KINGSPORT, Tenn. (July 24, 2019) -- Many of the people who come through Shades of Grace United Methodist Church are a combination of homeless, addicted, or mentally ill.
Some are injured or sick. Some are dying and have nowhere to go.
“We found out it’s difficult to get medical care for people without an address,” says the Rev. Will Shewey.
Shades of Grace was started by Shewey just five years ago and has grown rapidly ever since. The latest expansion for the city ministry serving the “last, least, lost and lonely" is a residential facility for homeless men with health issues.
In about two weeks, Daryl’s House will open its doors to six men who need a place to lay their heads.
“We’ve already received several calls from local hospitals,” Shewey said. “We will not have any problem finding people to live there.”
Daryl’s House is named after a Shades of Grace member diagnosed with end-stage cirrhosis a year ago. Daryl died in December 2018.
“He was one of our first members. He laid out all our tile work,” Shewey said. “He struggled with addiction, was in and out of jail a few times. But Daryl never gave up on Shades of Grace, and we never gave up on him.”
The staff and volunteers tried to help Daryl, just as they tried to help Gregg.
Gregg had bone cancer and slept in his car. He died three months ago. It was painful to watch both Daryl and Gregg suffer, Shewey said.
“There’s no place for these people to go because they’re homeless,” Shewey said. “Once they are discharged from the hospital, they go out into the streets to die.”
Shades of Grace leaders decided to do something about it. They developed “a dream and a vision” to find a place for men like Daryl and Gregg.
With the help of donations and a new partner -- A Safe Harbor Home Inc. -- Shades of Grace found a house to rent in Kingsport.
Based in Greeneville, Tennessee, A Safe Harbor Home is a nonprofit that helps homeless people with disabilities as well as families victimized by domestic abuse.
The rented house was painted and repaired. A mission team from Pleasant View United Methodist Church in Abingdon, Virginia, repaired the deck. Grand Home Furnishings donated and delivered new furniture.
Monitors have been selected to live on the premises. A medical team has been enlisted to oversee the project. Many of the medical professionals are members of First Broad Street United Methodist Church, Shewey said.
Daryl’s House will serve only men, yet Shades of Grace leaders are open to future ministries for homeless women with health problems.
After all, the Kingsport church has constantly added new ministries and services since it moved from Mafair United Methodist Church in October 2014 to its current storefront location at 313 East Sullivan Street.
Within the last few days, Shewey learned the recently closed “Hay House” was deeding its former women’s center to Shades of Grace. The John R. Hay House closed in June after 36 years of serving as an alternative to incarceration for men and women.
The Hay House building is located on the same city block where Shades of Grace currently leases three spaces.
“It may end up being apartments for the homeless,” Shewey said of the Hay House property. “Or this could be set up to do for women what we’re doing for men at Daryl’s House. We don’t know yet because it’s all happening so fast.”
In addition to offering Sunday worship and serving breakfast to 100 people five days a week, Shades of Grace provides clothing, home supplies, and housing assistance. The ministry offers GED classes, grief classes, Bible study, prayer, showers and foot care for people who wander the streets.
Shades of Grace has helped more than 500 people obtain identification cards, Shewey said. They provide funerals and burial for the homeless and unclaimed. The ministry opens as an overnight shelter during extreme weather. Mailboxes are offered to those without addresses.
Ninety-six people have been baptized since Shades of Grace was started, Shewey says. The ministry operates with one-full time staff; two part-time staff; 30-40 regular volunteers; and countless churches, companies, and individuals providing food, supplies, and financial donations.
Shades of Grace started in one building on East Sullivan Street but has gradually expanded into two more spaces, called “Shades 2” and “Shades 3,” as well as a small apartment for a formerly homeless person serving as a full-time volunteer.
Hay House will be the first property owned by Shades of Grace, in addition to two vans recently donated to the ministry.
“We’re not trying to be all things to all people,” Shewey said. “We are just trying to attend to the many doors that keep swinging open.”
Contact Annette Spence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church for the homeless in Tennessee (Outreach, 3.13.16)
Shades of Grace serves last, least, lost, lonely (Times News, 1.16.19)
New church with curious names discovers forgotten community (The Call, 5.25.15)
Photos below: (1) Pleasant View team works on the deck at Daryl's House. (2) Guests drink coffee and enjoy the air conditioning on a hot day. (3) One of the three spaces leased by Shades of Grace on East Sullivan Street. (4) Shewey checks expiration dates while volunteer Jack Francisco works with donated food.