Demand for homeless shelter rises as temperatures fall

The Victoria Advocate

Originally published January 4, 2014 at 9:57 p.m.

Wayne Snyder, 54, became homeless for the first time in October.

After driving to Victoria from Florida, Snyder became part of the Salvation Army’s stepping stone program.

Snyder said being homeless has been a learning experience, but he doesn’t regret going through it. He said he came to the city “for the love of a good woman.”

“It’s been a bit hard, but if you keep everything in perspective, I’ve learned how to make it in case this happens again and gives you a little more compassion for the people you see on the street who have it so much worse than I do,” Snyder said.

The colder weather has not been a problem for Snyder, but he said he thinks Victoria has a huge need for another shelter for men.

With colder weather gripping the Crossroads, homeless organizations are working to meet the increasing need.

The shelter operated in Victoria by the Salvation Army has been full every night because of the recent cold, said director John Aschenbeck.

The shelter, called the House of Hope, has been filled consistently to its capacity of 25.

“If we have to, we’ll even put people on the floor for the night so they’re not in the cold weather,” Aschenbeck said.

The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition plans to conduct a homeless count Jan. 23.

The count was jeopardized in December after the coalition lost $1,800 to fraud. No suspect has been identified, but donors have stepped up to help the count go on.

TDECU has replaced most of the missing funds, said coalition president Kim Pickens, and an additional $1,000 has been donated. The funds go toward the coalition’s annual count, which monitors the level of homelessness in the Crossroads.

The homeless count had been conducted every other year since 2004, but it will now be done annually to improve accuracy, she said.

The coalition also is working with Restoration House Ministries to open a new women and children’s shelter in March.

Theresa Klacman, director and founder of Restoration House Ministries, said the Dream House is being funded by Faith Family Church in Victoria.

Restoration Ministries has only one house, which is helping five women in emergency situations. The new house, which will serve as a homeless shelter, will be at 208 Marilyn Drive and will give about 15 women a place to live while they work.

Pickens said advocates for the homeless recognize more needs to be done.

“The need exists to have more emergency shelters,” she said, “so we’ll be meeting to work on a plan that’s been talked about over the past year to open up additional spaces.”

Snyder said he hopes to be out of the Salvation Army shelter in a couple weeks, but he sees the need for more shelter space, particularly for men.

“For the amount of men that are homeless in this town, there is definitely a need for a separate shelter,” Snyder said. “I don’t see nearly as many homeless women as I do men.”

Although the Salvation Army allows only men to sleep in its shelter, dinner is offered to women and children as well.

Virginia Price, 34, has eaten dinner for three years at the Salvation Army with her husband, William, and three daughters, Serenity, 9; Ariana, 11; and Titania, 13. On Friday night, they joined three dozen others for a dinner of cheeseburgers, fries and ice cream.

“It’s hard to find work when you don’t have a car or a phone to use,” Price said.

The family gets lunch from Christ’s Kitchen sometimes and uses food stamps.

“It’s never enough, of course, when you’re feeding three little girls who are growing,” Price said.

The family has been staying with friends because no shelter in Victoria offers space for men and their families.

“It’s hard because we’d rather all stay together,” Price said. “We’ve been lucky enough because we haven’t been on the streets itself.”

Youth feel safe using Snapchat despite security breach (w/video)

The Victoria Advocate

Originally published January 11, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.

Naomi Parker likes to take funny pictures and have brief text conversations with her friends about the images.

An 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Victoria native, Parker is one of 100 million Snapchat users who have made the social media company one of the biggest success stories of 2013.

“The reason I started using it is because it’s like texting, but you have a picture of it,” Parker said.

More than 350 million snaps are sent every day via the popular smartphone app. It allows users to send photos that disappear within 10 seconds after being viewed by the recipient.

Snapchat’s allure of security – the disappearing messages – was breached on New Year’s Eve when a hacker leaked 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers.

In a statement, Snapchat said “no other information, including snaps, were leaked or accessed in these attacks.”

Even before the security breach, many were concerned that young adults were using the app as a way to send inappropriate pictures.

Parker said she still uses Snapchat after the hack.

“I’m not scared of anything I’m saying that’s going to come back and haunt me,” Parker said. “I know what some people use it for, but I’m either taking a stupid picture of myself and writing something funny about it or having a brief conversation.”

While some may use the app as a way to send inappropriate pictures, Parker said parents should trust that their kids are using it for the right reasons.

Hannah Crone, a 22-year-old junior at the University of Houston-Victoria, said people who receive a photo can replay, screenshot and save the picture if they want.

If people are using it for inappropriate pictures, Crone said, “they’re not very smart. Most people just send stupid stuff, so I think everyone is kind of overreacting about all of this.”

Matt McLeod, young adult pastor and basketball coach at Faith Academy, spends most of his time around teens and understands that there are some concerns about the app.

McLeod said he does not think one sweeping decision about the app can be made based on a couple people who use it the wrong way.

“The Internet is a great thing, and I’m very excited to be living in the age of technology,” McLeod said. “But there’s always that chance that your information is going to fall in the wrong hands.”

Travis Johnston, a 19-year-old Texas A&M freshman, said he likes that Snapchat is an easy way to communicate with multiple friends at once.

“You should be careful of what you send,” Johnston said. “Nothing in this world is ever truly erased.”

The Gingerbread Man: District’s only male cafeteria manager wins contest

The Victoria Advocate

Originally published December 22, 2013 at 10:15 p.m

If first impressions really count, then Greg Knapp made a lasting and tasty one.

Knapp, who is in his first year working with F.W. Gross Magnet Elementary School and also is the only male cafeteria manager in the school district, won first place in the annual district’s gingerbread house-making competition.

The 26 gingerbread houses lined with gumdrop and peppermint sidewalks sat side by side in the Victoria school district administration building last week.

The tasty treats are built by the cafeteria workers of each campus in VISD, and the event becomes a spirited but friendly competition for the schools each year.

The campuses are given three to four weeks to work on their houses, said Diane Boyett, the school district’s spokeswoman. A panel of three staffers pick first through third places, as well as a people’s choice award.

This is only the second gingerbread house Knapp has ever made, though he has had a lot of experience with cake decorating and has a background in construction, he said.

The gingerbread house took three days to build and was completely handmade, he said, unlike some, which used Graham crackers with boxes underneath to hold up the structure.

“I’ve heard a lot about the humidity here and it affecting the gingerbread, but I wanted to make it authentic,” Knapp said. “The biggest challenge was mostly getting the dough right and making the pieces fit.”

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