UM homeless advocate featured on 60 Minutes

Ingrid3

Ingrid McIntyre, Executive Director of Open Table Nashville, speaks with CBS News correspondent Anderson Cooper.

Nashville, Tenn. — For many it might have been a usual Sunday night, but for Ingrid McIntyre a United Methodist in the Nashville area (Tennessee Conference) it was a night to be especially excited. This Sunday evening was the culmination of a number of interviews by Anderson Cooper and his television news team seeking to capture some of her and her fellow homeless advocates work in a 60 Minutes national feature.

McIntyre, one of the co-founders and the Executive Director of Open Table Nashville, is someone who was raised with the understanding that Christ’s love compels his followers to help others. McIntyre’s father David is an retired elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference and her mother Patty worked for many years in helping to publish the Pockets children’s magazine for The Upper Room, and McIntyre was an active youth in the conference, and would go on to attend the University of Evansville  and Wesley Theological Seminary.

ingrid-square“Relationships and hospitality were always a part of our household,” McIntyre said. “My parents regularly invited people into our house, and I remember as a young girl hanging out with my dad and a homeless guy that lived near my dad’s church as they built a relationship.”

In 2008 , McIntyre was introduced to Nashville’s Tent City — a homeless encampment located on the banks of the Cumberland River. McIntyre and her Open Table colleagues quickly began to address some of the immediate needs of this community, which at its peak included some 140 people. In 2010 when Nashville experienced severe flooding throughout the area, one of the hardest hit communities was Tent City. McIntyre and others rushed to the river to help evacuate the Tent City survivors and get them to shelters. As they helped these homeless and marginalized persons transition into life in the emergency shelters, McIntyre and her colleagues promised their Tent City friends that they would not abandon them . . . not fully recognizing the gravity of that promise or the implications for the future.  When the shelters closed and the residents had no place to go, McIntyre’s group of advocates worked to find housing solutions for their homeless friends, and in 2011 they founded Open Table Nashville as a 501c3 non-profit focused on helping homeless persons in Nashville find housing solutions as well as meeting other needs faced by that community.

“When people ask about the name ‘Open Table,’” says McIntyre, “they ask if it’s about a ‘food thing.’ I tell them that we’re all motivated by our faith and that to us, Open Table means a place where everyone is welcome. The table is never too full and there’s always an open seat. ”

While Open Table is not specifically a United Methodist ministry, Ingrid’s background in the UMC is evident through the number of partnerships her organization has formed with UMC congregations. One of the first locations for housing former Tent City residents was the former parsonage of the Hobson UMC, and UM churches throughout the city regularly open their fellowship halls and gyms to provide warming shelters for the homeless during severe weather, as well as making donations of food, clothing, sleeping bags, and other items.

More recently, as reported in the 6o Minutes story, Open Table has been a major part of Nashville’s  How’s Nashville campaign, part of the national 100,000 Homes campaign. This effort aims to place 100,000 homeless persons in housing by July 2014. So far groups like Open Table working throughout the country have provided housing for over 83,000 people. In Nashville, over 360 folks have been housed in the past year.

McIntyre’s work has not only caught the attention of the news media, but also Bishop Bill McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area. McAlilly has decided to appoint McIntyre as a local pastor assigned to minister on the streets with the homeless, through Open Table. 

“Few people have the passion and commitment of Ingrid McIntyre,” McAlilly said. Those who are residentially challenged in Nashville, TN see Christ in her. Because of Ingrid’s commitment and untiring spirit, the United Methodist Church is finding its way into places of need.  She is bearing witness to the love of Christ in the world and is teaching the rest of us what it means to create new places and spaces for new people.”

“The best part of the whole 60 Minutes experience,” said McIntyre, “was having dinner with Anderson Cooper after spending all day shooting our work with our homeless friends, and talking with him about how his own attitudes about homeless people were being changed.”

Cooper acknowledged that change in a companion video piece on the 60 Minutes website. “There is a homeless guy who camps outside my house and before the story he really annoyed me,” Cooper said. “After the story I asked him his name, I said hello to him, I talked to him. It humanizes them and it let’s you walk a bit in their shoes and see with a different lens.”

“Everything we do is about relationship and hospitality,” McIntyre said. “I learned that from my parents and my church, and I’m just living out what they have taught me.”

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at editor@circuitwritermedia.com

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