People are often surprised when I tell them that there are a significant number of homeless people right here in Williamson County.
I get why they are surprised. I think we all have stereotypes of what a homeless person looks like. Most of these stereotypes are uncomplimentary; we envision someone unkempt and often mentally unstable. We envision someone panhandling or someone taking the unwelcomed initiative of washing our car windows and then begging for payment.
But that isn’t a complete picture of what the homeless look like. Many are “hiding in plain sight.” How many? Hard to say, but we know they are all around us, because we frequently serve them at GraceWorks.
One person served at GraceWorks was a beautiful, neat, and well-kept woman named Sharon. No one would have guessed Sharon was homeless. Despite her circumstances, keeping up her appearance was a matter of personal pride for her. If you happened to meet Sharon on the street, you wouldn’t think twice about talking to her. Although she didn’t appear to be homeless, Sharon had been sleeping in her car for nearly a year before coming to us for help. Please click here to see beautiful Sharon and to hear her story in her own words.
Last November, the Franklin Home Page published the following about homelessness here:
“No sure count of the problem exists. The best estimate among the churches and non-profits dealing with it daily in Williamson County is anywhere from 100 to 300 families, not counting street people, at any given time.
“‘We see a great deal of homelessness and people on the verge of homelessness,” said Rae Boyd, neighbor services manager for GraceWorks Ministries. “Every day, we see many families asking for financial assistance so they will not become homeless. Every day we see many families sleeping in vehicles or under bridges here in Williamson County and many other terrible living environments.’”
Counting the number of homeless is difficult because there are different definitions. The government definition, which determines access to assistance programs, is a person without permanent housing who stays in an unstable or non-permanent situation.
Local homeless advocate Kevin Riggs, Franklin Community Church pastor and a GraceWorks board member, told the Franklin Home Page that he sees three types here.
“You have the transients, who are just getting from point A to B,” he said. “Then another group is people who moved here hoping for a better life but it didn’t work out. They are working minimum wage but living in their car, so they are stuck. Then you have couch surfers. They don’t have a place of their own, but they stay here, usually working.”
Our work is to help with the obvious and the not so obvious needs of our neighbors who come to us. Many homeless people in Williamson County hide the fact that they are homeless in order to fit in. But when they come to GraceWorks, they are ready to talk about it. The Neighbor Services staff and volunteers really listen to those who come for help. GraceWorks is the place where they no longer have to hide the fact that they are homeless or be ashamed about any other need they might have.
Your financial gifts, your in-kind donations, your volunteerism, your prayers are why we are able to offer comprehensive help to our neighbors. Your contributions support our services included the rent payment services, which allows us to keep or to get people housed.
Thank you for being part of GraceWorks and for making it possible for us to address the hidden and often denied problem of homelessness in Williamson County!
Serving in His Name,
Valencia A. Breckenridge, CEO
P.S. I hope you will come out on Thanksgiving morning and join us at D1 for the GraceWorks’ 5k Turkey Trot. Registration is now open! This is the fun way for the whole family (including your visiting out of town relatives) to provide us with the resources needed to serve our neighbors. See you there!