Homelessness is a familiar face in Houston from the panhandlers working busy traffic intersections to the urban encampments filling vacant lots and highway overpasses. But who are these individuals, and how did they end up there?
Thanks to the efforts of organizations like The Salvation Army, we are learning more often these people were forced onto the streets for reasons ranging from employment loss due to injury to even natural disaster.
“Everything that could have possibly happened to us in 2014 happened,” Houston resident Mejean Cline said. “My husband lost his job, I was hit by a car and then that was $20,000 in bills that I couldn’t afford to pay […] We were facing eviction, and we basically lost everything.”
The couple quickly plunged into financial straits as they struggled to keep essentials such as electricity, their vehicles and their home.
In need of a family-accessible shelter, Cline and her husband were led to The Salvation Army through a simple Google search.
“The life I live now, it was kind of hard to imagine when I was in The Salvation Army to be honest,” Cline said.
The Clines were able to get help from The Salvation Army at their most dire point, and through the organization’s support and the couple’s hard work, they are now back into a home and gainfully employed. Today, she proudly works for NASA.
Billy Dorsey is also on the ever-growing list of Salvation Army beneficiaries.
“Twenty years ago, I signed my first record deal to sing gospel music,” Dorsey said. “I moved to Houston with my older brother Emmanuel and a friend, Lamont. The record label decided they wanted to replace Lamont, I fought against it and they froze our contract out. I ended up homeless on the streets of Fifth Ward.”
Both grateful for the impact The Salvation Army has had on their lives and knowing the struggles of homelessness, Dorsey and Cline have teamed up for a special project. And it’s one worth singing about.
“We know that so many families in our community are just one personal disaster away from losing everything,” Community Relations and Development Director Alexis Thompson of The Salvation Army said.
“That’s what we try to tell the community about homelessness. So we think that it’s our role to come alongside people and show them the way and point them in the direction that we believe we can achieve.”
They are working to produce a Christmas album called “The Safest Place,” a title Cline help inspire. The songs reflect the experiences of the local homeless community and are meant to build compassion and awareness. Moreover, all proceeds from the album will be donated to The Salvation Army.
Houston officials reported 3,938 individuals fit the U.S. definition of homeless in 2019— reflecting another year homelessness across the city has been on a steady decline over the past decade while, unfortunately, these statistics are on the rise in other key U.S. cities.
It’s all thanks to the work of people like Dorsey, Cline and advocacy groups like The Salvation Army.
If you want to help turn homelessness around in Houston, visit KettleHTX.org to make a donation and to learn other ways to support The Salvation Army.