in the Greater Houston Area.

Supporters are encouraged to take a selfie enjoying a donut using #GivingIsSweet.