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Mission in My Words: Demetria Kalodimos

The housing market is “on fire.” “Never better if you’re a seller.” We hear it on radio and television, in social media, and in screaming print headlines.

One real estate agent had 34 offers on the same historic home in East Nashville. It sold for 100 thousand over the asking price. Imagine how many monthly rents could be paid with that “bonus money” alone.

Yeah, the market’s never been better. And homelessness has never been worse.

In Nashville, the unhoused population is growing at its own explosive pace. Researchers will tell you the underlying reason is quite simple. People cannot find a suitable place that fits their paycheck.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that “12 million renters and homeowners pay more than 50 percent of their annual income on housing. A family with one full-time earner making minimum wage cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States at fair-market rent.”

Not anywhere…and that includes Nashville.

There’s a well-worn mythology around homelessness. But my many interactions at Nashville Rescue Mission have opened my eyes to the truth. The truth about what can happen after a few missed paychecks from an injury or illness. The truth about rent increases and rising utility bills. The truth about addiction, mental illness, and lack of adequate services, especially in remote and rural areas.

We could all be just one misfortune away from the Mission doors.

A few months ago, I was walking to lunch with some friends on a bright end-of-summer type day, not too hot, pleasant breeze, when we encountered a woman in a wheelchair, seeking shade on the sidewalk. One glance at her bright floral dress told me she still took pride in her appearance, though she had limited access to a sink or a shower. We exchanged a smile and some small talk, and she asked, “Do you maybe have a small bottle of perfume or body spray I could use? Something that smells good?”

I actually did have just what she wanted (and apparently needed) to boost her self-confidence amid all the trendy young ladies “scootering by” on a fun party weekend. So, I handed her a small purse-sized bottle of my favorite scent. And I thought, what a simple but profound request. And I was in the right place at the right time to fulfill it.

Nashville Rescue Mission is the right place at the right moment every day for so many people. It helps them see the beauty in life and smell its sweetness again.

Matthew 25: 35-40 doesn’t say anything about fresh white musk body spray. Or does it?

Demetria Kalodimos is a career journalist, storyteller, documentarian, and musician. She’s spent nearly 40 years in TV news and is now the Executive Producer at The Nashville Banner, a civic news venture dedicated to the people of Nashville. Her company, Genuine Human Productions, has produced numerous documentaries that have been screened and awarded at top festivals. Her host of awards includes three Edward R. Murrows, 16 Emmys, two National Headliners, just to name a few.

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