Overloaded with bad news baggage? Refresh, regroup and reconnect with those in our community improving the experience on the journey of life. We present the third of a series of spotlights on positive people in the community presented by Chelleby Starr and Jessica Nelson. Today, meet Jared Rush. Rush is an advocate for changing the way we seek to help the homeless.
When witnessing the homeless segment of society, our eyes scan past. We process the turmoil with varying degrees of uneasiness and our humanity is seen in the wake of the turbulence. For Jared Rush the problem is the solution. He describes himself as having "intense compassion for those in need" and his revolutionary, problem-solving idea aims to prove the claim.
Like many of us dwelling in suburbia, Jared was confronted with urban homelessness while regularly participating in the Jacksonville Art Walk. The man who never met a stranger networked amongst those living on the streets, learning to his disgust, those whom he had befriended during Art Walk, would be displaced from the polished One Spark territory. Frustration continued to grow. Jared found the services needed to help those on the streets were simply too spread out, difficult to locate, limited, and humiliating; disenfranchising those most in need. Bewildered and obsessed with the problem, Jared had an encounter with his friend, an HVAC repair man, that would give him his light bulb moment - changing everything. In an empathetic exchange, his friend shared that he had a rental property that he'd love to use to help someone in need. This was it! Help the homeless by giving them homes.
Wait. What? While this seems like a political discussion, government isn't something The Open Door Project - Jax is about. Jared started his non - profit as a means to create an all inclusive, "resort-style" charity. He explains, " According to available research data there's an estimated 2,000 homeless in Jacksonville"; a number he believes to be drastically underestimated and not fully defined. Interestingly, in the 2014 JEA report, there's over 15,000 abandoned homes in Duval County. With an obviously frustrated confidence Jared declares, "... it doesn't take rocket science... that if we have 15,000 abandoned homes and about 2,000 homeless people, that we shouldn't try to work with that. Our goal is to take over the ownership of a home whether it's voluntarily given to us or through financial contribution... We build it up- my goal is when they [homeless] walk into the home... they have everything: furniture, toiletries, they have sheets. But this isn't just, 'Here you have a home, bye.' We would have job placement, job training... social workers involved. As they get back on their feet and now have income, we'll have a contract... The goal ( for the contract holder), is once they start making income and pay back the non-profit we'll hand them over the mortgage. Our motto is 'Restore dignity, hope and belonging one homeless person at a time'."
You might be critical of such an approach, but Jared has already received his first donations and he cites a similar project in New Orleans that is having tremendous success. He also knows that most people are simply one paycheck away from homelessness. For Jared, he feels blessed that he's had family help in his rough patches. As our conversation continued we both acknowledged friends that have had to couchsurf at times in their personal struggles. Jared admits to still establishing the full plan of The Open Door Project - Jax. With optimistic smile and an eye-twinkling vision he declares, " the ' -Jax' is because I see this idea spreading." It is precisely that kind of ambition in which the best problem solvers rise and overcome all negativity by the naysayers, proving they truly have humanity in the wake of turbulence and " intense compassion for those in need."
For more information on how you can get involved with The Open Door Project-Jax
photographs by Chelleby Starr
text by Jessica Walton Nelson
Chelleby Starr and Jessica Walton Nelson have partnered in a photo-journalism effort, highlighting humanitarian and social do-gooders. We believe that positive deeds have a ripple effect and bringing these stories to light can inspire, hopefully creating the change we desire all around us. Inspiration Station needs your stories. If you, or someone you know, would like to share your efforts in impacting our community for the better, please contact us via Facebook. Deepest gratitude for perpetually demonstrating a friendly gesture.