It’s amazing what we so-called “smart people” don’t know when trouble calls. For instance, for all my college education and the knowledge I accumulated over the years, I did not know where to go to get help when the unemployment benefits ran out as a result of my loss of employment. The company I worked for closed due to the economy.
I had no idea what to do or where to go. I had no idea who to call. All I knew was that being homeless was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I could see myself begging people on the streets of Knoxville, Tenn. Or standing next to an Interstate off-ramp with a sign that read, “Homeless. Will Work For Food.”
This would have been humiliating for me. And I was going to make sure it this never happened. As a result I did something that actually ensured I would be homeless and end up in a federal prison work camp as well. All because I did not ask and I did not know where to go. All because I did not want charity or sympathy.
This is not to say that I did not give to those in need. I did and will always do what I can to help others. I remember an incident outside the Knoxville City and County building years ago. I was approached by a man who asked if I would give him a dollar so he could buy liquor. He said he “needed it.” So I gave him a couple of dollars. A friend was with me at the time and asked, “Why did you give that guy money? All he is going to do is buy liquor with it.” I said, “Because he said he needed it and because he was honest about it.”
I believe in helping others. I am a sucker for a sob story. I just never learned to ask for help for myself. When it came to me I was used to doing things for myself. I always tried to find my own solutions.
I did not know about KARM, the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries. KARM is a great organization that operates a shelter for those facing temporary homelessness. Sometimes it’s great having an attorney. Because he recommended KARM. I checked into KARM at the end of May 2012 and stayed there until I was able to get an apartment in mid-December 2012.
I was checked in by a charming lady who entered my information in the KARM computer so I could get my ID Card. The computer was acting up and giving her a hard time. So it took longer than it should to register me. She was very apologetic throughout the whole ordeal. But I was having a great time talking with her and did not mind the delay. I was having fun. During this time she learned my story. Why I was homeless. And that I was facing legal problems. When we finished she said, “I will be praying for you every day.” That surprised me. I wish I could remember her name but I will never forget her face.
Over the next few months I came to realize what a big job KARM has. There is always a large number of homeless men and women to work with. All with their different problems, different attitudes and personalities. It’s a big job and most of their employees pass the test with flying colors. Homeless families are another growing problem. Now children are homeless with one or both of their parents.
Through all the chaos KARM was there when I needed it. It was not easy but I was determined to do my part and not cause any problems or draw attention to myself. I got the help I needed for my homelessness and the spiritual help I needed. I was baptized by KARM’s chaplain and his assistant.
During one of their early morning devotional periods a minister came in to preach about accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The message was, “Are you ‘Saved’?” During this time a hilarious event occurred. While the evangelist was preaching, one of the men in attendance got up and start shouting, “I been saved! Praise the Lord!” The preacher said, “I am glad to hear it, brother. Praise God,” and attempted to continue preaching to us. But the man started pacing back and forth in front of the podium where the preacher stood. And he kept saying, “I have been saved! Praise the Lord!”
As I watched this go on, I thought, “I can’t believe this guy is tanked (drunk) this early in the morning.” It was just after 6 a.m. But the preacher calmly said, “I appreciate your enthusiasm, brother, but I am trying to preach. Will you sit down?” And the man sat and down and was quiet. Was he drunk? I don’t know, but it shows the patience you need and that KARM employees and volunteers seem to have in difficult conditions.
There were other, not so comical, incidents of KARM employees going the extra mile to help a person who had a special need. I believe 99 percent of KARM employees are there to help and to serve. They exhibit extreme patience, kindness and professionalism.
All I can say is, “Thank you.” To anyone out there who is going through a special challenge, I advise you to seek help. Ask a close friend, your pastor, a neighbor or anyone you feel may be able to point you in the right direction. Don’t be like me. Don’t depend on yourself and end up in a lot of hot water.
Here is a special “thank you” to KARM employees: Miss Wanda, Pastor Michael, Terry Bray, David Lay, Lisa, and the charming lady who originally checked me in. You guys are the best of the best.
Bernard Addison is serving a 46-month federal prison sentence for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. You can email Bernard with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can not immediately reply but comments are forwarded to me by friend Annette. I will will respond. Or you can send letters or postcards to: Bernard Addison/ 44863-074/ FPC-Atlanta; Dorm D/ P.O. Box 150160/ Atlanta, GA 30315.