MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Accusations of abuse and racism at a Salvation Army treatment center sparked protest Saturday.
Demonstrators called on the organization to fire the new administrators brought in over the summer. They gathered outside of the Adult Rehabilitation Center on Minneapolis’ North 4th Street.
Protesters say since new management took over, the program has lost nearly 100 people who were seeking help, along with dozens of employees.
One of those employees is Dave Johnson.
“There has been this turmoil — right from the get-go,” said Johnson, a former chaplain and counselor, who worked at the center for 12 years.
He was let go in August.
Johnson and other protesters say Cpt. Dennis Earnhart and his wife, Adrianna, have an oppressive and strict leadership style.
Protesters’ signs described their leadership as a “reign of havoc.”
“[Earnhart] was doing things that were causing a very hostile environment,” Johnson said.
He said Earnhart restricted certain hairstyles, like dreadlocks and cornrows, and tattoos had to be covered up.
Jason Stratton, 41, transferred to another recovery program after what he experienced.
He says he was forced to clean a bathroom for hours, while an employee was told: “This guy needs to be on scrub detail, he needs to be on scrub detail, and you need to watch him every hour to see how his attitude is changing.”
Because of the controversy, the Salvation Army says it has made adjustments to new policies, but they also say they stand behind Earnhart’s leadership.
“We’re dealing with an intensive rehabilitation program and certainly have rules and guidelines that must be followed,” said Lt. Colonel Robert Thomson.
He says the organization’s goal is to provide addicts with the discipline and guidance they need to recover, get a job, and lead a stable life.
Thomson wouldn’t comment on Earnhart’s leadership style or the number of employees or people in recovery who have been fired or left the center.
Protesters fear instead of changing lives, they’re losing people who are in desperate need of help.
“I don’t want to have that happen to the guys that are leaving this program ’cause they’re going back on the streets, because they can’t handle this oppressive environment,” Johnson said.
Earnhart was not available for comment Saturday.
But Thomson did say the organization changed the restrictions on hairstyles. Thomson also made a point to say that money from Salvation Army thrift stores fund the rehabilitation program; its annual kettle campaign does not.