I am often asked how I work with the homeless, those asking communicate they feel the homeless are dangerous or it is too heartbreaking. After working with the homeless community for the past two years I simple reply, how can I not. The homeless individuals I have walked with have taught and given more than I will ever be able to provide them. One thing I’m reminded is I have been blessed to have a support system to carry me through my dark times; however, everyone doesn’t have a support system. I am only in an individual’s life for a brief moment in time, I hope during that time I am able to provide a support system to them.
I first met Jack, a Vietnam veteran in January when he was brought in from his homestead (a tent in the city of Knoxville) to the office to discuss enrollment in to Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless (TVCH) Supportive Service for Veteran Family (SSVF) program to assist him get into housing. Jack explained he has been living on the streets since 2010 with the exception of being previously enrolled into a permanent supportive housing (PSH) program until he was evicted. Jack described the challenges of having KPD throw his items away on multiple occasions and the altercations he has faced on the streets with other individuals. He expressed concern over the length of time it would take to enroll in the SSVF program and complete an application for another PSH program in Knoxville. He was also concerned about the individuals within his (homeless) community he helped on a weekly to daily basis. He also expressed reluctance in completing the application process for a PSH program due to his past experience, as well as others offering assistance and never following through. Quickly I learned that I was going to have to build trust through keeping my word. Then contact with the veteran was temporarily lost. Because of lost contact I closed his case with the hopes our paths would cross again.
A couple of months later I was contacted by John with Relevant Hope in Knoxville. John contacted me at Jack’s request, to let me know Jack is okay. I was relieved with the update and ensured John that Jack is able to re-enroll in the SSVF program if he was still interested.
I was notified in mid-April that Jack was at the top of the waiting list for the PSH program he applied for in January. I was able to contact Jack through John with Relevant Hope and Jack agreed to come in to TVCH to complete additional parts of the application. I was starting to feel as though things were coming together for Jack, however when I met with him he expressed concern about his previous eviction from the housing authority; however, he did re-enroll in the SSVF and complete the additional parts of the application. I explained we would take the steps together through the process to locate housing and per John’s request we prayed together again, as we had multiple times throughout our journey.
Ultimately Jack’s concerns were correct and he was denied for the PSH program in Knoxville due to his prior eviction. I met with him again to discuss two other programs I had located, where the housing authority eviction would not be a concern. Jack agreed to go into Family Services, one TVCH’ PSH programs. This experience reminded me why it is always important to give individuals choices and no matter what the situation is don’t assume you know the answer they are going to give. I would have never thought Jack would have agreed to this program as his housing will be located an hour away from Knox County. Jack expressed he was tired of being on the street dealing with the elements and other challenges of being on the street. He was concerned about leaving his items in his homestead through fear he might need them again. Though Jack has been living on the streets he had all the documents needed with the exception of one, which Relevant Hope continued to go above and beyond and assisted Jack in obtaining the final needed document. Through prayers, God opened doors and together we were able to get Jack into his own apartment within four business days of him deciding to move forward with getting housed.
The day Jack moved into housing we all gathered together to help him move into his first home with a roof in three years. Jack explained he had provided someone else in his community with his tent, several blankets, a pair of boots, and his cooking equipment. He expressed the importance of providing to someone else since he is being provided with so much. Jack also expressed excitement over having his own apartment. By the time we were done moving Jack he was providing multiply goals he wanted to start working on with his case manager for Family Services and we together thanked God for all He had accomplished.