Undercover Homeless: St Louis Rams Players

“570,000 people in American are homeless on any given day. What do you think when you see them on the streets? Have you ever wondered what got them there? Does it matter? Do you look the other way? I kind of did. Until now.” – Chris Long, St Louis Rams DE

As the St. Louis Ram’s team bus inched through the city, players Chris Long and William Hayes talked about the homeless men and women they observed out the window. William decided that he wanted to make a difference. But to effectively make a sustainable difference, he first wanted to understand what it was like to be in their shoes.

To truly understand the plight of their homeless neighbors, Chris and William did something incredibly out of the ordinary. They decided to become homeless themselves.

The two Defensive End players went undercover. They wore distressed clothing, donned sunglasses and makeup, and ventured out into the city. They left their cell phones at home and had only $4 each. An undercover camera crew documented the journey. The football players didn’t want to make a scene or be recognized.

Watch the video:

 

“You’re not a normal person anymore,” Chris said. He noted that if they had a better appearance or wore more attractive clothing, they may have been treated differently by the people they encountered. After sleeping just one night on the streets, their bodies hurt.

The next day, Chris and William went back to talk with Marty and Nancy, two chronically homeless individuals that they had met the day before. On the spot, William offered to buy them a month at an extended stay hotel. Chris jumped in and offered to pay for a second month. “The causes of homelessness are multiple and so layered,” Chris learns.  This gave Marty and Nancy the chance to focus on change and job hunting, while receiving a good nights sleep.

After just three weeks, Marty was working in construction and Nancy was receiving outreach support to recover from her life on the street. By having somewhere to live and nutritious food to eat, they were both able to pursue life transformation and permanent housing.

Both Chris and William visited St. Patrick Center, an organization that helps over 8,000 homeless individuals each year. They strive to help people move from homelessness to independence, much like Nashville Rescue Mission. The St. Louis Rams support the center, but neither of the men had ever visited the building.  “I can’t stop thinking about the people who work in these places [Missions], tackling these issues every single day,” Chris shared after his St. Patrick Center visit.

“Now when I see a homeless person, I see lives on detour … human beings looking to reclaim their identity. Thanks to William’s idea, I just can’t look away anymore.”

It’s Amazing What 30,000 Cookies Can Do

It’s Amazing What 30,000 Cookies Can Do

“Coming to Nashville Rescue Mission is the highlight of my week,” exclaims Kim.

What started out as volunteering to read to the kids staying at Nashville Rescue Mission, has evolved into a ministry Kim is passionate about–loving on the homeless women and children who call the Mission their temporary home

“I never expected a volunteer experience to change me so much,” says Kim. “It has made me grow stronger in my own faith. There was a time when I went down the wrong path. So it’s easy for me to put myself in their shoes. I’m so blessed. And when you think about it, most people are just one paycheck away from disaster, so this could happen to anyone. I do this because I want those who have fallen on hard times to know just how much God loves them.”

Kim’s ministry includes a weekly visit to the Women’s Campus where she drops off 200 homemade cookies that will be served to the homeless women and children at the Mission. “When a woman says to me, ‘Did you bake these just for us?’ with a shocked look on her face, I know I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do.”

When she’s not baking cookies and putting smiles on faces, Kim runs an antique mall in Franklin. “I enjoy my job,” shares Kim. “But doing this… this is my JOY.”

As she lovingly bakes over 200 cookies each week, Kim prays over the baking process and each cookie, knowing it has the potential to bless and bring a smile to someone who is hungry, homeless, and hurting.

But Kim’s love for the women and children at Nashville Rescue Mission extends beyond cookies. “This will be my third year helping with the Mother’s Day Banquet,” shares Kim. “I’m so excited. Even though my family lives out of town, my mom, sister, step sister, and niece are coming in to help me prepare and serve a special lunch to the women on Mother’s Day. I can’t wait. We’ll have a delicious lunch, goody bags for the moms and kids, and flowers on every table. It’s a joyful day of celebrating.”

Just in the last year, Kim’s decided to bring either a cake or cupcakes on a monthly basis to help those women and children with birthdays celebrate their special day. “I love my birthday,” says Kim. “I can’t imagine not having cake on my birthday. I was inspired to do this when we celebrated my daughter’s 26th birthday. Each of these women is someone’s daughter and they deserve cake!” Kim has no problem putting herself in their shoes.

“If I could give Nashville Rescue Mission my entire paycheck I would,” Kim declares boldly. “Jesus was homeless and look how He turned out. I love seeing how God works. There are so many things we could do as volunteers and donors to meet the endless needs they have at the Mission. For me, I do it out of love. I needed to see God and serving at the Mission, makes God real for me. It’s more thank cookies and cake, it’s love.”

Jason Crabb

Jason Crabb

Whenever I see someone who is homeless I’ve often wondered, “How did that person get there? What’s their story?” I’m sure most of their stories would include the line, “It wasn’t something I planned.” The truth is this could easily be me or you. Each of us could be one bad choice away from losing everything.

People everywhere are hurting. I don’t think anyone plans to become homeless, or lose their job, or bury their child. But life happens. The challenges we face have a mind of their own. They don’t ask permission to enter our lives, and they don’t wait in line until we feel ready to deal with them. They rush in without warning—not one at a time, but in a flood. They become shackles that hold us down.

No wonder God wants us to share our ups and downs with each other and puts different people in our lives! There is always someone who has walked through the fire before us. Their testimonies, examples, and guidance give us strength.

When someone finds themselves homeless, I suspect they think they’re alone, but they’re not. God is there, and He’s reaching out to those in need here in our city through a place called Nashville Rescue Mission. Surrounded by a community of those who love the Lord and have these huge hearts of compassion for the hurting, that person who is homeless and feels very much alone can take refuge and find strength.

One of the things I love most about living in Nashville is that we go out of our way to take care of hurting people—especially the “least of these.” It’s something the Mission does every day. As a parent, it’s something I want to teach my kids, that it’s also our responsibility to help those who are in need.

When I stop for a second and realize, that this person, well, they’re also someone’s baby. Some momma rocked that child. And there’s nothing more precious than a child. In that moment, I catch a glimpse of how Jesus must see us—each of us is a precious child of God.

Then I ask myself, “What can I do to help?” I can support the work of Nashville Rescue Mission. They exist to give help, hope, and healing to those who may think they are all alone—they want to be that “someone” for the one who feels they have no one. It’s why I believe in and support the work of the Mission. When I don’t know what to do, they do know how to help the homeless in our community. They do it every day, 365 days a year—and for that, I’m grateful.

 

Summers Are No Vacation When You’re Homeless

Summers Are No Vacation When You’re Homeless

Instead of planning a vacation for her daughters this summer, Cynthia is homeless and searching for a safe place for them to live.

“If you had asked me in 2012, what I thought my future would look like, I would have never considered homelessness as a possibility,” says Cynthia, mom to Jessica (11) and Kyra (10). “Yet here we are. And while I know this is only temporary, the stress of being homeless is taking its toll.

From 2009 to 2012, things were going well for Cynthia and her two daughters. She had a steady job as a housekeeper at an assisted living facility in Brentwood. They were living with her sister, when an unexpected conflict forced her into making a quick decision to move. So she found an apartment.

What Cynthia thought was an answer to prayer, turned into her biggest nightmare. “I had no idea the apartment was infested with mold. At first, it was just a cough, then a cold, but eventually I developed asthma and my health quickly deteriorated. I was so sick and stayed sick for days at a time. I missed a lot of work and because of it; they had to let me go. They didn’t want to fire me, but based on their sick leave policy, they didn’t have a choice.” Ultimately, Cynthia decided it was more important for her health and the health and well-being of her children to move out.

The apartment complex wouldn’t let her out of the lease, even though there was mold. “They sued me for breaking my lease and now I have a judgment against me, which I’m paying off. But it also prevents me from getting approved by any other apartment complex.”

With nowhere else to go, Cynthia decided to turn to Nashville Rescue Mission. “I knew the Mission would have beds we could sleep in and meals we could depend upon. I knew we would be safe there.”

“Growing up, I never lacked for anything, I never wanted for anything… and honestly, I didn’t need anything,” recalls Cynthia. “It’s humbling to be at a point in my life where I have to depend on other people and the generosity of strangers for our most basic needs. But I’m so grateful. I appreciate Nashville Rescue Mission, the staff, the volunteers, and the donors. I don’t know where we would have gone were it not for the Mission.”

Cynthia is looking forward to the future. “I’m focused on saving money, re-establishing my credit so I can eventually move us into an apartment. One that is clean, safe, and free of mold. I know this is not the most comfortable situation for my daughters, but I remind them and myself regularly—this is not our home and it’s only temporary. And we are grateful for it.”

Not having a car limits Cynthia, but she still finds creative ways to create a sense of normalcy for her daughters. “We go to the library on days when it’s too hot, too cold, or rainy. When it’s nice outside, I like to take them to the park for a picnic. It helps to get away from the shelter environment. I try to take them out to eat at least once a month. Last month, we went to a Mexican restaurant and had a wonderful time of being together.”

When asked about taking a summer vacation, Cynthia replied, “The closest thing we’ve come to a summer vacation is going to Chuck E. Cheese or Monkey Joes. But one day, I’d like to take my girls to Florida. I’ve never been and I would love for us to go to the beach and see the ocean.”

As Cynthia looks to the future, she finds herself dreaming about an apartment. “It will be so nice when we have a place of our own. I can’t wait. And in the meantime, I’m so thankful to everyone who supports the Mission, because of you, my daughters and I have a roof over our heads, a safe place to sleep, and three hot meals a day. Thank you.”