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Award winners know pain of homelessness
Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless honors those who give
humdidy awardweb
Pastor Douglas Harn and state Rep. Al Williams laugh as emcee Capt. Natasha Nez Martinez looks on as Williams presented Harn with the 2015 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Kirk Healing Center. - photo by Photo by Jason Wermers

Kirk Center approved for re-entry housing

Robert Simmons, the Savannah-area housing coordinator for the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Re-entry, announced during the Humanitarian of the Year Award Banquet on Thursday that the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless has been approved by the state to provide housing for prisoners re-entering society.

So the center will officially be a partner with the Liberty County Re-entry Coalition Inc., a nonprofit formed earlier this year that will serve people who have been released from prison.

Simmons added that inspections already have been conducted of the housing facility the center plans to use, but that a final inspection is needed to finalize the approval.

Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which will appear in the Wednesday, Oct. 14 print edition. The Rev. Douglas Harn, who was named the 2015 Humanitarian of the Year by the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless, at one point lived in government housing while growing up, but never in a school bus. A front-page story Sunday, Oct. 4, incorrectly stated that he did live in a school bus. The Coastal Courier regrets the error.

Today, the Rev. Douglas Harn is pastor of Victory Assembly of God in Hinesville. But he has had his share of hardship.

Harn and his family lived in government housing for a time while he was growing up. That experience made him determined to improve his family’s circumstances and help others in need.

On Thursday, Harn was honored for his community service during the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless’ fifth annual Humanitarian of the Year Award Banquet at the Liberty County Community Complex in Midway.

“I was embarrassed to let (his peers) know that even in high school, I was working three jobs to support a family,” Harn said in accepting the award. “And there are many out there today that are embarrassed, that are in the same situations. They are afraid to let people know that they are hurting and that they are on the verge of homelessness.”

Hinesville Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier read a proclamation signed by Mayor Jim Thomas that paid tribute to Harn “for his many years of dedicated service to the Liberty County community” and honoring him for winning the Humanitarian of the Year Award.

State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, introduced the politically conservative Harn, jokingly referring to him as “my favorite Democrat in all the world,” which drew laughs from the many community leaders and volunteers gathered for the banquet. (Harn returned the favor during his acceptance speech by referring to Williams as “my favorite Republican.”)

Then, Williams turned serious.

“I would rather see a sermon any day, rather than hear one,” Williams said to Harn. “And you are a walking sermon. You practice what Jesus Christ taught. He talked about the least of ours.”

Also recognized during the banquet was Irving White, who received the 2015 Phoenix Award.

White, who is the Kirk Healing Center’s housing coordinator and administrative assistant to center founder Dr. Alicia Kirk, also knows homelessness firsthand. After being released from a 10-year prison sentence, White was homeless and had nowhere to turn, according to a biography printed in the program given out at the banquet. He was referred to the Kirk Healing Center as a client, but quickly was chosen to replace the outgoing supervisor of the men’s house.

Kirk Center board member Barbara Martin VanDuser recounted the story of the phoenix, a mythical bird that dies in flames and is reborn from the ashes, in introducing White.

“Every year, we award the Phoenix Award to a very deserving individual who did just that,” she said. “Irving is a very special person. … He is one that really rose from the ashes, and he has been reborn.”

In accepting the award, White said he is thankful to God, though he did ask Alicia Kirk not to nominate him.

She responded, “You have no say-so in this.”

“And then I went back and I asked God. I said, ‘God, how did I get to this place?’” White said. “And God began to show me. And God began to tell me that, ‘I was preparing you all the long time. During your 10 years in the wilderness experience, you were being prepared in order to help somebody else that will come through the same line, the same journey, the same pathway that you’re coming through.’”

White then read a letter to Kirk from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation accompanying a check — he did not reveal the amount — to the Kirk Healing Center.

U.S. Army Capt. Natasha “Nez” Martinez was the mistress of ceremonies. After Harn’s speech, during which he stressed the importance of serving others above oneself, she said she relates to Harn’s background as well as others who find themselves in tough situations.

“Both of my parents had mental illness,” she said. “They lived in abandoned homes. When they had me, they brought me to an abandoned home, and my baby bed was a shoebox. But looking at me now, you would never know what my story is. So it’s so important to help people because you don’t know what they’ve been through or where they’re trying to go.”

Near the end of the banquet, Martinez presented Alicia Kirk with an award for her efforts to help the homeless. Kirk said the award was “a beautiful surprise.”

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