Former homeless man holds job, lives on own, drives car, extends mercy

Serving clients at Community Kitchen in Chattanooga are Edward Hice, left, and Emmett Allgood Jr.

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

— Ephesians 4:28

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

— Colossians 3:23, 24

By David Tulis

Emmett Allgood Jr. is near the end of his shift as a kitchen supervisor at Community Kitchen. It’s Friday, and the staff and clients are putting on a celebratory bash with games, special food and a break from the routine. Mr. Allgood is sweating slightly, going from an air-conditioned part of the back area to a warmer part, and then back again as he gives me a tour and talks about his job.

Mr. Allgood, 57, divorced, with three children, is a former homeless man who, by God’s grace, has found self-government, is making a small but self-reliant living as a Community Kitchen staffer, and is devoting himself to the care of the needy and the homeless on East 11th Street in Chattanooga.

Mr. Allgood gives credit to Rev. Steve Hunziker, who ran the former Maranatha homeless mission in the city and gifted him with a 1999 Ford. “The Lord blessed me with that car. He put it on my friend’s heart ***, who bought me that car so I can go to church and have  little ministry. I can be able to help people with it, take people places, shop, like I do with Larry [Setliffe], take him shopping, do things for him, take him to the doctor.”

The Kitchen has employed Mr. Allgood for a year. For two years before that Mr. Allgood stayed at Union Gospel Mission, where he improved his sanctification and knowledge of God and graduated from the Grace Bible program. He resides in an efficiency at 951 Boynton Drive and starts each 40-hour week at 5:30 a.m.

Two years ago he became a member of Duncan Park Baptist church. “That church family has really helped me with my foundation and my way of life and my walk,” he says. “Spiritually, they encamped around me when I joined the church. Everybody welcomed me and gave me that encouragement. They gave me that emotional stability that I needed.”

I ask Mr. Allgood about the moral and spiritual condition of the homeless. Do they lack family connections? “I think they have the connections, but a lot of them don’t make the effort to receive it. You know, you gotta be open to that reception. You gotta be humble enough to want help and need help. The programs are out there. Union Gospel Mission is out there, taking them in. Chattanooga Rescue Mission is out there, taking in men and women. The facilities are out there. But you’ve got to be willing to be humble yourself and say, ‘I need help.’”

The people at Community Kitchen are an example of Christlike living, he says. “These people want to do, and help, and reach out to you. The people where I came from, the people I was dealing with on the street, my so-called friends or associates, they wanted to take and get, you know. And it’s such a change to go from one extreme to the other.”

Rev. Hunziker, who work in the field of personal evangelism, says Mr. Allgood’s persevering faith, despite slips, has made him a more selfless person. “He’s got a real service heart. He loves people. Whenever you get him in with a group of people, he’ll be listening and be asking questions. He’s not the kind who likes to talk about himself.”

Mr. Allgood says he was converted two decades ago under the sermons of Rev. Hunziker. But he is waiting to see fruit of his belief in God among his children, who live in New York.

He hopes to be a Christlike example to his children, who remember him in his evil ways. “But I am trying to shine that light to them,” he says. “They see that daddy’s changed. They hear and know, but they haven’t professed, or submitted, or been humbled to Christ yet. But I planted the seed, and I leave it up to God to water and harvest it.”

(This essay first appeared August 2012. But I republish it as Mr. Allgood has lost his job and is seeking employment. If you have work for this man of general talent and goodwill, let me know, and I will put you in contact with him. — DJT)

Emmett Allgood Jr., formerly a homeless man, has been employed as an assistant supervisor at Community Kitchen for a year. He is seeking to extend the love of Christ to other people.