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Majors Doris and Craig Haggerty: The Army and us

Majors Doris and Craig Haggerty, corps officers in Hyannis, Mass., in Cape Cod, talk about their ministry of outreach to the homeless community in Hyannis.

We are a church. The biggest challenge we’ve had during our early weeks in Hyannis has been figuring out how to evangelize people who don’t see us as a church. Many of them are happy to donate to our food pantry or give significant donations, but they don’t consider the corps a place to worship on Sunday. We’re trying to change that by personally meeting as many people in the community as we can. Every time someone new comes with a donation, we talk to them about the programs we offer, and mention that there is a chapel right at the entrance of the corps. They then become curious about us and ask if they can see the chapel themselves.

A focused outreach to the homeless. One of our biggest ministries at the corps is our outreach to the homeless population. We serve them not only through our food programs, but through Day Start, a service specifically made to help homeless people get back on their feet. We take individuals who want to improve their situation and start them with what they need, such as housing. Then, we help connect them to resources in the community, such as job training. Day Start has been a part of the corps for years, but we’re constantly working to make it more responsive to the community. The homeless population is not monolithic and their needs today are not the same as they were five or ten years ago.

Follow God’s plan. When we had our appointment in Elmyra, the corps had its own canteen truck, and it became a tool for feeding the homeless. We went under bridges and met with them in the community to feed them where they were. So even before we arrived at Hyannis, helping the homeless has been the plan God has for us.

A gift that helps. We recently had an undisclosed donor make a wonderful donation to the corps that allowed us to help with $100,000 worth of housing assistance and utilities. There have been so many tears of joy coming from our social services office when families find out that we will help them pay rent that they thought they would not be able to pay this month. In fact, the homeless situation directly coincides with the housing and rent situation in Cape Cod. Many families in Cape Cod get evicted during the summer; they can’t always afford the summertime rates.

Gone but not forgotten. In the past months, we’ve had five deaths of homeless individuals in the community. The Hyannis Corps was asked if we could do a memorial service for them. They were well known, and other homeless people wanted a chance to say goodbye to their friends properly. So, we’re going to open our parking lot and have the memorial service outside and invite the city and the homeless to come together. We are happy to do this service, because it shows that the people we are trying to help see The Salvation Army as a place for peace and comfort. That’s what we want to be for them. We hope they can seek and find God here.

Interview by Hugo Bravo