When Paul walked through the doors of Nashville Rescue Mission in December 2014, it was the last place he ever expected to find himself.
Despite growing up in a somewhat challenging environment, Paul received lots of encouragement and support from his coaches and scout masters. “I had some great mentors in my life,” said Paul. “They taught me the value of hard work, determination, and persistence. I also came to the conclusion that if I wanted to get anywhere in life it was up to me and no one else.”
Determined to succeed, Paul worked hard. He worked full-time while attending college to fund his education. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering and a Master’s degree in Economics. He went on to successfully run departments, divisions, and even a few of his own companies. In 2003, as the CEO of an economic development consulting firm, Paul negotiated contracts in the range of billions of dollars.He isn’t someone you would expect to see homeless and staying at a shelter.
“I was a successful consultant for a lot of years,” said Paul. “I dealt mainly with manufacturing. But when the plants starting moving first to Mexico, and then China, everything changed. I went through a difficult divorce and saw the job market essentially dry up for me … all around the same time. It sort of forced me into a career change.”
Paul came to Nashville to start over. He rented a room and started working day labor jobs while searching for his next career opportunity. “I used to do real well,” said Paul. “I never thought I’d be in a situation like this.” Time and time again Paul kept hearing he was overqualified for the positions he was applying for. That next career opportunity never came.
“I don’t mind working hard,” said Paul. “I was determined and unwilling to give up, so I continued my job search. At my age, the physical labor was a bit more demanding than I expected.” So much so, that when Paul hurt his back and was unable to work, the money dried up quickly. And in no time at all, Paul was unable to pay his rent and forced to leave. With no one to turn to and nowhere to go, he found himself at the doors of Nashville Rescue Mission.
“I had no idea what to expect when I came to the Mission,” said Paul. “I was mainly interested in a good meal and a safe place to sleep. I found that and a lot more. I met two case managers, Ken Engle and Bob Snodgrass, who took me under their wings. They encouraged me and helped me explore all my options. Today, these men are like family to me. I appreciate them so much.”
Shortly after arriving, Paul participated in the Mission’s Guest Volunteer Program (GVP)—a three month program that allowed him certain perks like the same bed each night, laundry services, and more in exchange for his time volunteering around the Mission. “In GVP I got to know a lot of the guests who live at the Mission, as well as many of the staff members who work there. It was a nice way to settle in and overcome some of the anxieties I had about staying in a shelter.”
Not one to sit idle, Paul made the daily trek to the Nashville Public Library to look online for jobs. His persistence paid off, and he was hired to work part-time with NCOA (National Council on Aging). NCOA is a respected national leader and trusted partner that helps people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing,” said Paul. “I’m helping those over 60 and up in a variety of ways. At first I was splitting my time between the library and the Career Advancement Center, all through NCOA. But now I’m only working at the Career Advancement Center. I was offered a promotion, which would mean full-time, but it requires a lot of local driving and without my own private form of transportation, I can’t make it work.”
Until he either finds a new job, or an apartment becomes available through MDHA (Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency), Paul is forced to wait. With over 55% of his income going towards back child support and other fees, he barely makes enough to cover the cost of his phone and bus passes. “I eat breakfast and dinner at the Mission, “said Paul. “But I usually skip lunch. I’m not close enough to the Mission to eat lunch there and really don’t have the money to spend on it anyway.”
In spite of all the hardships, Paul is still grateful. “I can’t imagine where I would be without the Mission. Heck, I can’t imagine what Nashville would be like without the Mission. The folks working there are taking broken people like me and helping us make the best out of our situations. They will help you in any way they can. It’s unbelievable. No one needs to sleep outside or under a bridge in this city. There is hope … and it lives at Nashville Rescue Mission.”
Paul and others like him have a safe place to land when times are tough because of financial gifts from donors. Will you make it possible for those who are hungry and homeless to have hope for better tomorrows? You can help by donating today: https://nashvillerescuemission.org/donate/donate-now/