Jaclyn Goldsborough

Peace, assurance and hope are what brought Dennis Powell out of the cold, snowy alleys of Muncie and into the warm quarters of the Muncie Mission Ministries Inc.

Powell had been battling with homelessness for years until he was able to get help through the men's recovery program at the mission.

"It's not always your fault initially, but we do have choices," he said, reflecting back on those years. "Homelessness, it's a bad thing. Nobody should be homeless."

Powell ended up on the streets after battling years of addiction.

"No matter what your addiction is, you tend to throw yourself in that life completely as to not feel the pain from the lifestyle you chose or that you were thrust into," he said.

Powell said he realized he didn't deserve to be homeless when he reminded himself that no one should be and came to the Muncie Mission to get his life back on the right track.

"In the state of mind that I was in, I would probably be doing what I was doing, if I was even still alive," he said. "God was protecting me. It was just a matter of what his will was whether or not I would be at the Mission."

Once he came to the Muncie Mission, Powell went through the men's recovery program, which involves Christ-centered and Bible-based recovery. Powell finally had a safe roof over his head as well as three meals a day, something that was absent in his life for quite some time.

After completing the recovery program, Powell is now an intern at the Muncie Mission and gives the morning church service, leads support groups and develops relationships with the men in the program.

The Muncie Mission has offered assistance to Muncie's homeless men since 1930, and Powell was just one of the hundreds that the mission has helped over their 80 years of service to the community.

Phil Miller, the director of the men's program, said as someone who has been through challenges of homelessness, Powell is at the mission to make sure the other men have a mentor. Many men in the program have problems with authority and cannot relate to Muncie Mission staff members, but they can find that connection with Powell, he said.

According to a count of the Delaware County homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness in Muncie increased by 100 percent since last year.

The count showed 447 homeless men, women and children in the county, up from 223 last year. These numbers concern Muncie Mission executive director Ray Raines, especially with the struggling economy.

"The number of men staying here has gone up and certainly their unemployment has something to do with it," he said. "Homelessness has no season, it is all the time. We need to bring more awareness to the community of what our mission does and what it is working towards."

The Muncie Mission is gathering the community for the 6th annual Walk a Mile in My Shoes event. The event's goal is to bring hope to the hundreds of homeless in the community as well as involve the community in supplying that hope.

Without the support from the community, the Muncie Mission would not be able to help men like Powell.

"It's a neat time for those of us who live comfortably and have transportation to begin to understand that homelessness is year-round and you can't pick the day or the weather," Raines said.

Freshman elementary and special education major Katrena Thompson said she wanted a way to get involved in the community while making a difference in people's lives.

"We don't understand what it is like to be homeless and we can be so selfish and wrapped up in our own things," Thompson said. "The fact they are homeless and we can actually do something about it makes this a great opportunity because we can get them off the streets and in a home."

Powell said events like Walk a- Mile in My Shoes gives men like him a chance to take a legitimate shot at changing their life.

"The Muncie Mission helped me see that light and find a straight line to walk on," Powell said. "Its not about being a sin-free person, it's just about not letting sin destroy you. Everyone deserves a second chance."