US Salvation Army accused of running 'slave labour' camps

US Salvation Army accused of running 'slave labour' camps August 21, 2016

The Salvation Army in America is hardly short of a dollar or two. This from the Tampa Bay Times in 2011:

Few donors realize the Salvation Army owns a $12 million Florida headquarters in Lutz, a $3 million office complex in New Port Richey and dozens of homes in the Tampa Bay area — all part of a largely tax-exempt local real estate portfolio worth about $75 million.
Officers, who are ordained clergy, live rent-free in the homes, including some that cost as much as $300,000. The organization provides them with cars, health insurance, furniture and Internet service. Its even pays the home­owners’ association dues.

While most of its wealth is derived from the donations, it’s reported this week by The Influence that the SA also profits greatly from programmes run by its Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) that require people to undergo “work therapy” – doing shitty jobs without pay.
According to Kenneth Anderson:

In exchange for three hots and a cot, the Salvation Army’s rehab clients are expected to labor for 40 hours a week, without pay, for the profit of the Salvation Army stores.

These clients, he writes, are often “unconstitutionally” sentenced to religious programmes run by organisations such as the SA and Alcoholics Anonymous.
There are 119 ARC rehabs in the US, operating from coast to coast; an estimated 150,000 people go through this programme each year. An average of 7,700 people live in the Salvation Army’s US rehabs at any given time. Most clients are either homeless or court-ordered. The basic programme lasts from six to 12 months, depending on the client.
Should they decide to leave the programme, their only options are often to go to prison (if they are court-ordered) or to return to living on the streets.
According to Don Coombs, Programme Director of the SA’s Adult Rehabilitation Center Command, Eastern Territory:

Work is used as a therapy to assist persons in learning how to be of service to GOD and others … [clients] receive no financial wage or other compensation.

The work, says Anderson:

Consists of some pretty tedious and foul jobs, such as sorting through donations of clothing and other items to be sold in Salvation Army stores (such donations are often tainted with feces or vomit), and bailing up unsalable items for shipment overseas. Other forms of ‘work therapy’ may involve moving furniture or janitorial work, including cleaning toilets.

Clients are typically housed four to 20 persons per room. In addition to “work therapy”, other therapy consists of mandatory Bible study and mandatory participation in Salvation Army worship services.
This SA website puts a more positive spin on things:

When you shop at one of our Family Stores, the men and women participating in the ARC program are directly affected. They are provided with a clean and healthy living environment, good food, work therapy, leisure time activities, group and individual counseling, spiritual direction, and numerous resources to help them develop life skills and a personal relationship with God.

According to Coombs:

The ARC provides individual counseling for both spiritual and character formation. We also provide both education and group services as well. Clinical services for mental health and/or chemical dependency most likely are referred to local agencies.

The Salvation Army is currently the second largest charity in the United States, with an annual income of $4.1 billion from donations, investments, sales and other sources.
Says Anderson:

With this kind of budget, the Salvation Army could surely do better than sleeping 20 people to a room, using them as slave labor, and achieving a completion rate of 17 percent. Instead, they could be offering decent housing, decent wages, and the best evidence-based treatment, which includes, for example, a non-abstinence-based housing model.
It seems clear that the Salvation Army, despising people who use any drugs, believes that such people simply deserve the kind of ‘treatment’ offered by ARC. Certainly, no expense seems to be spared when it comes to PR and self-promotion.
Although in its financial statement the Salvation Army claims that 21 percent of its expenditure, $702,539,000, is spent on ‘rehabilitation’, there is little evidence that this money is spent on the clients. Looking at the fact that average occupancy of the programme is 7,700 clients, this would work out to over $90,000 per client year. It surely seems that clients are not receiving $90,000-a-year’s worth of services; on the contrary, the Salvation Army is receiving tens of thousands of dollars of free labor per client year.

And he asked:

Where does all the money go? With ads for the Salvation Army everywhere, it is clear that a good chunk is spent on self-promotion.
However, since the Salvation Army is legally a church, it can also give its officers free housing, free vehicles, free health insurance, free furniture, and practically free everything else, in addition to paying them a salary.
The Salvation Army seems to be an organization primarily dedicated to ‘doing the most good’ for itself. When it comes to people who use drugs, a more fitting motto would be ‘doing the most harm’.
An America where people are forced to labor without compensation under threat of prison is not an America that I can support. Everyone should have the right to decide what to put into their own body, and people who use drugs should not be imprisoned or exploited by the self-righteous.

There are many organizations other than the Salvation Army which will take your donations of items and actually put them to good use—such as Housing Works, which provides housing for people living with AIDS, or Goodwill, which connects people with paying jobs.
Or, do what I do. Give money directly to the panhandler and cut out the middle man. Perhaps they will spend it on alcohol or other drugs, but at least that way it might provide someone a modicum of pleasure, which beats forced labor every time.

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  • John the Drunkard

    To see the extent to which AA is abused by the courts, the treatment industry, churches etc. you wouldn’t know that, from the inside, this all should never have been allowed to start. The following ‘preamble’ has been read at almost every AA meeting in the world since 1947. Is anybody listening?
    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
    The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
    There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions.
    A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes.
    Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
    Notice: no god, no ‘steps,’no prayer, no conformity, no obedience.
    In the U.S. we sometimes have to fight to keep this true.

  • Interested

    It’s my understanding that the head of Goodwill makes in the SEVEN figures and that they pay the disabled people working in the back NINETEEN CENTS/TWENTY-NINE CENTS an hour.
    If this is true, Goodwill is NOT a place to donate or buy anything.

  • Rob Andrews

    Yeah… I can state that all the above is true. You do have to work for 3-hots-and-a-cot. And you will have to attend religious services everyday.

  • John

    I have long suspected these “Lying for Jesus” outfits.
    This provides clear proof of their venality.
    It also shows how far privatisation can go to.
    Outsourcing state work is clearly very risky.
    The only word I can think of to describe these people is DISGUSTING!

  • SallyinMI

    Interested..your info is wrong about Goodwill.
    I stopped giving to Salvation Army when I read that they require anyone receiving goods or services from them attend chapel and become Christian. They can require anything they want, but I don’t think someone who is hungry and cold should be preyed upon.

  • Broga

    Religion: what a wonderful racket. The gullible can’t wait to be conned out of their money.

  • jay

    @SallyInMi “I stopped giving to Salvation Army when I read that they require anyone receiving goods or services from them attend chapel and become Christian. They can require anything they want, but I don’t think someone who is hungry and cold should be preyed upon.”
    I wonder how much this varies with time and place. Years ago there was a major flood in a nearby town. My wife (an atheist) went to help out, first with the Red Cross. She was upset however that Red Cross required documentation and ID before giving people anything— many of these people were here ‘illegally’, but hungry is hungry.
    She wound up working with the SA because they asked no questions and fed anyone who asked. Additionally during the night she would deliver food to National Guardsmen who were securing the area. At least at that time, there was no religious requirement of any kind.

  • Smokey

    There are plenty of problems with the SA. They’re also homophobic and misogynistic.

  • Laura Roberts

    @jay: organisations are built around people, and people will have different attitudes in different places. For example, I’ve witnessed dramatic differences in Boy Scout troops across the USA — some provide cover for drug, alcohol and sexual abuse, while others provide excellent opportunities for their kids. It all depends on the local leadership.

  • Newspaniard

    When I was in the British Army, the SA was one of the main welfare organizations available. The SA “Lady” was always on station for (usually) the younger soldiers who were feeling lonely or homesick regardless of religion (or none). Until the NAAFI had them thrown out the SA had a great canteen which was not only friendlier but cheaper than the NAAFI and you could get things like Marmite on toast. If ever there was a trip to be organized, it was the SA who did it, usually free or on the cheap. Throughout my army career, I had nothing but praise for the SA. Never once did I hear of their god or “donations” being mentioned. Because of the good work they do, I have never passed a tin-rattler without dropping a few coins in the tin. Even as an atheist, I have the greatest respect for the people of the SA. This article sounds like muck-raking, probably followers of the RCC who never offered these kind of services to anyone. Hot meals and shelter for a few hours work doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me and probably not to the people who benefit from it. Of course there are those bums who expect hot meals and shelter without working for it, they are probably the people who complained to the idle journalist who produced this report.

  • tonye

    Many years ago, in conversation with my late grandfather, I found out he had, to say the least, a passionate hatred of the SA.
    He told me that, in the 1930’s, due to dire circumstances, he had to go to their soup kitchens, on a couple of occasions, in order to eat. He told me that he, along with others, had to pray in order to eat, and made to feel like parasites. Fifty years on and he was still furious about his experiences. Despite this he remained a christian.
    I believe that George Orwell had a similar opinion of them from his ‘Down and out in Paris and London’ days.

  • Robster

    These strange people come to the front door expecting cash, fairly regularly. Can’t help but ask what they’re seeking salvation from, “God’s love” is a popular answer. The whole nasty fraud is super selfish, each active member is in it for themselves, their very own, personal salvation from whatever they’re salvaged from. Super selfish superstition. Not super at all.

  • barriejohn

    @tonye: My father had similar thoughts about “Aggie Weston’s” (Sailor’s Rests), as I have said before. He said that it turned his stomach to see grown men treated like children, and forced to sing soppy Sankey’s hymns in order to get a bit of warmth and a cup of cocoa. That, and his experiences on a destroyer the Arctic Convoys, made an atheist if him, so so much for “no atheists in a foxhole”!

  • barriejohn

    “Down and Out in Paris”:
    I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels (since they can’t purchase drinks), nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy (living on just tea and two slices of bread and margarine), nor subscribe to the Salvation Army (since they treat the hosted tramps as prisoners), nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill (so that the distributor of handbill can finish his job early), nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning.

  • barriejohn

    @Smokey: The Salvation Army are totally opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexuality (that’s the theory, but it doesn’t work out in practice).
    A diverse range of views on homosexuality may exist within The Salvation Army – as among the wider Christian (and non-Christian) community. But no matter where individual Salvationists stand on this matter, The Salvation Army does not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual identity in the delivery of its social care or in its employment practices. (My emphasis)
    All the Salvationists whom I knew as a Christian had VERY firm views about homosexuality – and not that it was in any way acceptable. And according to Pink News they still don’t allow gay people to serve as officers (see next post).

  • barriejohn
    “You could volunteer for us, you could come to our church services but if you want to become a soldier in the Salvation Army, you have to commit to what we believe.”
    It would appear that membership is a distinct matter, unrelated to delivery of services of employment, though I wouldn’t fancy the chances of a gay person seeking employment with the organization, because you have to remember “where individual Salvationists stand on this matter”.

  • tonye

    Thanks for the additional information.
    I did an online search and found, to my surprise, that, now rebranded, ‘Aggies’ is still in operation. Unfortunately.

  • L.Long

    We have to stop this religious privilege!!! They don’t deserve any such thing!!! Put them under the rules any business must follow!!! BUT but but if you do that & pay taxes then they will interfere with gov’mint & voting, etc!!!! Name me one cult that does not put its nose into politics NOW!!!!! Tax them! & put them under the same secular laws as everyone else!!!