By Tina Tidmore
Many think of downtown kitchens for the homeless when seeing the “Jimmie Hale Mission” name. However, the northeast part of Jefferson County has connections to the organization both in providing revenue and benefiting from one of their programs.
Mission Possible in Pinson is one of their stores, which is one of the revenue sources of the organization. Also, Kermit Johnson Elementary in Pinson is one of the sites where The Jimmie Hale Mission’s Discovery Clubs are meeting.
Discovery Clubs is an after-school Bible study program for elementary school children.
Discovery Clubs, started in 2003 after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling said organizations can use school buildings, became part of the Jimmie Hale Mission ministries this year, their website says.
At a Nov. 20 Clay-Pinson Chamber of Commerce meeting, Anthony “Little Tony” Cooper, director of operations at Jimmie Hale, said many have misconceptions of their work and their programs.
“The biggest misconception is that homeless people are all bums,” he said
. “Everyone thinks: Why don’t they get a job?”
The goal of Jimmie Hale is to provide a few basic human needs, with some incentives or controls that will then motivate the person to “get a job.”
These include physical needs, such as a meal. He said when a person is hungry, at that moment, they need food. Then, Jimmie Hale provides a safe place, then the person’s social needs. Next step is to increase the person’s self-esteem with responsibilities and give them a sense of respect. It’s at that point, said Cooper, that they are strong enough to get the job.
“Personally, I think you need to not only give a person a fish, you need to teach them how to fish,” Cooper said. “But, you have to give them the first few fishes.”
Cooper told of women with children, former doctors and former attorneys who found themselves homeless.
In their promotional materials, Tony Cooper, Jimmie Hale’s executive director, is quoted as saying they have helped 800 men and women secure employment.
With requirements for the services, the Jimmie Hale Mission website stays, “We do not want to play the role of an enabler but strive to become a stepping stone for men to improve their lives.”
In addition to the Shepura Men’s Center in downtown Birmingham, Discovery Clubs in the schools and Mission Possible stores, Jimmie Hale Mission projects include Jessie’s Place for Women and Children, Royal Pines Recovery Center and Stewart Learning Centers.