Mercy for the homeless and less fortunate
Johnson City's Haven of Mercy has provided food and shelter for the homeless. It also provides christian religious outreach as part of its ministry. The Haven of Mercy says they are a healing ministry, through divine power they seek victories over addiction, failure, poverty, medical issues, and family separation.
The organization welcomes everyone in need. They say many of their patrons are living on the recesses of society for years. Their battles include alcohol or drug dependency to escape pain, those in survival mode who are physically or mentally broken, and there are others who have experienced financial hardship or family separation who need a boost to get on their feet.
The ministry of the Haven of Mercy Ministries provides assistance in many forms. People can come to them and receive a hot shower, warmth, shelter, a safe place to rest, and nutritious meals. They've been providing these services to the public since 1977.
Each year the Haven of Mercy's homeless shelter feeds and ministers to more than 4,000 people (men, women, and children) at their annual Thanksgiving meal. The Haven' anticipates an increase every year.
Not only do the volunteers work to meet the physical and nutritional needs of the those who come to them, they try to reach them on a reverent level as well. This is a means of helping them mentally, giving them hope and a means of offloading some of the burdens they carry.
"Every soul saved, every meal served, every night of safe shelter, every shut-in and vet helped, every home supplied with a generous food box, power, water, clothing or furniture is a victory for the Kingdom of God!" - Grant H. Rockley, Pastor and CEO - Haven of Mercy Ministries
There are other agencies besides the Haven of Mercy' who cater to the homeless and less fortunate in Johnson City. They too have similar tales of the numbers they feed, nurture, and support. These include:
- The Haven of Mercy - Millard Street
- Interfaith Hospitality Network - Fairview Avenue
- The Salvation Army - Ashe Street
- The River - Main Street
Meals can also be found at:
- Melting Pot, Munsey United Methodist Church - East Market Street
- Salvation Army - Ashe Street
According to HUD (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), homeless numbered in excess of 7,200 across the state of Tennessee (January 2020). That's 1.25% of the state's total population. Compared with our surrounding (border) states, that percentage is higher than all but North Carolina (1.6%), and Georgia (1.77%).
How to help in our community
Many people ask how they can personally help the homeless population in their community. The Right to Shower lists seven practical ways you can help people experiencing homelessness.
- Promote local homeless shelters
Find out who's doing the ground work with the homeless population in the community. Familiarize yourself with the names, locations, and any special populations they serve. Make small cards with their contact information, address, and offer them to any people you meet who are living without shelter.
- Donate clothes (socks)
Shelters always need a constant supply of new and gently used clothing, personal hygiene items, and sock. Take it upon yourself to announce you are making a donation and volunteering to bring anyone else's items with you if they want to help out too.
Most homeless shelters are open to help and would welcome your help. Many have staff members who cultivate volunteer relationships. Be honest about what can do, whether it’s a time thing, event, or pulling a regular shift at their shelter.
Social media and crowd-funding have revolutionized the way we can help one another. Do not be afraid to use your social media circles to facilitate fundraisers online, or in-person events (bake sales, rummage sales, etc.). You may even want to get your school or company involved.
- Research your local candidates
Delve into politics and see what each candidate or politician's stance is on the homeless. City and county policies have a direct impact on funding, services, and management of homeless camps. Have any candidates or officials thought about funding increases for homeless services, or affordable housing options? Look to the platforms of their campaign and align yourself with someone who echoes your values.
- Participate in your city’s Point-in-Time count
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds networks of homeless-serving agencies (called “continuums of care” or CoCs) in many cities. CoCs are required to conduct annual or biennial Point-in-Time Counts, where volunteer teams spread out across the city and perform a head count of homeless individuals. That number then becomes an essential data point as HUD decided future funding levels.
Remember youth homelessness
Unaccompanied teens experience homelessness much differently than adults do, and a different network of services addresses their specific needs. Take the time to learn about the youth shelters and homeless-services organizations in your region, and see what kinds of donations and volunteer efforts they need as well.
For more information on the homeless situation in your community and to find services, or ways you too can help. Contact the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness. They have an office at 409 West Walnut Street in Johnson City, Tennessee.