GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – For those experiencing homelessness, talking about it publicly isn’t easy, especially when kids are involved. But one mother did want to talk with us.
A Gallatin mom said she is doing everything she can to keep her kids off the streets.
“This is my very first time ever asking for help,” said Veronica, who asked that we give her an alias to protect her identity and that of her children, allowing her the freedom to speak freely about her life.
The mother of two said she’s desperate to find a safe, warm home for her two babies.
“It’s hard being a single parent,” said Veronica. “I’m the first one to wake up, and the last one to go to sleep just to make sure that they’re okay.”
“I’m just trying to get a stable place for him and my daughter as well, because they just shouldn’t be out here.”
Veronica said she once had a stable, happy life, but she lost her childcare and then life spiraled. The job was the next to go, and then the rent went up.
“I will go days where I won’t eat just to make sure that I’m on top of everything, trying to find a place, making sure my kids eat.”
To help families like Veronica’s, Minister Deborah Alston started The Stay Warm Shelter eight years ago out of a First Baptist Church in Gallatin. She says it’s the only one of its kind in all of Sumner County. She was able to find Veronica a hotel so she would not be on the street with her kids.
“You’re not seeing this child. You’re not seeing the emotional toll that this takes on a child not knowing where they’re going. Packing up, leaving this hotel, and the look in their eyes,” said Alston.
“It feels good to have somebody to help when you really need it while you’re down to try to help you back up,” said Veronica.
Veronica’s family is not alone. 11% of Tennessee school children experiencing homelessness are living in a hotel, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The vast majority, 80%, are doubled-up living with family.
“I do this every day. My phone rings 24 hours every day,” said Alston.
Alston does what she can, creating blessing boxes so people can take food, no questions asked. But she said the homeless in Sumner County are being ignored. Over the years, her shelter has grown, sometimes feeding 100 people a night. She said God called her to this.
“I tell ya, I’ve watched God take a little and make a lot. I understand that 5,000 people that he fed because he will multiply it,” said Alston.
As it gets colder, the shelter will get busy. Veronica’s goal is to find a home for her kids before that time comes.
“I don’t ever want give him doubt that we’re not going to find the place,” said Veronica.
Alston said The Stay Warm Shelter in Gallatin does not receive any federal or state support. It’s completely funded by donations and out of her own pocket.
For more information about the shelter, you can contact (615) 479-7784 or message them on their Facebook page.
News 2 investigates why the number of children classified as homeless is rising in our area and what’s being done to help them in our special reports – “Homeless Children”.