By Barney Blakeney
I got the chance to attend the March 11 inaugural Homeless to Hope Fund Benefit concert. Didn’t go to church, but went to the concert. And wouldn’t you know it, my preacher saw me there! I got busted, but it was worth it. The concert was off the chain.
I don’t do a lot of concerts anymore. Back in the day I caught ‘em all – wine, women and song always have made for an entertaining evening in my book.
I saw Curtis Mayfield at some amphitheater in Atlanta, Ga. in one of his last concerts before he was crippled and I thought Stevie Wonder never would leave the stage when I saw him at The Coliseum in Columbia. Saw the ‘Mothership’ land and Earth, Wind and Fire fly. These days I’m more into candlelight and a glass of wine with my music.
The Homeless to Hope concert was special. It was an effort to address one of our community’s most prolific and most easily addressed social ills. In a community where a new hotel is being built on every downtown corner, there are a documented 425 homeless individuals among us. In what world does that make sense?
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the concert raised about $130,000 to help in the effort to reduce homelessness in our community. I remember hearing recently about the creation of a new dog park somewhere. I’ll bet it’ll cost that much to develop the dog park. I realize funding the eradication of homelessness is a lot more complicated than creating a dog park.
There are more reasons for homelessness than there are stars in the sky. And the Mayor’s wife Sandy noted the 425 statistic is just a starting point. We know there are homeless who go undetected – those who are ‘couch surfing’ or staying with friends, but have no permanent home. And there is the children population.
Right off the top of my head I can think of a number of situations we experience we don’t considered homelessness, but in essence really is homelessness. I see more and more extended families where cohabitation is the alternative to having your own place.
There are those are unrelated in terms of blood ties and choose to live together for economic reasons. And how many of us are living with that man or that woman with whom we’d really rather not share a roof? Been there, done that! There are other scenarios.
At the concert featuring Mayor Tecklenburg on piano, musician Charlton Singleton, vocalists Quiana Parler and Heather Rice, the choral ensemble Lowcountry Voices and a band that included Lee Barbour, Tommy Gielingh, Gino Castillo, Jonathan Lovett, Mark Sterbank, Stephen Washington, Tim Khayat and Stuart White announcer Osei ‘The Voice’ Chandler quoted some informative stats.
Individuals and families become homeless for a variety of reasons including: the loss of a job, the death of a spouse or loved one, a catastrophic illness, domestic violence, the loss of a home to foreclosure, fire or natural disasters, aging out of foster care, being physically disabled, veterans who are struggling to adjust after serving time for our country, or those who battle mental illness or addiction, he said.
The concert’s producers artfully combined that information with entertainment to create a party with a purpose. Three older women in front of me were among the full house of supporters dancing in their seats. My older sister from another mother, a big boned girl, was bumpin’ in her seat. Made me think of the old Joe Tex song – she almost knocked me down!
Tecklenburg’s musical tribute to his wonderful wife was especially moving. I could hear sighs from the women in the audience. Mr. Mayor, a lot of guys had to go home and pay special attention after that one.
A lot of people were recognized for their ongoing support. Humanitarian and philanthropist Linda Ketner received the inaugural Homeless to Hope Award. All the performers volunteered their talents and of course, there are many more like Pastor Gordon Cashwell, who invest time and energy daily in service to our homeless population. But I’ve gotta take my hat off to Tecklenburg.
Ours is a community where a lot of stuff is happening. We’re in a prosperous time. My brother Ed Mc exclaimed the other day, looking at the peninsula’s skyline coming from James Island offers a picture of booming development.
Our city has changed in some wondrous ways. As Tupac Shakur would say, “Baby it’s bangin’!” But a lot of people are being left out of the equation. Tecklenburg is one of the people among us who try to include them.
I get it that the cycle of homelessness and poverty requires a complicated fix. I think Tecklenburg gets it as well. At his encouragement, the Homeless to Hope Fund was started by the Palmetto Project in February 2016. Along with Tecklenburg, the fund is supported by Mayor Keith Summey of North Charleston, Mayor Will Haynie of Mount Pleasant and Mayor Wiley Johnson of Summerville through the Mayors’ Commission on Homelessness and Affordable Housing.
The fund provides financial reimbursement to communities and community organizations that assist homeless individuals and families in securing a path to permanent housing and stable living.
All of the benefit concert proceeds were dedicated to the Homeless to Hope Fund and will be used to help in emergency situations for people who are experiencing homelessness to get them into housing and to help them access programs that assist them on the road to self-sufficiency through a network of providers in the region.
Funds from the Homeless to Hope Fund also will be used to help launch the new Resource Center, a day center that is currently being planned that will help people experiencing homelessness to find the programs and support they need from local service providers and health partners while accessing such basic needs as showers and laundry facilities.
I know a lot of folks who profess to be about community really are about compensation. There’s profit in poverty. Service to the poor is good business. A friend who works for a non-profit once said to me her job would be eliminated if their service no longer was necessary. Ain’t nobody tryin’ to work themselves out of a job – that is except John Tecklenburg and cohorts. I hear his critics, but none of them tried to do this stuff. We should help the man.
The ability of people to work together for the betterment of their community is a valuable resource.
Volunteering one’s time and talents are gifts one can give to others in need. Reach out to Jeffrey Fleming at 843.266.5683 or [email protected] to learn more about The Palmetto Project or Ty Bailey at the City of Charleston at [email protected] for a list of local service providers who may have volunteer opportunities.
And of course you can donate money; Online: www.homelesstohopefund.org/donate/ or by Mail: Homeless to Hope Fund – Palmetto Project, 6296 Rivers Avenue, Suite 100, North Charleston, SC 29406.