Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 11, 2014

Seeking shelter

Group looks to create a home for homeless

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

Athens — Anyone can be homeless at anytime. They say most people are a paycheck away from living on the streets. It is hard for people to imagine the idea of not having a roof over their head, regular food, clothes to wear or a daily shower. Men and women in Henderson County suffer every day with being homeless – with no where to go. Henderson County currently does not have a traditional homeless shelter.

One local woman is making it her mission to change the fact that homeless people could die in Henderson County during the cold chill of the winter months. The Athens Review did a story recently about a homeless gentleman in Malakoff who was thought to have died from hyperthermia, due to the temperature dropping to the teens.

Melody Alexander is making her rounds to all the local churches in an effort to start a homeless program.

“There is a large problem with homelessness, and no one wants to talk about it,” Alexander said. “I met a man living in an old carwash, kids in trailers with no electricity,” she said. “I don't know a lot about what I am trying to do. I just know it needs to be done.” 

Alexander said mental health issues accompany one becoming homeless. Some homeless individuals lose a grip on reality.

Alexander believes the homeless program, Room In The Inn, would be ideal for Henderson County.  The concept of Room In The Inn would be for as many churches as Alexander can gather to open their church one day during the winter months to take in homeless individuals.

“Hopefully they could get a good meal, a shower and a place to sleep for one night,” Alexander said.

Alexander has been visiting churches and non-profit organizations, trying to get enough backing to get the program started.

“All I need is one church to say they will take in homeless people for one night, to get the ball rolling,” Alexander said.

She said some churches have reservations about taking people into their churches.

Alexander says one of the major problems in this county is lack of transportation. One solution would be to pattern the Henderson County Room In The Inn after the Fort Worth program. Homeless people would be vetted or qualified at one location, and transported by possibly a church bus to the church that would be housing the homeless for the night.

Alexander admits she needs the county officials and city officials to get on board with the idea of protecting the homeless from the elements. She has already talked to the Family Resource Center in Gun Barrel City about providing clothing for the clients of the shelter.  She plans on talking to local restaurants about preparing food for whichever church has their doors open.

The other alternative is to purchase a property to convert into a homeless shelter.  Alexander knows the perfect property in Malakoff next to the Faith In Action Food Bank. She admits there are a lot of road blocks, including dealing with the rules of the Federal Government when opening a shelter.

Alexander, who is the Outreach Chairperson for Celebration by the Lake Church, has done most of the leg work. She said she plans on visiting every church in Henderson County until she reaches her goal of providing a safe warm environment for the individuals who have found themselves homeless.

For information on volunteer opportunities to help establish a homeless shelter in Henderson County, contact Melody Alexander at 903-590-7550. More information on Room In The  Inn can be found at www.roomintheinn.org.