Since its beginnings in 1987, the Arlington Life Shelter has built a reputation as a place to turn when needing to escape the challenges of being without a home.
And as that reputation has grown, so has the need to accommodate more people. Families, in particular, have become more in need of the help of ALS over the years.
So the shelter launched a $5.2 million campaign to raise funds for the Hearts to Homes project, an expansion of its facility on Division Street. Also, several areas of the existing facility are being renovated and upgraded.
Recently, ALS began offering tours of the site, which is under construction with plans to open in May 2020.
“The real drive for this is the increase in kids and families coming in,” said Jim Reeder, community development director and capital campaign manager for ALS.
The project is a new two-story building with more than 12,600 square feet. It will be adjacent to the existing shelter and will provide additional services, such as:
▪ Seven family bedrooms, an increase of 40% in the total number of beds.
▪ Classroom and small meeting room space will allow other agencies and volunteers to provide needed services and programming for residents, including employment information and training.
▪ The annual number of individuals served can increase from about 1,200 to 1,500.
▪ Residents can remain in the shelter on weekends and when not working to receive even more services.
▪ A computer lab will be included, which will allow residents to train and improve technology skills.
▪ Expanded children’s facilities and programming, including a state-of-the-art outdoor playground as the centerpiece. Separate rooms will be available for infants/toddlers, children and teens.
▪ Expanded and upgraded kitchen/dining facilities to provide for more efficiency in preparing and serving meals to residents.
▪ Expanded laundry area.
ALS has conducted tours to let folks know what is going on with the construction. Visitors not only received an update on the facility, but also were given the opportunity to sign their name or write a special message on a beam.
Some wrote messages of inspiration. Others simply put their name and date.
“After volunteering at the shelter and serving on the board, I know what the shelter has accomplished with its current limitations,” said Patsy Miller, food team leader/volunteer from Grace Covenant Church and member of the Partners of Arlington Life Shelter support group.
“I am excited at the possibilities the new construction offers — more space for families, separate lounge areas for toddlers, elementary and teens, and what the shelter does best for its residents, providing the tools and confidence to become self-sufficient and lead happy and productive lives.”
Mavericks helping out
The project has caught the attention of the Dallas Mavericks Foundation. Reeder said the NBA team’s foundation is providing a computer lab as part of the renovation.
“(Owner Mark) Cuban’s a computer guy. They fund a lot of technical stuff,” Reeder said. “Plus, he’s got a big heart.”
Reeder said the lab will have eight computers decorated in Dallas Mavericks colors and graphics. He said thanks to the donation, they will now be able to offer computer classes to help individuals in their quest to turn their lives around.
“We had three computers, and volunteers from the library would help with resumes and such, but a key to this place is getting back on their feet and learning to live on their own,” Reeder said. “Technology is a big part of that.
“They’re (Mavericks Foundation) doing all the wiring, setup, they’ll be an AV (audio-visual) system, so we can tutoring and more.”
There will be some changes while the work is being done and the existing facility is operating on “half a shelter,” ALS Executive Director Becky Orander said.
“We’re still bringing people in, as many as possible in compliance with the fire code,” Orander said.
Orander said the number of people at the shelter will be limited to between 60 and 80 until the end of the year, whereas normally about 95 to 100 come in during the hottest times of the year.
Also, she said that from January until the shelter reopens in May, there will be no services at the building on Division Street. However, ALS will still be serving people, she stressed.
Orander said ALS will be working with other organizations to provide help and shelter, such as the City of Arlington Emergency Services Department, faith groups, civic organizations, Mission Arlington, and even VIA for transportation. Other daily operations will be conducted out of the Arlington Human Services Center, she said.
“We have a real commitment to provide services needed,” she said, noting that around 1,400 volunteers and the ALS Board of Directors are “looking at every scenario.”
“It’s important that people know that even though the building on Division is closed, we are still doing business and helping people,” Orander said. “We don’t want word getting around that we have stopped helping people, because we will still be there for those who need us.”
More opportunities to help
Reeder said that while the $5.2 million has been raised, there is always a need for help at the ALS.
For example, there’s Campaign Encore! donations to help offset increased construction costs and ensure an operating reserve.
There are naming opportunities for individuals, corporations, organizations, and families at the new facility that include privacy fins on the outside of the playground, family bedrooms, and the Path of Kindness brick program.
Other opportunities can be found at www.ALSHeartsToHomes.org.