CANOGA PARK : Salvation Army Role Changes With the Times

"Soup, soap and salvation" are no longer the only order of the day at the Canoga Park branch of the Salvation Army.

The charity, whose Roscoe Boulevard facility in Canoga Park celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, has added family counseling and literacy tutoring to its traditional menu of clean living for those down on their luck.

The typical Salvation Army client has changed too. Older, transient alcoholic males once made up the vast majority of clients. Now its Adult Rehabilitation Center serves more younger men addicted to multiple drugs.

Salvation Army Lt. Glen Doss, administrator of the rehabilitation center, said the tutoring programs, added about a year ago, and the family counseling programs are designed to cater to this new group of needy.

In the past, most who came for help were transients. Now many come from the neighborhood.

"These young men come to us with no work ethic, no education," said Doss. What they get is a program "not unlike boot camp in the military," he added. "We guide every move."

Back in the early '80s, about 80% of those accepted into treatment were 40 or over and 90% were alcoholics, said Paul Delaney, the Salvation Army's regional rehabilitation program consultant. Now, statistics in the western United States show the opposite: just over 20% of clients are 40 or older, and only 10% are addicted to alcohol alone, Delaney said.

Despite a slowdown in donations recently, the Canoga Park center has been remodeled in the last two years, said Lt. Mary Doss, who is director of special services for the center and is married to Glen Doss.

Today, the cafeteria boasts pool tables, and the front office, with its computers and carpeting, is as modern as any bank. Next year, the center may study launching another innovation--women's programs, she said.

Much has stayed the same at the Salvation Army, however--most notably the agency's 128-year-old reliance on sobriety and religion.

Thanks to those ideals, Harry Silva, who works at the center's warehouse, has been drug-free for 13 months--longer than at any time since he was a teen-ager.

The 48-year-old says the gospel study, work programs and 12-step treatment methods at the center have helped him put years of prison time and heroin addiction behind him.

"If you want to take this seriously, there's nothing you can't change," he said.

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