Waco Salvation Army provides refuge for low-income population

Photo courtesy of Jorge Delgado

By Elyse Delano | Contributor

The Salvation Army of Waco prides itself on helping more than 100 homeless or low-income people in the community a week by serving meals, sheltering homeless and providing other types of aid. The Christian organization has been a key instrument in turning the lives of many around, helping them find jobs and apartments to get off the streets.

The shelter’s food kitchen is one of the few organizations that allows pre-prepared food donations to help feed their clients. While they have a budget to buy supplies for hot meals served, a lot of food comes from local donations, including from Baylor’s own dining halls, according to the social services director of the center Jorge Delgado. On top of feeding the homeless, the Salvation Army provides hot showers and warm beds for those in Waco who need a place to stay for up to five days. Delgado believes these services aren’t even the most enticing aspect of the Salvation Army to clients.

“What makes our organization very appealing to some is that the Salvation Army is actually a church,” Delgado said. “What I love about it is the fact that, they don’t try to push it on us, but they’re always open to [giving] guidance. It’s just a completely open door policy, and I think that’s what a lot of the homeless like about it.”

Delgado said the Salvation Army has had a major impact on the lives of hundreds of Waco homeless — some who wouldn’t get a chance to eat that day if it weren’t for the company’s lunch or dinner.

One man, Louis St. Julian, owes his current job to the Salvation Army.

“I was a client here, about five years ago,” he said. “I just came through to get one of my bills paid. I met with Jorge and he told me all about the program, and he told me it would benefit me better to come into the program than to just keep doing what I was doing. Then they offered me a job.”

St. Julian now works six days a week at the shelter and food kitchen, serving people who stood where he once did.

“We do good work here for the people,” he said.

It may be good work they’re doing at the Salvation Army, but according to employees, it’s never easy work.

“I think we have more stress [working here] than a brain surgeon,” St. Julian said. “We just have to deal with different situations, different personalities.”

Another employee, Michael Prestwood, added to that, citing his own experiences with upset clients.

“Sometimes you get [disgruntled people] calling back and coming up with outrageous stories that you did this or that to them when really the guy had two knives strapped to his back,” Prestwood said. “There are a lot of people who will say things that aren’t true.”

Regardless, the Salvation Army exists to help “everyone”, Prestwood said, even the people who have often accepted their life on the streets.

Students or staff at Baylor University can walk in and volunteer at 4:45 p.m. every night and help serve meals at the kitchen off of Webster Avenue. If you or your company are catering an event, the Salvation Army, which will accept pre-prepared food from events and parties. In addition, students who are cleaning out their pantries before the end of the semester are encouraged to donate canned goods or dry items like ramen noodles and cereal to the thrift store food pantry on 4721 W. Waco Drive. The thrift store is especially in need of donations around the holidays.