What Happens After Moving Into Housing? 




By Te’Aira Tucker, Retention Coordinator

Greetings Friends!

 As many of you know, at Open Table Nashville it is a celebration when one of our long time friends finally moves into a home! It’s a new chapter in their lives! It’s a wonderful and exhilarating feeling when our immediate concern is assisting them with getting furniture and settled into their home. Our friends are no longer shivering and quivering in the biting cold or suffering from heat stroke in Nashville’s glaring sun. You might think that struggles have come to an end after someone moves into housing, but sadly it’s not the case.

The initial excitement of moving into housing starts to fade when bills pile up and money comes up short. The system of poverty still exists and it sets up small obstacles to trap people into a cycle of uncertainty and fear of losing their home. There are many factors our friends face that come into play as a result of the system. For example, a person making $13 over the poverty line, makes too much to qualify for Government food assistance (SNAP), but they don’t make enough to pay for their high electric bill. Or, if a person unexpectedly gets laid off, is not receiving unemployment benefits, and is terrified at the possibility of living in their car again—they are out daily hunting for a job.

I am sure many of us experienced a time when we were behind on one bill payment and it become hard to catch up on it. Who did you turn to when you needed financial advice or to express your frustration that your electric bill was high this past winter compare to last year? For me, I often turn to my mom and sister. Others turn to their partner, friends, or maybe you don’t share your business with others. Likewise, our friends are the same. Some call us to express their frustration, but many others don’t share until someone calls to check on their well being and asks about their rent or electric bill—That’s when the flood gates opens. All the anxiety and fear rolls off of them as they talk about what’s going on in their lives.

It is a crippling overbearing pressure on your chest when you don’t have a job, can’t pay rent, your landlord wants you out, you don’t have enough food in your home, and your electric will be soon cut off. You don’t know what to do or who to turn to. During that difficult time, you may need someone to simply let you pour out all of your emotions without judgement, to be supportive and have a listening heart, and yes maybe even get you out of this situation.

As Open Table Nashville’s Retention Coordinator, I journey with our friends at this new chapter in their lives. We celebrate when a rent or electric bill is paid or when they purchase a phone to setup email and Facebook accounts to reach out to their family members. These milestones are worth being celebrated.

Now, understand I am not the fixer but rather an ally of support that try to safeguard their housing. I brainstorm with friends on a plan to prevent them from losing their homes, arrange for them have nutritious food, work with them to find employment, and provide emotional support to those who are overwhelmed by their situation.

It is honestly a scary feeling when your electric is cut off. It is overwhelming when you get a 30-day eviction notice and only have a specific amount of time to find a place. It is stressful when you can pay electricity and rent but won’t have enough money left to buy food for yourself.

At those moments, our friends may feel alone in their homes. But they are not alone.

We, at Open Table Nashville, work hard to keep people in their homes. Some people may consider the streets again because they are fearful, angry, and devastated at their housing situation even though they know the streets weren’t safe for them and they remember that they fought for months and even years for this home. They are grateful but their situation is incredibly stressful that they see no way out of it. In these circumstances, I often remind our friends that we are there with them and we will continue to walk together with them on their journey to housing stability.

And now, I welcome you to share your compassion and have an open mind to our friend’s new chapter in life. There are times when it seems there is no hope in sight in those cloudy days but we will push through it and find rays of sunlight. 

There is always hope.

Trauma-informed, Relational Approach

By Georgia Hiatt, Intern

Two weeks ago I pulled the overnight shift at one of our resource shelters. I am happy to pull my weight, and I volunteered to do so. Still, I did not particularly want to. I was anxious that I would not sleep well. I often have trouble falling asleep and knew it would be difficult in an unfamiliar environment. I looked forward to getting to better know some of our friends, but I was still nervous about making small-talk. Crowds can overwhelm me at times, even with the skills I have developed for living with anxiety. Some of our friends have told me they avoid shelters for these same reasons.

Even with my anxiety about the night, I knew I would be okay because it was not my first night sleeping in a shelter and anxiety has not killed me yet. Also, I was able to feel safe, despite my anxieties, because I trust my friends at Open Table Nashville. I knew if I needed to leave, the staff would have supported me in that. It’s exactly this trauma-informed and relational approach that attracted me to Open Table Nashville in the first place.

I went out canvassing one-night last winter and was floored. Open Table Nashville seemed to have mapped out all the camps in the city, and the outreach worker I was paired with appeared to know every one of our friends on the street. I thought about my life and the healing I’ve received through the cultivation of healthy bonds and supportive relationships. I knew Open Table Nashville would be a place where I could nurture my own abilities to be that kind of friend because relationship building is an integral part of the OTN mission. For our friends experiencing homelessness that trust could mean the difference between life and death.

None of us are immune to the life circumstances that can preclude homelessness. Some of us have the resources to avoid it. All of us are capable of cultivating a culture of restoration and disrupting cycles of poverty, trauma, and oppression.

To This I Am Called

By Kim Grant, Street Chaplain in Externship

The warm an inviting aromas of hash brown casserole, cinnamon rolls, and strong hot coffee permeated the morning stillness, and gave a sense of how things ought to be on a cold winter’s morning. Those wonderful smells belied the fact that we were in the old Methodist Church turned into a winter shelter, a respite from the bitter cold, but definitely how things ought not to be. The old church offered a workable kitchen to prepare hot meals for our friends experiencing homelessness on these unbearable nights, and a hot breakfast before returning our friends to the reality that is life on the street. Folks were fed last night and loved as best we could. I looked into the tired eyes and my heart melted, as person after person came through the food line with a full plate and gratitude on their lips. One dear lady was shivering so badly, she was unable to hold her coffee cup. I wrapped my hands around hers as I poured her coffee. She was entirely grateful simply for a cup of hot coffee, let alone a good meal, and a mattress on the floor of the gym. It had been bitter, snowy and wet the previous three days and we received forty-eight friends experiencing homelessness into the shelter that night. Dinner was basic, although the corn bread was a particular hit! To a person the attitude was one of sincere appreciation and thanks for our efforts. Is it not the very least we can do, to offer a hot meal and shelter from the cold to our most marginalized fellow human beings?

After everyone had eaten, they settled in for the night. This shelter had decent bathrooms for everyone, and many washed up as best they could. We cleaned the kitchen and the food crew left around 10:30 to make our way home, as others stayed on for the night as innkeepers. The ride home offered time to process what I had just experienced, certainly one of the most life-changing nights of my life. I knew homelessness and hunger as a seventeen-year-old, having told my parents I was gay and leaving, never to return. It wasn’t prolonged homelessness though, just a few weeks, a short stint caused by a mixture of my rebelliousness and my parent’s lack of love. This was very different. Earlier in the evening I sat with several people as they ate, engaging them and acknowledging their humanity, our humanity. My heart is crushed, and blessed, and challenged to never look away again.

 
Awakening very early, I left the warmth of hearth and home with a full stomach, in the heat of my SUV, with a cup of coffee, and made my way back to the old church turned winter emergency shelter, to prepare breakfast. The coffee pots were alive with activity as the first order of business and priority. Our friends sheltered overnight would awaken soon with the flick of a switch, the harsh gym lighting transforming utter darkness into bright florescence, signaling morning. The ovens contained pans of hash brown casserole and other egg dishes, perfuming the kitchen and seeping under the still-closed door to the sleeping area. As the overnight staff began rousing the sheltered ones, I began to set up the hot food table. Breakfast and lots of hot coffee were welcomed by all, more than the reality that another day of life on the cold streets awaited them. We prepared brown bag lunches for our friends to take as well. Before long the last of our friends were shrouding themselves in layer upon layer of clothing and heading out into the paralyzing cold. My ride home was quiet, no radio or music as it seemed indulgent.

It took me a few days to process what I experienced, to make sense of the senseless. The dual nature of the experience continues to haunt me. On one hand there is such total need and lack of resources. Yet I feel a great sense of hope and purpose, having prayed for the opportunity to use my cooking skills to make a difference in people’s lives. I have cooked extravagant meals for wealthy clients, over the top fundraisers for professional theatre companies, multi course dinners for friends, and many gluttonous holiday meals around the table. Cooking a simple meal for our friends experiencing homelessness has outdone them all, and is the fulfillment of my heart’s desire to serve others. The sense of fulfillment in knowing that I am doing the work, the good work, for which I am uniquely gifted, overwhelms me, producing a deep sense of hope and gratitude. The warm and inviting aromas of hash brown casserole and strong coffee will forever signify one of the most blessed experiences of my life, for to this I am called.

2017 In Review

Dear Open Table Nashville Family,

It’s hard to believe 2017 is almost over. Here’s just a little bit of what we’ve been up to this year:

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That’s right. Thanks to you and your support, 71 people who didn’t have housing at the beginning of this year now have a warm place of their own to lay their head at night.

But there’s still a long ways to go. Affordable housing is scarcer than ever in the “It City.” The cost of living is going up, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. Although we’ve accomplished so much in 2017, we still have much work to do in 2018 and in the years to come. We are SO THANKFUL for you and all of your support, be it emotional, spiritual, practical or financial.

We’re looking forward to another year of disrupting cycles of poverty, journeying the marginalized, and providing education about issues of homelessness. We hope you’ll join us.

Please make a year-end gift so that together we can work towards permanent sustainable homes for all our friends in 2018.

Donate Now

 
 
 
 
Sincerely,

The OTN Team

 

 

 

Homeless and Shivering God

The following is the benediction written by Lindsey Krinks that was given at the 2017 Annual Homeless Memorial in downtown Nashville at Riverfront Park on December 16, 2017, where we remembered 118 homeless and formerly homeless lives lost during this calendar year.

Homeless and shivering God,
God who weeps with us,
God whose spirit stirs the deep,
God by all the names we know you,

Stir our spirits now. Give us strength, comfort, and courage as we face a new day, a new year, without these friends and loved ones by our side. May the spirits of our friends rest in peace in their new home where suffering is no more. And be with us as we go forward. 

CLERGY: With the names of the dead on our lips and the memories of our friends in our hearts,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With lives forever changed by those who have gone before us, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With deep gratitude for friendship, community, and all those gathered around us today,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With hearts broken for those who don’t survive the living hell of the streets,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the secret sorrows we carry in our bones; with all the losses and grief,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the terrible knowledge of what happens to bodies that are denied health care and housing,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the mysterious hope that death does not have the final say,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the great cloud of witnesses hovering over us,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to more daringly and lovingly embrace our neighbors, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to more compassionately tend the wounded in our midst, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to more courageously transform the broken systems in our city and world, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to use our voices, our time, our energy, our networks, our resources, and whatever political capital we have to create a Nashville that is more equitable and just,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the vision of world where everyone has housing, healthcare, and hope, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: And with the dangerous belief that creating that world is possible,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: Go now to be the hands and feet of change, the blooming of a new and better world.

Go now to embody the Beloved Community—the kin-dom of God—in there here and now.

Go now to re-member all who have been dis-membered in our society.

Go now in gentleness and fierceness to comfort all who are afflicted and to afflict all who are too comfortable.

Go now in disruptive love that brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.

Go now, with the hot flames of hope in your hearts, letting your light shine into every crevice of darkness and injustice in this world.

Alone our lights flicker. Together we blaze.

Amen.

A Home for the Holidays

Home means different things to different people, but at its core, home is that place we land at the end of the day that supports us, provides us safety and shelter, and gives us a place to belong. Particularly during the holidays — there’s no place like home. It has been our joy to watch the power of “home” transform the lives of so many of our friends this year.

Lauren met Brian in the spring of 2015 when he unnamedknocked on her door one Saturday afternoon. He had been bouncing between shelters and boarding houses for several years, struggling with addiction and a disability. Together they worked through several barriers to get him approved for a housing voucher, but just when he was on the edge of moving into a new apartment, he was arrested on an old warrant he didn’t know about while visiting family out of town for the holidays. He was pressured to take a plea bargain and spent several months in jail. When he got out, they had to start the housing process again at square one, but Brian put in the hard work to turn his life around. This January will mark his one-year anniversary at home. He has been a model tenant and one of our most dedicated volunteers. “I’m so glad I met Open Table Nashville,” Brian says, “We’re like family. I’m glad to be in my home now and staying out of trouble. Without my friends there, I don’t know where I’d be. God has been good to send them into my life.”

When Lindsey met Jerry, he was staying in a tent in the woods and was in and out of the hospital nearly every week with severe health problems. He was 67 years old, had been on the streets since 1986, and desperately needed someone to help him find a home. Lindsey helped him get his documents and fill out housing applications and after several denials from landlords, Jerry was finally approved to move into an apartment in South Nashville. He has been home for over a year, has reconnected with his daughter and family members, has a nurse who comes every week, and donates monthly to two nonprofits. “It’s been a miracle,” Jerry says. “If it wasn’t for God and Open Table Nashville, I wouldn’t have a home. I’m so happy here, it’s a much better life. To have a place that my family can visit is a beautiful thing. I thank God every day.”

unnamed-1In June, Becca received a call from Allison who was looking for a home for herself and her one-year-old daughter Juliette. Allison had overcome an addiction and was working hard to provide stability for her daughter. Due to the high cost of housing in Nashville and Allison’s limited income as a single mom trying to both work and care for her daughter, housing in Nashville seemed hopeless and unattainable. Becca got creative in her search for housing and was able to find an affordable sustainable option for Allison in Portland, TN (thankfully Allison has a car!). Drawing on OTN’s strong community partnerships, Becca referred Allison to financial supports covering part of her move-in costs; thanks to our community donors who support our work, Open Table Nashville was able to pay the remaining move-in costs – Allison’s last hurdle to getting into a home. In July, Allison and baby Juliette moved into their very own apartment, where they still reside today! Allison had no belongings when she moved in, but received a Welcome Home kit from us to make her new apartment feel like home. We are so happy for Allison and Juliette, and so grateful for the community collaborations that enabled us to offer her the support she needed to be in her own home and provide Juliette with the stability and security that every mother wishes for her child.

Thankfully, our friends Brian, Jerry, Allison, & baby Juliette have homes now.

Please make a year-end gift so that together we can work towards permanent sustainable homes for all our friends – a home for the holidays . . . and all the days.

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We are ever grateful for you and the many ways you support us!
 
 
Your Open Table Nashville Family,

 
 

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