Mission in My Words: Judith Tackett

Mission in My Words: Judith Tackett

In 1999, I met a street entrepreneur by the name of Earnest Riggs who sold pencils. He was homeless. One of my best friends, a Metro Police Sargent, befriended Earnest and linked him with social services and healthcare. Earnest was dying.

“It is not right that people should die alone on the streets of Nashville.”

Thus, we held a fundraiser and leased an apartment for Earnest. Earnest passed away in the spring of 2000. That fall I got a job as a reporter at a start-up newspaper called The City Paper, and I began writing one story a month about homelessness. That’s when I learned about Nashville Rescue Mission and its services, and I have watched it grow its programs ever since.

Now, 18 years later, I serve as the director of the Metro Homeless Impact Division. I’m responsible for bringing community partners together to build an effective Housing Crisis Resolution System to prevent and end homelessness in Nashville.

Ending homelessness does not mean that people will not lose their housing. What it means is that we have a system in place where people have immediate access to a safe shelter bed and are quickly assisted with access to permanent housing with the right level of support (depending on their personal needs) to maintain their housing. Effectively ending homelessness means that we, as a community, assist people back to permanent housing as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 days or less.

In an efficient Housing Crisis Resolution System, we will identify people who experience a housing crisis quickly, and through a common community assessment, help link them with the right services to access stable housing. Such a system will only work with an immediate access point for people who seek help.

In my mind, Nashville Rescue Mission serves as one of the main access points to help people who have lost their housing in our city.

Shelter is where most people will be able to take a deep breath and evaluate their situation. It is imperative that we partner with Nashville Rescue Mission and support the services the Mission provides to help people move into permanent housing as quickly as possible while being able to address their underlying issues that may have led to their state of homelessness.

Nashville Rescue Mission has become a place of hope for many people—a new beginning that focuses on the well being of a person. Building a systems approach that works for every person experiencing a housing crisis takes many partners who hold each other accountable. The leadership of the Mission understands that and understands its role in that system: the beginning of the journey back to permanent housing. Thank you, Nashville Rescue Mission, and thank you to all your supporters!


Judy was born in Switzerland and moved to the United States in the mid- 1990s to finish her studies in journalism and political science. She received her Master’s of Science degree in mass media communications in 2003 and a Masters of Art degree in Civic Leadership from Lipscomb University in 2014. She was recently named the director of the Metro Homeless Impact Division, formerly known as the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission.

Why I Serve

Why I Serve

“Thank you for talking to me.” Those words, spoken by a man experiencing homelessness touched Plamen’s heart in a way he finds difficult to explain.”


From Bulgaria to Nashville

Growing up in Bulgaria, homelessness was a foreign concept for Plamen, until 1989. “The government took care of everyone. After the fall of communism, people started losing their jobs. That’s when we started seeing people living on the streets or in abandoned buildings.”

Plamen was 13 when he was allowed to attend church for the first time. “I was raised with communist ideals. We worshiped idols. We had institutions built just to prove there was no God. But the first time I heard the pastor teach, I was impressed. He was talking about something he knew so well—that I knew nothing about. It bothered me so much. I wanted to know more about it.”

His passion to know more, not just about his faith in God, but
in science, would bring him all the way from Bulgaria to Nashville. “I came to Nashville in 2002 to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt University,” said Plamen. “After graduating, I did postdoctoral studies at Vanderbilt University where I studied DNA damage caused by environmental carcinogens. Today, I work as a Drug Discovery Scientist II and am researching drugs that target cancer cells. Some people think science and faith can’t co-exist. But I know differently. I enjoy bringing the two together and showing people more about what God has made. In fact, He has made everything.”


Meeting at the Mission

“I first learned of Nashville Rescue Mission through the associate pastor of my church. He invited me to join him on the 4th Monday night of each month to preach at the Mission’s nightly chapel service.”

It was in 2007 Plamen met a homeless man whose comment, ‘Thank you for talking to me,’ would change his perspective. “We picked men up on Sunday mornings and took them back to our church, where we served them breakfast, followed by Sunday school, and a church service. I struck
up a conversation with a man who had recently had brain surgery. We talked about the weather, what I did for a living, and lots of different things. As I started to leave, he stopped me and said, ‘Thank you for talking to me. Thank you for having an intellectual conversation with me.’ He explained that people avoided him and didn’t talk to him. They thought he was irrational. He appreciated being treated like a regular person. It was a very touching moment for me.”

Two years ago, Plamen and his family moved to Mt. Juliet, where they started attending a new church, The Turning Point with J. Kurtis Burton as Senior Pastor. “I started bringing a group from church to do dinner prep or serve breakfast. After that, it grew, and now we bring a group of six to ten people to serve twice a month.”


From Teaching to Serving

After teaching in the chapel for those 12 years, Plamen remembers the first time he volunteered in the kitchen. “Some of the men were saying, ‘Why are you here? You’re a preacher. You shouldn’t be here. You’re supposed to teach.’
I told them, ‘Why not? It doesn’t make sense to have one without the other. We are called to do both—teach and serve.’”

“Serving at the Mission has been a great thing for our church and for me,” said Plamen. “A lot of people were excited to volunteer. So many in our church want to serve and touch people. I love going to Nashville Rescue Mission, and the church loves it as well. Helping others makes life fulfilling.” 

Your gift of time and talents is what enables Nashville Rescue Mission to keep our doors open 365 days a year.

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From Surviving To Thriving

From Surviving To Thriving

“I’ve spent more than half my life behind bars. It’s where I learned how to survive. Today, I’m the pastor of a church, and God has blessed me with a beautiful wife and a beautiful life.”


Learning to Lie

“My father was a pastor, and my mother was a housewife,” said Roscoe. “When I was 11, I remember my dad taking my siblings to church, but left me at home with my mom. He was paranoid and accused my mom of being unfaithful. So he left me at home to keep an eye on her.”

When his father got home, and Roscoe told him nothing happened, his dad didn’t believe him and would beat him. Eventually, Roscoe realized if he said what his dad wanted to hear, he would no longer be beaten.

“I learned how to lie to keep him from hitting me,” said Roscoe. “But I felt a lot of guilt over the pain it caused my mom. I begged her to call the police or leave. She said she didn’t want to break up our family or be the reason someone turned away from the church and God. So she took the abuse. We both learned how to survive.”


From the Boxing Ring to the Penitentiary

Ultimately, this took a toll on Roscoe, and he began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. “I tried to medicate the pain away,” said Roscoe. “I had a lot of hatred in my heart. I was rebellious and got into trouble. I eventually found my way into the boxing ring through a program run by the local sheriff. I told myself that when I got big, I was going to whoop my daddy. My anger motivated me. I went all the way to the Nashville Golden Glove. I participated in 110 fights, won 97 of them, 78 of them by knockout.”

But his drug use got the better of him, and he went from the boxing ring to the penitentiary. He’s been arrested 92 times, been to prison five different times, and spent more than half of his life behind bars.


As Low As I Could Go

When he wasn’t behind bars, Roscoe sometimes slept under bridges, eating out of trashcans. He tried ten different rehabs over the years, but none of them seemed to help. “I was doing it for the wrong reasons,” shared Roscoe.

“In 2015, I was as low as a person could get,” shared Roscoe. “I was running around with a married woman who would put me up in a hotel, get me high, and let me drive her car. One night she tricked me into selling some fake pills to a dealer. As soon as he realized he’d been duped, she drove away and left me standing there. Before I knew what happened, they came at me with steel pipes, chains, sticks. They busted me up and left me for dead. The next morning, someone found me and called an ambulance.”

When he was finally released from the hospital, Roscoe had nowhere to go. Having stayed at the Mission a couple of times many years before, he knew he could go there and at least get some food and shelter.


On My Knees

“I sat down and heard two men discussing how long they’d been homeless,” recalled Roscoe. “Both men were in their late 60s. One had been homeless for 30 years, the other 27. Tears started falling down my face. I was 50 years old and realized if I didn’t do something, that would be me.”

“I walked up to the security desk and explained that I was messed up, and I really needed some help. Then I was introduced to Monte, who told me about the Mission’s Life Recovery Program.”

“I came into the Mission broken. I stayed in the prayer room, on my knees, and in the Bible. I tried to erase everything out of my mind I thought I knew about God, and I was willing to learn. I started applying what I learned, and things began to change. I began to change.”


A New Life in Christ

“The Mission taught me humility, discipline, and most importantly, how to trust God. When we had the opportunity to visit churches, I made my way to my mom’s church. The pastor was 90 years old and had been pastoring since he was 25. They welcomed me with open arms. After I graduated I also made it my church home.”

Roscoe developed a close relationship with the pastor, who continued to mentor him and offer him encouragement. “I finally felt like I had something to do, something to give back. I started praying and asking God to show me my place in ministry. The pastor kept telling me I had work to do and I couldn’t let God down. They even asked me to join the church board.”

Since graduating from the Mission’s program, Roscoe’s life has been completely transformed. He started his own business making and selling donuts. He got married and he also became a pastor.

God has continued to transform Roscoe’s life. Two years ago, he and his wife stepped out in faith and started a church. “We bought this old warehouse and gutted it. Friends and neighbors donated all the things we needed to get started. It’s called Holy Ground Church.”

Roscoe makes a point of coming back to the Mission, whether it’s to bring by some donuts or speak to men who are just getting started on their recovery journey.

“I visit the Mission because I will never forget this is where it all started. I thank God for this place.” 


Roscoe is just one of many men who have found help and hope at Nashville Rescue Mission. Your gift today will help us serve even more.

With your help, these men can overcome their past and walk into a brand new future.