a homeless solution



“He fought to protect and inspire his little boy, but failure in his commission-sales job landed them both on the streets. What a difference a Hand Up would have made in his darkest hour!”

We call it Hand Up, but you could just as well call it CCM Classic’s “anti-red-tape-get-the-job-done” homeless initiative.

A focused, targeted homeless initiative.

Of the homeless in the United States — generally speaking — 80% are on the streets because of drugs or alcohol. Another 10% simply don’t want to make an effort to change their situation regardless of how they arrived there.

But the remaining 10% know they don't belong on the streets and REALLY, TRULY WANT TO BE FREE!

Hand Up is our streamlined model focused specifically on advocating for that homeless 10% — those who truly want to be free from poverty — those who will put in the work to get there. It’s a Hand Up — not a hand-out.

You might remember the 2006 drama The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith, who played the true story of Chris Gardner, provided an excellent example of that homeless 10%. He fought to protect and inspire his little boy, but failure in his commission-sales job landed them both on the streets. What a difference it would have made if someone had given him a Hand Up in his darkest hour!

If you haven't seen the movie, click the short classic movie trailer at the right for a glimpse into this heart-wrenching story.

The golden doodle that opened a golden door

Hand Up started with a puppy. CCM Classic co-founder Michael Lederer frequents Nashville for business, but this particular trip was unusual: he was in town to adopt — ironically — a rescued golden doodle, lovingly named Franklin Nashville Lederer.

“Before that day, I had no desire to work with the homeless,” Michael remembers. “My attitude was basically, ‘Come on, people — just go get a job.’ But I was about to have my eyes opened.”

Letting his new puppy take the lead through a park where 40–50 homeless routinely find sanctuary on the fringes, Michael watched barriers of social class melt away as carefree Franklin bounded straight for the threadbare outcasts of Nashville. Several men and women took turns loving on the furry newcomer.

This exchange continued for a few days in a row. One man in particular simply wouldn’t raise his head, but that didn’t stop Franklin from licking him. “On the third day, the group anticipated Franklin’s return. Even the downcast guy’s head was up. His countenance had changed.”

“Imagine seeing them walk into their new apartment for the first time — first month's rent paid, and a fully-stocked fridge. This is our goal for those who put in the work.”

God opened a door through this little puppy, and conversation started to flow. Michael saw his opportunity and asked, "Do any of you have a personal relationship with Jesus?” Some answered yes, and testified of their daily dependency on Jesus. As a result, the group began regularly discussing Jesus amongst themselves.

How do they end up without a home?

Seeing their condition, Michael wasn’t content to exchange pleasant words and call it a day. Compassion kicked in as he listened to their stories.

Contrary to popular belief, not all the homeless enter the streets as a result of vices, drugs, or alcohol. Many were already on the edge financially, and all it took was a layoff or one medical crisis to trigger an eviction.

Of those Michael met, one of the women had escaped a domestic abuse situation — with her husband still trying to chase her down.

Another couple had been on the street for three years while the wife suffered in a wheelchair — on top of fighting a custody battle for their little one, until they could get a roof over their heads.

Why not the mission?

Michael couldn’t help but wonder why none of them were going to the mission for the night. Wouldn’t that at least provide shelter so they could sleep in peace?

“No way — that place is scary!” they told Michael. They described shady characters who look ready to slit your throat in your sleep. The park dwellers insisted they’d rather take their chances on the street “than spend a single night at that place.”

Michael went to the mission to confirm it for himself. Rob Frazier, a CCM Classic artist himself, acts as a counselor to the attendees at the mission. He took Michael on a tour of the impressive resources at the facility. There’s even an intense, 18-month rehabilitation program with a 25% success rate.

The mission most certainly has its place, but it’s only a band-aid for the 10% who find it as frightening as the people in the park described. Anyone on the streets is welcome as long as their photo does not appear on the "wall of dangerous people."

What results for most peace-loving homeless is a pattern of walking the streets at night to stay awake — and safe — then sleeping in the park during the day.

“I'm looking for the 10% that want to get out, that want change in their lives. What better change than to allow God to transform your life through the word. It's like He's speaking life through me to them.”

What’s missing?

After the tour with Rob, Michael concluded that while resources at the facility are indeed helpful, there is a gaping hole in the system begging to be filled:

ADVOCATES.

Where’s the one-to-one contact for these 10% who are sincerely trying to get out? Where was the advocate for Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness? As exemplary as he was, he was just another face — lost in the system.

Though the mission's program for drug addicts and alcoholics is helpful to many, it has nothing to advocate for the 10%. There are some wonderful local organizations, but someone needs to be a liaison between the homeless and those offering help.

The homeless need advocates: Someone to encourage. Someone to lift them up again. People who have fallen into homelessness often start to identify with their circumstances. They adopt a belief they are useless. Worthless. They sink into despair — that they’ll never find a way out, so they stop trying.

What they need is someone to remind them they're not useless and God still has a destiny for them!

Someone needs to step in and advise them with tough-love statements like “What you need is not two nights in a motel room to win a custody check: then you’ll end up with a child on the streets too. What you need is to follow the steps. Be patient and stay the course.”

Michael focuses first on sharing employment ideas. One stop-gap solution is a homeless newsletter they can sell to earn cash on the streets wherever they go.

CCM Classic is looking into creating new products that they can physically sell.  Stay tuned: soon you may be able to help provide CDs that the homeless can sell for a nominal profit — to help earn their way back under a roof.

The Hand Up network

Part of the trap of being homeless is falling into a rut of “working the system.” They know where to go for food on Tuesdays. Foot washing on Wednesdays and so on. These services are a wonderful blessing, but it will not get them off the streets.

“It’s come a long way since that first day. Some of the folks helped each other afford a cell phone. I get around 20 or more text messages a day from them, asking advice, looking for encouragement. ‘Pastor Mike, can you pray for me?’”

Michael aids them in learning to manage their money as well as understanding the steps to regain employment. At the time of this writing, the couple mentioned above now have a job, live in a new apartment, and will receive custody of their child soon.

How do they get into a home?

Sometimes getting a job isn’t enough to get back under a roof. One of the homeless men Michael helped was able to get a construction job, but it wouldn’t be for at least three weeks before he could save enough to get into an apartment. And then there’s the issue of the deposit.

Michael explains, “When they get to the place that they're working, and have given it their all, they really need help with that first step — first month’s rent and the deposit. I’d also like to see us fill up the fridge with groceries for their first week in the door.”

“Imagine seeing them walk into their new apartment for the first time — first month's rent paid, and a fully-stocked fridge. This is our goal for those who put in the work.”

Spreading the word

What if others could follow Michael's no-nonsense, advocate model? “That's the hope,” he says. Of course, getting others involved would only mean more Hand Ups and fewer people on the streets.

Besides spreading the gospel one-on-one in the park, Michael hopes one day to host live music as well. It's a matter of meetings, planning and prayer for now.

Michael is also in the midst of creating testimonial videos which may become a documentary and is speaking with several CCM artists who he believes will support this initiative. CCM artists are a loving and caring community. Some have already committed to performing fundraising concerts.

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how can you help?

With our new homeless initiative, our listeners and social media family also have the ability to help change lives through their giving. “We are very excited with this new direction of CCM Classic.”

Donate

Click donate now, and mention "Hand Up" in the Paypal "Special Instructions." Thank you for extending the love of Jesus to the homeless 10%!

Give of your time

Would you like to be hands-on? Perhaps put in some time at the church, or train to be an advocate like Michael? Contact us to learn more.

Stay tuned & pray

With the help of the CCM artists, we will be doing live, intimate events to raise funds for this cause. We are also considering a "Go Fund Me" campaign to raise funds for specific needs. Please stay tuned on social media, and pray for Hand Up.