Almond Street Mission is patterned after the real life mission in Birmingham, Alabama. The Jimmie Hale Mission. I had the privilege of touring the mission while doing research for the book.
Glorilyn Neilson’s youngest brother, Tannon, still a teen, has gone missing. To complicate matters, she lost her father a year prior. Now the family is heartbroken. They’re sure Tannon on the streets with no resources. Feeling helpless, Glorilyn does the only thing she can—volunteer at one of the local shelters over summer break. But she has no idea how her life will change when she falls in love with one of the vagrants at the facility.
As I wrote the story, I quickly realized the need to do research on homeless shelters.
A friend at my church mentioned a Christian homeless ministry in the nearby city of Birmingham, Alabama, The Jimmie Hale Mission. I called and asked if I could take a tour. A chaplain welcomed my husband and me and scheduled a time for us to visit. He promised to personally conduct our visit.
When we arrived, the chaplain took us through the dining facility, exercise room, chapel, clothing bank, computer rooms, classrooms, and dorms. While in the dining area, we met the efficient kitchen manager, a paid employee who provided three delicious meals a day for the residents. Tingles ran down my arms when he shared his experience. He was once a drunk and resident of the mission. Today, he loves the Lord, is reunited with his wife, and holds down the manager’s job. As a side note, I based two characters’ situations on this real life man.
While at the mission, the men learn job skills and have opportunity to take classes. When they leave, they’re fully grounded in the Lord and on their way to a new life. A few are employed at the facility.
Before we left, the chaplain generously gave me his cell phone number and offered to answer any further questions, and I had several. Research for this story provided a rich insight into how God’s power can change and equip those that society may have chosen to discard.