A flood of calls to the Salvation Army of Bryan-College Station from those requesting rent assistance has squeezed the local nonprofit, and regional captain Paul Ryerson said many who come for help may eventually be turned away.
“The first three or four days of April, we were hit like a hurricane,” he said. “We have never received this many requests for rent assistance since I’ve been commander here just in the first four days of April.”
Ryerson said he isn’t sure how many calls have come in, as the requests are constantly being processed. So far this month, the flow of calls has amounted to more than 100 requests; the average is 20 to 30 a week. The Salvation Army’s staff of fewer than 10 people is handling calls and proving a person’s need by garnering evidence of a layoff or furlough. Whereas call response normally takes less than 24 hours, some families are not hearing back from the nonprofit for 48 hours, Ryerson said.
So far, thanks to gifts from the community and other nonprofits, the organization still has some money still to give. But, Ryerson said, that won’t be enough in the end.
“We haven’t been tapped just yet,” he said. ”We are still assisting and taking calls, but based on the trend we are seeing for the first five days of April, there is no organization who can meet those needs. But nonprofits working together, we can knock out some of that need.”
Rent assistance is usually budgeted for the local Salvation Army at $10,000 per month, serving 7-10 families in that time. The Salvation Army pays rent in full and does not expect repayment.
In light of the recent coronavirus crisis, United Way of the Brazos Valley gifted the Salvation Army $12,000 to be used in distributing rent assistance. Additionally, a few private citizens have offered their support through donations. Ryerson said he is hoping that by the end of April, the Salvation Army of Bryan-College Station will have serviced three times the number of people normally helped in a month. He noted that he and his colleagues have discussed the option of implementing partial rent payment as an option.
He suggested any family needing rent assistance that cannot get it from the Salvation Army, call the United Way’s 2-1-1 information line, which can connect locals to a variety of nonprofits,
Ryerson said he felt touched by the donations made to the Salvation Army recently, citing an incident last week involving a Bryan couple who had been sheltering in their home. The couple had given the organization a $2,000 check.
“I called them to tell them ‘thank you’ for the gift,” Ryerson said. “... I asked what motivated them to do this. The wife said: ‘Me and my husband have been saving up to buy a new car because our old car was breaking down. We had saved $2,000, and we woke up this morning and saw the climate of [the] world. And we thought it was silly to save up for a car when people can’t pay their rent.”
This gift uplifted Ryerson, and he said it made him want to work even harder to honor the couple’s generosity. He hopes the community will continue to support the Salvation Army so that they may support others who have lost their jobs. Having to postpone the organization’s ‘Doing the Most Good’ luncheon this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic could significantly impact the Salvation Army, as the early summer event is one of the organization’s most significant sources of fundraising.
Anyone wanting to donate can visit www.salvationarmytexas.org/bryancollegestation or call 979-361-0618.