The Opportunity Center for the Homeless is celebrating 23 years of service in El Paso.
Ray and Lilly Tullius opened the doors to the center back on Jan.3, 1994. "Twenty-three years ago, there were hundreds of people dying on the streets. There were not many shelters in those days," Ray said. Once homeless themselves, the two ventured out to help those in need, and with the assistance of the community college, the couple was able to open the doors to the center.
It began as an empty warehouse in downtown El Paso, a place that provided warmth and shelter from those living on the streets. "My wife and I pledged to make sure that at least coffee was there," Tullius said. "We gained the respect with the homeless people and they became our greatest support."
Ray says that since its first day, the center has helped hundreds of homeless people. "It has been helpful. It helps me a lot," Carlos Garcia said, a man who has been homeless for about a year.
Fast forward to today, when the center has served more than 20,000 people and is celebrating its 23rd anniversary. "It's been a long journey," Ray said. " We now have 10 facilities."
Those facilities cater to a variety of different needs for the homeless community. "We take people that no one else can really take in," Ray said. He also mentioned that the facilities help the mentally ill, substance abusers, veterans and the elderly.
Teri Rankin has been homeless for about a six months and says the center has helped her get back on her feet. "They give you all kinds of opportunities. They give you medical attention, transportation. Everything you need is there." Rankin said. She used the available transportation to get to a job interview, that led to her current employment. Rankin plans to save enough money to move out of the center in the near future.
The ten facilities are listed below:
Safe Haven, 1307-1313 Magoffin St., El Paso, TX 79901: Provides safe, permanent housing for single men and women who are mentally disabled and chronically homeless. Mental health counseling and psychiatric services are available for the residents staying at the facility.
Missouri Street Residence, 526 W. Missouri, El Paso, TX 79901: Provides housing for 39 homeless single men who are transitioning from the emergency shelter toward self-sufficiency. Residents who stay are working, volunteering, participating in a training program or going to school.
Magoffin Avenue SRO, 1221 Magoffin St., El Paso, TX 79901: Provides permanent supportive housing for 20 elderly, sick, or disabled men and women who are homeless. All residents are between 55 to 90 years old.
Women’s SRO & Transitional Living Center, 1318 Myrtle Ave., El Paso, TX 79901: Women’s Resource Center, 1220 Myrtle Ave., El Paso, TX 79901: Emergency shelters for single homeless women. These facilities support up to 16 women as they attend classes, volunteer, work, and/or participate in a training program.
Veterans Transitional Living Center, 818 Myrtle Ave., El Paso, TX 79901: Transitions veterans from homelessness to permanent housing. Veterans are supported as they working, participating in training, or going to school. They participate in life skills training and are connected with supportive services through the VA.