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Homeless man gets his own apartment after years of hard work

By Jessica Boyd, Knoxville News Sentinel

2800 days ago   Article ID# 836219
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Knox Area Rescue Ministries

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE (Knoxville News Sentinel) - Next week, Ricky Hasbrouck, 45, will break six years of homelessness when he moves into his own North Knox apartment.

It took a lot of hard work, patience and connecting with the right people to make it happen.

Hasbrouck is originally from Rochester, NY. He moved around some while growing up before graduating from high school in Florida in the mid-1980s. Eventually, he moved to East Tennessee. "I had family who lived in Sevierville," he said.

Then in November 2004 something changed.

"We had a family disagreement," he said. The disagreement led him to come to Knoxville, but he had no place to live.

He started working day labor, getting hired on daily by different companies that needed help in the construction business or working in company warehouses. At night, Hasbrouck turned to Knox Area Rescue Ministries on Broadway to sleep, and when he wasn't working during the day, he would go to Volunteer Ministry Center, just down the street from KARM.

While KARM offered emergency night shelter at the time, VMC was offering emergency day shelter. Karol Harper, Development & Public Relations Manager for VMC, said, "It was a way for people to get off the streets and receive a meal."

For about four years, that's what Hasbrouck's life looked like day in and day out. Harper said, "He settled into the schedule of being homeless."

Hasbrouck agreed. "Basically, I was surviving in that and not really looking for a way out," he said. "And then I got tired of it."

That's when Hasbrouck decided to make a change. "I tried to go out and find more steady employment," he said. He began looking for full-time work, but he said it was difficult when potential employers would find out he was homeless. "Nobody wants to give us an opportunity to prove ourselves," he said.

Then in March 2009, VMC began to go through a transition. Harper said their focus shifted from meeting immediate needs with the emergency day shelter to developing an intention of helping homeless people work out of homelessness by providing the resources for them to find employment and permanent housing.

And Hasbrouck said that's where he began to receive help. He began coming to VMC, where he met with case manager Dyrl Higdon, who would help provide him resources to look for more permanent employment so he could get his own housing.

He got a few different part-time jobs that he still has today. "I clean a church in Morristown," he said. "During UT's football season, I cook every game day at a concession stand and every Sunday after a home game, I clean the football stadium," he said. However, if he wanted to get into permanent housing, he needed something steadier.

While VMC had made the transition away from an emergency day shelter, they still provided some meals to the homeless, Harper said. Their volunteers would come together as "meal groups" to serve the meals she said.

Terry and Steve Ellis, owners of Range House in Fountain City, were a part of that group of volunteers.

The couple began to form a relationship with Hasbrouck when he consistently wanted to help cook or clean up. "He was always on top of everything," she said. "And he's a good cook."

Terry said after several months of getting to know Hasbrouck, she had an idea. "Once Ricky said he needed a job, I told him to fill out an application."

Hasbrouck was hired in November 2010 as a prep cook and dishwasher. "As local business owners, I think we all need to be sensitive to the fact that people need jobs who don't have homes, but that's why they don't have homes," Terry said.

In July, Hasbrouck applied for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, which provides federal assistance for regular housing to low-income individuals, and he found out on Dec. 21 that he would receive housing.

"He will sign a lease and pay rent," Harper said. "It's been a long process."

Hasbrouck said as the lease-signing day draws near next week, he's looking forward to having privacy and receiving mail. But he is not leaving VMC behind. "I will come back and help serve," he said.

"I like VMC," he said. "And I can show my brothers and sisters in the program here what can come their way if they work for it."

This experience has taught Hasbrouck a lot, he said, but he feels he's learned the most about patience and the importance of not giving up. "And that God is good?" Terry asked. Hasbrouck answered, "All the time."

Copyright 2018 Knoxville News Sentinel   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 2800 days ago   Article ID# 836219

Knox Area Rescue Ministries     View Charity Profile    Visit Website

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