Stephen Thomas, executive director of the Salvation Army of Denton County, was recognized at the Lewisville City Council meeting Monday with the Spirit of Lewisville Award.
Thomas has a direct hands-on impact working with the local homeless population, stated a release from the city. The local service center provides hot meals, clothing, and other essentials for low-income and homeless in Lewisville.
“Lewisville is a mid-sized city that is part of a major metropolitan area in a temperate climate zone,” the release stated. “For these and other reasons, the city does have a recurring homeless population estimated between 20 and 40 people. This creates social service needs that are outside normal city operations.”
Thomas also has been instrumental in working with city staff to implement the Code Blue Protocol, under which The Salvation Army can open its Old Town facility as an emergency overnight shelter during dangerous overnight winter weather, the release stated.
On multiple occasions, Thomas has gone above and beyond the scope of his role with The Salvation Army to assist the agency’s clients in a direct and meaningful way. One such example took place in January 2019, it stated.
Code Blue Protocol usually is activated early in the day (or even two or more days in advance) based on National Weather Service forecast information. If the combination of overnight low temperatures and precipitation will create a life-threating situation for people sleeping outdoors, city staff inspects the Salvation Army service center and then authorize its use as an emergency overnight shelter.
On one particular day, the forecast called for temperatures that would remain above freezing with no significant precipitation, so Code Blue was not activated. However, close to midnight the air temperature suddenly dropped below freezing and an unexpected light rain began to fall. Thomas made contact with city staff and Code Blue was initiated, but it was too late to use the normal channels of reaching the local homeless population.
Thomas took it upon himself to drive to locations where he knew homeless people slept overnight, and drove them to the shelter. His personal initiative and compassionate actions allowed about a dozen people to sleep indoors the rest of that night, possibly preventing severe illness or even death.