By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
For the estimated 500 to 600 homeless people living in Killeen, a warm meal and a sensitive ear provide genuine solace in a world that may seem cruel.
At the very least, this is what the homeless can get at Killeen's faith-based homeless centers. Though the city does not have a full-fledged shelter, some faith-based facilities offer the tools and aid that will hopefully allow the homeless to transition into a more stable life.
The living situation for most of the homeless in Killeen is different from what people typically think of when they picture the homeless. Instead of living on street corners, alleyways or inside a car, the homeless in Killeen bounce from home to home, living off the generosity of friends and neighbors, according to Dr. Alvin Dillard director of the Christian Assistance Network.
Their living situations make it hard to find the employment they desperately need. Because homeless people don't know where they may be sleeping any given day, they cannot give an address or telephone number to any prospective employer, Dillard said.
The Vision Center
The Vision Center, at 402 N. Eighth St., is the only fully operational day shelter in the city. The shelter is operated by members of True Deliverance Ministries.
The facility only occasionally offers a place for the homeless to sleep - in "emergency" situations, according to the facility's secretary Jonetta Davis - but the center provides food and clothing for the men, women and children of Killeen who have been forced by circumstances into unstable living conditions.
The Vision Center provides that home base for the homeless. The center accepts mail and takes phone messages for the homeless, Davis said.
The center also provides classes on resume writing and shower facilities. All that is required is registration, Davis said.
"We help by trying to get people ready to be on their own," she said. "We act as a foundation."
Though the Vision Center is the only operational facility for the homeless, two facilities are in the works. The faith-based Jesus Hope and Love Mission is in the process of being completed at the corner of North Fourth and East Sprott streets and a broad-based coalition is still organizing to lay the groundwork for Heritage House.
Jesus Hope and Love Mission
Though the 5,500-square-foot facility remains largely empty while organizer Steve Chae raises funds and solicits donations, the facility is already providing help to the homeless.
"They've been a big help to us," said Michael Helms, who is homeless, as he sat outside the facility Thursday afternoon. "Once he's (Chae) got it up and running, we'll have everything."
The non-denominational Jesus Hope and Love Mission is not exclusively tied to any particular church. Organizers said they preach a Christian philosophy.
"We're all the same - God's children - so I'm trying to make it the same," Chae said.
Chae's long-term goal is to develop a center that can feed the homeless, provide bathing facilities and give tutoring. He said the place is already available, though "unofficially open," to help the homeless by providing an address and telephone number for job applications and sometimes warm meals, when they have them.
"If we have food, we will share," Chae said.
Heritage House remains in the preliminary stages; however, the proposed shelter has gained broad support from faith-based organizations, representatives from local government and private business, Dillard said.
"It's a blend of faith-based, public and private support," Heritage House Board Chairwoman Rita Kelly said.
The program was initially sprearheaded by the Christian Assistance Network, an organization of about 20 Killeen churches. CAN acted as the agent in successfully applying for a $30,000 Lone Star Grant, said Kelly, who is the director of Bell County Indigent Services.
The new 12-member board will conduct its first meeting in January. Kelly said they will work to set a strong foundation for the center.
Kelly said Heritage House will initially open as a day shelter, similar to Vision Center. But the long-term goal is to create a full-fledged shelter for the homeless with beds and transitional housing.
"We've got big visions. What's so cool about it is how it's come together. We still have a long way to go, but we have a really good framework," Kelly said.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.