Samaritan Inn: Inn The News
Improving More Than Reading Skills
At Samaritan Inn homeless shelter in McKinney, therapy dogs improving more than reading skills
Rose Baca/Negihborsgo Staff Photographer
Arianna Crump, 8, reads to Pam hatch and her dog Faith, a Golden Retriever therapy dog, at The Samaritan Inn, a nonprofit homeless shelter in McKinney. Since last summer, the therapy dogs have been a part of a program at the shelter to improve children's reading skills.
By JULISSA TREVINO
Published: 08 August 2014 07:32 AM
Once a week, golden retrievers Faith, Sandy and Teddy visit about a dozen children at The Samaritan Inn, a nonprofit homeless shelter in McKinney.
They aren’t there just to be petted. Since last September, the therapy dogs have been part of a program at the shelter to improve children’s reading skills. Around the country, a growing number of schools, libraries and organizations use therapy dogs in reading programs, to calm anxious students and bring fun to a learning environment. “There’s literature that supports that children who have difficulty reading do well with therapy dogs as opposed to with adults, with whom they feel self-conscious,” said Lynne Sipiora, executive director at The Samaritan Inn.
Established in 1984, The Samaritan Inn is the largest homeless program in Collin County. The reading program is just part of the shelter’s mission to improve the quality of life for families and children. “We focus a lot on children,” Sipiora said. “Thirty percent of our population is under the age of 12.” Because the children may also have social issues, they also see therapists and counselors. There’s also a playroom and playground at the facility. “The high school kids do very normal teenage activities,” Sipiora said. If they play sports, the organization ensures that the students have uniforms and get to practice on time. If they want to go to prom, they make sure they can afford it. “We’re kind of like a third parent,” she said.
The therapy reading dogs and their owners visit the shelter on Wednesdays. The program started last year when Pam Hatch and Nancy Riedl, the owners of two golden retrievers, heard a case worker from The Samaritan Inn speak about the organization’s needs. For the children, the therapy reading dogs have proved to be helpful, said Hatch, who adopted Faith three years ago. “It takes their minds off being so self-conscious but it’s also fun for them,” she said. “We do see differences in their lives since we’ve been coming.”
The three dogs and their owners were trained under the Dallas Fort Worth Metro Golden Retriever Rescue and passed the Therapy Dogs International test to become certified for therapy. Besides reading programs, therapy dogs are also widely used in nursing homes, hospitals and disaster areas. Cara Mendelsohn, the shelter’s community outreach manager, said the program has become popular with the kids. While they’ve tried to take in groups of five children at a time for 30-minute sessions, the group is usually larger.
In one corner of the room, Angel Jones, 8, read a book to Sandy. “I love reading,” she said. “Sometimes I might hug them.” Sipiora said she’s been surprised by the improvements she’s seen after bringing in the therapy dogs. “When I first heard about it, I said, ‘Huh?’” she said. “But there’s a calming effect. It really inspires the kids. It’s like they have special powers.” Sipiora said it’s the kind of program that can put a dent into some of the social issues homeless children deal with. "Homeless children generally have some of the same issues,” Sipiora said. “Those students are typically behind in school. They also have social issues.”
Eleven school buses, from local school districts, come to the facility to pick up students. Sipiora said the law requires school agencies to provide homeless students with transportation to and from their schools. “They go to a variety of schools throughout the county,” Sipiora said. “And they get teased, they can’t have friends stay over, and they’re anxious. They know they’re struggling.” Hatch said that when dealing with people who may have experienced trauma, like some of the children, the dogs will often absorb the feelings of those around them.
“We’ve learned that with the dogs, when you go pet them, they absorb the sadness, the grief, and usually after an hour, they’re done,” she said. “You can tell they’re exhausted and they need to rejuvenate.” As Sandy’s owner, Joni Brock, sat with her dog and 8-year-old Angel, she felt the program was making an impact. “The kids want to come here during the summer to read,” she said.
Neighborsgo reporter Julissa Treviño can be reached at 214-977-8023.
The Fastest Growing Homeless Population
Lynne Sipiora: Families Are Among Fast Growing Homeless Population
Dallas Morning News
Published: January 4, 2014
For the last five years, the challenge at The Samaritan Inn has been accommodating the people who need help. When we moved into our current facility 10 years ago, we were sure those problems were over, but our 160 beds filled quickly and we have been turning away an average of 50 people per week since then.
The decline of the economy, long-term unemployment and mental-health issues are a perfect storm for homelessness and national trends indicate that these numbers will not be decreasing any time soon.
Homelessness is not just an urban problem. It occurs everywhere and yes, even in Collin County. We regularly see people who used to donate and/or volunteer, who now need services themselves.
Three years ago, The Samaritan Inn board of directors vowed to grow our program so that more people could be helped and last spring, 15 acres of land were purchased. This land will be the site of a new family shelter and our current facility will be reserved for singles. Families with children have vastly different needs and families are the fastest growing number in the homeless population.
The Samaritan Inn, like other nonprofits, has seen a decrease in funding and contributions, but we have been excellent stewards of the donated dollar and purchased the land, while acquiring no debt. The next challenge will be to raise the money to build the facility, approximately $6 million.
As the director of The Samaritan Inn, I have the privilege of seeing every day the generous spirit and compassionate hearts of our community. Time and time again, the need has been met, when it seemed impossible to do so.
Babies, toddlers, teenagers and their parents should not be living in cars or outside. Kids should not be socially isolated, behind in school and regularly anxious and parents should not feel the utter desperation of not being able to take care of their own children.
People deserve food and shelter, but at The Samaritan Inn they also receive the tools that they need to regain their independence and become contributing members of the community again. What better return on your investment is that?
Last summer on a triple-digit day, a single mother and her newborn came to The Samaritan Inn and there was no room for her. I watched her get into her broken down car and drive across the street to the parking lot of a public golf course. She rolled down all of the windows and quietly nursed her baby and I knew that was where they would be sleeping that night.
We can change that, we can insist that won’t happen on our watch, but we will need your help.
Lynne Sipiora has been the executive director of The Samaritan Inn since 2005. Established in 1984, the Samaritan Inn is Collin County’s only homeless shelter.
Let Mercy Be Your Default
Lynne Sipiora: Let Mercy Be Your Default When Dealing with Panhandlers
Dallas Morning News
Published: November 22, 2013
One of my earliest memories is walking down Seventh Avenue in New York City being jostled by the crowd at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. I was about 5 years old and it was cold and I had a tight grip on my dad’s hand. It wasn’t the floats that I remember though, it was the fact that a strange man asked my dad for money and my dad didn’t answer him. I thought maybe he hadn’t heard, but when I yanked on his hand and told him, he said, “Just keep walking.”
It’s interesting that I recall this, especially since I am now the director of a homeless shelter and, as a result, am regularly asked: Should I give money to people on street corners?
The topic comes up at homeless conferences and at presentations I give, and I believe Steve Blow has tackled it, as well. The answer, of course, is you should do whatever YOU think is right, but my answer, for ME, is yes.
The naysayers will tell you that people who ask for money on street corners will use it for drugs and alcohol, and that certainly may be the case.
Drug and alcohol abuse is certainly a cause of homelessness, and people don’t want to contribute to the problem, but I assure you turning down a panhandler has never rid anyone of their addiction.
But here’s the thing — you just never know. A woman may need milk for her baby, a man may be unable to feed his family. They may be the minority, but they do exist, and their extreme circumstances call for extreme measures.
I would panhandle to feed my child, wouldn’t you?
So I choose to “err on the side of mercy.” I wish I’d made that up, but I didn’t. I borrowed that line from somebody years ago, but I recite it weekly at our caseworkers meeting.
Our incredibly dedicated staff has to make life-changing decisions about who qualifies for intake and who needs to be discharged. They do this every day of the week, and I always remind them: “Err on the side of mercy.”
Mercy is a free gift, a second chance, charity — and when you don’t know what to do, mercy seems an appropriate go-to.
People struggle with mercy and justice. We all want to offer compassion, and we also want to see someone get what they deserve. But when you don’t know the whole story, when you don’t know what they deserve, why not default to compassion?
Unqualified mercy is naive, I have been told, and there is certainly truth in that. There is no doubt that when you attempt to do good you can get burned. But not always.
Of course mercy must be tempered with wisdom, but when I have two seconds to make a decision, when I consider the mercy I have received in my own life, and when the amount of my contribution is equal to my daily grande no-fat latte, it is, for me, an easy call to make.
Lynne Sipiora of McKinney is a frequent Voices contributor and the executive director of The Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Samaritan Inn Finds a New Home
Lynne Sipiora: Generous Donors - and Fate - Help Samaritan Inn Find a New Home
Dallas Morning News
Published: June 6, 2013
As the director of The Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter, I have heard unimaginable stories of pain and frustration. I have also witnessed incredible success that happened against all odds. Every day is different, but there has always been one common theme: We are full, at capacity, not a single bed left.
Blame it on the times, I guess, the economic downturn, the disappearance of midlevel jobs, the aging boomers — all of these things played a part. When you add in single mothers, substance abuse problems and mental health issues, you start to have a better understanding of the need. In 2012, The Samaritan Inn turned away 3,754 qualified people because there truly was “no room at the Inn.”
Growing a homeless shelter isn’t easy, and finding a location to build is difficult at best. We tried — believe me, we tried — but every site that was explored was fraught with issues. I’m sorry to say the “not in my backyard” mentality is still alive and well in Collin County.
But then we met the Milsteads.
Earl and Lena Milstead owned a 15-acre parcel of land just 300 yards south of our current facility that was purchased by Earl’s parents in 1944.
“I was 14 years old when we moved to that farm,” Earl told me. “We had registered Angus cattle and 150 hogs. Hogs don’t do well in the summer, but ours did because there is a rock-bottomed creek on the property and they’d spend their days in there cooling off.”
The property is beautiful — filled with wildflowers, huge heritage trees and the hogs’ winding creek.
“We may have been landowners, but there was a lot of hard times,” and his parents always helped others, Earl recalled. He remembers when they found a 14-year-old boy who had no place to go and took him in. That boy turned into a man on their watch. They built him a tiny place on the property, and he lived there until he was 90 years old.
Their longtime guest was African-American, and they brought him into their fold without a thought while McKinney schools were still segregated.
Lena’s parents, in Blue Ridge, were also generous, giving people. Lena’s mother always made huge meals, just in case they came across someone who didn’t have anything to eat.
The generosity they modeled was passed on early to Earl and Lena and later to their daughter Holly.
When The Samaritan Inn approached them about buying the property so that we could use it as a site for our new Family Shelter, Earl said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I couldn’t keep up with the maintenance anymore, and I knew my parents would be so pleased about what was going to be built on their land.”
“It seems to me,” Lena added, “that the reason the other places didn’t work out is because God wanted you here, and I am sure Earl’s parents are smiling about that right now.”
We are smiling, too. It’s been a long struggle, but we have a new home that will be a new home for thousands of people hoping to regain their independence.
We will spend the summer clearing the land and working out a design and construction plan. Then we will raise the money and build a state-of-the-art family shelter program — a place where a girl doesn’t have to stand in line to take a bath, a place where a boy can dig a hole, a place of healing and restoration that will be the springboard to new lives.
This wouldn’t happen without Earl and Lena Milstead, the City of McKinney and all of the people who will help make this dream come true.
Don’t you just love happy endings? You know what’s even better?
Lynne Sipiora of McKinney is a frequent Voices contributor and the executive director of The Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter. Her email address is email@example.com.
McKinney Gives Green Light to Inn
After zoning change, Samaritan Inn plans expansion to help homeless in Collin County
Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer
The Samaritan Inn last year had to turn away about 10 homeless people each day because of lack of space, executive director Lynne Sipiora said. She estimated the expansion will cost $3 million.
By MATTHEW WATKINS
The Dallas Morning News
Published: 20 February 2013 10:14 PM
Last year, a lack of space forced the Samaritan Inn in McKinney to turn away about 10 homeless people each day.
But even with that growing need, the largest homeless shelter in Collin County has struggled to find places to expand in recent years.
That ended this week when the McKinney City Council approved the rezoning of a 15-acre tract where the nonprofit plans to build a new facility. The decision will allow the center to begin fundraising in hopes of opening the expansion in about two years.
“We have tried to expand in other cities in the county but have not been successful,” said Lynne Sipiora, executive director of the shelter. “We are so proud of the city of McKinney. I am so glad that I live here.”
Before Tuesday, the closest the shelter had come to expanding was in Plano in 2010. Inn officials had hoped to build an 80-unit family facility on the east side of town but pulled their request after some council members questioned how it would affect the area.
The nonprofit approached McKinney in December after it placed two adjacent lots on North McDonald Street under contract. The properties, about 300 yards south of Samaritan Inn’s main shelter, were zoned for light industrial use, which meant a rezoning was required before the sale could be finalized.
The request drew some opposition. Six nearby property owners signed a protest, citing concern about the shelter lowering property values and causing parking problems in the area.
But dozens of people packed Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to express support for the change. It passed unanimously.
“Samaritan Inn provides a valued and necessary service, not just to McKinney but to all of Collin County,” Mayor Brian Loughmiller said in an email.
Sipiora said the new facility in McKinney will have about 60 units after the first phase of construction is done. The building will be designed for families, which will leave the current space to house about 160 single men and women.
“Rather than putting people in dorm spaces, it will be kind of like what you see at an extended-stay hotel,” she said. “That will give families a private spot of their own.”
The inn will also relocate its thrift store to the new building and open a day care center for clients who need help with their children during work or job interviews, according to a letter it sent to the city.
Sipiora estimated the project will cost about $3 million. She expects to kick off a fundraising campaign this spring.
The Samaritan Inn was founded in 1984. In addition to providing housing, it distributes meals, clothing and hygiene products. People who stay there are offered legal and financial counseling, plus job training and financial advice. In the first 10 months of last year, it housed 600 residents — including 171 children — for an average of more than six months.
Even with the pending expansion, Sipiora said she expects to continue to turn people away. The Collin County Homeless Coalition reported finding 531 people living on the streets during a survey in July. That was a 44 percent increase from the previous year.
“We will never 100 percent meet the needs,” Sipiora said. “There is just no way. But we are going to make a dent, and that is the best we can do.”
'RUN FOR COVER': Helping the homeless
3eMcKinney, a Christian outreach group, is organizing “Run for Cover,” a 1K, 5K and 10K walk and run April 13 at Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney to raise money to fight homelessness in Collin County. All proceeds from the event go to the Samaritan Inn and Shiloh Place, a housing program for single mothers. To register, go to 3emckinney.com.
David Feherty "Drives" Samaritan Inn Gala
Annual fundraiser benefits Collin County's only homeless shelter.
McKinney, TX (PRWEB) November 15, 2012
The Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter,
welcomes CBS broadcaster and former PGA golfer David Feherty as the keynote speaker for its February 23,
2013, gala. The annual gala, hosted by WFAA Channel 8 reporter Steve Stoler, is the primary fundraiser for
The Samaritan Inn, and this year the event is sponsored by Capital One Financial Corporation.
Last year, over 700 people called The Samaritan Inn home, and 90 cents of every dollar donated goes directly
to shelter, food, clothing, counseling and life skill classes. The mission of the program is to help people return
to independence within the community, and over 72 percent of their population succeeds.
“Capital One is committed to investing in programs and partnerships that expand economic opportunities for
individuals, families, and communities,” said Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Capital One’s Plano-based Financial
Services division. “We are proud to support The Samaritan Inn and their efforts to provide critical, lifesaving
services to individuals and families throughout Collin County.”
Splash Media, LP has also agreed to donate the entire production services for this year’s Gala. CEO and Co-
Founder Chris Kraft says: “Splash Media is a longtime supporter of The Samaritan Inn and is thrilled to play an
active role in this very special event that will help so many people experiencing homelessness.”
The gala will also include a seated dinner, hosted bar and silent auction. Tickets are $200 each, and tables of ten
are $2,500. Table hosts will also enjoy a private reception with David Feherty. Sponsorships at all levels are
still available. To purchase tickets or get more information go to: www.TheSamaritanInnGala.org
About The Samaritan Inn
The Samaritan Inn was established in 1984 after community leaders joined together to address the issue of
homelessness in Collin County. Twenty-five years later, The Samaritan Inn is still the largest homeless program
in a county of over 762,000 residents. All services and support are provided free of charge through funding
made from donations by churches, service groups and organizations, corporations, and individuals. The
Samaritan Inn is also a member of the United Way of Collin County. For more information about The
Samaritan Inn, visit: www.TheSamaritanInn.org.
About Capital One
Capital One Financial Corporation, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, is a Fortune 500 company with
approximately 1,000 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland,
Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Its subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Bank
(USA), N. A., offer a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and
commercial clients. Capital One applies the same principles of innovation, collaboration and empowerment in
their commitment to communities across the country as they do in their business. Capital One recognizes that
helping to build strong and healthy communities – good places to work, good places to do business and good
places to raise families – benefits everyone, and Capital One is proud to support community initiatives.
An Honor And A Privilege
The Samaritan Inn has recently been honored with a 4-Star rating by Charity Navigator, America's premier independent charity evaluator. Charity Navigator helps charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing in-depth, objective rating and analysis of the financial health of America's largest charities. Charity Navigator awarded four out of a possible four stars. In earning Charity Navigator's highest four star rating, The Samaritan Inn has demonstrated exceptional financial health, outperforming most of its peers in its efforts to manage and grow its finances in the most fiscally responsible way possible.
Texas Homeless Network
The Samaritan Inn was honored, once again, at the 2009 Texas Homeless Network Annual Conference in San Antonio. We were given the "Outstanding Volunteer Program" award for our Dinner Club. This program allows the donor(s) to purchase a meal from a menue for $250, pick the night that the meal should be prepared and a group of five can serve the meal. Please follow this link for more information regarding the Dinner Club.
Making a Difference
The following story was written by Jacqueline Cordova, a senior, for her Public Relations Writing class at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.
February 22, 2011
Imagine losing everything: your job, home, car and your independence. Homelessness can happen to anyone in this economy. The Samaritan Inn is willing to help. As Collin County’s only homeless shelter, it continues to be successful after 25 years. The non-profit was established in 1984 after community leaders acknowledged the issue of homelessness in the county. As a homeless shelter it is not just a place to spend the night, it is an organization that helps families and individuals regain their independence in a positive light--before, during and after a homeless situation.
There are many people who want to have an impact on the residents at the Inn. Staff members and willing volunteers are what keep the organization up and going. With generosity churches, service groups, organizations, corporations and individuals throughout the year make donations.
Of all the people wanting to help, Lynne Sipiora is one who continues to make a difference in people’s lives. As the executive director of The Samaritan Inn, Sipiora has been with the organization five years. Having a degree in organizational psychology and working for non profits, all of her career has helped her gained the success of changing the world-- at least for those in Collin County.
Sipiora always had the desire to change the world in some way, so working for a nonprofit that created social change seemed a natural fit. She believes that homelessness is a significant social problem that is increasing every year. “I believe with the appropriate support services people can become independent, contributing members of society again,” she said.
Of all the things she encounters, Sipiora enjoys being a part of The Samaritan Inn’s success stories every day. “Over 72% of our population re-enter the community and then come back and work with those that are still struggling for independence,” she said. “It is great to see and be a part of.”
There are so many stories that have touched Sipiora’s heart, one of which she remembers vividly. On her first day on the job, five years ago, Sipiora and fellow employees were hit with the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. Hugh was one man that left a symbolic mark on her heart. Ironically, he was the same age as Sipiora and had the same birthday. “He was determined to make a new life and go to college,” she said. “Four years later when he graduated from Collin College, I gave the commencement address and handed him his diploma!”
Sipiora witnesses many people who walk through the inn’s doors with nowhere else to go. People who would never dream they would live in a homeless shelter have shown up when they were completely out of options. But to see the change in a resident, there’s nothing like it. “To see someone totally beaten down and ready to give up and then watch their progress and witness their independence, well, it’s a miracle!” she said.
Sipiora’s hard work has paid off at the inn. She has had the privilege of receiving personal recognition by winning many awards: Best Executive Director, Best New Program from the Texas Homeless Network, Ebby Halliday Rose of Distinction, Good Samaritan-Marc Sparks Foundation and Portrait of a Leader-Collin County Business Publication.
Sipiora is eager to point out that she alone is not the sole contributor at The Samaritan Inn. “The staff, as a team, holds it all together. Every staff member has made a personal commitment to the organization,” she said.
The passion and enthusiasm exhibited by Sipiora is evident not only in the work- place, but in her home life as well, as she is a wife and mother of three. Her giving attitude is apparent in her three children, all of which make it a priority to help those in need. “All of my children regularly volunteer at the shelter; it is a part of our family life,” she said.
Along with being the executive director of The Samaritan Inn, Sipiora has a fond devotion for writing; she has a book published and writes a regular column for The Dallas Morning News.
Every day is a busy day at the inn, and there is always something to do to fulfill the needs of the residents. “There is no such thing as a normal day, but the majority of it is spent on fundraising,” she said. “Funding is absolutely critical to us.”
The Samaritan Inn continues to live by their mission statement each day by being a comprehensive homeless program that helps willing people gain dignity and independence. Sipiora also has her own personal philosophy summed up by Anthropologist Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can make a difference, indeed they are the only thing that ever has!”
The items on this list are in pressing demand at the Inn. Items may be delivered directly to the Inn at your convenience between 9am and 7pm on any day of the week.
- Adult Socks (All Varieties)
- Baby Formula
(Regular and Sensitive)
- Ladies Underwear (All Sizes)