By Dorothy J. Gentry
Photos courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks
Long before the world as we all know it came to a screeching halt and families began relying heavily on technology to work and go to school, the Arlington Life Shelter and the Dallas Mavericks were working on a plan.
This plan—years in the making—would combine the mission’s of both organizations to serve the less fortunate while providing rays of light. It would provide a technological boost to the homeless shelter that over 25,000 homeless men, women and children have sought refuge at over the past 33 years.
That plan was recently made public as the Mavs Foundation virtually unveiled a new state-of-the-art computer lab at Arlington Life Shelter. The revamped Mavs Computer Lab provides residents with technology to work and improve on career and life skills during their stay.
Residents now have access to brand-new desktop computers, headphones, desks, chairs and other digital gadgets to use in working on their resumes and other tools that can help with potential career and overall life goals.
“This has been a long time coming. We’ve been working on this for a few years now,” said Katie Edwards, Dallas Mavericks senior vice president of External Affairs and president of Mavs Foundation.
“We were excited to get in there and bring some life from the Mavericks to this computer lab. We do it not only to provide tools and technology so needed for them to be career ready, but it’s also our way of providing hope for these individuals.”
The Foundation built a mural on the wall that reads: “Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope in tomorrow.”
“This is important for us. We want people to know they are cared about, they are seen and there are people who want to support them in their journey on their paths to self-sufficiency,” Edward said. “It was a wonderful project to us and a way to continue to give back during this time.”
Jim Reeder, executive director at Arlington Life Shelter, said the renovated computer lab as well as renovations to the entire Shelter are important specifically during these times of the pandemic when families are grappling with day-to-day survival.
“There could be even more homelessness (in the coming months). Evictions tend to be released and begin to happen. If jobs don’t come back, there could be a bigger demand soon,” he said of his center’s services which began in 1987 with a goal of getting people back to self-sufficiency.
“When you look at residents we’ve had over the years, they are really interested in getting back to managing their lives,” Reeder said. “We did the addition because we were having difficulty serving families. The shift in demographics for homelessness has become more and more families and kids. We really needed to support more families and at same time be able to do more programming.”
Along with the updated technology and furniture, the computer lab will include sanitation stations, supplies and other personal protective equipment (PPE) “to make sure everyone is safe during this time, further serve the community and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Edwards said.
The renovation is part of a larger $5 million Arlington Life Shelter project unveiled in June. The new 12,000 square foot, two-story facility features expanded space and additional services to families challenged by homelessness, as well as a contemporary design to promote an atmosphere of dignity, inspiration, safety and hope.
“The real impact is to help people get better skills so they can get better jobs, earn better wages and get back to supporting themselves,” Reeder said.
The Arlington Life Shelter provides short-term shelter and support services for homeless men, women, and children in North Texas. As the only homeless shelter between Fort Worth and Dallas, Arlington Life Shelter works to help its homeless neighbors integrate back into society and become contributors to the economy.
Over the past 24 years, the Mavs Foundation has provided grant funding totaling more than $5 million dollars to nonprofit organizations serving women, children and families in need. In addition to grants, the Mavs Foundation has built 45 safe Learn & Play spaces throughout the North Texas community, including 26 basketball courts and 19 Reading & Learning Centers.
“We took a little break from basketball, but the Dallas Mavericks organization is so much bigger than basketball,” Edwards said. “We really haven’t stopped giving back to the community.”