OPINION: The Salvation Army is the victim of bad press

By: 
Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

Reports say that the Salvation Army’s donations have dropped lower than normal this holiday season. A lot of this is probably the economy or other factors, but there is also a lot of heat on the Salvation Army right now, which is mostly unfair.

Since December of 2016, a picture has circulated on Facebook and Reddit, infuriating bloggers and pro LGBT+ people. The picture shows a man in a Santa Claus cap standing next to a Salvation Army bell holding a sign that reads, “We help people, just not the gays.”

This picture is almost certainly fake. Snopes.com, a website which can be trusted to investigate the truth of any fake news, whether liberal or conservative, proved that this picture has been circulating since 2012 and provided links to the archived original posts. According to Snopes, no one thought the man holding the sign was a Salvation Army bellringer when these pictures first started appearing. It was almost universally accepted that the man holding the sign was a protester, but claims have shifted since then and many Facebook pages sharing the picture today intend for their followers to believe this man was a Salvation Army bellringer.

This picture has encouraged bloggers and Facebook pages to re-post articles dating back to 2013 or even further back than that. It’s true that The Salvation Army has been guilty of anti LGBT+ discrimination in the past, but the organization has made a lot of progress since then. This fact is largely overlooked as powerful Facebook pages, with huge followings, post articles from four or five years ago as if The Salvation Army were still doing these things today.

This isn’t to say that there will never be a scandal at a Salvation Army shelter. There is only so much that any organization can do to prevent employees from acting on their own and embarrassing the entire organization. But the same is true for any national fast food chain or retail outlet. For an organization that still gets so much heat, the Salvation Army has not had an incidence of anti-LGBT+ discrimination hit the news since 2013. The Salvation Army’s stance is that no one will ever be turned away from an LGBT+ shelter because of orientation or gender identity. The Salvation Army also denies the claim that they use donation money for anti-LGBT+ legislation.

It’s rather late in the season, but The Salvation Army takes donations all year long. For many homeless, including young LGBT+ homeless, the Salvation Army is the only option they have. Bell Ringers will still be in front of Walmart for a while and The Salvation Army operates a thrift store in Hot Springs, in addition to bringing bell ringers out at Oaklawn during racing season. More information can be found at http://salvationarmyaok.org/hotsprings/.

And often ignored in the conversation are the shelters specifically for LGBT+ youth. LGBT+ young people are disproportionately homeless due to the difficulties in getting worked and getting kicked out of their homes. In Little Rock, there is an organization called Lucy’s Place dedicated specifically to LGBT+ homeless. More information can be found at http://www.luciesplace.org/.

Hot Spring County does not yet have a homeless shelter, but the Hot Spring County Homeless Coalition is an organization which provides temporary shelter to homeless people in the county and helps place them in homeless shelters in other areas. The HSC Homeless Coalitions accepts donations at:

Hot Spring County Homeless Coalition
P.O. Box 472
Malvern, AR 72104

Or through Paypal on their website at http://hschomeless.weebly.com.

The HSC Homeless Coalition can also be reached at (501) 467-2962.

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