Shelter’s new chief aims to help as many people as she can
Randy Sams’ Outreach Shelter is in the hands of new executive director Helen Diggs.
Before accepting the position, Diggs also served as the shelter’s case manager and manager of client development. She served as interim executive director after Jennifer Laurent went to work for Shriner’s Hospital in Shreveport, La., before filling the job permanently.
“I’m looking forward to carrying out the mission of the shelter. It’s a little misconstrued sometimes to what we actually do. Some people come in and think ‘I’m homeless. I need a house.’ They don’t understand that the actual mission of the shelter is to provide 90 days of shelter, food and clothes and a chance to restart their lives,” Diggs said.
“It’s not a permanent solution. We are an emergency shelter. We take in those desperately in need of somewhere to go so they’re not on the streets.”
Once someone is in the shelter, a case manager begins to help them overcome barriers that may prevent them from finding employment. The goal is for them to eventually move out and into a place of their own.
Diggs said seeing people successfully gain their independence is a job perk for sure.
“It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. … It’s just the best feeling ever. You can see they are so happy. It just makes everything worth it. We’ve had several people move out on their own recently and it will warm your heart. It’s an amazing feeling, knowing you helped that person and gave them hope,” she said.
Diggs, who grew up in a small fishing village in Ireland, moved to the United States around 1986. She was in New York for several years before meeting Roland Diggs. They married in 1994 and she then joined the Navy and served for three years before leaving to take care of her young children. Diggs used the GI Bill to go to college and they eventually moved to Texarkana.
Diggs said she wants people to realize that important work is being done at the Randy Sams’ Outreach Shelter.
“We have real people in there facing real problems. We have a staff that is absolutely, totally dedicated and loves their jobs. It’s a nonprofit. Nobody is doing this for the money. I want the community to know Randy Sams’ is a place to come if you have no place to go. We’re the last stop between somebody being out on the streets or in the woods,” Diggs said.
“My mission is to carry out the shelter’s mission and serve as many people as we can. As long as they make the effort and they want to do better, we’re going to be right there with them, helping them along.”
■ Helen Diggs, executive director of Rand Sams’ Outreach Shelter, poses for a portrait Friday in her Texarkana, Texas, office.