Poverty is only one of the social issues addressed by the Salvation Army, which also tackles broader-scale social issues. For example, the Salvation Army helps people cope with addictions. In addition, it assists people who are victims of family violence, generally women and children. It also provides hospice care for the dying and their loved ones. The Salvation Army also assists people with special needs, such as those who are physically or emotionally disabled. They do this by providing "counseling, on-site job coaching, work adjustment training, and other life skills programs." (the Salvation Army, Programs and services, 2007). The Salvation Army works to help people who are already in turmoil, by proving services to people who have been incarcerated, and their families. The Salvation Army also tries to help prevent people from developing problems; it provides resources for pregnant and parenting teenagers, including housing, support, education, parenting programs, and child care.
In 2006-2007, the Canadian Salvation Army helped 1.5 million people. It provided "6,300 shelter, addictions, detox and mental health beds provided each night for vulnerable men, women and families." (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007). In addition, it served 2.1 million meals to people in need. (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007). 900 people completed the Salvation Army's addictions and rehabilitation programs. (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007).
The Salvation Army had 320 community churches, and those churches assisted 994,000 persons with food, clothing or practical assistance. (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007). The Salvation Army assisted 8,900 people with disaster assistance. (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007). It sent 8,000 children to its Salvation Army camps. (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007). It provided 470 hospital beds, as well as 1,500 long-term care and supportive housing beds and 60 hospice beds. (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007). The Canadian Salvation Army also worked abroad; it had 140 projects in 9 countries, and sponsored 2,700 children. (the Salvation Army Public Relations and Development, 2007).
Who uses the service
Not surprisingly, given that the Salvation Army battles poverty, most of their clients are poor. However, according to Pastor Rideout, it is difficult to categorize the clients, because they come from all walks of life. Instead, he would characterize them as:
The working poor. Eighty percent live from pay check to pay check. Take that away for one month and you are in trouble. This could be due to a divorce, death, disability, sickness. Never one class of people, all walks of life. Homelessness is a hard definition; the number one problem is affordable housing. The Salvation Army will find a safe house for a woman or a man, and free food for one month. (C. Rideout, personal communication, January 8, 2008).
One of the misconceptions about the Salvation Army stems from its religious basis; some people believe that only members of the Salvation Army can receive assistance from them. However, the Salvation Army offers assistance to people who need the help, regardless of religious affiliation. Furthermore, the Salvation Army does not provide assistance in order to be evangelical; while they try to provide their clients with the opportunity to choose religion, they do not force anyone to convert. Its non-discriminatory practices are not limited to religious orientation. On the contrary, the Salvation Army strives to assist people who are disenfranchised, which means that they may help homosexuals or members of any race.
The range of clients means that they are there for many different reasons. Some people need to use the Salvation Army's resources because of emergencies that impact their lives, such as natural disasters or the sudden and unexpected loss of a job. "When such an event happens, the Salvation Army is there to help. There are others, of course, who have fallen on hard times because they have been unable to take control of their own lives." (the Salvation Army, Frequently asked questions, 2007).
Furthermore, because so many of the Salvation Army's clients appear downtrodden and, perhaps, beyond help, there is a misconception that the Salvation Army only helps those who are beyond redemption. However, that thought is contrary to the Salvation Army's beliefs:
The Army believes that everyone has the capacity to determine a solution for their problems. A great many of our programs are directed at helping people turn their lives around. This could mean kicking a drug or alcohol habit. It could mean acquiring literacy skills to improve employment opportunities. It could mean finding housing so that children can be raised in a safe environment, and developing support networks in the community. (the Salvation Army, Frequently asked questions, 2007).
Challenges for clients
Just as there is no single profile of a Salvation Army client, there is not a single reason that clients have difficulty accessing services. Instead, the difficulties can often be linked to the very reason that the client needs to access services in the first place. For example, the Salvation Army provides addiction treatment services, but one of the problems associated with the treatment of addiction is the societal stigma attached to addiction. Many people are reluctant to seek help, because they fear that public acknowledgment of their addiction will create negative consequences in their lives. Therefore, they are concerned that seeking addiction treatment services through a well-known organization like the Salvation Army will result in a loss of privacy or confidentiality. The same holds true for people seeking assistance for other socially negative issues, like teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, or suicidal ideations. Of course, addicts face an additional challenge when seeking service; their addictions actively drive them to avoid help and treatment, and make a relapse normal behavior.
For those clients who seek assistance because they are impoverished, the biggest challenge may be pride and perceived issues of personal respect. It can be very difficult to ask anyone for help, and then to be asked to meet certain requirements before being eligible for that help. In addition, even when a person seeks help, the fact is that the demand is much greater than the supply. Clients can get extremely frustrated with waiting lists for services, and the waiting can actually exacerbate the underlying problem. An addict does not need help when space becomes available, but immediately. Likewise, a homeless person who is waiting for affordable housing is still a homeless person. For those clients who feel that asking for help has compromised their self-respect and dignity, it can be doubly frustrating to encounter a waiting list once one has broken through the personal barriers to asking for such help.
Challenges for service providers
The organization also faces substantial barriers to delivering services to their clients. First and foremost, the largest barrier is that the demand is simply greater than the supply, which means that the Salvation Army can either provide less-than-an-optimal level of help to each person, or it can provide the degree of help needed, but help fewer people. Neither solution is optimal. Pastor Rideout discussed the problems faced by his local Salvation Army branch:
The food bank, not always enough food to go around. The other food bank that is available is Mamma Food Bank; however it is not affiliated with the Salvation Army and therefore does not share inventory nor work together in helping the hungry. The minimum wage provided by the government is not sufficient. Must raise the amount in order for one to survive, not able to get ahead. The tourist price and the local price varies in the town of Bracebridge, Ontario Canada. The tourist town is very expensive to live in and prices are higher for the tourist. There is nothing for the youth in this town; therefore they are on the streets. We want to create a coffee house so there is shelter and somewhere they can go and talk with other teenagers. (C. Rideout, personal communication, January 8, 2008).
One of the other problems facing the Salvation Army is that its clients do not elicit sympathy in others; instead, many resent it when time and economic resources are used to help the disadvantaged. However, the Salvation Army believes that such an attitude is unrealistic. "The solution is not to look the other way. If social issues are left unattended, they affect society. Drug problems, for example, often lead to crime." (the Salvation Army, Frequently asked questions, 2007).
Analysis of the service
When asked to analyze the services provided by the Salvation Army, Pastor Rideout actually looked at the societal reasons for the service, as well as societal support or antagonism for the services offered. He believed that the Salvation Army's evolving function was to meet the increasing needs of the working poor. (C. Rideout, personal communication, January 8, 2008). While he finds that the community supports the Salvation Army, he finds that there is little governmental support for them. In addition, he believes that the government, or at least society at large, is responsible for…