When Kimberly Hinton-Robinson found out that Winston-Salem’s homeless population felt unwelcome attending public events downtown, she decided to throw a party for them — complete with live music, free food, clothes and shoes.
The first Festival for the Homeless, held in 2015, coincided with a milestone birthday, and she intended for it to be a one-off event.
“Before exiting the park after the first Festival for the Homeless, I was asked about a date for next year,” Hinton-Robinson said. “I had no plans or interest in doing this again. Every year after has been a bigger and more fulfilling festival for those that it was designed for.”
The fourth Festival for the Homeless will be Sept. 7 (it wasn’t held in 2017) in Gateway Commons Park, walking distance from the city’s homeless shelters, Hinton-Robinson said. Flyers about the festival are on bulletin boards at the shelters.
On the Thursday before the festival, Hinton-Robinson said, she will go to Samaritan Ministries at lunchtime and to other street-homeless areas to pass out flyers and invite them to the park.
“I was downtown in the summer of 2015, and I ran into overflow homeless shelters guests,” Hinton-Robinson said. “Some shared their reluctance and discomfort in attending downtown summer music concerts. With my 60th lifeday approaching in September, I was thinking what to do for the big 60th? Give the homeless a music concert was the answer given to me.”
“I had no idea how to do this,” Hinton-Robinson said, so she called musicians Saundra Crenshaw and Kirby Hamilton to help her. “They both were overjoyed about the idea and ready to do it. A group ... from my homeless volunteering, family members and friends joined in.”
Sam Barbee, who worked with the City’s Recreation and Parks, helped them find a place.
In about 2008, Hinton-Robinson started volunteering with homeless populations. She said that Prince Rainey Rivers, who was then pastor at United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, made her aware of the cause.
She started volunteering at First Baptist on Fifth, when they had a shelter in their gym. “From there, I was hired as the first female African American monitor for the overflow homeless shelter, now called City With Dwellings,” Hinton-Robinson said. After a few years, she returned to volunteering to have time to care for her aging parents.
The Phase Band will open this year’s festival at 2 p.m. Ronald Reginald “Ron R” King is the master of ceremonies. Mercy Falls, Neil Tolbert and Crenshaw will perform.
Besides being a personality on WBMU.net in Asheville, King is a retired fire fighter, a motivational speaker and domestic violence activist.
Crenshaw has performed her “Entertainment for the Soul” worldwide. Classically trained, she and her band concentrate on jazz and R&B stylings
“Saundra Crenshaw is the Queen of the Festival for the Homeless,” Hinton-Robinson said. “She continues to perform and work on it, making it a remarkable event each and every year.”
Mercy Falls, a Christian contemporary rock band, is composed of Alan Strickland and Brian Sightler, guitars; Eric Murph, bass guitar and backing vocals; Alex Penell, lead vocals; and Bobby Blackwelder, drums.
In 2018, the festival added a children’s activity area aimed at children who live in the nearby Salvation Army shelter and the other homeless children in the community.
It is operated by Tavone McMillian and his Flying Colors Adventure Park whose mission is “bringing colors to life by creating fun, positive, and memorable experiences.”