John Henry found himself homeless when he lost his job as a truck driver due to a suspended driver’s license and ended up inNashville, selling The Contributor at the corner of Hillsboro Road and Harding Place.
That’s where he met some of his regular clients who were parishioners of Covenant Presbyterian Church, which ended up becoming the first congregation to participate in the Adopt A Unit initiative.
“We kind of fell into the program,” Barry Gammons, a church member who also chairs The Key Alliance board of directors, said. “We came to know a now formerly homeless individual (John Henry) and as a church decided to help him. With my role in The Key Alliance, I was fortunate to have the resources at my finger tips to bring in the expertise of the staff to help us coordinate our efforts.”
Gammons said the Adopt A Unit program provides the church members an opportunity to see, first hand, the difficulties faced by a homeless individual moving into housing. Many members become more curious about how they can help, in constructive ways, to deal with issues other than just material possessions. Some members have even begun to seek out other ways to serve the homeless community as a result of their experience with this program.
“This program gives all of those who participate a chance to get involved to whatever extent they feel comfortable,” Gammons said. “For some, that may mean donating furnishings. For others, it may mean exploring more deeply the issue of homelessness and seeking out ways to bring their resources and talents to bear on the issue.”
Carolyn Grossley Cooper, housing coordinator with The Key Alliance, said the Adopt A Unit initiative, which is part of The Key Alliance’s Housing First program, is only possible through collaborations.
“The role of The Key Alliance is to help identify basic needs and offer guidance to a congregation so that as members step up to help a formerly homeless neighbor transition from street life into the Housing First program, they do not overwhelm themselves or the person they want to help,” Grossley Cooper said. “My role truly is to ensure that we define boundaries while meeting the needs of a person.”
John Henry is not only a vendor for The Contributor, he also regularly contributes articles toNashville’s only street paper. Mr. Henry says he has been embraced by church members who support him meet his goals of getting his license back and finding regular employment.
He said a person needs to be ready to receive the help and move ahead.
“You’ve got a lot of homeless people who have given up just because the way society treats them,” he said.
The Key Alliance’s coordination role helps congregations to identify a formerly homeless person who is willing and ready to do just what John Henry does – be ready to move ahead, one step at a time.