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Prove It Clarksville: Day Four: Lessons Learned

 

An exercise in homelessness.

Clarksville, TN – I got off to a good start this morning: I woke up, wrote a bit, and then caught the bus to my street corner for the day (at Madison Street and Memorial Drive).

I just had a thought: when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time standing in the corner, and now I’m standing on the corner. Some things just make you go hmm.

Well, you’ll be glad to know I didn’t have to buy a flashlight because two sweet ladies each brought me one—one is bigger, so I can use it in my camp, and the other is smaller and will fit in my backpack.

Vicki snapped this photo right before she left me at the bus stop cause she thought it was funny that my pack was so wide. (Vicki York)

Vicki snapped this photo right before she left me at the bus stop cause she thought it was funny that my pack was so wide. (Vicki York)

The food that came today was a little overwhelming—so many loving and caring people brought me water, unsweetened tea, lemonade, and too much food to even list; if I’d eaten it all someone would have had to haul me away in a wheelbarrow.

So I did what I do best—I gave it away to people who I knew needed it, and then at the end of the day, Vicki came by and took the rest to the Manna House so that none would go to waste.

I felt a lot of encouragement again today. We’re definitely building momentum with all the horn-honking and thumbs-upping. (And don’t tell my wife, but a lot of pretty girls waved at me.) I’m still getting lots of blank stares, so I need you to help me get the word about what we’re doing so people don’t think I’m just some arrogant guy who’s come up with a new panhandling gimmick and get their underwear in a bunch.

Three people gave me “homeless bags” today (plastic baggies with a toothbrush, socks, baby wipes, etc.)—how great is that? (I’ll pass on whatever I don’t use in the next 11 days to someone who needs them.) This note was inside one of the bags.

Three people gave me “homeless bags” today (plastic baggies with a toothbrush, socks, baby wipes, etc.)—how great is that? (I’ll pass on whatever I don’t use in the next 11 days to someone who needs them.) This note was inside one of the bags.

This evening was a little different; in fact, some of you might accuse me of “cheating” because after we loaded the stuff in Vicki’s car, she and I (in our matching yellow shirts) walked right down the street for a few minutes to the Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours.

(Actually, the real reason we went is because last month at the Chamber yearly Gala, they gave me the Community Commitment Award and I wanted to see if they were going to try to take it back with all the fuss I’m stirring up. Just for the record, they can’t have it—it’s mine, and I’m not giving it up, ha!)

Earlier, some Hilldale UMC kids had come by and invited me for supper with their Mission Week crew, so we stopped by and I sat at a real table in a real chair and had a burger. Then Vicki walked me to the bus stop. She went home, and I came back to camp. So this evening was different, but I guess I kind of needed a little break.

I’m learning a whole lot this week about how we do things at Manna Café. For instance, blankets are a year-round need; we usually think about them only in the winter—but folks, I got cold these last two nights. And because blankets are so bulky, they don’t fit into backpacks, and the homeless are constantly having to move, so blankets sometimes get left behind.

And sterno (the small cans of cooking fuel that caterers use for their chafing dishes that you can buy in the camping section) are also a year-round necessity.

Most homeless people don’t make fires because they don’t want to bring attention to their hidden camp, so sterno is a way to heat water for coffee in the morning or to warm food or warm the tent up if it’s chilly like it was this morning. But they don’t last very long, so at least one or two should go in every homeless kit, year-round.

Prove It ClarksvilleIt’s really hard to get around when you’re homeless, even if you have money for the bus because most bus stops don’t have anywhere to sit. Me and my gimpy leg (eight screws from a motorcycle incident a couple years back), standing all day—the last thing I want to do is stand some more to wait for the bus. And besides, there are a lot of disabled and elderly folks that ride the bus.

These are some things I would never have realized unless I’d walked in a homeless man’s shoes for a couple weeks. I wonder what I’ll learn tomorrow.

Until then … peace out.

One way you can “Prove It” that takes less than a minute: sign the petition to show your support of a full-time transitional homeless shelter:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/clarksville-city-council


About Kenny York

    Kenny York

    Kenny York is the founder of Manna Café Ministries,  a faith-based organization devoted to meeting the needs of homeless and low-income families in Montgomery County via hot meals, food boxes, and emergency shelter. In 2014, the organization distributed 1.3 million pounds of food to the hungry and provided beds for fifty-plus individuals via a warming shelter during the winter season.

    Web Site: http://www.mannacafeministries.com/
    Email: info@mannacafeministries.com

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