Selflessly helping Nashville’s homeless

Among homeless adults in Nashville, 11 percent are severely mentally ill, 29 percent are employed, 19 percent are victims of domestic violence, 12 percent are veterans, and 7 percent are HIV positive.  (Credit: Justin Renfroe) 

Among homeless adults in Nashville, 11 percent are severely mentally ill, 29 percent are employed, 19 percent are victims of domestic violence, 12 percent are veterans, and 7 percent are HIV positive.  (Credit: Justin Renfroe)

When you think of Nashville what comes to mind? Maybe the Tennessee Titans, The Nashville Predators, ‘Music City’? For one local photographer, homelessness instantly comes to mind. Now that you’re thinking about it, you know you see them quite often downtown or near the malls. They’re everywhere and many times we tend not to want to be near them. They smell, the steal, or they’re on drugs. We can come up with a hundred excuses why we do not want to associate with someone who is homeless. What if we actually applied what many of us were taught at such a young age: “to love everyone?” Why is it so hard to do such a thing?

For Justin Renfroe, he wants to see how much he can spread love to the less fortunate and hopefully more of his peers will follow. Each week he loads up clothing, toiletries and his camera and sets out to meet many different homeless people in hopes of giving back. One of the many reasons he does this is because many of the people who are currently homeless are veterans of the armed service and fought for our freedoms that we have today. Justin cannot understand how we can simply turn our backs on these individuals after many have sacrificed so much to keep us free.

Another reason for his journey to spread love is that he is tired of seeing so much hate going on the world. He believes that we cannot depend on Hillary or Trump to make the changes we want to see. We have to step up and come together and love one another. When Justin meets a homeless person, the first thing he does is to make conversation about how their day is going and ask them if there is anything they need. Often he is met with a calming welcoming sense from the individuals who let him know what they need to continue on their journey. After giving them clothes, shoes, toiletries or rides he then asks if he can take their picture—not to go and brag on social media for recognition but to show social media the current state of many in our own city right now. Often the individuals will oblige by having the picture taken because they feel that if more people are made aware of what is going and how they are living—maybe a positive change will occur and more people will begin to help them.

Ultimately, Justin’s goal is to build a group that can meet almost all the needs of the homeless. He wants to find a barber who will volunteer his time to give free haircuts and shaves; someone who is willing to donate suits and business attire so the homeless are interview-ready; someone who can help build resumes and provide prepaid cell phones, so they can be contacted for interviews; and someone who would not mind giving these people rides to job interviews and jobs. Justin is also working to rent out a location that will house 4-5 people weekly.

He is also pursuing a degree in law and hopes to be the voice of the homeless once he completes law school in order to show these individuals they deserve a second chance because they are valuable members of society.

Hopefully, if more people join the cause, the current issue of homelessness will begin to decrease. We just have to remember that love is the answer. If you are already on your feet, why not help someone else?