The Arlington Life Shelter last month completed a $5 million construction project on a two-story homeless facility in the heart of downtown Arlington and officially started housing residents there. The funding was made possible through community donations and grants.
“We’re providing more space for families and children,” says Jim Reeder, executive director of the shelter, located at 325 W. Division St. “And then providing more space to carry out our programming to make what we do for the homeless even more efficient.”
The mission of Arlington Life Shelter is to promote self-sufficiency by providing shelter, employment programs and transitional services for North Texans impacted by homelessness. Reeder says that because the mission is not only to help homeless individuals but impoverished families, the new facility represents a godsend for the community.
It features considerably expanded space and additional services, compared to what Arlington Life Shelter offered prior to the project, as well as a beautiful, contemporary and simple-but-elegant design that will promote an atmosphere of dignity, inspiration, safety and hope. Noteworthy features include:
- Family bedrooms (capable of housing women with children) that increase the shelter’s bed capacity by 40 percent. The family and individual bedrooms are outfitted in part by more than $40,000 in contributions community members made via the Amazon Wish List.
- Expanded education, recreation, and programming space.
- An open-air playground.
- Separate/customized spaces for toddlers, elementary kids and teens.
- An upgraded and larger kitchen.
- A computer lab with audio/video equipment.
The family bedrooms that house women with children are a vital addition, Reeder says, noting that shelter leaders were having to turn away kids with families because there weren’t facilities to address their housing needs. The new shelter features 120 beds; however, because of social distancing measures being taken during the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing will be practiced for the indefinite future.
The expanded education, recreation and programming space also addresses a significant need for homeless people utilizing the new Arlington Life Shelter. By contrast, the previous shelter had but one room dedicated to these functions.
In addition to the playground; the accommodations for toddlers, elementary kids and teens; the kitchen and the computer lab for job searches, there’s a classroom that allows a space for life skills and financial literacy training.
And that, Reeder says, is what sets Arlington Life Shelter apart among the various non-profit organizations that address the needs of area homeless people.
“The mission of Arlington Life Shelter is to really help residents get back to self-sufficiency,” Reeder says. “We don’t just have them come in and give them a bed and meals. We want to do what it takes to get them back to employment.”
Reeder says job losses and financial troubles born of the pandemic could lead to an influx of people falling into crisis and then evictions in the coming months. So the timing of the new shelter is ideal.
“It’s been a really exciting project to see the breadth of support from our faith community to get us to where we are and do what we’re doing,” he says. “We might could end up needing to be three times the size we are. But we will do the best we can to serve the community.”