Mercy House support hurt by news clip
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Feb 15, 2013 | 1487 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mercy House
SHARON FOSKEY, Mercy House founder and director, smiles confidently as she stands outside the recently painted discipleship center on Wildwood Avenue and 14th Street. Banner Photo, DELANEY WALKER
view slideshow (3 images)
Sharon Foskey eagerly waited to see her face, and more importantly, Mercy House on the news.

She had recently given an interview to a TV news reporter at the building’s site on the corner of Wildwood Avenue and 14th Street. Who knew what sponsors would be touched to commit to her vision?

Finally, the news anchor announced the next segment — Mercy Restoration Center.

“After decades on the street, a former homeless ...,” began the anchor.

Foskey stopped cold. She had only lived on the streets for five years off and on. She did not try to hide the fact. It was part of her life, but it was by no means “decades.”

The 2 1/2-minute clip contained three additional discrepancies, Foskey said. The reporter labeled Mercy House as a homeless shelter for men and women.

“It is a discipleship center [for women],” Foskey said. “They did not want to say that.”

Mercy House, once known as Mercy Restoration Center, is a ministry of Mercy Restoration Ministries in partnership with United Christian Church. Foskey said she originally wanted the center to house both men and women.

Advisers with similar centers strongly advised against this decision.

“They said, ‘Sharon, you cannot do that. You are asking for problems,’” Foskey recalled.

Changes were made in heed of their wisdom. Foskey would still have a center for men, but first she would establish one for women.

“People are saying I misled them by saying it was going to be for men and women. Well, that is my entire vision,” Foskey said. “My entire vision will be men, women, families and children.”

She added, “I have to crawl before I can walk, and I have to walk before I can run.”

Housing women at Mercy House is only phase one of a vision, Foskey said.

“We are looking to the future. God said, in consummation of us all, we will be on a hundred acres. We will have four separate dormitories [for women, men, children and families],” Foskey said.

On TV, the reporter said the building for Mercy House was donated. Foskey said the landlord initially granted one month’s free rent. She was awarded another month’s free rent when it became apparent how much work would be needed in the renovation process.

“They’ve cost me,” Foskey said of the news report.

Calls began coming in almost incessantly, according to Foskey.

“Literally, for almost two weeks now my phone has started ringing at 7 o’clock in the morning and by 10 or 11 in the morning it is dead,” Foskey said.

The callers said they felt Foskey had lied to them about her past. Many have taken back what they initially promised to Mercy House. This includes everything from money to services.

The change in attitude and support has shaken Foskey.

“I’m a person of my word. Just because I have had to back up and change some things, does not make me a liar. It makes me a person who is learning as I go,” Foskey said.

She is the founder and director of Mercy House. This is the first time she has undertaken this type of project.

Words of advice and encouragement are welcomed, according to Foskey.

“Let’s keep our focus on constructive criticism. And that I welcome,” Foskey said. “Anybody who has any constructive words, wisdom, knowledge — please feel free to contact me.”

Foskey contacted the news reporter to point out the discrepancies in her story and the news reporter’s story. She asked for corrections to be made and for another airing.

According to Foskey, the clip was aired again at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday.

The clip can also be seen on the news station’s website with the corrections made in both the video and transcription.

She was still labeled as a woman who had spent decades on the street.

And the calls continue to come in, said Foskey.

“They have literally cost me thousands of dollars. Not money of my own, but what was coming in. What was promised to us,” Foskey said.

The re-airing changed homeless shelter to ministry center and men and women to women. The building for Mercy House was labeled as donated, but the reporter mentioned rent, as well. The focus predominately stayed on how the center would aid homeless individuals.

Foskey’s heart still remains with the homeless.

“I know who the homeless people are,” Foskey said. “They are alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, battered women, Vietnam veterans — these are homeless people.”

She said Mercy House, and future ministries, would not only be for the homeless.

“You’ve got some alcoholics and addicts who are not homeless. You have some prostitutes who are not homeless. You have some battered women who are not homeless,” Foskey said. “They are living with their husbands, being battered. They are not homeless.”

This epiphany has broadened Foskey’s focus.

“Instead of me focusing on just the homeless people, I want to focus on the people who make up the homeless population,” Foskey said. “I do not want to be exclusive. I want to be inclusive.”

Continued Foskey, “I know there are women and children living in fine homes in Bradley County who are suffering from one, all or a combination of these things.”

She added, “They need an answer. They need their life transformed. They do not know where to get help. I want to be that place.”

Foskey hopes the community of Bradley County and Cleveland will join her. Her most desperate needs are for a licensed constractor, a licensed lawyer, a licenesed electrician and supplies for work to be completed.

“I need bodies. I need money. I need people skilled in every area, not just in the building process, but once I get this building opened,” Foskey said.

She is looking to instill life skills in the women at Mercy House.

“I am going to need cooks. I am going to need teachers for literacy classes and GED classes. I am going to need people to just listen to their stories,” Foskey said.

She said she needs help instilling hope into the future residents at Mercy House.

“One of the greatest things that makes people fail is a lack of hope. People feel hopeless. We would give them hope because we have been there,” Foskey said. “We were the hopeless. Now we have crossed that bridge and we are on the other side living fulfilled lives.”

Continued Foskey, “We are not just saying it can be done, we are saying we did it. We were once [them] and we know what it means to walk the steps to get here.”