Winter Weather at Memphis Union Mission
With icy precipitation and plummeting temperatures, more people are coming through Memphis Union Mission's doors in need of safe, warm shelter.
On Monday night, for example, the Mission provided safe shelter for 421 men, women and children across its six facilities.
The Mission has enacted its cold weather policy to make sure that no man in need of safe shelter is left out in the cold.
“When we have extreme weather, we enact the same plan we always have so that no man in need of shelter is turned away,” said Scott Bjork, president & CEO. “We pay close attention to the weather forecast throughout the year so that we don’t get caught off guard.”
When temperatures drop to 32 degrees or colder, the Mission takes steps to make sure no homeless man is left out in the cold, including:
- Allowing any man to stay overnight free of charge
- Starting the check-in process earlier in the day to encourage overnight guests to stay off the streets
- Not turning away any men in need of shelter, even if they have previously exhibited behavioral problems
Cold weather can put pressure on Memphis Union Mission’s staff and resources, and the number of people seeking help has increased in recent years.
However, the ministry is prepared for winter weather and can comfortably accommodate the extra inflow of guests through two facilities that are allocated to provide emergency services for homeless men:
- The Men’s Emergency Shelter, located at 383 Poplar Ave.
- The Opportunity Center, located at 600 Poplar Ave.
The Men’s Emergency Shelter has, with beds and sleeping mats, a total overflow capacity of 214. The Opportunity Center has, with beds and sleeping mats, a total overflow capacity of 150.
The combined overflow capacity of both facilities is 364, which is more than enough space to meet the present demands put on the Mission during
“We haven’t had to turn anyone away for capacity reasons,” said Bjork. “And with the recent addition of the Opportunity Center, we can now accommodate everyone much more comfortably.”
Memphis Union Mission provides a variety of services beyond just emergency services like food, shelter, hygiene and clothing. These include:
- A long-term residential recovery program for men
- Transitional housing for men
- A safe house and long-term recovery program for women and
- Transitional housing for homeless families
In fact, the Mission operates six separate facilities across the Memphis area. So the total capacity of all facilities, including overflow, is 496.
“We’re blessed to able to do what we do, because for us it’s about more than just providing someone with a hot plate of food and a warm bed,” said Bjork. “It’s ultimately about rebuilding lives, and we begin that process by ministering to the immediate emergency needs of our guests.”
People in the community who wish to help during cold weather can do so by donating winter-related items, including:
- Men’s coats
- Winter caps
These items can be dropped off anytime at 383 Poplar Ave.
Celebrate Recovery Meets Weekly
If you are a man in need of encouragement in your struggle with addiction, or if you are a graduate of Memphis Union Mission’s Iron-On-Iron program, you are cordially invited to join us every Thursday night for Celebrate Recovery at the Opportunity Center (600 Poplar Ave.).
Dinner will be served from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and we will meet from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.
We post the weekly curriculum on our Memphis Union Mission alumni Facebook page, so check in often.
We hope you can join us!
For more information, please contact Kenneth Ewalt at (901) 746-8902 ext. 1202.
Memphis Union Mission Serves Thanksgiving Banquet for the Homeless
Turkey. Dressing. Ham. Mashed potatoes. Green beans. Dessert.
No traditional Thanksgiving dinner is complete without them. And this Thanksgiving, hundreds of needy men, women, and children enjoyed all of that and more at Memphis Union Mission.
“As many people know, Thanksgiving is a big deal at Memphis Union Mission,” says Scott Bjork, president & CEO of Memphis Union Mission. “And we really try our best to show hospitality to our guests and make this a special time for them.”
Memphis Union Mission reached out to the homeless again this year by holding its annual Thanksgiving banquet for the homeless. The Mission provided three special Thanksgiving meals and fed over 700 meals.
This year’s meal included plenty of turkey, ham, dressing, green beans, desserts, and other items. And preparing for the banquet was made easier again this year thanks to Corky’s Barbecue, who smoked the turkeys for Memphis Union Mission for free.
Of course, local volunteers helped in a variety of ways. The day before the big meal, volunteers de-boned the turkeys and got them ready to serve. And at the banquet itself, over 100 men, women, and children from all over the area served the meals and decorated everything to make the event as festive and home-like as possible.
But for all the festivities, the event constitutes more than just a dinner.
“We’re ultimately in the business of rebuilding peoples’ lives,” says Bjork. “On any given day, we have over 100 men and women who are in recovery programs, and they’re typically introduced to those programs through events
So something as simple as a traditional Thanksgiving dinner can be a new beginning for someone on the streets.
Eagle Scout Project Gives Patio a Much-Needed Face Life
Since opening in 2002, Memphis Union Mission's Wright Transitional House has helped many formerly homeless men transitional back into the community.
The men reside at the facility after graduating from the Mission's long-term recovery program. And at various times, the men there have used an outdoor patio area on the east side of the building to grill out, play horseshoes, and fellowship.
But over the years, the patio area and the accompanying furnishings (including a picnic table and a bench) slowly fell into a state of disrepair.
That's where Jack Heathcott and Boy Scout Troop 55 come into the story.
Jack, with help from his fellow Scouts from Second Presbyterian Church, found out about the patio and decided to renovate it for his Eagle Scout project. After visiting the patio and assessing what needed to be done, he drew up a plan.
Then in mid-July Jack and the other Scouts from Troop 55 spent an entire Saturday clearing brush and old railroad ties out of the patio area. They also discarded the disrepaired picnic table and bench. Then, with lumber they purchased from Lowe's, they built a brand new picnic table and bench. And finally, they placed a green screen over the chain-link fence to give the men more privacy.
The final result is a renovated patio are that is functional and private -- not to mention the fact that it looks a lot nicer!
Thank you, Jack and Troop 55, for your time and hard work spent improving the quality of life for the men in our program! God bless you!
Thank You for Voting!
Memphis Union Mission is truly blessed with some wonderful ministry partners!
Through the faithful support of friends like you, the Mission was announced as a recipient of a $5,000 gift through First Tennessee Bank's 150 Days of Giving campaign.
First Tennessee Bank is celebrating their 150th anniversary by giving $5,000 a day to non-profits across the state. The gifts are distributed to non-profits based on how many votes they receive.
Our supporters jumped at the opportunity by voting for Memphis Union Mission on First Tennessee's 150 Days of Giving site. And on April 11, First Tennessee announced that the Mission was the 17th organization to win one of the grants.
We wish to thank First Tennessee Bank for coming up with such a creative way of investing in the local non-profit community. We especially want to thank you for your support -- and for your votes! You are a blessing to so many people here our community. God bless you!
Mission Sees Increase in Number of Individuals Served During Point in Time Count
A little over a year ago, after experiencing extended unemployment, Steve Tines ended up homeless.
“I was out of work so long, I got behind on my rent,” Tines said. “I had to sell my trailer. After that, I didn’t have anywhere to live.”
Tines approached a local church, which helped him for a while and eventually referred him to Memphis Union Mission.
Tines is one of the hundreds of individuals included in the numbers that Memphis Union Mission turned in to the Community Alliance for the Homeless in for the annual point in time count.
As a privately-funded ministry, Memphis Union Mission voluntarily participates in the count, which measures the homeless population each January.
During this year’s point in time count, the Mission counted 423 individuals who were served through its ministry, including its overnight shelter and residential recovery programs.
That’s a 12.8 percent increase over last year, when the Mission reported 375 individuals that were served through its ministries.
That point in time increase correlates with an 8.3 percent increase in the number of individuals served at Memphis Union Mission during December 2013 versus December 2012.
The Mission is thankful for the donors and volunteers who make it possible to serve more individuals in the midst of a difficult economy.
“This is a reflection of the kindness and compassion of our city, that a privately funded organization like the Mission is able to serve these people,” said Scott Bjork, Memphis Union Mission president & CEO. “We appreciate all the many caring people who give financially, who bring us blankets and food and other items every day, and who donate their time.”
For more information, please contact Steve Carpenter at (901) 526-8403, ext. 2009.
Extreme Makeover: Moriah House Edition
At Moriah House, each woman has her own room (either by herself or with her children). But over the years some of the residents’ rooms experienced some wear and tear and were in need of an overhaul.
Enter Diane Daniel, Grace Evan member and faithful volunteer at Moriah House. One day, as she and Moriah House director Beverly Thomas discussed the condition of the rooms, Beverly asked if the rooms might be a project that Diane’s MIT volunteers would consider tackling.
Diane was in a good position to help as a leader of a Ministry Initiative Team (MIT) at Grace Evan. The MIT program is one in which the church encourages its members to form teams to reach out and minister in the community, and each team is given a budget to use for various projects.
Diane’s team, known as H2O, focuses their energy on ministering to the women at Moriah House and the men at Calvary Colony. For the Moriah House room makeover, the team asked the church for a special budget for new new bedding, drapes, bathroom accessories, and room decor.
“We did not have a budget for furniture, but we did tell the teams they could seek donations of any furniture needed,” said Diane. “It was awesome to see chairs, desks, couches and so forth donated.”
The 16 teams of volunteers (with six to 10 volunteers per team) introduced the program to the residents at Moriah House in a fun way.
“We had a kickoff event in May,” said Diane. “We had a pizza night, and the women met with the residents to learn what things they liked, whether it was butterflies, flowers, or whatever.”
The next step was for the volunteers to go into the rooms to deep clean them and remove any clutter. Then the teams took the money allocated for the project, along with the residents’ wish lists, and went shopping.
Finally, the day came in July for the makeover.
“The residents chose to sit in the lobby and not see the rooms getting decorated, and then come in after it was done,” said Diane. “It was a lot of fun.”
The MIT volunteers had beautifully redecorated all of the residential rooms in a way that was tailored to each resident. The volunteers also redecorated the children’s play room.
Not surprisingly, the response from residents was very positive.
“Each lady loved her room,” said Diane. “And since then, the women have come up to us after Bible studies and said, ‘I love all of the rooms, but mine is my favorite’ because it was done just for them.”
“It was a fun missions project.”
Please join us in thanking the volunteers from the H2O Ministry Initiative Team and Grace Evan for doing something so special for the women and children at Moriah House!
Volunteer Delivers the Goods
Six years ago, after Andy Quaranta lost his job, he was faced a dilemma regarding his charitable giving.
Andy, a Midtown resident and a member of Bellevue Baptist Church, had been giving a portion of his income to Memphis Union Mission, and wanted to continue supporting the ministry. But finding himself unemployed with no regular income, he knew that giving at the same level as before would be nearly impossible.
But one day, while visiting a local Starbucks, something caught his attention.
“I was going to one Starbucks because I didn’t know what else to do,” Andy said. “And I saw a need with the bread and the other food that was being thrown away.”
Seeing the need, Andy asked the Starbucks if they would be willing to donate the leftover food to Memphis Union Mission. They consented as long as Andy would agree to pick up the bread on a frequent basis.
Andy agreed, thinking that this was a way he could continue to help the Mission. And from there, his own personal ministry, Manna from Heaven, began.
Today, Andy picks up the food on a daily and nightly basis from local area Starbucks coffee shops and Panera Bread stores with whom he has negotiated and contracted. Driving all over the city in his red Ford Explorer, picking up the food, delivering it to Memphis Union Mission, and filling out the required paper work keep him busy full time.
In a short period of time, the donated food’s value really adds up.
"About $3,000 a week comes in on average,” Andy said. “In the six years I’ve been doing this, over $777,000 worth of food has been donated.”
The food’s value doesn’t escape the notice of the Mission’s clients, either.
"Often, as I’m taking the food into the Mission, the guys will say, ‘Wow, I could never afford to eat at Starbucks or Panera, and now we’re having it,’” Andy said.
The food pickups aren’t the only way in which Andy is involved in serving people in need. Each Saturday, he drives to Memphis Union Mission’s Calvary Colony facility to meet with a small group of men who are enrolled in the Mission’s recovery program.
He leads a Bible study with the men and helps them grow in their walk with the Lord. And once the men in his group graduate and move on, Andy continues to stay in contact with the men to encourage them.
For Andy, whether it’s ministering to the men in recovery or dropping off food, it’s ultimately about serving others in Christ’s name.
“The Bible says, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mind, you did for me’” Andy said. “And when I lay my head down at night, I can do so knowing that I was able to feed someone who was hungry.”
We certainly appreciate everything Andy does for the men we serve, and that is why he was our July Volunteer of the Month. Please join us in thanking him for his hard work, commitment, and faithfulness!
Note: Andy operates Manna from Heaven out of his own pocket; if you are interested in helping him, you can contact him at (901) 212-3029 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U of M Nursing Students Serve at Memphis Union Mission
Every few weeks, the lobby of Memphis Union Mission's Emergency Shelter at 383 Poplar Ave. is aswarm with people donning blue and white coats.
The coats are worn by students and faculty from the University of Memphis School of Nursing, who are enrolled in the school's community health class.
Students enrolled in the class get practical experience in community health through various community service projects, and Memphis Union Mission is one of the places that they visit on a regular basis.
Joy Ellen Hoffman is a clinical assistant proffessor at the nursing school and is part of the team that organizes the trips to Memphis Union Mission.
"When I bring them down here, they are terrified," says Hoffman. "Many have never been to a place like this and don't know what to expect."
But after the visits, students are often pleasantly surprised about their visit to the Mission and their encounter with the homeless guests there.
"They comment about how clean everything was and how nice the men were," says Hoffman. "It really takes away their fears about serving the homeless community."
It's a partnership that has lasted for several years, with students providing services like blood pressure and eye screenings and serving lunch.
On their most recent visit on November 11, the students did a foot clinic. They cleaned guest's feet and helped treat them for basic problems like athletes foot, toenail fungus, corns, and calluses. They also provided referrals for guests with more severe foot problems.
Please join us in thanking the faculty and students from the U of M School of Nursing for their long-standing partnership and for helping Memphis Union Mission to provide comprehensive outreach to our homeless guests!
Local Barbering Program Provides Grooming at Mission
If you were to walk into our Opportunity Center on any Wednesday morning, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had accidentally walked into a barber college.
Every Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., the Tennessee Technology Center’s barbering program sets up shop at the Mission’s facility at 600 Poplar Ave. to provide free haircuts to anyone in need.
The free haircuts are part of a long-standing partnership between the school and Memphis Union Mission, one that began in 1999.
“The program itself began as part of the Convoy of Hope,” said Ernestine Peete, senior barber instructor. “A bunch of churches got together to make a difference, and we were asked to help by providing the haircuts.”
At about the same time, some students at the school were having a difficult time completing their course work because they didn’t have enough clients.
Ernestine suggested that they walk along Poplar Avenue seeking clients. As the word got out, lines of people would form outside the school’s doors at 5 a.m.
“That was overwhelming,” said Peete. So she talked with Memphis Union Mission and other local homeless service providers about setting up a remote barber shop at their locations.
At first, the school set up shop every other week at Memphis Union Mission’s shelter at 383 Poplar Ave. But now that the Mission has opened up the new Opportunity Center, and has more room in which to work, the school sets up shop there every Wednesday to provide the free haircuts.
For the school and for Memphis Union Mission, the partnership has been mutually beneficial by providing practical training for students and a real ministry opportunity for the Mission.
“It’s a win-win for everyone; it’s now a part of our curriculum,” says Peete. “We’re helping the community and the community is helping us.”
Moreover, several Memphis Union Mission program clients have gone through the school’s barbering program.
“We look at the Mission as if they’re family,” she said.
Please join us in thanking Ernestine and her students at Tennessee Technology Center for providing such a meaningful service to our guests!