Shelter reaches record overflow crowd

July 29, 2010 12:03:57 PM PDT
Houston's Star of Hope homeless shelter has reached an all-time high in families needing assistance, and now they're asking for help from the community. Star of Hope President and CEO, Hank Rush, has announced that the homeless mission's downtown Women and Family Emergency Shelter at 419 Dowling, has reached a record overflow.

"During this last week, each night we have averaged about 100 women and children waiting for beds. This is unprecedented," he said.

The shelter has been at its 256 person capacity, with a waiting list, for two years.

"We always experience extra people in the summer, but this year because of the extreme heat and the economy we're seeing more children, more families and lots of new faces," said Rush.

The homeless women and children on the waiting list spend the night on a pallet inside the shelter, out of the heat and asleep in the atrium area. The Men's Center has been at or near its 300 person capacity every night this year.

The record numbers and weak economy have created a major challenge for the homeless mission.

"More people mean more food, more utilities and extra staff. Our donations have dropped considerably. Currently, we're experiencing about a $700,000 shortfall. Soon we won't be able to deal with the overflow and we'll have to cut programs and turn people away," Rush said. "We hope we don't get to that point."

The Star of Hope chief is optimistic.

"It's been my experience that Houston is one of the most generous cities in the country. But it's a historic fact -- when the temperature goes up, the donations go down. We need the city to open its 'summer heart' and help us help their neighbors in crisis," said Rush.

Houstonians are encouraged to donate cash, canned, non-perishable food, gently used clothing and even volunteer hours. Specific immediate needs include towels, blankets, diapers, water and toiletries.

Star of Hope's Summer of Hope campaign boasts a new "giving" feature via texting. It's now possible to donate $10 to Star of Hope by safely texting "SOH" to 20222. For more information on "ways to give", visit sohmission.org.


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