Homelessness doesn’t always take the appearance of someone destitute living under a bridge. Logan LeGrande of Marked for Life Ministries in Fort Payne said many of the homeless can be found sleeping in their cars or moving from couch to couch.
“Homelessness may not look the way you think, and it can be difficult to see because the homeless may feel ashamed and hide, but just because it may not look like we are accustomed to seeing in Atlanta, Birmingham or Nashville, we do have a homeless problem in DeKalb County,” he said.
This was verified by Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine, who said he’s received many calls about the situation from concerned church leaders asking that something be done.
“We must be pro-active as city leaders and make sure these folks are taken care of,” Baine said.
Last week, LeGrande made a presentation in the City Auditorium to DeKalb County churches and detailed a better way of addressing homelessness and bringing souls to Christ with “radical hospitality.”
The goal of Marked for Life’s Hope Houses is to unite the faith community to tackle the societal issue of homelessness and provide a warm place for people during the coldest months of the year, November through March.
“With our DeKalb County churches and ministries mobilized and empowered to help our neighbors in need, no one will be left out in the freezing temperatures,” LeGrande said.
While they can put someone in a hotel overnight, the high cost makes it impossible to do this for longer periods. He realized the need locally when attempting to find space for people at homeless shelters in Huntsville, Gadsden and Chattanooga, all of which were full.
“It can feel hopeless,” LeGrande said.
When someone in need is greeted with dignity and compassion during a time when they feel lost and humiliated, he said a remarkable transformation takes place. “It changes lives because in their time of struggle, they felt like no one care for them at all,” he said.
LeGrande shared the stories of individuals he’s met, changing their names but sharing their circumstances. They included the carpenter who found himself unable to earn a living due to the pandemic shutting things down. He was caught sleeping in the woods on someone’s property and was dropped off by a police officer, ready with his tools to be put to work. Another case was a woman on disability who lost custody of her children due to having no permanent residence.
“They did not want to be homeless. Sometimes bad choices have led them to where they are, but the circumstances of their lives have led them to a bad place,” LeGrande said. “There are cases where someone has lost their birth certificate or have no identification and we help them with that.”
Each person who participates is partnered with a care coordinator who immediately begins the restoration process to help procure a permanent housing solution and other life skills to maintain self-sufficiency. The Marked For Life Ministries Hope Center helps about 100 people each month with food, clothing, life skills training, job resources, spiritual discipleship, and more.
Those with addiction issues are referred to specialized help while building a relationship and connection with the Hope Center.
LeGrande called for congregations to step up and put the ministry of Christ to work by hosting those in need in their facilities, volunteering for cooking warm meals, staying the night with those provided with shelter, offering transportation, contributing resources to operations, and more.
“I am excited because this is where we get to be like Jesus,” he said. “There’s a way for every person in this auditorium to connect. This is an opportunity to answer the call of God, show ‘radical hospitality’ and see a shift in our community. I’m in a room full of heroes. It’s important because we don’t want this to be a convincing but a confirmation for you. A lot of people have the heart and the idea, [but I] believe God has chosen our ministry as the vessel to make this happen. I encourage you to really pray about it. Hearts are hurting so much every day.”
LeGrande said he welcomes the opportunity to come speak to community groups about the effort. To learn more, visit https://www.iammarkedforlife.com/hopehouses.