Capital Campaign “The Future of Hope”
BAHS Campus Renovation Capital Campaign
Supporting the development and new construction of
Bay Area Homeless Services’ Wisconsin Street Campus
A Project including a 750 Square-Foot Resident Services Building, 1600
Square-Foot Men’s Shelter, 1600 Square-Foot Administration Office and
Commercial Kitchen-Dining Area Improvements
Bay Area Homeless Services is committed to assisting homeless individuals, adults, children and intact families stabilize and achieve self-sufficiency and return to independent living as contributing members of the community. Bay Area Homeless Services is the only residential shelter serving men, women, children and intact homeless families with emergency shelter and short-term transitional housing in our 2100 square-mile service area.
Homelessness in our Service Area
Baytown is on the Eastern edge of Harris County, directly across the Houston Ship Channel from Houston, a very large metropolitan area. Bay Area Homeless Services is a member of the Coalition for the Homeless-Houston providing services to sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals in a three county area, Harris County, Montgomery County, and Fort Bend County. In January of each year the Coalition conducts a survey of the area’s homeless population. The 2022 survey showed a 5.5% increase in the number of the area’s homeless[i]. However, the annual Point in Time Survey (PIT) focuses on Houston which has the largest homeless population, and only “spot-checks” other areas of the survey area. The 2022 PIT counted BAHS sheltered residents, and “spot-checked” certain other areas that (we knew) did not have many homeless, avoiding areas that had homeless encampments. This resulted in an undercount of Baytown’s homeless population according to our outreach staff. This fact was reinforced by the Coalition’s vice-president of program operations, Anna Rausch. She said “It’s really important that everyone remembers that the interview locations may not necessarily be where people are residing..”[ii]
Current agency records show that actual shelter intakes increased from 254 in 2021 to 332 as of November 2022; screenings for services rose from 1197 in 2021 to 1687 through November 2022. All this indicates that there is a significant increase in services provided by BAHS in 2022, and exceeds the 5.5% increase seen regionally. These numbers, increasing since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, point to the urgency of replacing the rapidly deteriorating Men’s Shelter and Administration Building on our agency’s Wisconsin Street campus.
Organizational History and Background
Since 1982, Bay Area Homeless Services (BAHS) has provided emergency, short-term housing, basic needs and meals for homeless individuals and families. Initially begun as an overnight shelter for men by Rev. Mack Cook and a group of concerned Baytonians, the agency gradually evolved into a full-service emergency shelter featuring intensive case management and a stay period of at least 30 days. In response to the growing population of female homeless in the area, BAHS added a women’s dormitory to house women and single mothers with children in 2003. Together, the men’s and women’s shelters house approximately 250-300+ residents annually, although the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing protocols have influenced our annual census since 2020.
BAHS recognized that most adult clients entered the shelter unemployed or underemployed but had been in the workforce previously. Therefore, the agency developed an Employment Services Program in 2015 which features a job preparation curriculum, job application guidance and interviewing skills development uniquely designed to accelerate clients’ reintegration into the local workforce. Today, in addition to providing shelter and meals, BAHS actively engages and prepares clients to seek, gain and maintain employment through job training, resume writing, transportation assistance, childcare, etc. Such services are necessary to ensure that homeless individuals served will acquire the skills necessary to avoid repeating the cycle of despair.
Facing a crisis for housing intact homeless families, the agency planned and built the Britton-Fuller Center for intact homeless families. This is one of the few shelters in the Greater Houston area that serves intact homeless families, and the only shelter of its kind in our sprawling semi-rural service area, encompassing Eastern Harris County, Chambers County and Liberty County. In June 2016 the first families moved into the Center, and the facility was fully occupied with six families (32 clients) in September of that year. Since that time, one hundred forty-four families have been assisted through that program, exiting to permanent housing of their choice.
This extensive experience in working with the local and regional homeless population, as well as assisting our sheltered homeless individuals acquire employment and return to stable living situations, gives BAHS the unique perspective and abilities to provide the enhanced services needed by homeless clients to develop the skills needed to fully return to society as contributing citizens.
BAHS collaborates with a wide range of supportive service providers in the community to meet the needs of its clients, including Lee College for career training, Harris County Adult Basic Education, Houston Area Food Bank, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Baytown Junior Forum, Texas Workforce Development Commission, Bay Area Ministerial Alliance, Baytown Housing Authority, LOVE, Inc. Network, BeaconLaw, Baytown Community Restoration, and partner agencies in the United Way of Greater Baytown Area and Chambers County. This collaborative approach ensures that clients have access to the widest array of services available, while avoiding a wasteful duplication of services.
From an overnight shelter for homeless men to a full-service emergency shelter for men, women, single parents and transitional housing for intact families, Bay Area Homeless Services continues to grow and develop innovative, productive programs carefully curated to meet the changing needs of our local homeless population. More than twelve thousand vulnerable individuals have benefitted from BAHS’ services to date, and we look forward to future growth.
Needs within the Area’s Homeless Ecosystem
BAHS opened its doors in 1982 as an overnight shelter for men. Our original shelter space was a single-family home built in 1930 at 3404 Wisconsin Street in Baytown. The structure was 50 years old when we first started providing services there; we are still using that building as our men’s shelter more than forty years later. In the intervening years, our agency has served more than 12,000 homeless individuals, and all the male residents have called that building home. We provide our services on a 24/7/365 basis and have not closed our doors in the entire 40 years of our existence.
Baytown, a growing Harris County community located east of Houston, and across the Houston Ship Channel, has a significant number of homeless individuals. Some are sheltered residents of Bay Area Homeless Services and many more are unhoused in various locations throughout the city and unincorporated areas of Chambers County. And mainly because BAHS is a sober-living, employment oriented residential shelter, many of the area’s homeless population have various mental health and substance abuse issues and consciously make the difficult choice to remain unsheltered. During the 2022 Point in Time (PIT) survey conducted by agencies and volunteers of Houston Coalition for the Homeless, it was shown that 1245 of the total 7054 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night in the Harris- Fort Bend-Montgomery County service area were suffering from a Serious Mental Illness, and 872 individuals disclosed a Substance Abuse Disorder[iii]. In addition to providing individualized services to our sheltered homeless, BAHS’s outreach services regularly serve these additional unsheltered individuals in Eastern Harris County, Baytown, (Chambers County and Liberty County by outreach) by delivering needed supplies, food packets, and providing referrals to other area nonprofit organizations that might meet their specific needs.
Proximity to the City of Houston poses a dual-edged challenge. On one hand, Houston is rich with resources, both financial and in the social services realm. This proximity to a large number of social services agencies offers the promise of abundant avenues of assistance available to our Baytown residents. However, the disappointing reality is that the vast majority of these services are only available in Houston, which poses a significant transportation issue for our sheltered clientele. Most of our residents do not have the private transportation needed to drive the 27 miles to central Houston, and public transportation requires transferring between two different bus services. In many cases an entire day is needed to attend just one appointment in Houston. For an employed resident, this often means the loss of a day’s wages, putting them even further “behind the curve” as they attempt to save for needed utility and housing deposits after their exit.
However, just as it’s difficult for our residents to seek and obtain services in Houston, Greater Houston area homeless find shelter on our agency’s campus. During both 2020 and 2021 fully 66% of incoming residents entered from Houston and Greater Harris County zip codes. The reasons for this migration are myriad. Downtown Houston shelters are crowded. Many are night shelters only, requiring their clients to exit during the daytime and reenter in the evening for dinner and a night; shelters are crowded, many unsafe. Many of Houston’s homeless camp in dangerous tents along city streets and under highway bypasses. A recent FBI data survey shows Houston’s Violent Crime Rate at 50.4, while Baytown’s is less than half at 25.1. Property Crime Rate is also lower in Baytown.[iv] Vulnerable homeless, seeking safety and shelter, find our shelter a safe haven. Yet, while nearly two-thirds of our incoming residents are from Houston and Greater Harris County, less than 10% of our annual funding comes from that area. Major corporations traditionally support the United Way of Greater Houston which in turn does not support Baytown entities, and many foundations restrict their funding to organizations which serve only the homeless within the Houston city limits.
Being an innovative residential service provider to the homeless gives Bay Area Homeless Services a unique insight into the needs of residents as they transition from unsafe streets and environments to permanent housing. It is thorough this deep understanding of resident needs, understanding our local neighborhood and working with its leaders that allows us plan for the most effective and efficient use of our small campus. BAHS is honored to be in collaboration with the architectural firm PGAL, an international design firm specializing in architecture, interior architecture, engineering and planning, to design our updated safe, secure, and sustainable campus renovation. By prudent planning, our campus renovation will allow us to completely renovate our Wisconsin Street campus while continuing to service the homeless needs of our community without interruption. Some of the major benefits of our construction project are:
Staff-Resident Training Center: Training is a key to employment stability. This is true of agency staff, and residents alike. The training and conference room in the new Administration Building is designed to hold staff meetings and training sessions to enhance the skill levels of campus staff. The area also allows for small resident groups to meet to develop skills taught in the mandated Nutrition, Employment Skills, Life Skills and Financial Literacy classes led by staff and local community and corporate volunteers.
Enhanced Commercial Kitchen / Dining Facility: The commercial kitchen, located in the Family Center, now serves all campus residents. Its increased service level provides a better standard of meal service preparation and delivery. New kitchen equipment and supplies allow for better food preparation. Dining area noise level will be reduced with new sound-dampening panels. The dining area will be improved to allow for its use as a large class, training, or meeting area. This will allow BAHS to share its available space with other local community groups and nonprofits.
Increased Resident Confidentiality: The Caseworker’s office in the current Administration Building is in a “pass-through” area adjacent to the back door. Resident casework meetings are often interrupted by staff or other residents accessing the building through the back door or entering the office from the side nearest the food storage area to use the back door. This area is also houses the file cabinets used for storage of residents’ personal and casework information. The new Caseworker Office has lockable door which offers both privacy and security for the Caseworker and residents being counselled.
New Security System: Staff was surveyed in 2021 about their campus concerns; top of the list was the need for increased security camera coverage. The new campus plans include the installation of a security camera system that will cover the entire campus. Exterior cameras will show common areas and current “blind spots”. Interior cameras will cover all common area except for restrooms. The system will have digital storage and retrieval capacity so that the system will record and preserve activity that may need to be reviewed after any campus incident.
Dedicated Technology – Education Area: A cornerstone of our service to incoming residents is our ability to provide residents with the types training and assistance that will fundamentally change their lives. The new Technology – Education area to be located in the Administration Building will house the four computer workstations now temporarily occupying a corner of the family room in our Britton-Fuller family Center. Many of our residents complete the first half of their workforce training in-house, on our computers. Having this area readily available to our residents will allow them to complete essential study or employment related activities in a manner that “fits” their individual work or work search schedules.
Sustainability: When we expanded our campus forty years ago we began with buildings that were already fifty years old, and not fit for the purpose of sheltering thousands of adults. PGAL and our all-volunteer Board of Directors are planning for the eventual use of the new structures to last another half-century or longer. Construction plans specify materials that will be long-lasting and maintenance free. Commercial washers and dryers are specified because they will require less maintenance while delivering service under severe conditions. Furniture specified will be “institutional-grade” to sustain the continual abuse of day-to-day shelter activity and harsh wear. These plans will provide cost savings and pay dividends with decreased maintenance expenditures over time.
100% increase in capacity to house homeless individuals seeking respite from inclement weather conditions on a temporary basis. Currently, during inclement weather such as extreme heat or cold, or disaster situations, Bay Area Homeless Services houses homeless individuals on mats, air mattresses or on couches in the men’s shelter. While these are temporary measures, and do provide safe haven from the elements, this is hardly ideal. The new men’s shelter building will provide a dedicated space for four individuals with bunk beds and storage space for their belongings and necessities.
100% increase in shower and restroom capacity. Due to maintenance issues and constant wear and tear for more than 40 years, the current men’s shelter facility has only one fully functional restroom to serve the men in residence. A second full bathroom will greatly enhance services and allow individuals with varying work hours to prepare for work in a more efficient manner.
300% increase in Food Storage Capacity: Currently food storage capacity is limited to a small area in the current Administration area. In that space is our dedicated canned goods area, two small, refrigerated coolers, a chest freezer, and one commercial stand-up freezer. Because of this limited capacity we are unable to purchase bulk food orders that will save our agency money. Also, with increased storage area we will be able to purchase and store a wider variety of nutritious foods to serve those individuals with different or specialized dietary needs.
200% increase in laundry capacity. With a shelter capacity of 12 men and up to 18 women and children, our two washers and dryers are often running at full capacity during the evening hours with residents having to wait for an available machine. This is especially problematic for our employed residents who have limited work apparel and work odd hours, often split shifts. By adding two more commercial washers and dryers much of this extended wait time will be reduced or eliminated entirely. An added benefit will be the security offered by having all laundry facilities in a secure area. Currently the washers and dryers are located in the Men’s Shelter and some residents are hesitant to enter the area with young children under their supervision.
100% increase in capacity for shift workers: Many of our employed shelter residents have, or find, jobs with employers that require them to work second or third shift, or a split shift ending past our campus curfew (currently 10pm). The new Resident Services Building will have a small after-hours area equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, and a coffee machine. Residents who miss an evening meal due to work or rise and leave before breakfast is served will have access to an area to prepare simple foods and not go hungry due to their work schedule.
Bay Area Homeless Services’ Community Impact
Homeless shelters are often thought of in terms of costs. Indeed, it does cost a significant amount of money to keep our doors open and the residents served each year. However, Bay Area Homeless Services also considers itself a provider of services for our Greater Houston-Greater Baytown area. The average cost to the city infrastructure is estimated at $35,578 per homeless individual annually[v]. By this calculation BAHS saved more than $10,246,464 in tax dollars in 2021 alone. And that’s only part of the story because we also assisted 57 unemployed or underemployed adults to find work with a value of $74213 per month, or $890,556 earned. And, because most of our residents choose to permanently reside in our service area, these are dollars that are spent on local goods and services that further enhance the local economy.
Even with our aging and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, Bay Area Homeless Services has been a vital part of the Baytown community for forty years. We are working with, for, and within our local community. Our new shelter reconfiguration is designed to meet community wishes, and fit in nicely, while enhancing the local area. In keeping with our commitment to local leaders, these modernizations allow us to increase essential services while not increasing our daily census. With emphasis on increased service activities, and focusing on permanent housing referrals for residents, we anticipate exceeding our recent annual shelter intakes and successful housing placements for many years to come.
Despite the best efforts of leaders from our community, and the Greater Houston area partners, homelessness is still on the rise. Current economic conditions with day-to-day living costs rising so much faster than wages cause the hardworking and job seeking residents we serve to fall victim to a vicious downward economic cycle. Many individuals and families never thought they would find themselves needing the services we offer. Our campus renovation project is designed to allow Bay Area Homeless Services to serve many more residents annually, not by increasing our daily census, but by allowing our professional staff to serve our residents in a more efficient, effective manner. This will cycle more residents through our shelter and back into permanent housing, many with new employment and financial literacy skills learned during their residency.
Bay Area Homeless Services humbly requests your assistance in meeting a campaign goal of $1,250,000. Your partnership will support the modernization of our innovative homeless shelter campus designed to serve the increasing needs of our growing community, our large service area, and Greater Houston for the next fifty years and beyond.