Sunday, November 29, 2009

Helping the Homeless of Nashville

Homeless folks struggle to eke out a life on the streets every day of the year. I don't even begin to pretend I have a full understanding of all the causes for homelessness. Some folks have drug or alcohol problems. Some suffer from domestic abuse and head to the streets to avoid it. Some find themselves on the streets due to mental illness. Some are on the street as the result of multiple or even a single indiscretion. Some are lifers on the street. Some are homeless for only a short period of time. Some have recently become homeless because of their bottomed-out economic situation. Some hold jobs but simply don't make enough from one week to the next to secure and maintain a place to live.

Regardless of the reason why, the facts remain the same. Folks are homeless, they're vulnerable, and you can help in ways perhaps you haven't of. This time of year I wanted to highlight a few ways for individuals to help for a couple of reasons.
  • One, its getting friggin' cold on the street, and warm, safe places to stay can be scarce. Support organizations need volunteered time and financial support to provide housing, food, clothing, and other types of relief.
  • Two, an attitude of giving is in the air this time of year, and folks are seeking ways to help with dollars and/or time.
Here are a few ways to get involved - especially if you are in the Nashville, TN area.

Wednesday, December 9
- Project Homeless Connect at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville - Project Homeless Connect is a one-day event to provide one-stop professional support, community agency services, and quality of life resources to homeless individuals and families. Homeless individuals and families can get medical assistance, shoes, foot care, dental care, haircuts, job assistance, legal help, etc. PHC has several opportunities to help - including helping at some of the individual support booths, data entry as folks are processed through the reception area, greeting folks with a smile, etc. Visit PHC on the web, follow them on Twitter @PHCNashville, and volunteer by clicking here. I'll be there from 8:00 until noon helping with Room in the Inn's booth.

(Hat tip to Kevin Barbieux)

Sunday, December 13 - Eddie & Martha Adcock will host the 10th Annual Bluegrass Benefit Concert to support Room in the Inn and the homeless at the famed Station Inn.

Wednesday, December 16
- Nashville Unlimited - Each December, Nashville session bassist Dave Pomeroy hosts Nashville Unlimited, a Christmas music show, to benefit Room in the Inn, a phenomenal ministry supporting Nashville's homeless. This year's concert is December 16 at Christ Church Cathedral. No tickets are sold, and an admission price isn't set. People who attend are simply asked to donate at the door what the heart and wallet agree to. Admission is first come, first serve until the pews are full and fire codes say "no mas". The artist line-up is never announced in advance either. You can always expect Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and Three Ring Circle to perform (Hint: Buy NME's out-of-print Gifts CD if you want to really enhance your Christmas music collection). But everyone else is generally a surprise. In past years, I've seen folks like John Prine, Emmylou Harris, The Steeldrivers (vid), Riders In The Sky, and Tommy Emmanuel (vid). Here is my blog entry about the 2008 show. Wait...was I really still blogging on MySpace 12 months ago? Wow.

Outside of Nashville? Don't worry about it. The one truism about homelessness is you can find such folks in just about every city. Simply find a way to get involved to help.

An additional way you can help year-round is to prep a few "manna bags". Do you travel? If so, grab the unused soap, shampoo, and hand lotion from your hotel room and add it to a ziploc bag when you return. Add a few other essentials or nice-to-haves (e.g. a pair of socks - priceless for life on the street, small tube of toothpaste, toothbrush, prepaid phone card, 2 or 3 Nutrigrain or power bars, a bottle of water, disposable razor). Voila! - you've got a manna bag you can give someone living on the street! Keep a couple of these in your car, and give them away when you see someone in need. You obviously don't have to be in Nashville to make this effort happen.

For more ideas about what to include, visit these sites:
For a first hand blog account from someone who lives on the street, read The Homeless Guy's blogs (different entries at each blog):

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