The city of Arlington just opened a new homeless shelter that increases the previous capacity by nearly half and expands space for recreational and educational programs.
Called Arlington Life Shelter, it opened June 4, despite ongoing challenges of the pandemic.
The new shelter is a two-story facility at 325 W. Division St. with 12,000 square feet and a simple-but-elegant design that promotes an atmosphere of dignity, inspiration, safety, and hope.
Some of the new features include:
Expanded family quarters. The facility has seven family bedrooms that can house women with children, or full families with children. This represents an increase of 40 percent in the number of beds. The family and individual bedrooms were outfitted in part by more than $40,000 in contributions community members made via the Amazon Wish List.
Expanded education, recreation, and programming space. The previous shelter only had one room dedicated to these functions.
Upgrade in children's quarters. A much-expanded recreational, educational, and program space for children to give them a sense of normalcy. Previously, the shelter had only one small room to serve children of all ages. The new facility has separate spaces for toddlers, elementary-age children, and a room for teens.
Open-air playground. Can be used by all ages.
New, larger kitchen and dining hall. This allows a larger population of residents to be served more quickly and efficiently.
Computer lab with audio/visual equipment. This provides opportunities for residents to upgrade their computer skills with a goal of better paying jobs. Children can also participate in classes.
Large classroom. This provides space for training and educational classes, as well as for outside agencies and groups who want to assist the homeless to present to large groups. Two smaller study rooms will also be available for small group training.
The new facility came about when Arlington Life Shelter purchased the building next door to the existing shelter facility through a gift from a local donor. That building was demolished, to make room for the new facility. It connects to the prior shelter which underwent remodeling and re-purposing.
The shelter was first formed "on a very cold night in 1987," when volunteers opened the doors of First Presbyterian Church of Arlington. During its first three years, the shelter was operated entirely by volunteers. It moved to its current location in 1988 and was renovated in 1993, increasing the capacity for clients from 43 to 87. Construction began on the shelter expansion in summer 2019.
Over 25,000 homeless men, women and children have sought refuge at the Arlington Life Shelter over the past 33 years.