Why I Don’t Support the Salvation Army

As Christmas continues to approach the sound of bells fill the air outside of department and grocery stores.  The red kettles recognizable as donation buckets for the Salvation Army.  They are known not only for collecting donations during the holiday season, but for helping the homeless with shelter, food, clothing etc.  What you may not know is that they are also known for being discriminatory towards the LGBTQ community. 

Salvation Army - Anti Gay

I used to work for the Salvation Army at a wet, low barrier women’s shelter.  What that means is 1. clients do not have to be clean and sober to receive services (the wet part), and 2. anyone who identifies as a woman may access services (low barrier part).  I loved the idea of this shelter.  Many shelters have program restrictions, a screening process, and a required intake process before people can access services.  These are used to determine if the client is a good fit for the program.  This place had none.  This meant that we would get the women that no one else would take, women with severe, often untreated mental health, and women with current and ongoing substance abuse issues.  Chronically homeless women were the majority of the clientele.  Women who for whatever reason could not find and/or retain housing.  The shelter had 50 beds which the women could access for 30 days at a time.  During this time they would receive a case manager would work with them mainly on finding housing.

In theory this is a great program.  Unfortunately it was poorly run by a woman who had little to no compassion for the women we served.  The Salvation Army as a whole encompasses a lot of programs, all run by different people with little communication between them.  They are poorly organized and push the “salvation agenda” pretty hard.  I have very deep concerns about programs who help the homeless only after they have listened to a sermon, attended a Bible study, or some sort of other religious function.  This is not my gospel.  There should be no religious requirements attached to receiving services.  I’m getting a little off track but this is one of the reasons I no longer support the Salvation Army.  While the program I was a part of did not specifically require clients to attend church etc. there was a definite pressure to.  This is the first problem I have; when saving someone’s soul becomes more important than providing for their basic needs.  This is not a holistic approach to service and it does not serve the whole person.

Another thing I discovered while working for them is the bigotry towards the LGBTQ community.  Again, in theory my program was supposed to be better in this area.  We operated under a harm reduction model.  An example of this would be if you know a client is using drugs you provide them with access to clean needles.  Several of our clients were transwomen, or lesbians.  They were welcome in the door.  Unfortunately this is often were the welcome stopped.  I witnessed these women being harassed by other clients and the staff did nothing about it.  Sometimes my co-workers were the ones encouraging the abuse.  I was told that we did not house lesbians as they may move in with their partner and this was in clean violation with the Bible.  Again, this is not my gospel.  And my program was tame compared to others underneath the Salvation Army umbrella.

If this is the first time you’ve heard about this I would encourage you to do some research before dropping your money into the kettle.  If you are interested in doing something more tangible and forthright I recommend that you click on and print the voucher below, and drop those in the kettle instead.

Salvation Army Voucher

Related Articles

  • Don’t Donate to the Salvation Army If You Care About LGBT People
  • UC Berkeley Salvation Army Controversy: Students Call For Campus Ban On Organization Citing Alleged Homophobic Practices
  • Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Holiday Campaign Takes Heat From Gay Rights Activists



3 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Support the Salvation Army

  1. Some good insights. There are many more progressive and affirming charities to which people can donate in lieu of Salvation Army. It just takes a couple of minutes and Google. 🙂

  2. This is amazing. Many of my thoughts on such issues are the same. I have stepped away from organised religion because of the oppression of the gay community as well as women in many Christian churches. I do not believe that we are ever to speak about our belief unless we are asked to share it. I believe we are to live out faith out. We are to love everyone because everyone was created by God and they are loved by God. When we oppress another person we are oppressing ourselves.

  3. audrey grey says:

    You raise some good points. I am not sure where you are but I know in my country they are probably the last charity I’d ever choose to support. The stores they run to raise money to help people – and allow those who can’t afford retail to buy clothes, furniture etc are now charging prices pretty much on par with retail. I haven’t experienced the agenda so much here, but I and a number of others have been treated with enormous disrespect, judgment and attitude whenever their services have been accessed. In one case, I was 17 with a new baby who had a growth spurt – the day before payday (we were on welfare payments at the time) we ran out of formula (I produced no milk to BF, and had been refused help because ‘teenagers don’t want to breastfeed anyway’ – but that’s another story). So we end up having to go in for about 3 feeds worth of formula. In receiving it we had this woman giving us the most atrocious judging. We explained our situation, we buy formula in our fortnightly grocery shop, we calculate needs and it was an odd situation – recoverable the following day when we were paid and would buy an extra tin! No matter, the judging continued. As we left she said to us ‘maybe next time you’ll think about your baby before yourselves’. It was shameful – and I think people already feel a bit that way when they are forced to rely on charity, I couldn’t believe it – it was my one and only experience on that side of the fence and it was enough to turn me off helping them. I had the year before been actively fundraising for them, I’d done things to help them and they still treated me with such disdain for needing about $3 worth of help, one time.

    I know they are religious and have always wondered about the impact this has on services, so your post adds clarity to that for me. I hate the seedy underlying judgment you speak of though, and feel for the women and communities you talk about who have suffered when they need that help the most.

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