Featured in The Commercial Appeal
By Sally Jones Heinz
Memphis Inter-Faith Association's inaugural "Our City, Our Story" event will give the community a change to discover the daily reality of the homeless.
According to the 2018 local Point in Time report, the most recent comprehensive census of all persons experiencing homelessness at a given point in time, there were 1,226 homeless individuals in Memphis and Shelby County. 92% were sleeping in emergency shelter or transitional housing facilities and the remaining 8% were found in places not meant for human habitation.
The 2019 report is slated for release in October.
From 2012 to 2018, Memphis-area homeless decreased by 41%. While that decline is encouraging, there’s still work be done in our efforts to eradicate homelessness.
We hear daily news about the homeless, and often see homeless individuals living unsheltered, on the street and elsewhere. It’s a formidable challenge for most of us to understand what a homeless individual or family’s life is like.
Creating a path to understanding
Memphis Inter-Faith Association is offering our community an opportunity to explore the realities of homelessness in a new annual event called "Our City, Our Story." It’s based on the values of MIFA’s founders and the issues addressed by our programs.
This year’s focus on homelessness is in context with MIFA’s work of providing basic services to prevent homelessness and encourage independence. Our programs include emergency shelter placement, rapid rehousing for homeless families as well as utility, rent and mortgage assistance to keep people housed and out of the cycle of homelessness.
Two groundbreaking events will shine a light on personal and community responses to chronic homelessness through the journey of advocate and award-winning author Kathy Izard and her inspiring memoir “The Hundred Story Home,” which chronicles her efforts to build permanent housing for the homeless in her hometown of Charlotte, NC.
More ways to get involved
A free public forum called Homelessness Here and Now is slated for September 10 at 6 p.m. at Second Baptist Church, 4680 Walnut Grove Rd.
It will offer insights on the challenges, causes and solutions to homelessness with a panel including Izard and the following local experts: Reverend Lisa Anderson, Executive Director of Room in the Inn Memphis; Chere Bradshaw, Executive Director of Memphis and Shelby County Alliance for the Homeless; Linda Mosley, client in MIFA’s Rapid Rehousing program, which helps homeless families obtain permanent stable housing and Paul A. Young, Director of City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development. Dr. Stephen Cook, Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church, will serve as moderator.
On September 11 at noon, MIFA will host the "Do Good, Love Well" luncheon at Holiday Inn University of Memphis. Here Izard will share her practical accomplishments and her inspiring journey of transformation that began with a challenging question, “Where are the beds?” and ended with over 100 formerly homeless people living in homes of their own.
While in Memphis, Izard will visit public and private elementary schools to read and discuss “A Good Night for Mr. Coleman,” her illustrated book for ages six to 12, based on the true story of Eugene Coleman, who was homeless for over 20 years in Charlotte, and a young girl determined to help him.
Hopefully, these significant events will deepen our understanding of homelessness and strengthen our belief that homelessness is a solvable issue by presenting transformational possibilities for our community.
Sally Jones Heinz, a native Memphian, is president & CEO of MIFA, a 51-year-old nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the independence of vulnerable seniors and families in crisis through high-impact programs.