UPDATED 03/01: The following story includes original reporting, as well as updated information provided by CFMT and Broken Resored Redeemed Ministries’ founder and executive director, Laquanus Boykin.
Broken Restored Redeemed Ministries (BRRM) is a nonprofit and is one of the largest faith-based housing homeless ministries that promotes rebuilding of our communities through our Housing Program Service FROM HOMELESS TO HOME OWNERSHIP by teaching accountability, responsibility and sustainability. Broken, Restored Redeemed, Ministries bridges the gap between society and behavioral health agencies, law enforcement and social services. BRRM advocates for and provide for young adults, individuals, and families who have suffered from mental illness, generational poverty and job loss.
Broken Restored Redeemed Ministries has received $370,000 in grants to provide rental assistance, housing placement and additional wraparound services individuals living in Hermitage and Lebanon directly impacted by the March 2020 tornadoes.
God can restore what is broken and turn it into something amazing. All you need is as little faith.
That’s a message the Gallatin, Tennessee-located, faith-based housing nonprofit Broken Restored Redeemed Ministries wants you to remember.
Executive Director Laquanus Boykin has been preaching it for years and never more so than in the aftermath of a series of tornadoes that ravaged Middle Tennessee in early March.
Some of the most extensive property damage occurred in nearby Wilson County and in Hermitage. Boykin, her small staff and a host of volunteers have been working ever since to ensure victims find housing and the essentials needed to survive.
“I have been extremely busy trying to make sure we get everything that’s needed for our families in our communities,” Boykin said one Monday afternoon recently.
“We’re still moving in some of our families from the tornadoes as well as dealing with the ones we got placed [into housing] that have been affected by COVID-19,” she continued.
“We’re rebuilding one life at a time.”
The rebuilding process is never more fulfilling than when it involves families and young children.
Here’s a post from the organization’s Facebook page in late March:
“Beautiful Day … we would like to give a warm Thanksgiving for all the baby items today. We were able to bless a single mother of two in Lebanon, and also a mother who is pregnant with twins, which [with] her husband will make baby number 10.
“With safety, we were still able to pray, even with social distances. With God today, we prayed for our client, and heaven heard. Again, what[ever] situation you find yourselves, learn to be content, no matter the storm we are overcom[ing]. …
Hallelujah, and amen.
Boykin took time recently to respond to a few questions from The Community Foundation
CFMT: How are you using, or planning to utilize, the tornado emergency response grant?
BRRM: The funds will be used to provide rental assistance, food, toiletries, clothing, and mattresses for low- to middle-income families affected by the tornado.
CFMT: In light of changes in how we all live and work due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, how is your organization managing to work in supporting tornado relief and recovery efforts? What challenges have you all overcome or are overcoming?
BRRM: We are still meeting face to face with clients during intake and in moving the client. We have incurred additional mileage/fuel/vehicle expenditures to go to the client rather than have them in our offices. This increases our travel time and our hours of service. Also, we are accommodating clients with no computer access due to libraries being closed, so we are having to print and maintain additional documentation.
We have challenges in providing safety to our workers when moving families. Due to technology updates needed, we are still meeting with clients face-to-face to complete housing intake paperwork. Our offices are closed ,and we are meeting by appointment only to limit contact and exposure for our clients and our workers. This leads to longer work hours due to handling one client at a time and practicing social distancing. The number of families have increased by 300% due to the tornado and COVID-19 financial difficulties.
CFMT: Give a favorite example or two of your staffers or volunteers stepping up to make a difference to help people through these disasters?
BRRM: Artega Smith has stepped up to help pass out food and toiletries to our families placed in housing. She has a brownie business and has provided brownies to add a smile to the faces of the parents and children of the families we serve. Brandon Simpson, one of our clients, has also helped out with moving our clients and remodeling our units where the families are placed. Alexandra Hemingway has volunteered numerous hours with our single-parent households by distributing food, clothing, diapers, wipes and laundry baskets to assist during the tornado recovery.
CFMT: In terms of tornado relief and recovery, what needs remain in your community or communities for tornado relief and recovery?
BRRM: We need sites set up to help those affected in rural areas for at least 120 days. We have 45 families on the wait list for assistance due to the tornado devastation. We are in need of additional supplies to accommodate the families in need and to help with office supplies being used to help families while the libraries are closed.
CFMT: Define the word “hope” for you and your organization.
HOPE stands for Habitation for those in needs, Overcoming odds, Prosperity, and Elevation for sustainability.
Follow up with Laquanus Boykin, Founder and Executive Director, Broken Restored Redeemed Ministries
CFMT: From your organization’s perspective, what progress has been made since the March 2020 tornadoes, and what more still needs to be done for survivors?
BRRM: Broken Restored Redeemed Ministries would like to thank The Community Foundation Of Middle Tennessee , Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund and all the donors for all the love and support for the tornado survivors. And [CFMT VP of Donor Services] Amy Fair for all her support during this time.
‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1’ with all devastation that we could not see that came along with March tornados. The morning of March 3rd will be remembered for God Faith Family Community. Our very foundation was shaken. In a blink of an eye, [and] many storms, our homes were destroyed and family members went with the wind. Bruised of the debris where you were trying to take cover from a powerful wind. This Wind will carry remembrance of Community. Neighbors helping Neighbors. The storm brought about destruction. This is God Faith Family and Community came together — it didn’t matter whether you were rich or poor or Homeless.
For the first time in history, our community wasn’t divided. Our counties came together to help each family. Now at the time, I was living in Wilson County and received water damage and sewage coming up in our home. It was not fun at all having to pack and move and start fresh. My home was not destroyed like the other homes, but I was experiencing power outages, molded food and lost wages. Even at that moment, everything that Broken Restored Redeemed Ministries represents was now coming alive more and more. We desired for our homeless families to have a nice home with new things. Not just things, but new locations, new family or extended family, new friends and new community. Just all-around fresh start in life. All our lives could be lost in just a second. Jesus became the core of our lives.
This is where the Glory Returned: prayer entering back into our homes and our community. We were all praying for one another and Heaven heard our cries. Then the COVID-19 health crisis and the Christmas Day bombing. All still have an impact on our community.
So our perspective is this: The tornado victims became victims all over again. Shelter was the need. Then there were no jobs. Also, several families lost their cars in the tornado, or the cars were severely damaged. So now you’re dealing with transportation issues alongside food and your daily essentials for children, like toothpaste or toothbrushes or clothing. Now parents are having to choose between shoes and rent. Between school supplies or rent, Or less food and no shelter due to long waiting lists.
There are things that still need to be done. The tornado survivors are in need of short-term and long-term shelter assistance. They are in need of job skills enhancement, educating and training. They also need transportation assistance, direct support and medical support, more support on mental health needs for our children.
It takes months and sometimes years to recover your stability. The storm victims will at least need the following: continuum care and case management and also mentors to help the new case coordinators navigate through the system. The victims will also need employment. During COVID-19, we were still able to employ our tornado families. So employment and training will be the greatest need. Then there is housing. The cost of the rent deposits has risen so high during pandemic.
The progression our ministry has made is housing the tornado families and building relationships with landlords and owners of corporations. To date, we have housed 108 families with the Meridian Apartments in Hermitage and also some families from Mt. Juliet and Lebanon in Wilson County. We thank our landlords who believe in our vision.
All of our clients sustained their living during COVID-19. We were able to use our donated truck to take survivors to doctor’s appointments and also to work. With our moving services, we were able to move our families quickly into their new home. As transportation being one of wraparound services, we were able to act quick and officially, including our services that provide donations of cars.
Now we need more support to continue to help the families regain their Independence with more necessities like: cellphones and other technology assistance; large household furniture items; short- and long-term housing shelter; and food assistance.
We were blessed to receive the Technology Grant for electronic tablets through Center for Nonprofit Management to help our clients sign up for services. Help with technology will also help children continue learning education training.
Our organization currently has seven families waiting to move into their homes and five in short-term housing until their house is finished being renovated. Donations are needed to continue to help our families navigate through our new technology world. During COVID-19, nonprofits are also on the front lines with face-to-face contact to ensure our families’ needs are being met.
LEARN MORE ABOUT BROKEN RESTORED REDEEMED MINISTRIES
Online at https://www.brrmrestoredhousing.org