Xplorers team serves lunch at Memphis Union Mission
MEMPHIS-The Memphis Xplorers football team visited Memphis Union Mission on Friday, July 8, where they served lunch to more than 115 men and women in need.
While the original purpose of the Mission was to serve as a men's homeless shelter when it was built 60 years ago, the organization now hosts several additional programs, including a shelter for abused women and children and a year long drug and alcohol rehabilitation program that works in conjunction with the city jail and other sources.
Pastor of Transients Jeff Patrick said that in the drug and alcohol program, men are brought into the shelter for about three months. When they successfully complete the first phase, they are sent to Calvary Colony, an idyllic 160-acre campus with a large fishing lake where they undergo counseling and therapy.
When they graduate from this phase, they spend a month or two giving back to the Mission by working on campus before joining a cooperative work program. The Mission owns apartments where the men can live for just $180 per month, as they are required to save 60 percent of their income. When they leave, Patrick said, they have $4,000 to $5,000 to put as a down payment on a house or buy a car or whatever they need.
"We receive no funding from the federal government," Patrick said. "We are unashamedly a Jesus house,' meaning that we are a Christian organization. We believe that inside of every man there is an empty spot. He is always looking for something to fill up that empty spot.
"We believe that the only way to fill up that empty spot is with the Holy Spirit of God, and the only way to do that is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We have men of all religions that come through here, and if they choose not to have that relationship, we don't kick them out. We love them anyway.
"Alcohol and drugs are not the problem. If you don't deal with what is causing the problem, then when they get out of here, they are going to be right back where they were. We deal with the heart of the problem."
The Mission runs its $2.5 million budget, four-campus operation entirely on donations - and still struggles to meet a growing need.
"This campus (on Poplar Ave.) is built to hold 40 men, but we have 100 to 125 staying here every night," Patrick said. "We serve an average of 600 meals every month. We got to grow this place."
Homeless men, whom the organization calls "transients," can reserve a bed at the Poplar Ave. campus for $42 per month. They are required to take a shower before getting to bed; they are given a change of clean clothes, a hot, healthy meal, and a sturdy clean bed where the sheets are changed every day. In addition, men who have jobs are allowed to wash their clothes at the Mission.
"The guys who stay here are proud of the place," Patrick said. "They help us take care of it. We have one of the cleanest kitchens in downtown Memphis. Our last three ratings by the health department were 94, 96 and 98. And the food is good."
Patrick said the worst problem they see is the what has happened with crack cocaine. Available for as little as $3-$5 on any street in any neighborhood anywhere, it holds addicts in an iron grip.
"I'd venture to say, 90 percent of the men who get on crack cocaine will never get off it," Patrick said. "I've never seen anything that has a hold like that. And men will do anything to get another hit. Think of the worst thing you can think of, whether it involves sex, murder, whatever, they'll do it to get more crack."
Patrick said that the organization has an ever-present need for staples like white socks and underwear. Memphis Union Mission will have a booth at tomorrow's Xplorers game at 7 p.m. at the DeSoto Civic Center, where they will be the featured non-profit as the team tussles with the Tulsa Talons. Single game tickets start as low as $7. For more information call the Xplorers office at 662-342-1755 or call Memphis Union Mission at 901-526-8403.
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