Volunteers sort clothes at a clothing distribution for The Salvation Army’s homeless shelter. (Photo submitted)
More than 1,000 homeless persons live in Rutherford County, according to a count conducted by a coalition of agencies. Many more will be homeless at some point in 2012.
For their fiscal year that ended in September of 2011, The Salvation Army shelter in Murfreesboro provided 7,757 nights lodging. They have 20 beds for single men and four family rooms.
Though the word, “homeless,” often conjures up images of old men with liquor bottles in paper bags, the real homeless include single moms who’ve lost their jobs, men who grew depressed after the death of a spouse and families displaced by fire, tornado or foreclosure, said Teresa Olson, a social services case worker at The Salvation Army in Murfreesboro.
“Just because people are staying in a homeless shelter does not mean they are bums,” Olson said.
The Salvation Army is committed to getting homeless people off the streets. They do so through their emergency shelter’s six- to 12-week program that helps people get back on their feet.
Assisting the homeless is also a priority of The Guidance Center in Murfreesboro. One of five nonprofit organizations that operate under the umbrella of the Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System, The Guidance Center provides clinical help to the homeless through their Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness program, better known as PATH.
Homeless persons often suffer from depression, Guidance Center Director Kim Rush said.
“Job loss, homelessness and depression. It’s a snowball effect,” Rush said.
She also pointed out those with other mental health issues often wind up homeless.
“People are not sure what to do with them or they’re scared of them.” Rush said of this homeless population. “But all these individuals really need is just someone to help them.”
The Salvation Army and The Guidance Center are United Way agencies that partner together for the good of their clients and the community. The Guidance Center refers about 25 individuals per month to The Salvation Army for their shelter services and The Salvation Army refers about 12 persons a month to receive clinical services at The Guidance Center.
The goal of both agencies is to get clients back to work and leading independent, productive lives said Rush and Joseph Crawford, co-director of The Salvation Army.
Each organization lauds the benefits of their United Way affiliation.
Less than 1 percent of The Salvation Army’s funding comes through United Way. And while they are grateful for those funds, it’s other benefits that really prove advantageous.
“We don’t have the money to hire a PR employee,” said The Salvation Army co-director Lorraine Crawford. “United Way provides good exposure for us.”
United Way also assists The Salvation Army in finding volunteers, Lorraine Crawford said. These generous members of the community help with serving meals, ringing bells at Christmas, assembling food boxes and hygiene kits as well as other aspects of The Salvation Army services. Last year 950 volunteers logged 5,871 hours, Lorraine Crawford said.
For The Guidance Center, United Way funding makes it possible to provide ancillary services to clients, Rush said. Much of The Guidance Center’s funding comes from the government and is restricted to health care. But assistance with things like utility and housing deposits are what really help people become independent, Rush said.
In keeping with United Way’s mission of advancing the common good in its communities, both of these United Way agencies offer hope and healing.
“I love what I do,” said Kandy Templeton, senior vice-president of clinical services for the Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System. “I’m here for the people we serve.”
“Scripture says but for the grace of God I could be in the same situation as a homeless person,” said Olson. “Any of us could lose our job and wind up on the street.”