History of The Salvation Army
Social Services of Greater New York

The Beginning

Scott Railton
The Salvation Army began with the efforts of two founders, William Booth and Catherine Booth, to bring hope and salvation to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the destitute. In 1865, William Booth established The Christian Mission in London, England, which would later be called The Salvation Army. It adopted uniforms, ranks, and a flag, but the Army’s only “weapons” have been peace and love for all humankind. When William Booth became known as the General, Catherine was known as the “Mother of The Salvation Army.” William preached to the poor, and Catherine spoke to the wealthy gaining financial support for their demanding work. She also ministered, which was a revolutionary act at the time. Together the Booths worked tirelessly to help others and brought a spiritual and practical message of rejuvenation. As William said, “The three ‘S's’ best expressed the way in which the Army administered to the 'down and outs': first, soup; second, soap; and finally, salvation.”

In March 1880, George Scott Railton and Captain Emma Westbrook, accompanied by six women soldiers: Alice Coleman, Rachel Evans, Emma Elizabeth Florence Morris, Elizabeth Pearson, Clara Price, and Annie Shaw, brought The Salvation Army to the Greater New York area. The officers knelt on the dockside at Battery Park in New York City to give thanks for their safe arrival.

A guiding principle of The Salvation Army’s mission and services is outreach to those in need of food and shelter, while responding to the emotional and spiritual needs of the disenfranchised and marginalized of society. Providing renewal for homeless adults and children, and the community in need has been a cornerstone of The Salvation Army’s ministry since its beginnings in mid-1860s England. Indeed, at the earliest evangelistic meetings conducted by The Salvation Army, the poor and disenfranchised comprised most of the congregation.

Social Services for Children
The Army’s history of social services in New York spans over a century and began with The Brooklyn Nursery. Concerned women, who cared for babies from broken homes, operated the nursery in 1871. The Salvation Army Foster Home and Adoption Services gained responsibility of the nursery in 1917, and it was renamed The Brooklyn Nursery and Infants Hospital. At that time, 130 babies under two were in the Army’s care.

In 1942, Mr. Eversley Childs presented his summer home at Crane Neck, Long Island to The Salvation Army as a summer home for the children, and, eventually, Crane Neck became their permanent home. Through the years, the range of children’s services has grown to meet the changing needs of the community. In 1956, Crane Neck closed and over 200 children were placed in foster homes, selected and supervised by The Salvation Army. With the closing of the Children’s Home in Crane Neck, The Foster Home and Adoption Unit, under the supervision of Army Officers, formed in 1956.

Social Services continued to grow, and in 1973 the first Salvation Army sponsored Group Home for adolescents in foster care opened in Lefrak City. With 9 Congregate Care sites, serving adolescent boys and girls ranging in age from twelve to twenty-one years, the Army provides them with a home-like environment with sufficient structure to enable them to develop to the fullest extent emotionally, socially, and physically. The sites are located in four of the five New York City boroughs. In response to a growing need, The Salvation Army Therapeutic Foster Boarding Home Program (TFBH) opened its doors in 1991 to serve children who would ordinarily be placed in institutional care. The program is an intensive therapeutic experience for adolescents and provides for an enriching environment through foster homes, allowing the youngster to be cared for within the community. Since this time, the program has steadily grown to include more children, staff, and multiple sites. As always, adoption is the central focus of the Foster Home and Adoption Services program at The Salvation Army.

Moving in a new direction, to care for those with Developmental Disabilities (DDS), the first Intermediate Care Facility, aptly named Pioneer House, joined the social services family in 1978. In 1993, after establishing three more homes, the Family Care Unit of DDS formed. Intermediate Care facilities place consumers in a home setting, monitored by Salvation Army personnel, to maximize their care and meet their needs. Currently, Developmental Disabilities Services maintains 6 residences (1 more in development), and provides training for providers of DDS consumers within their homes.

Social Services expanded to Preventive Services in 1988 with a goal of sustaining stable families wherever possible. By providing families with parenting classes, therapy, anger management, academic tutoring and more, the Army provides wrap around services to fulfill clients’ needs.

Joining the ever-growing Social Services for Children family, the Army’s HIV/AIDS services unit developed in the Belmont section of the Bronx in 1990. This unit offers services to adults and their families affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. Today, there are three locations throughout the city to care for HIV clients and their families offering a range of services from providing food to counseling.

Social Services for Families and Adults and the Department of Homeless Services
The Salvation Army has a long history of providing services to adults in the greater New York area. In 1891, The Salvation Army opened its first men’s food and shelter depot in Greenwich Village, and an equally large shelter for women, The Daybreak, opened in the Bowery. From these two facilities, the Army’s adult programs have grown and developed to meet changing needs.

In the 1930’s, The Salvation Army Social Services for Families and Adults operated a variety of community services such as soup kitchens and social workers through the Corps. When the City of New York began privatizing City-operated homeless shelters and programs in 1986, the Army applied for and won two of the first three contracts. That year the Army opened its first homeless shelter, The United Nations Women’s Shelter. In 1987, The Borden Avenue Veteran’s Shelter, offering refuge to 410 homeless veterans opened under the auspices of the Army. It was, and still is, the largest Veteran’s only shelter in the country. Services grew to include the Briarwood Family Shelter, Bushwick Family Shelter, and the Queens Outreach Program.

Recognizing homelessness as a prevailing epidemic, the Army focused on ways to elevate the suffering it causes and developed a Homeless Services Department (HSD) in 1995. Since its inception, the department has considered homeless services as a process. This process consists of determining the total objectives/needs of an individual or family, considering plans or methods for meeting these objectives/needs, selecting the plans and methods that are best suited for the client’s circumstances, implementing those plans, and then periodically reviewing and making necessary adjustments as time and resources permit.

As contracts were awarded, and the number of programs grew, so did the needed number of employees and functions. By the year 2000, the Department of Homeless Services managed three Adult shelters, two Family shelters, two Assessment shelters, a 24-hour Drop-In Center in Brooklyn, and the Homeward Bound program. (The Homeward Bound program helps people return to their family within the continental United States when they cannot do it on their own.)

With the tragedy on September 11, 2001, a diverse set of social services was needed. The Department focused its energies into relief work to support The Salvation Army’s disaster relief effort. These services remain with the Community Services department in the Parents and Children Together Program and the Client Support Network. In October 2001, in response to the tremendous growth of Homeless Services, the administrative operation of Homeless Services joined with the administration of Social Services for Families and Adults, and became know as the new Social Services for Families and Adults.

Social Services of Greater New York Today
During its 125 years, The Salvation Army name and shield are recognized around the world as a symbol of compassion and integrity. By maintaining fiscal responsibility and operational accountability, The Salvation Army has met human needs for over a century. Its mission involves providing quality services to the groups others often shy away from serving. Those with complex problems who need coordinated services. The Army is dedicated to providing wrap around services to help people learn to thrive as self-sustaining adults. Currently, The Salvation Army Social Services of Greater New York (SSGNY) manages an extensive network of 46 social service programs designed to assist vulnerable adults, families and children: community centers, homeless shelters and outreach programs; soup kitchens, food pantries, and mobile street feeding; foster care, group homes, and adoption services; residences and programs for the developmentally disabled; AIDS case work centers; employment training programs, and many other programs.

In October 2003, we combined Social Services for Children with Social Services for Families and Adults. By joining our efforts, Social Services of Greater New York presents a united front in the battle to help children, families, and adults in need, and allow for more efficiency with a greater reach of services. The tremendous needs of millions of people have generated some of the largest and most complex services in The Salvation Army world. By reorganizing Social Services of Greater New York to include children, adults and families, it reflects the holistic ministries approach to providing assistance as stated in The Salvation Army mission.