Homeless Shelters are No Longer Just for the Homeless

by Ramonica R. Jones

GODTEL (God's Open Door To Eternal Life) Ministries is now the only shelter for the homeless in Lufkin, but the homeless aren't the only ones who go there looking for a hot meal and a place to sleep.

GODTEL manager, Mary Baker, said, "We have had some who come in from the cold because they do live in a house without heat. We've had them come in the summertime when it's been raining excessively and mosquitoes are out."

GODTEL residents get three hot meals a day, free clothing if they need it, and two bible studies a day - a requirement for all clients. And many of the residents embrace that religious rule instead of complaining about it.

Elton Hancock came to GODTEL seven months ago, but he's lived at the shelter off and on for the past five years. After spending 35 years in prison, he said it's one of only a handful of places willing to help him get a fresh start.

"I'm a very dependable, responsible, honest person," said Hancock. "I served my time in full and I just want a second chance."

The Salvation Army Lodge is also a shelter in Lufkin, but it's been closed for over a year. That's because it is very expensive to run and takes a big staff to operate, but Captain Hank Harwell called the closing a temporary setback.

"We're taking some time to really adequately look at how much it'll cost us, what type of program do we need to operate, [and] who needs to be responsible for the operation of that program," Harwell said.

The Salvation Army plans to adjust the mission of its shelter and focus mainly on dealing with the cause of homelessness.