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Homeless Not Hopeless: Kenneth’s Story

Still in his hospital gown, Kenneth arrived at Nashville Rescue Mission on October 24, 2017, by way of discharge from a local hospital. He had no family, no money, and nowhere to go—he was homeless.

Kenneth is 59 years old, and this is the first time he’s experienced homelessness. In addition to high blood pressure and diabetes, he has dementia.

How did Kenneth end up homeless?

“I was born and raised in Nashville,” shared Kenneth. “We lived near Old Hickory Lake on ten acres of land. Growing up, it was just me, and my mom and dad. I was adopted and didn’t have siblings. I never married, and I don’t have any children. I had a great life growing up. We were in church every Sunday. I was a good student and graduated a year early from high school. I studied math at Nashville Tech but didn’t finish. Over the years I found work as a welder, a CNC operator, a truck driver and an instructor, and a machinist. I’m a jack of all trades.”

Once his parents passed away, Kenneth was on his own. And after a bad motorcycle accident, Kenneth was prescribed a painkiller and developed an addiction to Dilaudid. His habit soon escalated and consumed him. Eventually, he ran out of money. Unable to work or care for himself, Kenneth landed himself a stay at a local hospital, and upon discharge, with nowhere else to go, he was taken to Nashville Rescue Mission.

What about Government assistance?

Although Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid provide a safety net for some, not all people live out their final years with a secure, stable place to live. People who are homeless and living with cognitive impairment often fall through the cracks.

“If you’re experiencing homelessness you’re thinking about where you’re going to get your next meal and how you’re going to keep yourself safe,” said Rev. Glenn Cranfield, president and CEO of Nashville Rescue Mission. “You’re not thinking about how you’re going to refrigerate your medication or how you’re going to get to your next appointment. For those who live on the streets or in a shelter—getting discharged from the hospital often means losing their meds, struggling to clean their wounds, or failing to make the specialist appointment across town. Others will get even sicker. Some will go back to the emergency room and start the process all over again. We need to work together to ensure our homeless neighbors have access to services and support that meet their needs.”

Adding dementia to the mix only complicates matters.

Dementia is a complex chronic condition caused by one or more of a large number of illnesses affecting the brain. It’s a devastating condition that robs people of their abilities and memories. It’s cloaked in stigma and misunderstanding. It isolates people from social networks and carries significant economic consequences.

How does the Mission help?

“Serving the emergency needs of those without a home with compassion, respect, and resources is the reason we exist,” said Cranfield. “Our staff members are known for going above and beyond, especially in situations such as this. Someone like Kenneth requires a little extra care. He needs someone to help him remember his appointments, so he doesn’t land back in the hospital. It can be a costly and vicious cycle. We hope once Kenneth establishes a source of income, potentially through disability, then he can transition into supportive housing and no longer be homeless.”

“The Mission has been a blessing to me,” says Kenneth. “I know I couldn’t do any of this on my own. Everyone here has been so kind to me. Ken Engle (case manager at the Mission) has gone above and beyond to help me. He’s made sure I’ve gotten to my appointments. He connected me with a disability advocate, who is helping me with that paperwork. Once that’s approved, Ken is going to help me get into housing. I know he’s younger than me, but he’s been like a father-figure. I appreciate him so much. Even as low as I’ve gotten, I’ve never lost my will to live,” said Kenneth. “I’m no longer drinking or addicted to drugs. Thanks to Nashville Rescue Mission, I’m getting the help I need, and I’ve found hope for tomorrow. I’m extremely grateful.”

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