MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Tuesday, city council discussed many topics, but one was a new service building for homeless in the Frayser community.
This shelter is specifically aimed at helping people get back on their feet. An extension of the Hospitality Hub downtown, $3 million is being spent building this new space for the homeless community.
Some services to be provided are said to include finding jobs and getting birth certificates as well as other forms of identification.
Kelcey Johnson is the Executive Director of the Hospitality Hub.
"Instead of living in a tent, instead of living in front of Walmart, instead of living in the woods—this is a place where you can come, it's clean, it's welcoming," he said. "All the things you need to sustain yourself and lift yourself up will be available in this particular village."
Earlier this year, a Tennessee bill passed that critics said would criminalize homelessness. The bill made it a Class C misdemeanor to camp under a highway or bridge and a felony to camp on public property.
Liza Hubbard is the Street Outreach Coordinator for Hospitality Hub. She’s constantly passing out snacks, water and lending conversation to those who often are ignored.
“[You] feel like you’re contributing to something and not that person, ‘oh they’re just a homeless bum,’ you know? But with the Hospitality Hub it makes you feel a part of society.”
Hubbard helped Christopher Williams get a job. The former business-owner has been homeless, off and on, since 2001.
“I get a place, get off my meds and we back on the street again,” Williams said.
He’s had mental health issues since he was a kid. In 2008, it brought him to his darkest place.
“I shot myself—I was frustrated,” Williams said. “Being homeless you are out on the street, you can’t get any sleep, you can’t get proper food.”
He said most people on the street can’t get proper medication or afford shots either and that the situation is worse for women.
“The women that are on the street, they’re everybody’s first priority,” the father and grandfather said. “They get raped, get abused.”
Williams said he saw the Tennessee law on homelessness as dismissive.
“Passing a bill—putting a person in jail,” he said. “It’s defeating the purpose.”
House Bill 978 made it a misdemeanor to camp under a highway and a felony to stay on public property.
“It’s like putting a band-aid over a big wound because if you put them in jail you’re not helping the issue,” Hubbard said.
It’s a bill she said will not help but rather make a stressful situation worse.
Meanwhile, Williams is keeping his head up.
“My job—makes you feel better when you shave and go to the store and you know if you wanna buy a pop or something, buy you a pop or something.”
He’s working on writing his next chapter.
“[A] good hot meal would make everybody happy,” he said.