Tag Archives: homelessness

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight: Metropolitan Homelessness Commission

PHCIt’s a new year with new possibilities for anyone seeking employment. But before beginning the search, job seekers must have all their ducks in a row. This includes legal proof of identification, an appearance of good health and hygiene, showing the physical ability to follow through with job requirements, and, of course, confidence in acquiring the job. For the homeless population, these aren’t merely ducks… they are elephants. And reining them in without help or resources can prove to be a daunting task.

Volunteer to help guide the attendees on February 13.
Volunteer to help guide the Project Homeless Connect attendees on February 13.

Thank goodness for Nashville’s largest homeless service provider event, Project Homeless Connect. The Metropolitan Homelessness Commission is recruiting 500 volunteers to assist individuals and families in need at this important event, which takes place on Wednesday, February 13.

This is a one-day, one-stop event providing individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness, or on the brink of homelessness, with access to a broad range of services including housing and employment assistance, medical checkups, eye screenings, foot care, legal services, employment assistance, pet care, food, toiletries, and more. The goal of Project Homeless Connect is to remove barriers to housing and employment. This is a true collaborative effort in which more than 70 agencies and hundreds of volunteers come together to provide thousands of services to an expected 1,000 to 1,500 guests.

PHC2012With such a large event, your hands are certainly needed. Volunteer Vette Hughes, a Bank of America employee, said volunteering at Project Homeless Connect was a great experience for her. “The best part is to be able to help people. I love being able to give time. It has made me see that I can do more about homelessness. I am more aware – homeless people are just people like you and me. Everybody needs help sometime.”

Jason Vanover, of Reliant Bank, volunteered for the second year and said he felt like the day really made a difference to a lot of the guests. “Navigating the ID system is not an easy task. And having the right ID is the lynchpin for so many things. And the people are so appreciative.“

If you’re interested in getting involved, volunteers are needed to help with registration, crowd management, check out, guidance, setup/cleanup, and other duties. One of the main needs is for volunteer guides to pair up with the guests. As a volunteer guide, you will ensure that your assigned guest receives the proper services and respect as they navigate the event. Because so many people in our community come together and care, life is more navigable for our homeless population. You, in addition to the 500 other volunteers and 70 agencies, will help move Nashvillians who are experiencing homelessness one step forward. Read below and see how to be a part of this amazing day.

How to volunteer for Project Homeless Connect on Wednesday, February 13:
> Click here to see volunteer opportunities.
> View Project Homeless Connect’s Website.

Still have questions? Email Tojuana Jordan at Tojuana.Jordan@nashville.gov or call her at 615-880-2773.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight: The Contributor

“The Contributor has taken us out of poverty and we are now able to enjoy life.  Instead of being apart from society, we are a part of society, and it feels wonderful.” – A mother and daughter vendor team

The Contributor is so much more than a newspaper.

Copies of The Contributor ready for distribution at the newspaper release meeting! (Volunteers are needed to help with these twice monthly events!)

Since 2007, Nashville’s street newspaper has worked to restore dignity and hope to those experiencing homelessness and poverty. It creates a flexible source of income for homeless and formerly homeless individuals, sheds light on these issues in Nashville through its editorial content, and breaks down barriers of discrimination and judgment in our city. (Check out these profiles of Contributor vendors.)

“Amazing things happen when names are exchanged, eyes meet, hands shake – perceptions are altered and room for caring and community are created,” says Tasha French, executive director of The Contributor. “The Contributor hopes to continue breaking down barriers that further discrimination against those experiencing homelessness and poverty, and replacing them with an understanding of the human condition.”

Volunteers’ helping hands and willing smiles make a paper release meeting go smoothly.

What began as a simple idea more than five years ago has grown to become a life-changing opportunity for hundreds of homeless and formerly homeless individuals in Nashville. With the launch of the first issue of The Contributor in 2007, a handful of homeless and formerly homeless artists, writers, and outreach workers hoped the street newspaper would help a few folks struggling with poverty to earn some income. More than five years later, the paper has grown to be the highest-circulating street newspaper of its kind in North America at 100,000 copies per month, with about 400 active vendors each month, garnering national attention.

“We used to say during vendor training that this was not a way off the streets,” says French. “We have long stopped saying that because Nashville has graciously blessed this project.”

Vendors meet inside Downtown Presbyterian Church for a newspaper release meeting.

More than 35 percent of vendors who sell The Contributor secure housing via their income from sales of the newspaper. And they are building relationships with people all over Nashville, bridging the gap of division and misunderstanding. “I LOVE Mr. James,” one customer says of a vendor. “He just makes my day. I can come into work and not be having a good day, and when I pass by him on a corner he has a smile on his face and always gives me a huge smile and a wave. He is awesome… I think this man is loved by many and he doesn’t realize it.”

While The Contributor has experienced tremendous growth since its inception, it is still the little nonprofit that could. Run with a very small staff, the nonprofit heavily relies on volunteers to do everything from making deliveries and helping run the newspaper release vendor meeting, to day-to-day office operations. Two to four volunteers are needed on any given day.

A volunteer helps with stacking papers – such an important job!

What can you do to help support the uplifting work of this amazing organization?

> Volunteer for paper release meetings. Volunteers are needed to assist with unloading the paper bundles from the truck, stacking the papers inside the church, setting up for the meeting, and helping breakdown tables after the meeting. Releases happen on the second and last Wednesday of each month.

> Check out this opportunity to help with The Contributor street team TOMORROW (8/22).

> Complete this volunteer application if interested in ongoing volunteer opportunities.

> Learn more about The Contributor. 

Give a Smile, Get a Blessing: Volunteering at Room In The Inn

Guest post by Caroline Foley

“Girl, you could light up the world with that smile.  You always smile like that?” A homeless guest asked me.

“I can’t help it,” I said.  “Y’all make me laugh.”

A volunteer registers a guest for the Winter Shelter Program.
A volunteer registers a guest for the Winter Shelter Program.

I started volunteering for Room In The Inn’s winter shelter program a few months ago when, on a chilly November evening, I had met some friends for dinner at a local restaurant.  As we stood in the parking lot, shivering and saying our goodbyes, one friend commented, “I feel so bad for the people with no place to stay tonight.”

That statement stayed with me during my drive home.  I thought about Nashville’s homeless population and the dropping temperature.  I thought about being lucky enough to go home to a heater and a comfortable bed and wanting to help those who couldn’t.  I thought about Hands On Nashville’s motto: Be the Change.  Then, I thought about the 100+ people who would be sheltered that night thanks to Room In The Inn and their partner congregations.  The next day, I signed up to attend a volunteer orientation at Room In The Inn.

The atmosphere there is one of acceptance and friendship, and I look forward to volunteering with them on Tuesday evenings.  My usual assignment as a runner involves ensuring registered guests are transported to the correct congregation.  As another volunteer calls a list of names over the loudspeaker, I chat with guests as they assemble near the front entrance.  More often than not, they spend this time entertaining me with jokes and stories, which has quickly become my favorite part of the evening.

Church shuttles lined up to receive guests at Room in the Inn.
Church shuttles lined up to receive guests at Room in the Inn.

Last Tuesday, I called roll after I escorted a small group onto a church shuttle.  I called the first name, and he responded, “Here.”
I called the second name.
“Over here,” he said.
Then, I called the third name.
“God bless you, Caroline.”
I called the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh names, and they all answered with “Bless you, Caroline.”
When I called the final name, he smiled and said, “You have a blessed evening, young lady.”

I don’t know if I will ever be able to repay what they have given me, but I will continue to try.

 Browse volunteer opportunities with Room In The Inn here or visit their website, for even more ways to get involved.

CarolineCaroline Foley is a community volunteer and Program Manager at Hands On Nashville. A former Peace Corps Volunteer who served for 27 months in Romania, Caroline loves reading and spending time outdoors.