“I don’t want to see them die because of dangers in the streets…” said Ronda during her interview. “I appreciate everything The Salvation Army has done for me and want to see others who are homeless housed as well.” Ronda gave her permission to tell her story to help The Salvation Army facilitate others to reduce and eliminate homelessness from Northwest Arkansas.
For some clients, the path from homeless to having a home can be very twisted, with many ups and downs on the journey. In Ronda’s case, it was a long-time coming. Ronda lost her RV home in a storm and for over five years, she lived by creeks and in wooded areas between shelter stays. Over time, her connections with her daughters and her grandson, were damaged, as well as her identification, medical history, and material possessions lost due to theft and the weather. Worsening the issues of her homelessness, Ronda has physical and emotional challenges along with issues of addiction.
Ronda met Dawn Rodriguez in January 2018 at The Salvation Army homeless shelter in Fayetteville. Dawn was assigned as Ronda’s case manager with the goal of moving Ronda into permanent housing.
At the time, The Salvation Army in Northwest Arkansas’s shelter was changing focus from an emergency-based shelter to a ‘housing focused shelter.’ Under the leadership of Captain Joshua Robinett, Area Commander for The Salvation Army, the change was and is significant. The new program utilizes consolidated/intense case management for all clients in coordination with other local nonprofits and churches for client services in the local community. Each client is tracked and monitored to help the client move from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
When Ronda began the ‘housing focused shelter program’ with The Salvation Army, she even needed help with basic life essentials of doctor’s appointments and transportation. Because Ronda’s disability limited her range of motion in her arm, Dawn and the Social Services team including Ambra, Greg, Brandon and the housing monitors, ensured she had the resources to bathe and even brush her hair for her.
Dawn, now the Administrative Assistant and Human Resources Manager for the Northwest Arkansas Area Command of The Salvation Army, shares, “Ronda for me has been a rewarding yet complicated challenge. At one point in time, Ronda wasn’t seen by any of The Salvation Army staff for two weeks. We were so worried we began calling around to the hospitals to see if she had been admitted. As The Salvation Army has been named her emergency contact, we were able to find her.”
Dawn continued, “However, she reminds me no matter where we are or where we were, anything can happen, and in a moment our entire lives can change. Through all our time working together over the years, she has been the one I wanted to see housed and even through changing job positions I knew I would continue working with Ronda until she was housed. There was no giving up.”
Now, Ronda has new living quarters available for her through the Housing Authority with rent based on her income. To maintain her quarters, she must follow program rules. When it became clear Ronda was going to be able to be housed, Genesis Church helped with household items, and The Salvation Army took Ronda to The Salvation Army Family store to decorate and furnish her new home. Ronda now has her own bed, can take a shower when she wants, fix her own food, decorate her home like she wants it – a luxury to Ronda, a necessity to the average person.
Also, Ronda never has to be fearful of theft or harm, her apartment is in a safe and secure area with security on site, near the police station, with after hour guests buzzed in. There is case management support onsite as well as transportation available. The Salvation Army Case Managers follow up with their clients at one, three, and six-month intervals to ensure they are still stable. The Salvation Army even provided Ronda an additional safety net, with her identification being lost or stolen so many times, The Salvation Army helped her to gather her important documents, keeping copies of them safe until needed.
The best news of all is that Ronda is reuniting with her family. Now that she is in an apartment of her own, she has been in contact with one of her daughters and was even able to speak to her grandson. She is hopeful she will be able to see them soon.
Ronda still visits The Salvation Army shelter in Fayetteville regularly, sometimes up to three times a week to just say hi or eat a meal at the shelter with some of her friends. The Salvation Army staff has become her family. It took a team of devoted, kind-hearted staff members to establish Ronda in permanent housing. The Salvation Army not only invested the time, they provided and continue to provide emotional and spiritual support, basic necessities for life, and yet most importantly, they continue to demonstrate compassion and commitment to Ronda, caring for her as the individual she is and showing the love of Jesus in everything they do.
Dawn Rodriguez, wanted to share the success of the program, “ It took all of us working together to do this. Yes, I did a lot of the one-on-one as her Case Manager, but it is what we here at the Northwest Arkansas Area Command were able to do under our current leadership that has really made the greatest change. We have been given the opportunity to go outside of the box and address each client on a case-by-case basis . This approach is resource intensive; it requires us to drive clients hours away to appointments or to wait with them at medical appointments because our clients have no one else to rely on for help”.
Dawn related that the cost of this type of programming is “unimaginable and often means we don’t have funds for the small things like brooms or cleaning items for those we are housing.” She went on to compliment the Northwest Arkansas Community. “Sometimes, we reach out on Facebook for help with specific needs and have luck at times. However, to continue to transform our community, we also need the support of our community, our donors and the media to help those who need it most.”
The Salvation Army is still a safety net for Ronda and will continue to be so. Although this is no a traditional case, it truly encompasses The Salvation Army carrying out the mission and ministry we are called to do and meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.