Shannon Brown knows the struggles of homelessness and addiction. She’s been there.
A recovering methamphetamine addict, Brown spent time living on the streets.
“I’ve been homeless before and been on the streets in Paige, Ariz.,” she told the News-Sun recently. “It was snowing. It was horrible.”
That’s one of the reasons the new corps officer for the Hobbs Salvation Army wants to turn the former Thrift Store on Main Street in Hobbs into a shelter for the area’s homeless. And that’s just one of the plans she hopes to bring to fruition here.
The shelter “is in the making — we have our ducks in a row and things are moving forward,” Brown said. “The previous corps officer had initiated this and gotten funding for it.”
And it’s something that’s needed in Hobbs, a need she believes the Hobbs Corps can address. Brown also hopes to reinstate programs for area youth and see an increase in volunteer services through the local corps.
“Volunteering is not a huge element of this corps at the moment,” she said. “I’d like to see volunteering get back up, see people who are excited to see Lea County moving forward, helping the people who are out there.”
Brown came to Hobbs from Surprise, Ariz., where she served as assistant corps officer for the Northwest Valley Corps, on Aug. 24 last year. She moved to southeast New Mexico with her daughters, 14-year-old Jaida and Rhianon, 22, and Rhianon’s almost 9-month-old daughter, Aria, Brown’s granddaughter. Her first day in her new posting was Aug. 26, 2020.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to get situated, but I knew that coming in,” she said. “I was going to be hitting the ground running.
“But I was ready,” Brown said. “I’ve been here five months but it feels like a lot longer and we’ve got a lot done in a short time.”
She got involved with the Salvation Army in December 2007 while still deep in her 17-year addiction to meth, she said.
“My mom and I and my kids, we wanted to get back to church,” she said. “We were talking about how we needed to find a church to go to.
“This was in El Cajon, California — we got in the car one Sunday morning and drove right to the Salvation Army,” Brown said. “There were no stops in between. It was like God led us straight to the doors of the Salvation Army.”
Once there, she said, she experienced something surprising — people waiting to welcome them like long-lost family returning home.
“I had no idea the Salvation Army was even a church — like so many people, unfortunately,” Brown said. “I remember Roy Aulwum, the corps sergeant major of the El Cajon Corps, was there to great me, like he’d been waiting for us. That’s what it felt like.”
As lieutenant corps officer here, Brown basically runs the local Salvation Army. Her duties include a women’s ministry, Bible studies, Sunday school and administering the corps’ social services programs. She’s also responsible for employee management, payroll and the finances for the local corps.
“I don’t want to say it’s running a business, but in a lot of ways it is,” Brown said. “I have my superiors to answer to, but in here, day-to-day, my team and I are it.”
Even after that first introduction to the Salvation Army in 2007, Brown didn’t jump immediately into leadership. Part of that was the way the Salvation Army is structured, with required time as a “soldier” before moving up — and part of it was Brown herself, she said.
“When I came to the Salvation Army, I was very much caught up in my addiction,” Brown said. “In 2009, I got arrested and ended up having to go to prison.”
But, through it all, she said there was the presence of God, working on her life until, in 2016, she was called to ministry through the Salvation Army.
“I received the call to officership,” she said. “Which was a complete shock to me — I didn’t feel I was useful in that capacity, or adequate.
“But (God) doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called,” Brown said. “He extended his hand to me and I finally grabbed ahold of it.”
Ministry is the primary roll of Salvation Army officers. After answering her personal call, Brown spent 22 months studying at the Salvation Army College for Officer Training in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. She preaches each Sunday in the chapel located in the Salvation Army offices, around the corner on South Fowler from the old Thrift Store.
But her primary interest, what brought her to her position with the Salvation Army in the first place, is helping others. Growing up on a ranch in the Mojave Dessert near Yermo, Calif., Brown saw early the work her father did through a county social services office.
“Social services was always my passion, even as a kid,” she said. “I love working with people.
“It always seemed, for a long period in my life, I was on the end of (being in) need.
“Now, being on the other side of it, helping those in need, brings so much joy to my life,” Brown said. “To be in the vehicle of the Salvation Army to help people in need.”