When Joseph Chiariello came to our shelter, his spirit was broken, and he was recovering from substance abuse. The worst part for Joe was not just being homeless, but not being with his dog Logan.

“I came in like a deer in the headlights, just scared stiff. And to not have my best friend (Logan) with me was more than I could bare,” Joseph says, tears streaming down his eyes.

“That was two months ago. And tonight, not only am I moving into my own apartment, thanks to the Salvation Army, I am picking up Logan and sleeping with him for the first time in two months.”

“I look at Joe and am so thrilled for him,” says Cymanda Robinson, Program Director, as the words hitch in her throat. “He’s in tears and we’re in tears. But they are happy tears for sure.”

“On Joe’s first day in our program, he told me he was willing to do whatever it would take to get on his feet again and gain the respect of his family,” Cymanda continues. “He not only participated in all our programs, he also became a role model to our other residents, helping to boost their self esteem and offer his pep talks to anyone in need.”

“I wasn’t here for just room and board,” Joe says. “The Salvation Army extended a helping hand. I needed help and I took their hand.”

Residents of our shelter program go through intensive case management during their stay, which includes opening bank accounts, obtaining employment, attend life skills classes, etc., and working with each resident to create a Housing Stabilization Plan. Case Worker, Wanda McGee says, “It takes a village to support one resident from homeless to home and we couldn’t do that without the help of our wonderful partners in the community. Woodforest Bank, employers, landlords, other agencies; we all work closely together to ensure the success of each client obtain permanent and sustainable housing.”

“Joe is a prime example of how effective our program is,” Wanda beams proudly. “Joe came into our program with his feet running. He was a model resident and worked the program. He also took it upon himself to welcome new residents and offer guidance on adjusting to life in our shelter.”

“Everyone here is like my family,” Joe says with red eyes. “I fell for a period of time, getting into drugs and making self-destructive choices. When all you do is fail at life, it’s really nice to have people give you positive reinforcements. I started to believe in myself again. I started to live a life I could be proud of instead of ashamed of.”

Joe leaves our shelter with full time employment at Great Wolf Lodge, a bank account, the tools needed to budget his finances to ensure his future. He also leaves here with his head held high and his heart on the mend.

“I can’t thank the staff, residents and the Salvation Army enough for helping me get my life back together, especially Miss Wanda. She lit a fire in me that I thought had long since been extinguished. She guided and motivated me every day; encouraging me to be the best I can be,” Joe says as he doesn’t try and stop the tears streaming from his eyes. “Staff here has a job to do but they also have compassion. Without expecting it, they became my family.”

“I’ve made real connections here. My relationship with my family was destroyed but I learned how to be vulnerable and to begin to trust people again, including myself,” says Joe.

The best part? Reuniting with Logan.

“He’s my world, my everything. He holds me up when I’m down and makes me feel human. Wanda worked hard to find me an apartment that would allow Logan and I’ll never forget that.”

Sleep well tonight Joe and Logan!