The generosity and charity of the Friends in Crisis homeless shelter in Killeen was not just a hand out for Arsean Session, it was the helping hand that carried him from homelessness to having a place to live and a job as a substitute schoolteacher.
After the full-time cook at Friends in Crisis homeless shelter was called from the Reserves into service, Session began working as the new full-time cook, said Larry Moehnke, vice president of the Families in Crisis board of directors.
Killeen’s only traditional homeless shelter closed Saturday for an undetermined amount of time due to a shortage in funding. Officials with the downtown shelter, open to men and women, want reopen as soon as possible, but say they’ll need to raise about $180,000 to do so.
Serving a need
Of the 78 beds available at the shelter at 412 E. Sprott St., Moehnke said on any given night there are an average of 75 beds filled this year. In 2018, the facility averaged 75.7 occupants per night all year, Moehnke said.
On average there are 10 to 12 veterans at the shelter — about 15 percent of the clients, he said.
“We are pretty full every night,” Moehnke said. “We have mostly men at the facility, but we also have women and children. The men and women don’t interact except in the dining area.”
There are 54 beds available for men and 24 for women and children, he said.
Clients can come in as early as 3 p.m., receive a shower, eat an evening meal, do laundry, and have a breakfast before they leave in the morning by 7 a.m., he said — all at no cost.
“It is a safe and secure location,” Moehnke said. “We remove the sheets, wash everything, scrub and disinfect the floors and urinals. It keeps the facility illness free.”
While individuals can stay at the shelter as long as they need to, case workers at Friends in Crisis help clients find jobs, work toward qualifying for housing assistance and learn to budget so they can afford housing once they have a job, Moehnke said.
The shelter also partners with local community clinics, alcohol centers and other community services to provide for the homeless, he said.
$100k in debt
But because the facility is currently about $100,000 in debt, officials are unable to continue absorbing the overage without jeopardizing their other charitable work, Moehnke said.
The Friends in Crisis shelter is one of three facilities run by Families in Crisis 501(c)3 nonprofit. Their domestic violence shelters which were opened in Killeen in 1981 and in Temple in 2007 are not in danger of closing with the lack of funds, Moehnke said.
Looking ahead, the Friends in Crisis homeless shelter hopes to raise enough funds to reopen their doors in the next two weeks to a month, Moehnke said. But that estimate is based on whether the nonprofit will be able to raise a minimum of $180k, he said.
“We don’t have an exact time frame,” Moehnke said. “We don’t want to hit a snag and have to close again.”
By the end of the year, Families in Crisis hopes to apply for and receive grants to have a more consistent income source, Moehnke said.
Many grant applications require a certain time frame of operation before they are eligible to apply for grants to allow time for vetting, he said.
Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra expressed his regret that the shelter will be closed.
“People are going to really feel it,” Segarra said. “They won’t have a place to stay. It’s a sad situation — it’s a tough situation.”
He said the City Council will consider additional funding for the shelter and other charities at the council meeting this week.
“The council will get into discussion of the budget and that will be one of the issues,” Segarra said. “Our heart goes out to them, and this is a high priority issue.”
But Segarra also said funding for other charities and community services has to be considered, such as the Hop city transit system, and the Bob Gilmore Senior Center at 2205 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd.
With the closing of the homeless shelter, many are now left without a place to sleep, and others, like Session, potentially without employment.
Meanwhile, Moehnke said, they are hoping to find employment for some of their staff and volunteers at the domestic violence shelter until they can re-open the homeless shelter.
“We don’t want this to be a long period of time,” Moehnke said. “We are really heartbroken we have not only people not able to come to the shelter out on the streets, but we also have staff with a strong desire for this mission who may have to find something else to do in the meantime.”
For more information on how to donate, call 254-634-1184 or mail to Friends in Crisis, P.O. Box 25, Killeen, Texas 76540. Donations can also be submitted at the shelter’s GoFundMe account: www.gofundme.com/friends-in-crisis-shelter; or Facebook: www.facebook.com/donate/301357674123600/301357677456933/
A combined $2,500 had been raised on the two fundraising sites as of Saturday afternoon.
People can also donate directly to the shelter’s website at familiesincrisis.net.