A home away from home

Texarkana’s largest homeless shelter relocates into new building


Photo by Kaitlyn Gordon

Workers at the Randy Sams homeless shelter cook and prepare food for those in need.

Story by Joseph Rodgers, news editor

The administration of Randy Sams’ Homeless Shelter relocated to the old hospice building on July 22. The new office, located on 803 Spruce St., is about three blocks away from the shelter. The move allows for the nonprofit charity to gain more room in the shelter to house 135 people, from the previous 100.

“We needed more room and we struck a deal with the Hospice of Texarkana to move into their old building,” Residential Services Case Manager Helen Diggs said. “After we moved, our capacity for women has doubled and we now use the rooms previously taken up by the administration for more bedding and lockers for the women.”

Not only does the move provide more space to increase Randy Sams’ housing capacity, but the new administration office holds new equipment and opportunities for the residential clients.

“Now we have something that we never had before- a computer lab,” Diggs said. “In it contains five brand new computers and they are quite helpful when I am speaking to our residential clients about applying for a job. In the past, they would apply for jobs in the library but many errors and mistakes would occur. Now, the computers are much more reliable and I can help our clients since the lab is right across from my office.”

Clients now not only look forward to employment opportunities, but educational ones as well.

“With our new conference room, we can start GED classes,” Diggs said. “We tried to have classes in the past, but we were just low on space. After we get settled in our new renovated building, we will start to have a wide variety of classes including a 16-week course in our new bakery. In it, our clients will learn all aspects of a commercial kitchen and they will receive a certificate of completion that will enable them to work in a kitchen.”

Programs like these and others help the clients to financially get back on their feet and regain control of their lives. Despite only being allowed to stay in the shelter for three months, Helen Diggs makes sure well beyond that time that her clients are financially secure.

“My program is a 90-day program beyond the standard three months to help the clients start looking for a job or start over again,” Diggs said. “If they don’t trust themselves with their money, they can give it to me and I can save it and establish a budget for them. Together we come up with plans about their goals and where they see themselves in the future.”

However for most clients, the new building isn’t just full of opportunities, but a safe place to relax and engage with others.

“We also have a library in which they can come and read and hang out,” Diggs said. “If someone is miserable or agitated they can come into my office and talk to me or color just to calm their mind. I tell them that my door is always open.”

Both the clients and the administration have expressed their optimism for the new building and the renewed hopes that it brings.

“Everyone has thought that this move has been overwhelmingly positive and we are all excited for the changes,” Executive Director Jennifer Laurent said. “This ensures that we will be able to help people in the years to come with additional residential space and resources.”

The new building has been renovated through an intense process to now accommodate the new administration and to aid them in encouraging the lives of their residents.

“We were getting the space ready last week and it was total pandemonium,” Diggs said. “We were outside planting flowers, pulling weeds and painting rails and it was painful. However, our construction crew was amazing and the building is beautiful, and I hope everyone will soon realize just how special this is.”

The building has been an inspiration to the administration to keep doing what they are doing for these clients and to keep helping people of all walks of life.

“It is truly overwhelming to help these people yet it is awesome, it’s cool,” Diggs said. “It is my job, and my door is always open to anyone and everyone.”