Meet Bob Sweeney, executive director of Dallas LIFE the largest homeless shelter in North Texas. He came to the shelter in 2005, which meets the needs of nearly 500 men, women and children each night. For 30 years, Sweeney has dedicated his life to ministry, but it was while working as a prison chaplain that he created a revolutionary program to help the addicted and downtrodden change their lives. Sweeney saw inmates who wanted to serve God, but were hampered by addiction to drugs/alcohol or a criminal past. Sweeney's recovery methods stress acccountablity, along with care and concern to see better results.
More than 2500 men and women have come through Sweeney's hands on program, which is in place at Dallas LIFE. In 2010, Sweeney wrote about the success of the program in his book, 2535 Main Street,
which has garnered national attention and been endorsed by Gov. Mike Huckabee and Dr. Tony Evans, who wrote the foreward. You can download the first two chapters at www.2535mainstreet.com
. Sweeney uses scripture to challenge all of us to evaluate the way society helps transform the lives of the homeless, using accountability. Sweeney and his wife, Mary Ann have been married more than 30 years and have 5 children.
We wanted to know more about Sweeney and his mission at Dallas LIFE and he was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Dallas Life.
Bob Sweeney: Dallas LIFE is the largest homeless shelter in north Texas housing up to 500 needy men, women and children each night.
DT: What are your duties at Dallas Life?
BS: I am the Executive Director responsible for all fundraising, media relations, staff direction and day to day operational oversight.I
DT: How did you become involved with Dallas Life, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the shelter?
BS: I was a senior pastor for 15 years with caring volunteer church member who wanted to make a difference in the lives of needy people, yet they did not know where to begin. I then became a head chaplain for the State of Pennsylvania in their maximum security prison system where I had thousands of inmates who wanted to return to society as productive members and they too had no idea how to start. It was 15 years ago that I wrote the New life Program, a 10 month, accountability based Christian Homeless Recovery Program which connects the caring volunteer with the serious minded, recovery driven indigent person. I have now seen 2500 people go through the program and I know it works. With our graduation rates being 10 times that of many other shelters we are thrilled to have the privilege of seeing so many complete our program, never needing shelter services again.
DT: Many times, people picture the homeless as being an older man, but Dallas Life houses children and families. How many of the homeless fall into these groups?
BS: The fastest growing segment amongst the homeless are families and veterans. We house up to 70 kids per night who are here with a parent, married couples, senior citizens and disabled who are homeless and then single men and women who are homeless and in need of direction and structure.
DT: It can be difficult for any nonprofit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat?
BS: We receive no government or city funding whatsoever. Most of our income comes from caring donors who contribute each month. We also have two special events each year as well as some support from local foundations and businesses.
DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
Our greatest needs are for caring people who really want to make a difference to research us on line, see our website at dallaslife.org
and come down to see what we are all about. Our greatest physical needs right now are deodorant, disposable razor blades, bar soap and toilet tissue.
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Dallas Life?
BS: My most memorable moments are at graduation when one of our program graduates walks down that aisle, often having completed the first thing in years and holding their head high as family members and friends recognize their efforts with thunderous applause.
DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day?
BS: The first thing I do each morning is greet those who look the most discouraged to share with them that hope is here and things will get better. I then pray for them while walking through the building.
DT: How does Dallas Life help the homeless get off the streets for good?
BS: We get people off the streets for good with structure and direction during their weakest point or point of greatest need. Often having been traumatized and scared, the homeless person wants what we all want; a job, apartment and a reason to get up each morning. Our program offers that. Whether it is recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, attempting to get their children back or simply staying a few days while they let their families know where they are, Dallas LIFE offers a hand up and a caring smile to those who need it most.
If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.