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Homeless Shelter For The John Does Hopes To Build Trust

Wilson Sayre

The Salvation Army of Broward County has opened the doors to a new facility that could help up to 45 people every night. But the cots at the Open Door Shelter are more about building trust than getting sleep.

Alyse Gossman is the volunteer coordinator for the Salvation Army in Broward County.

“Most shelters require a lot of people to give a lot of personal information out in order to have a night's sleep,” says Gossman. “This shelter, they can come in, they just say their name and they can say ‘John Doe’ if they want. They can come in intoxicated as long as they’re not disruptive, and we give a safe place for them to stay in the evening.”

Many shelters require people to participate in a long-term program or drug test newcomers.

Credit Wilson Sayre
The open-air shelter can provide shelter for 45 people each night.

Though the Open Door shelter on Broward Boulevard, just east of I-95 in downtown Fort Lauderdale, caters to anyone who comes, this “don’t ask” policy targets the hard-to-reach chronically homeless population

“Our ultimate goal is basically to build trust with these individuals [who] sometimes have little faith in the system,” says Gossman. “Hopefully eventually they’ll reach out to us and utilize our services or other [services that] organizations in the county can provide.”

After two years of planning and construction, the shelter has been filling up most nights it’s been open.