By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
Robert Jones was a product of the system.
The Killeen resident had milked the now-defunct Temple homeless shelter Martha's Kitchen for years with no ambition to ever leave.
It took Jones years to realize he could offer more to the world than acting as an unpaid night manager at the shelter, a job that earned him free room and board.
Now Jones, 56, lives on his own with a meager income. His main work in life is working as a volunteer case manager at the local homeless outreach program Christian Assistance Network in Killeen.
Jones volunteers at the nonprofit's office many days out of the week, talking to people and families at risk of losing their homes or already homeless. The Christian Assistance Network can point people in the right direction and sometimes offer assistance in paying bills.
Jones said he became homeless in 1996. He lost his job, and several more thereafter because of his temper, he said.
He stayed with friends for a time, until they became fed up with him and kicked him out. He turned to Martha's Kitchen, where he stayed on and off until 2011.
After qualifying for disability income, friends began to urge him to leave the shelter and he soon knew he had to go.
"I figured it was time to prove everybody wrong, and to show people that I could make it and prove it to myself," said Jones.
Christian Assistance Network Director Alvin Dillard said Jones has become a strong asset to the program.
"He's able to really identify with them because of his own personal experiences," said Dillard. "He is the kind of guy who is hard to replace because of his empathy for their issues and what people are going through."
Jones' perspective also gives him insight into whether people are ready to accept help. Some are just looking for a handout without making any effort to help themselves, he said.
"I want to be able to help everybody, but if I can tell if they're jerking my chain, I'll refuse to help them," Jones said.
That does not mean doors are closed to those individuals. However, they must prove to Jones they are working to give themselves a hand before he offers the helping hands of the Christian Assistance Network.
"I don't know how many people I've helped, but I do know that I've helped some," Jones said. "And if I've only helped one, that is my reward, then I've done something with my life."
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.
Helping the homeless and the impoverished
The Christian Assistance Network works with the area's impoverished and homeless to help provide advice on housing and employment. The nonprofit also provides some bill assistance.
Location: 805 N. Second St., Killeen
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
To donate or volunteer: Call Alvin Dillard at (254) 634-0178