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On a Mission to Rescue

Homeless vulnerable to cold weather

The Nashville Rescue Mission takes its name seriously! In the cold dismal nights of winter, the act of rescuing is more than saving a man or woman’s soul.

Rescue also means saving a person’s life, too. Since 1954, the Nashville Rescue Mission has been rescuing homeless men, women and children from the cold, hard streets of Nashville. For many, a warm, safe bed and a hot, nutritious meal is literally a life-changing event.

Cold weather can be a serious danger to the homeless. Every year many die from hypothermia or are seriously injured by frostbite. Cold weather is especially hazardous for homeless in poor health. Some people use the term “freezing-to-death.” If the weather is cold enough (even if well above freezing) and you don’t have adequate clothing or warm shelter then your body cannot continue to maintain a normal temperature, you could die. Freezing has nothing to do with it.

“We are greatly concerned about the homeless, especially during this time of year. If it’s cold outside, a homeless man or woman can easily die from hypothermia overnight if they are sleeping on the street,” explains Billy Eldridge, Operations Director. “The homeless are especially vulnerable if they are sick, intoxicated or cannot be reasoned with because of drug abuse or mental illness.”

Although there are no official numbers, Nashville has approximately 4,000 to 5,000 homeless, it’s estimated that 25 of them died last year—some due to hypothermia.

“Our community feels the tragedy of each of these homeless deaths,” said Eldridge. “For those we have lost, their friends and family, and the many people who continue to face the risks of homelessness each day, we must continue to work as a community to help the homeless.”

“Each human life lost is precious. It is urgent we continue to work together to improve the health, safety and quality of life of each of our vulnerable clients,” says Ed Grimes, Director of Transient Operations. "That is why our work to help the homeless is so important.”

Unfortunately, many of us encourage homeless men and women through misplaced generosity.

“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,” says Grimes. “It’s better to redirect those efforts to the work the Mission is doing to help the homeless.”

How, then, can we best help our neighbors in need? What, then, shall we tell the people who ask us for money on the streets?

“If someone asks me for money or food, I will kindly offer to buy them a burger or something to eat,” explains Billy Eldridge. “If they are just looking for money to buy beer, they usually decline.” Eldridge firmly believes “taking time to talk to a homeless man or woman in a friendly, respectful manner can help restore dignity and hope.”

As the temperature drops, it is our hope that the homeless men and women living on the streets will seek shelter on these dangerous nights.

The long cold winter nights in Middle Tennessee can be extremely hard on the homeless. The Nashville Rescue Mission stands ready as a safe harbor from the storm. Working together, we can provide more than a warm bed and a hot meal. We can provide them with a new life so they’ll never have to return to the streets again. Please join us in our mission to rescue the homeless.

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