Local Women's Shelter Expands Outreach

Starting tonight, a women's transitional center that's operated in the shadow of Minute Maid Park for the past 12 years will begin a new chapter. The Salvation Army's "Sally's House" will begin accepting transient homeless women on a nightly basis. As Jack Williams reports, it's a pilot program aimed at getting women off the street.

Up until today, Sally's House has been a place specifically for women with drug and alcohol issues. There's room for 60 women, and there have been many success stories.

(Phone rings) "Good morning, Salvation Army's Sally's House. How may I help you?" 

Loretta Ray has been the receptionist at Sally's House for the past two years. Her journey hasn't been easy. She arrived at the shelter straight from jail and began to turn her life around. She's now married, has her degree and has a home.

"The program is great. It's going to provide you with your basic needs, because if you're worried about how you're going to eat and where you're going to live you can't focus on the other areas of your life that need addressing. This is a facility that will provide those needs for you, health care, things like that. And so anybody who wants to change their life sincerely, this program will work for them if they work it." 

Starting tonight, women who may not necessarily have drug and alcohol problems but are homeless will be able to stay overnight at Sally's House. There will only be eight beds to start for transient women, but that number will grow when the shelter adds a new wing later this year. Gay McCurdy runs the place.

"There's more need for homeless women with children as well as homeless women period. We have a lot of ladies who get out of jail and have nowhere to go. So this would be a place for them."

Viestra Jackson
Viestra Jackson, kitchen supervisor at Sally's House

"I wrote Ms. Gay from prison in 2001. I was living on the streets doing drugs and alcohol and I wanted to save my life and she told me to come in."  

Now ten years later, Viestra Jackson is the kitchen supervisor at Sally's House. She says transient women in Houston can change their lives.

"I was out there for 25 year. I know it works. It'll work. They come in and see how other people live and see us who came through the same thing, they might have hope."

Just a couple of hundred yards from Sally's House, underneath the 59 overpass is one of Houston's largest homeless camps. Chris Flanagan is the area commander for the Salvation Army and says there are up to 3,000 homeless women in Houston. 

"A lot of people just do not comprehend how many homeless are women, single women. We think of the men and we think of the homeless families, but there are a lot of single ladies. And we sit within a couple of miles of two other shelters and even with that, just in our area, there are still 200 or 300 ladies that will be up under that bridge tonight."   

Transient women will be able to stay at Sally's House for 15 days to start. For more information, visit http://www.salvationarmyhouston.org/sallyshouse.htm.


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All images are courtesy of the Salvation Army Website.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...