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Family finds temporary home in night shelter

Facility helps through donations, state funds

by Sally Claunch
The Shorthorn staff

Edward, 9, is most concerned these days with drawing his favorite Pokémon characters. He is a typical boy who loves to draw, play with his friends and tease his sister.

He is also homeless.

Edward lives in the Arlington Night Shelter with his mother Beverly Brown and his sister Alice, 11.

Don Morrow, the shelter's weekend coordinator, said the Browns are one of many single-parent families who stay at the shelter nightly. To help the shelter provide for these families, the university assists with the shelter's fund-raising events.

Morrow said the number of children at the shelter has increased greatly in the past few years.

"The expense does increase as the number of children has grown," he said. "We have run out of milk sometimes for the children."

In order to address the children's needs, the shelter has implemented many expensive programs, including counseling for substance and alcohol abuse, an on-site nurse offering advice on health care for children and expectant mothers, better nutrition for the children, renovations to create a play area, job counseling and classes on parenting skills.

"We teach parents to spend time with their children," Morrow said. "We tell them to play games with their kids and not just put them down in front of the TV."

Morrow said the shelter gets some federal funding, but it's never enough, and the shelter must rely on donations and fund-raising projects.

One such project, Big Al's 10th Annual Walk for the Children, took place on campus Saturday. The walk was sponsored by political science associate professor Allan Saxe and the university. About 150 walkers participated and took pledges to raise more than $8,000 for the children at the shelter.

Brown said she is grateful for the donations, which allow her and her children to live in an healthy environment.

"I didn't want to come to the shelter at first, but I didn't want to lose my children," she said. "I was afraid it would be like a big warehouse. I didn't want my children to live on the streets, and from what I've heard about other shelters, the crime (at the other shelters) is rampant."

Brown's fears have been assuaged during her one-month stay in the Arlington shelter.

"The people here aren't street people," she said. "We're just trying to get back on our feet. If you don't want to accomplish anything, don't come here."

Brown was a licensed vocational nurse before she quit her job when her mother was injured in 1997.

"I had no family here to help; the rest of them live in California," she said.

Brown lost her nursing license, and with no income, she and her two children were finally evicted.

One of the biggest priorities at the shelter is to help homeless people gain employment.

Morrow said he and the staff work with employers in the area. The staff teaches them life skills and how to interview to get a job.

"This (homelessness) is passed on from generation to generation - we're trying to break that chain," he said. "Sometimes moms who live here will go to the hospital and have a baby, and then come right back."

Brown found a job in telemarketing, but she lost the job last Friday.

"I couldn't sell a glass of ice water to a person living in the desert," she said.

She is currently seeking other employment and said she doesn't care what she has to do. She just wants a job.

"When I get a full-time job and show them (the housing authority) my first pay stub, I'll get a voucher for a house," Brown said.

When she gets a job, she will take her children to the zoo and cultural events and enroll her son in an art program.

Edward doesn't seem to mind living in the shelter. But Alice, who is usually bubbly and talkative, was shy when she explained how her teacher knows where she lives but most of her friends don't.

"Only one of my friends knows I live here," she said as she looked down at the floor. "My other classmates don't know and don't ask where I live."

Brown said that while she's waiting to get a job, she likes the structured environment provided by the shelter.

At the shelter, the children go to bed at 8:30 p.m., parents cannot physically discipline their children but can put them in time-out, and the residents must undergo random drug testing and breath tests to detect alcohol.

"They may not agree to all the rules, but it's a shelter, not a flop house," she said.

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