By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Max Munn was in church when he felt an undeniable urge to help the homeless.
It was early 2011.
Munn knew the stirring hailed from a higher source so he decided to see it through. He called all his friends and invited them to his wife’s beauty salon, Cutting Edge, for an organizational meeting.
“Three people came, and two of them were me and my wife,” he said, laughing. “So we held a second meeting, and two people came – me and my wife.”
Munn was undeterred. He continued to spread the word and eventually attracted like-minded people to his cause. They formed a nonprofit agency called Helping Hands Helping Homeless and began seeking donations.
Eventually, they had enough manpower and resources to start helping drifters off the streets. It began small at first; a person here, a person there. And it couldn’t be just anybody. They wanted to help only those who sought to help themselves.
“We work with what we call ‘selected homeless,’” Munn said. “Those who want to get off the street and become productive citizens.”
In the roughly one year since the group – whose members call it Quad H due to its alliterative name – has been active, some 165 people have joined. And some 54 homeless have been placed in stable homes.
The group did this by giving participants a “jump-start,” Munn said. It pays for apartment rental security deposits and utility deposits, which together can top $1,500. It also helps furnish apartments with beds, couches, dressers, cooking supplies and toiletries. In some cases, it has donated appliances.
“Most people don’t think about all that when you get your first apartment,” said Melissa Pound, a Quad H member and founder of Stone Soup Ministry, which feeds the homeless. “It can cost $2,000 or more. If you’re working a McDonald’s job, it takes months and months to save that.”
Munn calls Pound the “heart and soul” of the organization and the person who interacts most with those they help. While he solicits the donations, she nurtures the hearts. While he moves the furniture, she visits the homes. While he tracks the money, she tracks the success stories.
And those stories abound.
A man whose rehabilitation treatment Quad H had funded got hired last week to drive a truck for a local company. Success.
An ex-convict for whom the group found lodging has kept a steady job for several months and now is helping other homeless people do the same. Success.
A woman who lost her job and her home now lives happily in a little apartment and resumed her sewing hobby, thanks to donations made by a supporter of Quad H. Success.
Just two of the 54 people helped by Quad H have returned to the streets, Munn said. Others have continued to live productive lives, thanks to a little jump-start and some routine follow-up.
Munn and Pound credit the positive outcome to their numerous volunteers and The Salvation Army, which often is the homeless’ first place of refuge.
The Salvation Army offers them food, clothing and shelter in exchange for staying sober and seeking work. If participants can meet and sustain those goals, they’re usually good candidates for Quad H.
Although The Salvation Army provides vouchers to help people purchase furniture and other domestic items from its store, it doesn’t pay security or utility deposits. It also can’t help people if its store runs low on key supplies – a couch or a bed, for instance.
Quad H keeps a warehouse full of those items. And if something runs out, a simple Facebook request usually produces donations within a day.
Salvation Army’s Maj. Sue Dorman said her agency has referred numerous people to Munn and Pound for assistance.
The group also works with the Red Cross, several churches and countless other entities who share the same goal of helping the homeless find homes.
But not all homeless want help. Munn said a certain segment of that population, for whatever reason, choose to live off the grid. Some are addicted to drugs and alcohol, others have mental or physical limitations, and still others have suffered abuse.
For those who want help, though, Munn and Pound said they’re doing their best to be there.
“It’s not a handout,” Pound said. “It’s a hand up.”
For more information about Helping Hands Helping Homeless, visit the group’s Facebook page.