Carl Resener

I just got word that Carl Resener, the former director of the Nashville Rescue Mission, passed away today. He retired from mission work in 2000.

There are three things about the man that stand out the most in my mind.

He was mostly a ghost around the mission. It was a rare occurrence for homeless people to see him around the mission, except for the Sunday Sermon, which he always preached. All the other 13 sermons given at the mission each week, one required to receive lunch, and one required to receive a bed for the night, were given by other staff members. When Resener arrived each morning at the mission, he made a bee line for his office, and when he left for the day, he made a bee line to his car. And if you dared to stop him to talk about something, while he went to or from his car, you’d get a mostly cold shoulder from the man.

He also had a regular turnover in staff. The mission often hired exceptional chaplains and management personnel. But these people, always looking to improve conditions at the mission, would run up against the brick wall of Carl Resener, when trying to implement changes to the mission system. Frustrated, these people would soon find employment elsewhere, where their talents would be more appreciated. The only staff members with longevity at the mission were those people who made no effort to improve things, and only did what they were told. Resener was the quintessential fundamentalist christian, holding to the belief that, because he had God on his side, he was complete in his work, he needed no other help, and nothing ever needed to change.

Lastly, of all the poorly given sermons I was forced to attend, so to receive food or a bed for the night, Reseners was by far the most boring, sleep producing, and mind grating. That’s when I got into the habit of not eating lunch on Sundays.

Oh yeah, he also said that the work of AA was bad for people because they did not require people to declare Jesus to be their “higher power.” He also denied the benefits of the science of Psychiatry.

Yes, I know that some people have this superstitious belief that it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead. But really, these were the obvious features of the man, at least from the perspective of a homeless person who had to endure his “work in the name of Jesus.”


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless


  1. Just a couple notes to some of all you Anonymouses, If your friend who stays at the mission is saying that there is no point in trying to improve his life, then he more than likely is suffering from some kind of depress related issue. If you care about him, don't take that as his, or your, final answer. There are ways of getting him the help he needs. The road out of homelessness is often long and difficult. To really help your friend you must truly be “long suffering” on his behalf. Don't argue with him about it, just keep offering up options and possible solutions. I was near the end of my rope when I finally got into the place I'm in now. And that happened only because a friend prodded me all along the way. From start to finish, her getting me into housing took a full year, and even required the help of Senator Jim Cooper to look into why the process was taking so long. I never would have been able to accomplish all this myself.

    Also, no one really “patronizes” the rescue mission when it's the only place you're allowed to be, as a homeless person. Staying at the mission really isn't a choice when the cops harass you ever where else you go and constantly harp on you to go to the mission.


  2. Anonymous

    Speaking as someone who has a friend who is homeless and we both have spent some time with Rev.Carl and his wife, I too would like to know what professional shelter you have found in our area that is better. I understand that these incessant attempts to get one to “find Jesus” are abrasive to many, and the fact that you have to stand in line early to get a bed, cell phones taken for the night, etc., are all restrictions that chafe the adult–but the food is 'free'.. the bed is 'free'.. as free as anything is in this modern world. The whole world is billboards and pop-up ads for things far more corrosive than 'git saved' (which is an impossibility, Biblically speaking, btw). My friend is rational to talk to, and he has patient, reasoned answers to Why He Can't Get A Job, Why It Makes No Sense To Try–and at some point, I had to honor those answers, in much the same way that I honor his opinions about the Rescue Mission that he doesn't like and continues to patronize. I don't try to inject him with Jesus, and I don't argue with him.


  3. Not only do people like that not understand what it is like to stay at a rescue mission, they don't want to know, either, or at least don't want to admit it.


  4. Anonymous

    “I'm sorry you speak the way you do but that is probably why you ended up the way you did.”

    Spoken like someone who hasn't the faintest clue what a homeless shelter is like as a resident…


  5. Dear Anonymous #2. Those are good questions. Good enough for me to make a blog post with them. Stay tuned. 🙂


  6. I have no doubt that Resener believed he was doing a good thing. I also have no doubt that he really had no idea that the way he ran the mission was doing more harm than good. When it comes to helping homeless people, good intentions aren't what is required. Resener was so busy trying to lift the homeless up to God, he forgot to actually lift the homeless out of homelessness. I could go on for days about how messed up his mission was, and how the mission today continues that legacy. But I'll save that for another day.

    As for my particular homelessness, it was due to complications arising from Asperger's Syndrome. If Resener had directly me towards a qualified Psychologist, instead of just telling me to pray to Jesus for help, I would have been out of homelessness a LONG TIME AGO.


  7. Anonymous

    If someone has a job working with the poor but only shows contempt for them in their actions does that expose their faith as fraudulent or does it expose cowardice for not finding a job they really want?

    What is the best run homeless program you have experienced and why?


  8. Anonymous

    What's sad about this post is that your speaking of a man who deducted his life to saving other people, I'm sorry you speak the way you do but that is probably why you ended up the way you did. Even after he retired he still dedicated his time at the mission to help people up to the point where he physically couldn't anymore. Don't speak of which you do not know nor understand.


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