Hundreds seek shelter every night
We pass them on the streets every day—they are the homeless men and women who live on the streets of Nashville. As the cold weather comes, the effects of the present homeless crisis become more evident as we see many men and women sleeping under interstate overpasses or huddled over the hot air grates outside Nashville’s downtown buildings.
Too Cold For Comfort
The recent wave of cold weather means few of us are enjoying the outdoors. Most head for the shelter of home or work, but those who are homeless have few places to go, which means the Nashville Rescue Mission will be full beyond capacity.
“We’re getting more and more phone calls from people who say they are homeless for the first time,” said Ed Grimes, Director of Transient Operations for the Nashville Rescue Mission.
Bitter cold weather is a new experience for many homeless people, according to Grimes. “Nationally, nearly two-thirds of the people coming to Rescue Missions have been on the streets less than a year, and two-in-five have never before been homeless. On a local level, this number is even higher—over 50% of people registering with us for the first time have never been homeless. They are not prepared for this kind of weather and they have no experience in protecting themselves from the extreme cold.”
Hot Food and Warm Shelter
When temperatures drop dangerously low or severe weather is predicted for the area, the Nashville Rescue Mission launches “Cold Patrol.” To help prevent the homeless from suffering from life-threatening weather, staff and residents will canvas the streets of Nashville, looking for those in need.
“When temperatures fall below 32 degrees, it becomes a dangerous situation for those out on the streets,” says Grimes. “We warn them of the impending weather and offer them free transportation to the Mission. In the process of offering them food, clothing and shelter, we pray they will also find hope.”
“During bitterly cold weather, the homeless are extremely at-risk for hypothermia, frostbite, and even death.”
“It may go against your instincts, but I encourage people not to give money directly to the homeless,” says Don Worrell, President and CEO of the Nashville Rescue Mission. “The solution to the homeless problem has to be more than dropping small change in a panhandler’s cup—real change in a person’s life is truly what is needed.”
Annually, the Nashville Rescue Mission provides more than 250,000 nights of lodging. Many of the homeless who first come in to the Mission for a meal or shelter go on to enroll in the life-recovery programs that help them stay off the streets and lead productive lives.
“Sometimes, it can be basic needs that bring people in off the streets, such as a change of clothes, a shower or just being able to drink a hot cup of coffee. Sometimes it takes a dramatic change in weather—like what’s happening now—to bring them in,” said Grimes.
“Unfortunately, many of us encourage homeless men and women through misplaced generosity,” says Worrell. “Handing out money generally is not the answer. Many good Samaritans don’t realize the money, food or clothes they hand to a person on the street may enable them to stay on the street. This act of kindness could do more harm than good,” adds Worrell. “It’s better to redirect those efforts to organizations that help the homeless.”
For over 55 years, the Nashville Rescue Mission has provided food, clothing and shelter to Nashville’s needy neighbors. All of the Mission’s services are free of charge, and being a faith-based organization, our ministries subsist without relying on any governmental funding. As a result, the Mission operates almost entirely from donated foods, materials and the generous contributions from individual donors, like you! Thank you for your support.