Murfreesboro Cold Patrol provides services to homeless, builds relationships

Photo by Andrew Wigdor / Assistant News Editor

The homeless issue in the rest of the country is just as prevalent in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a local organization believes that community intervention and the willingness to build relationships can go a long way.

The Murfreesboro Cold Patrol is a homeless outreach organization founded in November 2014. The members are “a group of people who recognize that there is a problem in our community with chronic homelessness,” according to their website.

Jason Bennett, the director of the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol and Amber Hampton, the co-director of the Cold Patrol, described the humble beginnings of the organization and the philosophy behind their assistance in Murfreesboro.

“There was a need for us to go out and get people. There was a need for us to go out and bring people in,” Bennett said.

Hampton explained that before the organization was officially created, it was simply a group of volunteers who frequented the shelters in Murfreesboro and were already “connected to the homeless community.”

There are now 23 active volunteers working with the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol.

“We build relationships with people that are experiencing homelessness, and, from that, hopefully, we can figure out where they are in life, where they want to be in life and try to connect them to resources that are available,” Bennett said.

Hampton stated that the Cold Patrol meets the needs of people suffering from homelessness whenever necessary.

“Sometimes we meet different people at their camps. Sometimes we take them to the hospital. We’ll take them dinner,” Hampton said.

From November to April, when the temperature is the coldest, members of the Cold Patrol are out almost every night finding homeless individuals in need of medical care and shelter.

The Cold Patrol also assists all of the homeless shelters in the Murfreesboro area in their attempts to house and feed homeless people.

“We work really closely with everybody in the community who works with homeless individuals because we’re the outreach branch of that in Murfreesboro… So, we actually go to people to find them where they are at rather then them coming to us,” Hampton said.

For the nights with severely frigid weather, the Cold Patrol volunteers with the Coldest Nights Emergency shelters in Murfreesboro, which are only open when it is 32 degrees or below.

“That’s typically when people are the most vulnerable, when it is freezing cold outside,” Hampton said.

An example of an outreach program that is organized by the Cold Patrol is the sack lunches that are made on Wednesday nights for homeless people in Murfreesboro.

“We’ve got teams of folks who volunteer to make sack lunches with us… Food is a good relationship building tool. If you’re hungry, you can sit down and have dinner with someone, and it’s not scary,” Hampton said.

There are also quarterly meetings for the Cold Patrol where volunteers take part in different types of training for the homeless outreach.

Both Bennett and Hampton recounted impactful experiences from their days and nights of volunteering with the Cold Patrol.

Bennett stated that during the first months of the Cold Patrol, there was a man who was at a homeless shelter often who was a severe alcoholic and was, at the time, suffering from a multitude of ailments including pneumonia. Bennett and some early members of the Cold Patrol noticed the man was not at the shelter one night and began searching for him.

“We found him under a bridge and he was part-way laying in the water and just out of it. And it was like 17 or 18 degrees outside. It was just very cold. And so, that moment sticks out at me as a moment where we realized that there were certain folks that might need that all of the time,” Bennett said.

Hampton explained that a memory that stuck out to her was a night where the Cold Patrol assisted a homeless man in Murfreesboro who cannot walk and requires a walker to move around. Last winter, the Cold Patrol found the man sleeping under a bridge.

“You had to walk across the train tracks to get to (the bridge), and he can’t walk. So, he was literally crawling across the train tracks to get to his camp. And in order to get him out, one of the guys had to pick him up and throw him over their shoulder and carry him,” Hampton said.

Bennett and Hampton stated that they have both built life-long relationships through the Cold Patrol and have seen people drastically change throughout the years.

“I have a friend that I met in 2014, and he’s one of my closest friends. He’s gotten clean. He’s gotten sober. He’s got his life back on track… It was an absolute success story, but it wasn’t us. It was him. We were just there helping along the way. Love changes things. When you love people, it changes things,” Hampton said.

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To contact News Editor Brinley Hineman, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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3 Responses

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  1. Julian Viall
    Apr 26, 2017 - 12:54 PM

    This is an extremely inspiring piece. Thank you Brinley Hineman for writing the piece and raising awareness of the major issue of homelessness especially in Murfreesboro. many people do not know this, but Tennessee has one of the highest rates of homeless people in the nation. It is 41st out of 50 states for homeless children.

    Many people choose to look the other way when it comes to this issue, believing that if they can make ends meet why can’t the homeless do the same. That doesn’t matter to me, I believe that as humans we should look out for one another and help each other whenever we can.

    I am really proud of Jason Bennett and the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol for organizing to make a difference in this community. I came from a very small town where if someone was homeless, then they were likely at least had somewhere to stay even if it was a friend or family. There is no homeless shelter. My first time coming to Murfreesboro to tour MTSU I remember turning to my mom and saying, “There are a lot of homeless people here begging.” The issue hasn’t gone away, and as I have found out from speakers that have come to my class, many of the organizations that try to help combat the issue are underfunded and often have to eventually shutdown their operations.

    I wish that there was contact information that way readers were able to reach out to Bennett and the Cold Patrol, I would love to help make a difference.

    Reply
  2. Alexa Neff
    May 21, 2017 - 08:59 PM

    I truly enjoy this post about the Cold Patrol and what all they have done in order to help those in need. We all need more people to try and do things like these more often. It saddens me to think that there are people in this town that have to go through harsh weather and can’t do anything about it. I respect the amount of time and love that is taken to find ways to help and improve those lives. I can’t imagine the challenges that homeless people face each day and how they must feel to even ask for help. I have come to notice many people have stories, may they be over bad drinking influences, family-related issues or even mental health overcoming their way of life. I believe that God puts certain people into your life for a reason and by allowing God’s work to be shown through this team, it opens many doors.
    I also believe, that we as humans have an assignment. We are all made to show His work on Earth and that not all people are bad. I understand that is difficult to put yourself out there, but the reward in helping out is far more accepting than all the rest.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Cooper
    May 25, 2017 - 08:13 PM

    I’ll start by saying bravo to the Cold Patrol organization. You all are amazing and what you have dedicated yourselves to doing is changing not only lives but perspectives as well. Many homeless people suffer from mental illnesses as well as other physical ailments due to cold weather, and the fact that you all have stepped up to make a change deserves endless support. Back home my friends and I had a similar organization called The Give Back Team, and the smiles and appreciation of the people was really a sight to behold. In the midst of their environment you find that they are people just like you and I. We’re here on earth not just to build legacies or pay bills but to impact the lives of others. You all are doing a fine job, and to the author of this article thank you so much for bringing light to something that is far too often overlooked.

    Reply

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