For most of us, the homeless population in our cities is unseen, quiet, taking a back seat to more pressing problems that show up in daily headlines – education, politics, health care. But in 1953, Dr. Charles Fuller, a gospel preacher leading a revival in Nashville saw too many homeless people in the city. He returned the honorarium he received for speaking and asked that it be used to establish a place where the homeless could seek shelter, food, and hope.
Nashville Rescue Mission was formed – seeing and serving homeless individuals from those early days to now, providing shelter today to more than 800 men, women, and children every single day of the year. More than 1,700 meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) are dished up daily in their kitchen. In addition to food and shelter, they offer "hope for today, hope for tomorrow, hope for eternity."
Hope for today is the keyword for emergency services when people need a bed, a shower, food, clothes. “Everyone who walks in the door sees a case manager who sits down with them and says, ‘what do you need? How did you get here?’” The Mission’s goal is to help people get back on their feet. “If they need a bus ticket to their sister in Oklahoma, we’ll verify, then get them the ticket. We have offices for mental health, neighborhood health, a dental clinic. A computer lab staffed with volunteers allows the guests to check email, apply for jobs, and build resumes. Disability advocates come once a week to run a clinic and help with paperwork. We help with transportation – really just about anything and everything,” says Carrie Siqueiros, Senior Director of Ministries. Thousands of volunteers assure that everything runs seamlessly every day of the year.
Overnight guests come in for dinner, a shower, and are assigned a bed in one of the large dormitories. Chapel services are at 7pm every evening, offering inspirational messages and music from people as diverse as famous local musicians to a small Sunday school group or individual pastor.
Guests who are struggling with mental health or addiction problems and need more help may apply for the Life Recovery Program, a seven month program offering “hope for tomorrow.” Siqueiros explains, “It involves classes all day, work, life coaches, how to budget, committing to your education if you didn’t finish it. We want to be sure people are really prepared to go through this, so they are carefully evaluated and must make a personal commitment to do the work.” The program is fully funded by donations, relieving those in recovery of the added burden of costly care.
Wes, a handsome man who is seven months clean today, conquered more than 20 years of addiction at the Mission. His downhill slide began with an injury and an opioid prescription. He went through round after round of 28 day treatments after losing his job, his family, his daughter. “they treat you and tell you you’re fine. But if you’re like I am, you’re not fine. . . I was in a cycle and I couldn’t get out of it.”
A childhood friend came to the Life Recovery Program at the Mission. “He’s the only person I ever knew who actually recovered, and after I heard he was here, I wanted to come here too. When I came here, I thought I was a failure. The counselors were so helpful, showing me scriptures and saying that yes, you’ve failed, but you’re not a failure. God tells us that through Him you can do anything. That’s where you begin to get confidence – through Him.” Carrie affirms, “Anybody can break the physical craving in 28 days, but the reconciliation part is what’s important.”
After years of shattered relationships, Wes is making a path back to his family. When he came to the Mission, his mother said, “I love you, but you have to go!” Seven months later, when he returned to visit her again, she said, “I love you, and I wish you could stay.” Wes sees God’s hand in this: “That just shows how good God is. He has restored us.”
Wes went through the entire program, earning his HSE (High School Equivalency Degree) and going through intensive counseling as he progressed on his recovery path. The 6 week job training program helped him build a resume, practice basic job skills, and learn to be more confident in the workplace. A computer lab ensures he has the tech skills critical in the modern workplace. Employers from the community come in and do mock interviews – and often hire those who have completed the program.
Wes was hired to work for Nashville Rescue Mission in their Operations division. “I’m so thankful to be here. It was placed on my heart to serve here because I was served. It has been an awesome thing, and smart also, just to keep me here where guys hold me accountable. It was smart for my continued recovery and also I can share in other’s recovery and share the hope that I was given here. And hopefully bring them along too.”
Not long ago, Wes reconnected with his 23-year old daughter who was graduating from college. “I went home for the graduation. I didn’t think I would get to talk to her, I was just going. But God through prayer and His faithfulness has brought us 180 degrees and now we are closer than we’ve ever been. And that was the first time she has seen me sober EVER.” Wes now understands the “hope for eternity” part of the Mission’s ministry.
Seeing Christ in every person, serving each individual with love and faithfulness, and offering hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity – the Nashville Rescue Mission is changing lives.
Learn more about the Nashville Rescue Mission here: https://nashvillerescuemission.org/