By Dani Blackburn
Faith Mission of Wichita Falls is more than a shelter for the homeless. It is two shelters that feed and clothe residents, while providing Christ-centered programs and services that lead them toward self-sufficiency.
The program operates with a dedicated staff and volunteers. Faith Mission shelters men and families experiencing homelessness and Faith Refuge shelters women and mothers with children. Both facilities offer a program called New Beginnings, which helps those struggling with addiction.
The first 30 days of the program restricts the students to campus, followed by seven months of work therapy, ministering to the homeless at the shelter and daily Bible studies with a 12-step recovery program. During the final two months of the program, students are encouraged to re-enter the workforce.
Chief Executive Officer Steve Sparks said the overall goal of the mission is to help people get back on their feet again and support themselves.
“It’s an amazing thing to think about a life being changed as a result of the work we get to do here,” said Sparks. “We see miracles, literally. There are lives headed down the road to all kinds of destruction and death or for sure, prison, and broken relationships. Then they come here and they have a chance to be restored. It’s incredible to see that happen.”
Faith Resale and Donation Center opened in 2014 to help with operating expenses at both shelters. Contributions-in-kind and purchases all help the shelter.
“If people give clothing, whether it goes on the backs of the residents or gets sold it still benefits the mission or organization,” said Chief Development Officer Vicky Payne.
Faith Enterprises is a social enterprise which offers general maintenance and construction to the community. It allows men in the New Beginnings Program to develop a positive work history for their resume while earning money.
“As men are graduating from New Beginnings, they can work for Faith Enterprises and they can update their resume and save money to move out to independent living,” said Sparks.
Faith Refuge Career Academy offers 12-week courses for women, including a General Education Development prep and testing course. The academy empowers women through spiritual, professional and educational growth. Students are encouraged to volunteer during their time at the academy. The academy is free and acceptance is determined by application and interview.
While faith is the foundation of the mission and its programs, it is not required for residents.
“Our number one goal of course is to invite people to let Christ into their lives, but it’s certainly not forced,” said Payne. “If people come in here for help, we’ll let Christ help them. They’re going to go further with him but that’s certainly their decision.”
Payne went on to say one of the great things the mission can offer people is the chance to take a breath and focus on themselves in order to get their lives back on track. Residents can do this without having to worry about food, clothes and bills.
Faith Mission has helped Wichita Falls resident Michael Smith for three years. Smith stays at the shelter every other night, alternating nights at a friend’s house down the street.
Smith said the mission has kept him off the streets. Before receiving help from the volunteers, Smith would sleep under houses, in abandoned homes and in the park.
“The mission has 100 percent helped me,” said Smith. “If it weren’t for the mission, it would be very tough in the heat and to find food, clothes and to take a shower.”
“I’ve been able to see things I’ve never seen before,” said Brown. “I was able to get through some things and hard times. I would probably be in a mental hospital if it weren’t for the mission. There’s a lot of great people here, who pray with me and keep me on the right track.”
Randall Carroll from Huntsville came to the shelter on the recommendation from his cousin, Anthony, when he was struggling with a drug addiction.
It is the first recovery program for the 35-year-old, who has been addicted to drugs since the age of 18. Brown said his cousin had been through the program and knew he was having a hard time, so he recommended Faith Mission.
“Now I have been clean for five months and I want to be a drug abuse counselor myself,” said Carroll. “I have never wanted to talk before now, and they helped me conquer my addiction. Now I want to help others overcome their addiction.”
Faith Mission conducts several fundraising activities throughout the year to cover costs of running the facilities and programs, including Decorator Show House in April benefiting Faith Refuge.
Fashion Night Out benefits the women and funds scholarships for those finishing the career program.
One of the largest fundraisers for the year is the annual benefit dinner “Faith in the Falls.” Those attending purchase tickets or sponsor tables. The money raised covers operating expenses and awareness for the shelter. Those attending have the opportunity to hear success stories from residents and how the shelter is making a difference in their lives.
The dinner falls on Sept. 15, the same day as the first annual “Texoma Gives,” which the shelter will participate in this year.
For more information on the mission and its services, follow them on Facebook or visit www.faithmissionwf.org.