Homeless Shelter Director Focus On Hospitality
As the director, Metu oversees The Salvation Army and its community partners’ efforts to provide vital services for the Inland Empire’s homeless children and families. In 2014, the shelter at 925 W. Tenth Street, San Bernardino, provides three programs to those in need.
“I keep the community aware of what the Salvation Army is doing,” Metu said. “We cannot help solve the problem of homelessness without community support.”
“Homeless families received 12,464 nights of shelter last year. Many supportive services are provided with each night of shelter including: meals, hygiene products, laundry, hot showers, tutoring and case management,” said Metu.
“The people served at The Salvation Army shelter come from all walks of life. The challenges of homelessness touch all ethnic groups and ages. We serve many single parents, families with children, and adult women without children,” said Metu.
The main program offered at Hospitality House is the transitional living program. This allows families and single women for stays up 18 to 24 months while obtaining the life skills necessary for permanent, independent living. With grants from the federal program Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Salvation Army has been able to offer this program since October 2011.
Clients in the transitional living program pay up to 30 percent of their income in rent (this is adjusted based on family size) and save 20 percent to pay for the expenses of securing permanent housing, such as an apartment or a room in someone else’s home.
The 925 W. Tenth Street building also houses the Salvation Army’s original homeless shelter program, an emergency shelter for single women and families. The Salvation Army has been offering this program since the shelter opened in 2010, and did so at other locations for decades before then.
Families can stay up to 90 days in the shelter, provided the adults in the family are actively seeking employment. They must save 75 percent of their income so they have the means to transition to permanent housing as quickly as possible.
“People, for a variety of reasons, come to the shelter with very little,” Metu said. “Many of them need more help than can be provided in 90 days, as such if they qualify, they move to our transitional living program.”
Both shelter programs help the clients with other issues, including developing job skills, resolve legal issues, learn to manage a home budget, and be involved in their child’s education.
Children in both programs have access to tutoring services provided by The San Bernardino County Unified School District. The transitional living program gives the families more time to resolve issues, such as if they need further education or other training to become employable.
In April 2011, the shelter had up to 68 people living there. Of these, about 48 were enrolled in the transitional living program, with the rest enrolled in the emergency shelter program.
The shelter also provides meals to many low-income Inland Empire residents who may not be homeless, but struggle to put food on their own tables. The Salvation Army has provides meals about 200 people on any given day in its long tradition of caring for San Bernardino area residents’ most basic needs.
Providing all of these services is a staff of nine full-time and four part-time employees, which Ms. Metu oversees.
Because the transitional program is financed primarily through HUD grants, there are requirements for reporting how this money is spent. This grant also has to be renewed each year, through a somewhat competitive application process.
The Salvation Army also keeps the San Bernardino area appraised of all its services, primarily through the organization’s Advisory Board, but also through presentations Ms. Metu gives to other organizations in the community. She tells prospective clients what the Salvation Army has to offer.
“I am usually out in the community educating people about what we do. I also pull in clients who I think fit the services we provide.”
The Salvation Army is a member of the San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership Network, a coalition established by the County of San Bernardino to coordinate and improve services provided to the homeless. The coalition works with government agencies, the community and faith-based programs to help Hospitality House clients, homeless people in other shelters, and those who live on the streets.
Ms. Metu came to the United States from Nigeria, settling in Houston, Texas in 1997. She came already familiar with helping others and began her American career with the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, where she worked for six years. While there, Ms. Metu decided to become a chemical dependency counselor. She later moved to the Family Drug Treatment Court in Houston as a coordinator.
“Working in Houston, I noticed a lot of families dealing with both substance abuse and homelessness,” said Metu. “Usually only one person in the family comes forward to receive help. My desire grew, wanting to help the entire family heal, not just that one person. I wanted to do whatever it takes to help them live a normal life and function in society.”
Metu wanted to combine Christian counseling with her passion to battle drugs and substance abuse. She did this in Texas prior to moving to be with her family in San Bernardino in 2010, where she first became involved with the Salvation Army as a volunteer.
“I heard that the Salvation Army was looking for someone to become the director of their Hospitality House,” said Metu. “The opportunity seemed perfect for me, being able to utilize my background of helping others through drug counseling, grant management and administration. I decided to apply for the job, and I got it.”
Metu says she is thankful to the Salvation Army for giving her a platform and encouraging her to pursue her passion for helping people. However, Metu points out that she receives assistance from many areas to make lives better for the San Bernardino underserved through in-kind donations.
“So many people have come together, providing the support we need to do what we can for others,” said Metu.
She is especially grateful for the help of Ms. Brenda Dowdy, homeless education services coordinator for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.
“The children receive tutoring from the San Bernardino County Unified School District,” Metu explained. “But Brenda Dowdy provides much more than that. I don’t know what we would do without her services.”
Ms. Dowdy coordinates the tutors’ schedules, provides the homeless students with school supplies, and makes sure these children are able to take part in field trips and other fun outings. She also organizes monthly Resource workshops, in which organizations that can provide services to the families (such as jobs, job training, health care or even free cell phones) come to the shelter to tell the clients about what’s available to them.
“If we have a problem with a child – for instance, or if a child doesn’t have shoes to wear to school – she will take care of that as well,” Metu said.
Other organizations that help meet the needs of the Hospitality House clients include Inland Counties Legal Services, Project Home Again, the Second Harvest Food Bank, Community Action Partnership, Arrowhead United Way, the San Bernardino Women’s Club, Stater Bros Charities, San Manuel Band of Indian Missions, The Soroptimists of San Bernardino, Victory Community Outreach and medical students outreach teams from Loma Linda University.
“This is really a community effort,” says Metu. “I feel privileged to be part of such a wonderful team that is dedicated to helping improve the lives of those who are less fortunate and going through a difficult time.”
For more information call the San Bernardino Hospitality House at (909) 888-4880. Donations can always be made online at www.salvationarmyusa.org or by calling 1-(800)-SAL-ARMY or (909) 888-1336.
About the Salvation Army San Bernardino Corps
The Salvation Army may be able to provide emergency services including food; lodging for homeless or displaced families; clothing and furniture; assistance with rent or mortgage and transportation when funds are available. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) assists rescue workers and evacuees in such disasters as fires.
The Salvation Army is an evangelical part of the Universal Christian Church, and also offers evangelical programs for boys, girls and adults. One of the largest charitable and international service organizations in the world, The Salvation Army has been in existence since 1865 and in San Bernardino since 1887, supporting those in need without discrimination. Donations may always be made online at www.salvationarmyusa.org or by calling 1-(800)-SAL-ARMY or (909) 888-1336.
Photo Caption: Anne Metu says she is thankful to the Salvation Army for giving her a platform and encouraging her to pursue her passion for helping people. However, Metu points out that she receives assistance from many areas to make lives better for the San Bernardino underserved through in-kind donations. Metu celebrates her third anniversary as the Salvation Army San Bernardino Corps’ Hospitality House Shelter Director in June.