Collin County's New Homeless Facility Gets Dedication
By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter
Dallas, TX –
Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter: The Samaritan Inn's executive director Howard Dahlka conducts a tour of Collin County's new shelter, stopping at its centerpiece, the library.
Howard Dahlka, Executive Director, Samaritan Inn: They're 18 inch marble floors cut that are cut in the travertine pattern. And that is granite inlays, there. The donors John and Linda Stewart Rigo donated the interior for our library, and they had the wainscoting put on. They had the oak bookshelves built in. They had resurfaced the walls and did all the crown molding all around. Put up the chandelier and the sconces.
Cuellar: The new Samaritan Inn resembles a hotel lobby or college dormitory. Previously, the shelter was in a dilapidated former community center with only 50 bunks. So, two years ago, the Samaritan Inn bid on a minimum security jail three miles away that was scheduled to close. Since then, more than a million dollars in renovations and improvements have been made through in-kind donations, facilitated by Home Aid Dallas, the non-profit arm of the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas. Lynne Sipiora is President of the Samaritan Inn's board.
Lynne Sipiora, President, Samaritan Inn: It's such a beautiful place, and when you have a beautiful environment, you feel better about yourself, and when you feel better about yourself, you have more motivation to go out there and do what you need to do to become independent.
Cuellar: Despite its beauty, it's still a last resort, according to the Inn's program manager, Tracy Westoff.
Tracy Westoff, Program Manager, Samaritan Inn: This is the last place I think that they initially want to be. I think there's a lot of stigma that comes with the idea of being homeless.
Cuellar: That's how Scott Coburn felt.
Scott Coburn, former Samaritan Inn resident: I was fortunate. I had a very good job. Made very good money. Nice house. Came from a very strong family background. I'd never been exposed to it. When I thought of the homeless, I thought of panhandlers in a big city downtown. I used to live in Chicago and I would see 'em every day. Throw 'em a quarter here and there. I really had no idea the cross section of humanity and our culture that homelessness affects. There are people that are residents in the Inn today that have doctorate degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, that came from Telecom, education, all walks of life.
Cuellar: Coburn, who now works as a corporate trainer for a national retailer, recently concluded a three-month stay at the Samaritan Inn. Residents set and achieve their own goals toward independence, while maintaining the building through group chores. 75% leave with gainful employment and housing. Allen Zee, a former purchasing and inventory manager for a distribution company, is still a resident after three months.
Allen Zee, current Samaritan Inn resident: I've lived in Collin County for about eight years now. I was in Plano for five years and had a home in Allen for three years. I lost a job that I'd had for 18 years and had a very difficult time finding a job. I was two years without a job and pretty much ran out of money, retirement money, IRA money, and I had to sell my house before I would lose it. So I was down to about nothing.
Cuellar: Zee now works at 7-11 and is looking for an apartment. Although the 150-bunk shelter is debt-free and building an endowment, with Collin County's homeless population reaching 200 on some nights, there's already a gap between supply and the growing demand for short-term emergency housing.
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