Legacy of 'Big Mama' helps homeless

Marche' Carpenter wants people to know most of the homeless don't fit the stereotypes.

"It's not easy being homeless," said Mr. Carpenter, who has been staying at the Augusta Rescue Mission for two weeks since leaving Athens, Ga., to look for more job opportunities.

"When people see that you're homeless, instead of offering a hand to help or encouraging words, they tend to look down on you. They think that everyone who is homeless is on drugs or an alcoholic," he said. "I'm not, and a lot of homeless people I've run into aren't. It's just that life happened and they ended up out here. I don't think anyone wants to be homeless."

He has been homeless "off and on" for six years since his divorce, he said.

"I know where I want to be, and I have a plan to get there," he said. "Right now, I'm just trying to get up enough money so I can get back on that path."

Katrina Moore heard similar stories over and over Saturday during an event for the homeless at Dyess Park that featured entertainment, food and games.

It was sponsored by Big Mama's House of Love Inc., founded by Ms. Moore.

"People have to realize how important it is to help those in need," she said. "We never know when we may be in that situ- ation. People are losing jobs and their homes every day. Some people are just a paycheck away from being homeless. That's why we can never look down on those in need, because one day it could be us."

Ms. Moore founded the nonprofit in 2007 in memory of her grandmother Rosa Lee Barnes. Mrs. Barnes, 83, was killed July 11, 1997, in a drive-by shooting in Augusta while sitting on the side of her bed.

"Big Mama -- that's what we called her -- had a big heart," Ms. Moore said. "She opened her doors to those in need and she didn't turn her back on anyone. It was in that same spirit that I founded this organization. I wanted her legacy to live on."

The organization's next goal is to secure a building so it can offer more services, including shelter, job search assistance, financial planning and relocation assistance.

"We have come a long way from where we started two years ago, but once we obtain a building, we can do so many other things to help those in need," Ms. Moore said. "That's our vision -- to provide a starting-over home, a home of love for the homeless."

For information or to donate, visit www.bigmamashouseoflove.com or contact Ms. Moore at (706) 284-8793 or kmoore@bigmamashouseoflove.com.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.