He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother


Ain’t Heavy Initiative – Knoxville

An Initiative to prevent homlessness in East Tennessee working with the collectives at the East Tennessee Peace and Justice Center

“So on we go, his welfare is my concern.  No burden is he to bear.  We’ll get there.  But I know, he will not encumber me.  He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

Last month, I wrote about Eddie Young and his staff at the East Tennessee Peace and Justice Center.  Today, I am happy to announce that I am working with Eddie, Shea and Rachel on an initiative aimed at preventing homelessness.

The East Tennessee Peace And Justice Center provides the framework, the technical assistance and fiduciary guidance that allows grassroots initiatives like Ain’t Heavy to get off the ground.

The Hollies song “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” is the inspiration for this initiative.  We often talk about being our brother’s keeper and loving our neighbor, but are we really willing to bear their burdens through the long and winding journey of life?

In the Fort Sanders area of Knoxville, at Food in the Fort, at the beginning of summer 2014, 30% of the people we served were people who would be considered “truly experiencing homelessness.” Meaning they had no shelter, nor the ability to prepare meals at home.  By the end of summer, this percentage had doubled to 60%.  This indicated a dire situation that needed immediate attention.

But the same old fix wasn’t the solution that Eddie was looking for.  Currently the programs on homelessness deal with those who are currently experiencing homelessness and were not addressing the issue of those who were quickly going from housing insecure to experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness prevention is much less costly than actual homeless services.  Once someone becomes homeless it costs nearly $40,000 a year in services and even more to get them back into a home (HUD).  Study after study has shown that the best and more cost effective solution to the homelessness issue is homelessness prevention

Once a person becomes homeless, there are a whole host of issues that arise that need to be attended to.  Furniture either has to be put into storage or is just lost all together and have to be replaced.  Same with clothing and possessions.  Children suffer academically, socially, physically and emotionally.  Pets often have to be euthanized or are just abandoned outright.  The current political atmosphere is to criminalize the people experiencing homelessness.  Many cities have very aggressive policing toward the people experiencing homelessness, not to mention they often suffer violence, abuse and ridicule from the general public.

These seem like such drastic measures when something as simple as rental assistance, utility assistance or advocacy with the landlord could have prevented the homelessness at the onset.

The Ain’t Heavy Initiative aims to keep people in their homes, at a cost of approximately $2,500 annually.  This is a significant savings.  We at Ain’t Heavy are already on the ground with people who are in these situations.  They come to us every day looking for help.  And we have a cost effective and streamlined method for helping them.

“If I am laden at all. I am laden with sadness that everyone’s isn’t filled gladness of love for one another.”

Have we lost our way as a society that we kick a man when he is down?  Who are we when we walk over Lazarus as he lays on our doorstep?  Do we wish to suffer the same fate as the rich man?  Or can we turn it around before it is too late?

This is the aim of Ain’t Heavy.  We want to prevent people who are income and housing insecure from falling off the cliff.  We will provide resources and advocacy to assist them with staying in their current home and work on keeping stability in their lives.

Ain’t Heavy needs you.  It is funded through donations and partnerships with individuals, groups, churches, and organizations.  The donations can be one time or they can be monthly.  Pooling resources offers more tangible results than what is currently being offered.  We will also be raising funds through a food truck, sponsoring a conference and hosting a soccer tournament.  So we are will be out in the community working, doing our part.  But we need your help too.

Currently if a person is facing homelessness or a catastrophic housing situation, they have to run around town to at least five or six different churches or organizations for help.  Currently, there is no single central organization that has the capital to be able to help with the whole need – they can usually only help with partial payments.  And partial payments generally only kick the can down the road.  And usually not very far.

The current model is not effective for several other reasons as well.  First of all, it is demeaning to a person who is already down to have to go to all these different places.  Second, most people in these situations do not have the means to go around town and collect money in this manner.  And finally, calling churches and organizations is out of the question, they require face to face interviews, which requires money, so this is like the dog chasing his tail.

So, Ain’t Heavy aims to pool the currently available resources into one central location where all these churches and organizations can send people in need.  And we can use the pool of resources to assist in the manner that is most effective, rather than just slapping a band aid on a gaping wound.

All donations are tax deductible.  The East Tennessee Peace and Jistice Center is an established 501 (c) (3) not for profit designated organization and has enjoyed that status for several years now under Redeeming Hope.

Please consider making a monthly pledge of $100 or more to assist in this endeavor to stem the tide of homelessness that is currently happening.

Read Knoxville’s Study on Homelessness here.

To make a donation or become a partner, go click here. And designate “Ain’t Heavy” as the beneficiary.

“He’s my brother, He ain’t heavy”



About sjwoods318

Mother of six children - five girls and one boy; wife; community organizer, family chauffeur, philosopher, trans-racial adoptee, Deadhead, person of mixed racial heritage, artist, poet, writer who loves to swim, read, and run around with my family.
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