When bass guitarist Matthew Tyson came up with the idea for the upcoming Rock Against Homelessness concert, he said it married two of his passions: music and volunteerism.
“I thought that if we had something that featured all of this musical talent, not only could we have a good time, it would also bring about a lot of awareness for what we’re doing,” Tyson said.
The all-day benefit music festival Saturday will feature 15 local bands, with all proceeds going to The Right Place, a new nonprofit that combats homelessness in Anniston and surrounding areas. Tyson, secretary of The Right Place board, hopes the event will spread the word about the organization and its mission.
The show will spotlight a broad range of sounds, including bluegrass, punk rock, soft rock, folk songs and blues. Headlining the event are Sweet Southern Comfort, Second Hand Jones and Double Wide Soul.
With the bands, local restaurants, social media and community members promoting the event, Tyson said he expects a large attendance, adding that homelessness is certainly an issue in Anniston.
“We may not see it everyday, but up to 18 or 19 percent of people in Alabama live below the poverty line,” he said. “In Calhoun County, that is more like 21 percent.”
In addition to his role as coordinator, Tyson will play the during the fundraiser with his band, Land Mine Spring.
The festival starts at noon and runs until midnight. Jonn Medders, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for Second Hand Jones, said he was honored to be invited to play.
“It’s very personal for me,” Medders said. “Musicians, being who we are, we tend to come into contact with a lot of the factors that cause homelessness. A lot of our lives are crashing on couches anyway.”
Musicians, like homeless people, often deal with drug addiction and emotional instability, he said. During an unstable marriage in his early 20s, Medders himself narrowly avoided becoming homeless before receiving help from friends.
A few years later, he was playing music for loose change from passersby when he was between jobs. Though his experiences were brief, Medders said he met many people who endured long-time homelessness.
“It certainly has affected me, and I carry that with me every day,” he said.
Many people do not realize that homelessness is a problem in Anniston, not just in bigger cities, Medders added.
“Just by the nature of how it exists, it’s always in the shadows,” he said. “It’s almost a surreal experience.”
According to Tyson, The Right Place will soon unveil its newly-constructed duplex, which can house up to two families. In contrast to typical homeless shelters that only provide help on a nightly basis, the duplex will serve as semi-permanent living quarters.
“One night is fine,” Tyson said. “It gets them off the street, but it doesn’t fix the problem. They’re still homeless. This is more of a solution and less of a Band-Aid.”
The nonprofit also received a grant for its “Safe at Home” project, which helps provide smoke detectors and fire extinguishers to low-income individuals living in homes that are at-risk for fires.
The Right Place offices are currently located in the educational building at Anniston First Baptist Church. It eventually intends to renovate the main church building, which was previously destroyed in a fire, and relocate there.
Rock Against Homelessness and similar events will help the nonprofit raise funding for future volunteer efforts, Tyson said.
“I love my town, and I want to be a part of whatever helps improve it,” he said. “We have a lot of people that are homeless in Anniston, and they need help.”