Street Level: Meeting need on the street

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Tina and Jonathan travel across Washington state, reaching out to people currently living in their vehicles. In their specially-equipped van, the Street Level team works to find ways to get people out of their cars and into permanent housing.

Watch this video to see how Tina’s own life experience, coupled with Jonathan’s compassion, drives them to show God’s love to those most in need in very practical ways.

Below is a transcript of the video edited for readability.

Captain Jonathan Harvey, General Secretary, Northwest Division: Homelessness in Seattle and across Washington is at an all-time high. The Salvation Army’s really taken an aggressive approach to combating this epidemic that has really swept our region. We have initiated new programs and tried to be innovative in how we approach moving people from being on the streets to a permanently housed solution.

Tina Lewis, Program Manager, Street Level Ministries: Street Level is a program that was created to meet up with those people that struggle with homelessness but particularly they live in their vehicles. 

JH: The vehicle that we designed is able to pull up right in a parking lot at an encampment, wherever it might be, and provide case management services right there. 

TL: We are able to do their paperwork. If we need to make copies of documents for them for apartments or for our own records, the van is very, very helpful. It’s our mobile office. 

TL knocking on an RV door: “Hello, anybody home? Salvation Army.”

Jonathan Schultz, Seattle Social Services: We would knock on the door of this RV or this car and we’d introduce ourselves and we’d try to meet those needs of socks, hygiene kits—things that they need right now, but we’d also try to improve their lives by helping them get housing.

TL: We basically let them know what it is that we are here for, and what we can potentially help them with, and we find out what they’re working with.

TL speaking to a woman: If you can get someone to say, “This is what’s stopping you from being approved,” and they will tell us that, in writing, “She needs to clear this eviction in order to be approved at our complex,” then we can work with them.

There’s some folks that don’t have any income, but then there’s some that will have an income. They just don’t know how to access the housing.

TL speaking to a man: If we can get you into a room for rent it would be better than having you in that car another winter.

TL speaking to another woman: You need a kit with socks and snacks in it? I’m excited. I want you to get into an apartment because you have all the means for it, too.

Woman wearing Street Level hoodie: I was living in a house here in Auburn and I got sick. I fell behind on the mortgage. I was in a tent for almost a year.

TL: Once we first meet and interact with someone, a lot of times the look is pretty skeptical. They’re not sure what we want, especially if there’s children involved. The biggest thing is to let them know that you can empathize with what they’re going through.

TL speaking to a couple: I know what it’s like to be out here on the streets, to be a criminal, to be addicted to drugs. I’ve been through it all.

Went to college on a volleyball scholarship. Got mixed up with the wrong crowd, got addicted to drugs. Walking the streets of downtown Seattle, barefooted, homeless, in the wintertime. Went to prison, lost all my kids to CPS. It was severe. I went to transitional housing. I got my kids home two months after. And to have turned that all around, with 21 years of sobriety, I make the biggest impact by telling other folks out here, “You know what I’ve gone through. So I’m living, breathing, walking proof that this can happen.”

TL speaking to the couple: “So there’s nothing too great to get past. If you want it, we’re here for you.”

Woman in SL hoodie: So within like six to eight weeks or so of them starting this whole thing, they had me housed. So I’ve been there a year and a half now.

JH: The mission of The Salvation Army is what motivates us. We have a love for God. We want others to know what it means to be loved by God, and what it means to have a relationship with him, and helping them find a path to a better life.

JS: When I do pray with someone, [I say] “Hey, is it OK if I pray with you?” And then when I do, I’m giving that gospel presentation in the form of a prayer.

TL: You know, God has made me a vessel. He put me through and allowed me to come through all those things that I’ve gone through in my life.

Woman in SL hoodie: This was my favorite spot, ‘cause I could pull the trailer all the way in, and then the sun didn’t get super hot ‘cause the shadows and stuff was perfect. This is the electrical unit, and then there’s the water connection for us. I never got to hook up the water source ‘cause my water didn’t work in my little trailer so I would just come out with my big old bucket and gather my water.

The first night that I was able to crawl into a bathtub in my own house and soak was just one of the best feelings. If it wasn’t for the fact of The Salvation Army and doing the Street Level thing, I would still be in my little travel trailer trying to figure out where to go. So I am very grateful for everything that they’ve done.

TL: The County wanted us to house 39 people within the year. We’re at about 158 now. My personal goal would be 200 before the end of the year.

JS: We get to the end of the month and say, “We housed one person every day this month.” And then we’d do that two months in a row and just [be] scratching our head going, “This is crazy,” and so I’m really excited to see what comes next because I know that God’s gonna meet that need and it’s just gonna blow my mind again.

Do Good:

  • See how The Salvation Army fights hunger.
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