Chris Elrod is the founder and director of Impact! in Lakeland, Florida, a non-profit organization that helps people experiencing poverty and homelessness discover hope, belonging and self-sufficiency. A former pastor, he has spent the past decade working directly with the homeless, addicted and at-risk families across Florida to obtain affordable housing and the skills necessary to make a sustainable wage. As a result, Chris is quickly becoming recognized as a foremost advocate of those victimized by extreme poverty, gentrification and social injustice. Each year he works with organizations, civic leaders and churches across the United States to assess, develop and implement strategies for helping those in the community experiencing systemic poverty.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Chris started out as a Christian comedian traveling all across the United States and Canada appearing at churches, comedy clubs, college campuses, music festivals and on television. From 1990-2001, he averaged over 270 speaking engagements each year and shared the stage with many top Christian and country music artists of the day. He also spoke in hundreds of prisons throughout America as a platform artist for Operation Starting Line, a ministry outreach of Prison Fellowship. After leaving the comedy world behind, Chris served in various staff roles at churches throughout Central Florida. In 2004 he and his wife founded a Bible study in an apartment complex, which quickly grew into a church plant for the Florida Baptist Convention. In 2014 Chris became the senior pastor of a church plant in the heart of the homeless and addicted population of Lakeland, Florida. Most nights the church was filled with folks sleeping on the sanctuary floor. During the day, people would stop by needing food, clothing, showers and medical assistance. It was through trying to meet these needs that Impact! was founded. In 2018, Chris transitioned into its full-time director.
Chris’ extensive experience in developing close personal relationships with the homeless has given him a unique vantage point and passion for bringing awareness to issues surrounding poverty, addiction, mental health, welfare reform and economic inequality. His creative and no-nonsense approaches to helping combat gentrification and the affordable housing crisis in America has been featured in USA Today, Fox News, The Washington Post, Moody Broadcasting and other media outlets. A gifted communicator, Chris also speaks at conferences, workshops and special events all over the United States about action steps companies, churches, civic groups and individuals can take to engage and help those in their communities experiencing chronic homelessness.
As a leadership coach and consultant Chris works with civic and religious leaders in communities all over the United States to develop strategies and processes for addressing gentrification and homelessness in their area. He also works with city planners in costal cities to provide risk assessment, collaborative approaches, creative solutions and emergency planning for meeting the needs of the homeless during hurricanes.
Chris and his wife, Denise have no children and still live in Lakeland, Florida. When he is not working with the less fortunate or traveling the country, Chris enjoys photography, the outdoors and watching Florida Gator football.