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Guest column: How supporting shoes for the homeless led to supporting shelter for the homeless

By Phyllis Scruggs and David Scruggs, Guest Columnist

Published: July 16, 2022, 4:00 AM CT

Last month, The Daily Memphian shared an uplifting story about an initiative to distribute shoes to the homeless (“If the shoe fits: Homeless get right-size footwear thanks to thoughtful plan”)

This good work was made possible through a partnership among Community Alliance for the Homeless, Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), Room in the Inn, and other congregations and community partners working on the ground in Memphis. And we former Memphians like to believe we played a part in it too, from our home in Colorado.

In 1994, we partnered with MIFA to establish the Raiford Memorial Shoe Fund in memory of my father, Phillip Raiford, whose tradition was to help those without new shoes on Christmas Eve. He freely supplied shoes from our family business, Raiford’s Shoes, and personally fitted each pair for every child who attended the holiday event sponsored by the Memphis Police.

During his lifetime, my father provided thousands of pairs of shoes to children in need. His legacy has continued at MIFA to reach thousands more.

Over the years, we have adjusted the outreach needs of the fund to reflect the changing needs of the community, including changing the name of the fund itself to Raiford Memorial Shoe+Shelter.

Memphis and Shelby County lack sufficient shelter beds to house all those in need; MIFA began several years ago to place families in hotels and motels when they needed immediate shelter. But a shortage of safe, affordable housing for families to move into means those motel stays are getting longer —often up to 60 days — when what these parents and their children need most is the stability of a home.

In December, with support from our fund, MIFA purchased 474 pairs of shoes and distributed them to families in their emergency shelter program and to homeless individuals at Room in the Inn. A portion went to Community Alliance for the Homeless to provide more shoes through their program.

We are proud to continue our family’s tradition of serving Memphians in their time of need and proud to continue supporting MIFA after 28 years. Thanks to all the people working through these agencies to serve their neighbors in increasingly tough times. Memphis is lucky to have you.

Posted by Hannah Walker at 10:32 AM
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