By: Atlanta Northcutt -- Reporter for the Southern Standard
Sheila Fann, left, and Tina Higgins, co-founders of the nonprofit organization HOME, or Homeless of McMinnville Effort.
Two women have created a local organization through love and hard work to bridge the gap between the local homeless population and the resources needed to get individuals on their feet.
The nonprofit organization HOME, or Homeless of McMinnville Effort, was founded in December 2019 by Tina Higgins and Sheila Fann. The organization has grown to include seven board members and over 30 volunteers.
“I connected with Sheila and we decided we were both interested in helping these individuals,” says Higgins. “We realized there was a larger need than what was currently being done in the community.”
The group focuses on feeding, clothing, providing resources and tips, handing out blankets, finding housing during inclement weather, giving job assistance and accessing rehabilitations and entrances to health facilities.
“When we first started out, so many people from every walk of life in our county came and have given so much of their time, resources and gifts,” says Fann. “They’ve helped so much. We have 30 core volunteers, but the number we’ve reached are between 50 and 60. Without their generosity and efforts, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we’ve been able to do. It’s inspiring to see how many people are always so willing to help.”
“We officially became a 501(c)3 nonprofit this week. It’s wonderful how much the organization has grown,” adds Higgins. “You’d be amazed at how many people want to help. People have stepped up in so many different areas, including those in the mental health field, law enforcement, medical field and more. We are now a resource for 911 when homeless people are found on the street.”
HOME delivers two hot meals and one care package per week. The care packages include items for the week such as toilet paper, toiletry items, non-perishable foods and other necessities. Tents and even hotel rooms can be provided during inclement weather.
The organization helps between 10 and 15 people in McMinnville on a regular basis.
“We want to be the bridge between the resources many don’t understand are available to them and help them get back on their feet,” says Higgins. “There is a lack of information regarding low-income housing available to people and they’ve fallen through the cracks.”
First United Methodist Church donates facilities to take showers on Saturday mornings, as well as preparing meals on Thursday nights.
“We pick up the meals from First United Methodist Church and deliver them,” says Higgins. “They’ve been fabulous with helping with all of this.”
Higgins and Fann look to grow HOME, and the two women have a vision of buying property for camping or constructing tiny houses, along with transitional housing for those able to overcome homelessness, although some individuals are unable to do so due to physical or mental reasons.
“We do want to have some permanent housing as well,” says Higgins. “Some of the ones we work with can’t transition and some have no income. We hope to provide something for them since everyone deserves a place to call home.”
HOME helps both men and women from those in their early 20s to their late 70s. Higgins says the majority of the people suffer from some form of mental illness.
“We try to not refer to them as homeless people but as friends instead,” says Higgins. “You find yourself meeting them, falling in love with who they are and just wanting to help them have a better life. They are often forgotten, but we hope to show them they are loved and cared for. All I can say is it’s a God thing, and the door was opened to allow us to help.”
Within the HOME board, all money and receipts go through a treasurer. Everyone being assisted by HOME must undergo an application process. If a person is eligible for work, the organization will assist them through the process, but if they are not willing to do so, help will stop being provided.
“We make sure we are making the most of everyone’s donations and being good stewards of the donations people are entrusting us with,” says Fann. “We also have a board to hold each other accountable and we take everything we’ve been given very seriously. We give a hand-up, not a hand-out.”
For more information or to make donations, call Higgins at 931-273-6519 or Fann at 931-304-4509.