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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