Valley Voices

At Salvation Army, we help the homeless every day

Tracy Gonzales makes a call on behalf of a Salvation Army client while helping him gain assistance.
Tracy Gonzales makes a call on behalf of a Salvation Army client while helping him gain assistance. The Fresno Bee file

A guest column was published April 15 in The Bee’s “Valley Voices” regarding The Salvation Army and our work here in the United States. I would like to correct some inaccuracies and clarify the mission of The Salvation Army.

Our mission is “to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” This includes providing services for those living in poverty, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and helping those who are homeless.

Every dollar The Salvation Army raises locally is spent on programs and services in that local community. Eighty-two cents of every dollar raised from the public goes toward providing direct services to our most vulnerable neighbors. While The Salvation Army has some very generous donors, according to the NonProfit Times, the United Way, Catholic Charities, Goodwill Industries and the YMCA all raise more revenue annually.

The Salvation Army does not direct these gifts from U.S. donors to be “banked in England,” as was stated in the column. Money is not raised to accrue profit; it’s spent on programs and services to help those in dire need. The Salvation Army is continually stretched thin with resources to meet burgeoning needs, just like other national social service providers.

Helping communities provide long-term solutions for homeless people is a priority of The Salvation Army, as evidenced by our permanent and short-term housing programs in cities across the US. In partnership with local governments and private funders, The Salvation Army will soon announce two major homeless services and housing initiatives in California. Our organization is one of the largest providers of homeless services in the state, particularly for veterans.

One claim in the column that we particularly want to clarify is the misleading numbers surrounding the gift that we received from the Kroc family, the founders of McDonald’s:

▪ Ray Kroc was very generous to The Salvation Army during his lifetime, but he did not make a gift of $1.3 billion at any time during his life or after his death. Joan Kroc made a $1.6 billion restricted gift to The Salvation Army through her trust. The very specific instructions in her trust stipulated that The Salvation Army would build community centers – modeled after the flagship Kroc Center in San Diego – in underserved neighborhoods, providing them with state-of-the-art learning centers, sports and fitness facilities, day care and after-school programs, a local church and more.

▪ Twenty-six Ray & Joan Kroc Salvation Army Corps Community Centers have been built across the U.S. since her death, including the flagship Kroc Center in San Diego. There was no 1-to-1 match requirement and Kroc funds far exceeded any other private dollars raised. There was and is no requirement placed on municipalities or “third party homeless advocates” to have bank deposits or to meet any other requirement.

▪ The Salvation Army undertook a competitive process to distribute Mrs. Kroc’s gift according to the wishes outlined in her estate plan. Each community that has applied to build a center submitted a building plan, proof of site control and had to demonstrate community buy-in with a percentage of the gifts in hand before the start of construction.

▪ Further, Mrs. Kroc’s gift guidelines specified that half of each center’s bequest be used for construction and the other half for an endowment. “Third party homeless advocates” were never involved in the process because Mrs. Kroc did not designate her gift for homeless shelters. Instead, she designated her gift to build community centers with sporting, learning, entertainment and enrichment programs for underserved neighborhoods.

The terms of Mrs. Kroc’s estate plan could not have been more clear. She wanted every community that was awarded a Kroc Center to demonstrate that they could financially support it. She wanted local fundraising to support a portion of each Kroc Center’s bottom line so that the community would invest in her vision too.

The Salvation Army has been serving Fresno at various downtown locations for 127 years providing a range of services for people struggling to make ends meet. Recently, local authorities have asked that a long-term program to distribute food assistance to homeless residents be stopped citing safety and quality of life concerns.

However, while the homeless food distributions have ceased, The Army does continue to provide emergency food boxes to hundreds of families each week plus utilities and housing assistance to help many stay in their homes.

The Army also provides no-fee residential rehabilitation to men and women at their Adult Rehabilitation Centers and transitional living for men, women and women with children, and housing for low-income senior citizens in locations around Fresno.

All of these programs help in the city’s fight to curb the homelessness issue. Of course, as a trusted nonprofit social service agency, the Army is eager to do even more with community support.

Lt. Col. Timothy Foley is divisional commander of the Salvation Army’s Golden State Division, which serves San Francisco, the Central Coast and the Central Valley.