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How a Memphis man who was homeless for five years regained control over his life

Michael Turner Sr. was homeless for five years before getting the help he needed from the Hospitality Hub to get back on track.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One man in Memphis is a direct product of how the resources from the Hospitality Hub, which is an organization that seeks to end homelessness,  helped him get on his feet after being homeless for five years.

"I was hopeless and homeless," Michael Turner said.

He did not even know what being homeless was until it became his reality.

"Cause I'm used to having things. I didn't know where to go eat, to go get clothes," Turner expressed.

He said it was hard for him to envision himself living a better life.

"Sometimes it's so hard if you're in the clouds…so I just asked my father, 'Please let me get out of these clouds," Turner explained. "Get me away from my association, drugs, and all of that. Let me just be a man like used to be. A proud man, a stand-up.'"

Before losing his way, he worked for the uniform rental for many years and for a linen supply company called Ameripride as a line supervisor. 

Turner also worked for the post office. He said after retiring, life got the best of him.

"I lost everything that I had. So I started back over, so now I'm in the streets. Okay, I'm a little old for that, so why would I be out in the streets?...that doesn't make any sense," Turner said.

That is when The Hospitality Hub stepped in and helped Turner clean up his life. Turner now has a 2b/2b home that he has been living in for three months. 

The Hospitality Hub received a  $1 million grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. The organization is now using the grant to open a women-only shelter for those in need in the midsouth.

"There's lots of beds available for men…but here in the city, only 6% of the beds are set aside for women whereas they make up about 37% of the homeless population," Hospitality Hub Executive Director Kelcey Johnson said. 

The women-only shelter has been in the organization's plans for many years now, but when the pandemic happened, organizers had to instantly alter their plans to meet the immediate need of homeless people. 

"We help anyone dealing with homelessness, and always have since 2007," Johnson said. 

Since there are more women and their children who need housing, The Hospitality Hub opened a mini-hotel in a house located in Memphis, which currently serves 24 women and their children. 

Johnson said once the shelter is done being built, they will continue their outreach to women in the building on their main campus, which will house 32 women and their children. 

"We have a program called Work Local and on Saturdays and Sundays, it's called Work Local Women. We had a large group of women who were always working with us throughout the week as well as Saturdays and Sundays," Johnson said. "When our partner agency closed their shelter, there were 26 of these women who were going to sleep on the street."

The organization partnered with First Presbyterian Church downtown, as well as others who supported us, but they gave us the space to open up a pop-up shelter," Johnson said. "We opened that pop-up shelter and within a day, we had those 26 women sheltered and then other partners who gave us meals for them, blankets mattresses."

Johnson said they stayed there for a few weeks before moving that shelter to the Moxy Hotel.

RELATED: Why homeless advocates are concerned about a 'camping' bill being considered by Tennessee lawmakers

"In the meantime, we identified the Hub Hotel, which is at 28 North Claybrook and we were able to get the building renovated which had lots of supporters and we moved all of those women into that place," Johnson explained. 

From there, the hub has been helping women get permanently housed. 

More than 130 women have received help through the program since it opened in March 2020. 

Johnson said that the same hotel is going to move to the main campus on 590 Washington Avenue in early June/July.

Currently, the organization's hub studios, which is a non-congregate shelter for those who are by themselves and need assistance, is located on the property. Each studio is a one-bedroom space. 

"So far on average, our guests who stay in the Hub Studios normally stay for about 60 days before we can get them permanently housed," Johnson said. 

Located on the campus are case management workers who help with counseling. There are also charging stations and clean bathrooms for guests. 

Organizers are hoping this resource will help change the lives of even more Memphians in the years to come.

RELATED: Bill to punish homeless for sleeping in public spaces advances in state Senate

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