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Space sought for mens homeless shelter

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The Salvation Army of Wilson County is staffed completely by volunteers. Many have been previous clients of the organization. From left, Carroll Denney, Tyler McCain, Jordan Mathes and Sherry Riley are all working together to make sure this is the year that a homeless shelter for men is built in Wilson County.       ZACK OWENSBY / The Wilson Post 

By ZACK OWENSBYThe Wilson Post

You might think there are very few, if any, homeless people in Wilson County, but that would be wrong.

The homeless in Lebanon are a hidden population,” said Tyler McCain, a volunteer with the Wilson County Salvation Army.

“And we know they are here. You see them walking down the side of the road or spending all their time near their vehicle,” McCain said.

Although it may not be as obvious to most of us, it is easy to spot that Lebanon is facing a growing homeless population for someone who has been on that side of the situation.

So a couple of men who have recently gotten back on their feet with the help of the Salvation Army are volunteering their time and service to seeing that the homeless men of Wilson County have a safe place to go and get help.

Jordan Mathes and Carroll Denney, two men who were without homes not so long ago, have decided to make it their mission, along with the Salvation Army and McCain to make this year the year a permanent men’s shelter is started here in Lebanon.

“Now, men who are homeless have no options for shelter unless they want to go into Nashville, Cookeville or Hartsville,” McCain said. “And most of them don’t feel comfortable going to the Nashville Rescue Mission because it is both overcrowded and dangerous.”

Mathes and Denney, who now share an apartment together, said the Nashville location can be dangerous.

“I know, just from growing up around there, that the proximity to alcohol and drugs and violence make it a scary place to go,” Mathes said. “People there try to take advantage of you, try to take your stuff or try to hurt you.”

Lebanon volunteers recently set up Brooks House off North Cumberland near Coles Ferry, but it is specifically for women and children.

The homeless men in Wilson County are forced to sleep in their vehicles, under bridges or deep in the woods.

“People who know say there is a large homeless group that lives behind Walmart,” McCain said. “But we’ve gone back there several times and we’ve never seen them. There is very little trace of anyone back there. If there is anyone back there, they have done a great job hiding it.”

“They want to be invisible,” Mathes said. “When you’re homeless, you feel worthless. Many of them are actually scared of other people. They don’t want them to call the police and get locked up for loitering or something.”

The dream is to set up what they are calling “House of Hope,” but their biggest need right now is a location.

“We have been talking to several real estate agents, property investors and such, about getting a house donated or getting free rent somewhere,” McCain said. He hopes with the struggling economy, someone somewhere with the means to help can do so and use it as a significant tax write-off.

“We know there is someone out there who can help. We already have people on board who have committed to donate furnishings and items. Of course we would accept more. But we don’t have a place to put it all yet. We can’t do anything until we get that done,” McCain said.

But it is the fact that they have been there before that is too much to ignore, Carroll said.

“It just feels good to help someone else,” Carroll said. “This is the way for me to fulfill my calling to share the Lord as I have been blessed.”

The slogan of the mission is “A hand up not a hand out” as it is stated on their business card.

It is consistent with the services offered by The Salvation Army itself. Any way that people need help, The Salvation Army helps, McCain said. In 2009, the organization provided more than $35,000 in services.

If you want to help, you can visit The Salvation Army of Wilson County at 105 Cedarwood Drive, off South Cumberland next to Wendy’s. For more information, you can call 449-3495 or email or by mail at P.O. Box 835, Lebanon, TN 37088.

Staff Writer Zack Owensby may be contacted at

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