The jump out of homelessness often requires social, educational, vocational, residential and medical services only an army could provide. Meet General Gregg Kennard of Nspire Outreach in Lawrenceville, Ga.
As a teen, Kennard helped in soup kitchens and passed out hygiene kits. Now, as a pastor, his church just outside Atlanta has a homeless ministry that addresses all of the re-entry issues. The program is in its third year and, so far, 20 homeless individuals have made the leap to fully functioning, independent living.
Step one for Nspire is to find applicants who are really ready to break away from street life.
“We’re not helping people out of their immediate crisis. We’re not a shelter or rehab. Once they’re ready to leave day-to-day survival mode, it’s a 12-month process of employment training, residence life coaching, continued education, therapy, mental health counseling, oftentimes medication and, finally, the faith components,” says Kennard.
He reports that the key to Nspire’s beginnings was a clothing distribution call center and pick-up service. It created revenue and job skills practice for the homeless. Today, the ministry offers many different “internships,” including work in restaurants, gardens, and audio/video tech support.
“The homeless usually have no resume, that’s where we have some powerful tools and entry-level positions, aligning education and career coaches for real skills,” Kennard explains. “They get to work out the kinks of their personalities, learn to keep a schedule and meet performance expectations. If someone blows it, we try to remedy the problem. Mental health issues are huge. Oftentimes, people who didn’t have mental health problems to begin with acquire them from years of living on the streets.”
Today the program has 36 clients currently enrolled. They live in apartments rented by the ministry while they learn this barrage of life skills and work their way to independence.
For more information, visit: www.nspireatlanta.com