Shel­ter’s new chief aims to help as many peo­ple as she can

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Ash­ley Gard­ner

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.”

Staff photo by Hunt Mercier

■ He­len Diggs, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Rand Sams’ Out­reach Shel­ter, poses for a por­trait Fri­day in her Texarkana, Texas, of­fice.

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