Ivery works to end Homelessness in Jackson
eather Logan Ivery ’00 began volunteering at Stewpot Community Services when she was a freshman Biblical Studies major at Belhaven. What began as an after school volunteer job turned into an 11-year position that included Stewpot’s children’s program, senior/mentally disabled program, and the day shelter for the homeless. Building on her foundation at Stewpot, Heather has recently become the City of Jackson’s Homeless Program Coordinator. This gives her the huge tasks of implementing the city’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and coordinating with various service agencies to ensure that the city is meeting the needs of the homeless.
When Heather began her studies at Belhaven, she had a very different view of her calling. She says, “When I was a student, I just knew the Lord had called me to missions. And I thought I knew where he wanted me to go. I was prepared to go to Africa and serve the neediest of the needy there…and my family, friends, and church were all supportive.”
The Lord had different plans, however, and they did not include Africa. She continues, “As it became more clear that the Lord was calling me to go just down the street, I resisted that idea. People were not as supportive of this idea. It was too close to home. It was a part of town even my family was not willing to drive through, and I was going to live there? But, thankfully I decided to listen to His calling and follow his will for my life.” She says her classes in Missions not
only “helped prepare me for the work I do,” but they influenced her to buy a home in the midst of those she
serves in West Jackson.
To say that Heather faces a challenge in her job is an understatement. She says, “I do not believe we will ever be able to say there is no one in Jackson that is in need of a home, but I do believe that we can greatly reduce the number of street homeless we have.” The resources are in place to meet the physical needs of the homeless, but Heather says that often it’s the “relationship piece” that is missing. She continues, “People don’t usually become homeless overnight. There are situations and events that cause their homelessness and many have been on the streets for a long time. It takes time to work through those issues whether they are addictions, mental illness, depression, family issues, disability or whatever. Working with someone in this position can be slow and sometimes frustrating. Often, if they cannot ‘get with the system’ so to speak, they are passed up and continue in the cycle of homelessness.”
So, what is the solution? Heather states, “I believe we have to get our churches involved in ending homelessness on an individual level. Feeding at Stewpot or Gateway is great. Donating clothes and canned goods is great. But to really end homelessness, we have to become invested in the lives of individuals. A couple of churches have taken this approach and have had some success. I think relationships are the key.”
As Heather looks at her path since college, she says, “I love my work—and I have my time at Belhaven to thank for nurturing that call.”