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 Kyle Nazario
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Star of Hope Homeless Shelter- The Scandal That Isn’t

Star of Hope Homeless Shelter- The Scandal That Isn’t
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Star of Hope shelter caught my attention when one homeless man called it a “prison.”

I was talking to Michael Edward Lee Porter and his wife Regina McCauley (a homeless couple who I’ve written about before) when Porter dropped the p-word on Star of Hope. I’d read some less-than-positive reviews from other homeless who had stayed there, but a prison?

“I’d rather sleep on the street,” McCauley told me bluntly.

That’s a hell of a thing, choosing cold concrete over shelter. Was there something going on there that was hurting the homeless? Something scandalous?

Too Strict

The common complaint was strictness. Porter said it was “straight-up ran just like an institution.”

He was unhappy with rules that required residents to be back in the shelter early. The downtown men’s shelter requires residents to be inside by 4:30 p.m. Women go in a few hours later.

“You’re locked in there as soon as you get there,” Porter complained.

I heard other complaints about treatment by homeless residents working for Star of Hope in their work program.

“They take people in off the street, bring them into these programs,” said Mike Ferguson, a homeless man who calls his experience at Star of Hope “really, really bad.”

“After about 30 days, 40 days, they give these people authority. They give them jobs inside Star of Hope,” Ferguson said.

Star of Hope’s director of public relations Scott Arthur said some of the homeless help with intake at the downtown men’s shelter.

Ferguson refused to say what happened to him when he stayed there out of respect for the shelter. He did say that the work system could use improvement, though.

“When you take someone who’s been homeless… and you give them authority over another man, it can be a really horrendous situation,” Ferguson said. “These are not nice people. That was one thing I thought [Star of Hope] could do, is do a better job of picking who they give the authority to.”

Reasons Why

Arthur explained some of criticism of Star of Hope. Setting up ground rules for residents is necessary to help them transition into regular life.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without rules and structure,” he said. “We run a very tight ship because we know that we can have structure.”

Star of Hope runs a comprehensive program to help the homeless get back on their feet. It’s very much an all-or-nothing approach. You can always stay the night in one of their emergency shelters. Long-term residents have to follow the rules and buy into the program, even if that means showing up at 4:30 p.m. so staff can do the laundry.

The shelter offers the whole package- housing, childcare, three square meals a day, education, job training, practice interviews, resume building, religious services, counseling, substance abuse recovery, parenting classes and computer experience. It’s everything you’d need to get on your feet again.

I asked Arthur if Star of Hope’s comprehensive and sometimes strict approach to helping the homeless turned some people away.

“All the time,” Arthur said. “Let’s assume that you’ve got somebody that’s been on the street for 5 years, and he decides to get in the van and come to the shelter and look around. He’s not used to close quarters. He’s not used to structure. So his mindset has been street survival, not [the mindset of] following the rules.

“So yeah, it happens. And what we do is say, ‘You know what, we’re here. We’re here for you. Let’s try again some other time.’”

Too Normal

Star of Hope isn’t a prison. There’s no scandal, no shocking facts that you should go share with your friends on Facebook. It’s just a homeless shelter that serves 15,000 meals every week.

The worst thing you could say about Star of Hope is that it occasionally hands bitter residents too much authority over other homeless people.

This is good news for Houston. It’s great that a homeless shelter doing good is actually doing good. God knows the homeless need every bit of help they can get.

Even the people who’ve turned away from the shelter don’t refuse to speak poorly of it. Despite his negative experience, Ferguson praised Star of Hope.

“I think the goodness that they’re doing is outweighing the bad things that happen,” he said.

3 Responses to Star of Hope Homeless Shelter- The Scandal That Isn’t

    • Kyle Nazario July 11, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Thanks for the response, Nick. I looked into many of the same criticisms that you heard and found nothing. A lot of this stuff is hard to prove.

      I always appreciate more information, though. Shoot me an email at kylebnazario@gmail.com to share anything you’d like.

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