By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — “Where did everybody go?” These are the words of the homeless who have been affected by COVID-19 on a deeper level than most Americans. The shelters are full and many of the groups and organizations that helped them in the past have been affected by the virus and are not able to come out and feed and clothe the poor like they once did. Like a first responder, one organization never stopped stopped rushing in to answer the cries for help.
Ira Grimes, Founder of the Keenan Grimes Outreach Center, never stopped loading up his van and driving right into the heart of the homeless.He loads up his car now, (his van engine died but that hasn’t stopped him) and suits up in his mask, gloves, and protective
gear and sets up tables of food, clothing and bottles of water. He has the people line up in one line and in an orderly fashion, feeds them. He greets each one with a smile and lets them know God loves them.The meals vary daily depending on what he has been able to purchase or what people and groups have donated to him. Sometimes its a full plated meal, other times it is sandwiches or hot pizza.
There are those who ask him why he does what he does as he is in the age group that is considered the highest risk during this pandemic. His answer is swift and strong. “If God is your boss, you are under assignment. I use common sense and I obey the command I received.”. He also tries to get the best meal together that he can saying, “God told me He wanted His people to eat like I eat”. As he started to prepare the meal he would take out that evening he humbly remarked they were able to feed 100 of God’s people the day before.
For the last two years, the outreach center (named after his late son), has been able to restore the lives of those who are willing to come off the street and get the help they need.
Black, White, young and old, he tries to help them all.
Over the years, half of those he has brought in and clothed, fed, given shelter and resources have found housing, jobs, and careers. Many have gotten off drugs, been reunited with their families and he has even seen a few married thru this life restoration process. There are those who fail but if they are willing to get up and try again; so is he.
He is currently working to get his van engine repaired and has a dream of expanding his outreach center to be able to help even more of the most vulnerable.
Concerning the lack of social distancing among the homeless, Grimes had this to say, “These people are trying to survive. They are already struggling to to eat. They have no bed and they sleep where they can”.”People are living with generational curses that have never been handled on a world level.”
“God told me to go get his people and love on them”.
Grimes can be contacted at 865-964-0343 or [email protected]