River’s Edge hosting donation drive for homeless ministry

Published 5:04 pm Monday, February 19, 2018

Addressing a topic typically drenched in taboo, a handful of citizens are rallying to help support Carter County’s less fortunate.

Members of River’s Edge Fellowship Church and Valiant Warrior Ministry are hosting a donation drive this evening from 5 to 7 p.m. to help raise funds to create a sanctuary and short-term living quarter for homeless individuals in the county and city.

Seeing the issue firsthand put the issue in perspective, according Darrin Smith, an organizer with the project. Recently, Smith and others responded to a woman that was struggling during the winter months with her windows being busted out.

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“We knew there was an issue and that it is time that our churches come together for this type of project,” Smith said. “With the amount of homeless people we have in the city and county, we want to offer them a short-term place to stay and help educate them on the right tools they need to have a successful life.”

During this evening’s drive, individuals can donate toiletries, laundry detergent, Clorox, paper towels, twin sheets and other cleaning products to assist with the current quarters. Smith indicated the goal is to raise $5,000 to renovate 3,000 square feet of area to be used as a location for homeless individuals. Due to the church’s status, any donation made from the public can be tax-deductible.

“These people didn’t ask to be in the situation they’re in,” Smith said. “We just want to do what we can to help.”

And the church has been able to reap the benefits of one success story already. Smith mentioned that one individual that has been struggling has been employed by the church as a maintenance staff member and is in the process of getting back on their feet.

Having a shelter has been a hot topic of discussion over the past couple of months following social media support to maintain a location.

One of the tools used to discover homeless individuals is the ARCH homeless count, which uses guidelines put in place by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for possible funding for a shelter.

The initiative serves as a way to provide a snapshot into an issue that allows for potential grant funding by HUD for housing and support services for the homeless.

But the issue isn’t as cut and dried as believed. Volunteers have one day to make their way through a community to find individuals staying outside or in other areas. Parameters used by HUD to determine if someone is “homeless” are specific. According to the HUD website, there are four federally-defined categories which families might qualify as homeless.

Imminent risk of homelessness

Homeless under other federal statutes

Fleeing/attempting to flee domestic violence

Literally homeless

Other guidelines, including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Federal Assistance Act, are also not taken into consideration during the count.

No official numbers from the most recent count have been provided to the Elizabethton Star. However, indications were that the number could be lower than 22 — a 2016 statistic — due to weather and the inability to discover individuals who had been asked to move.

Individuals can also visit https://www.gofundme.com/53mej3k to make a monetary donation to the church’s goal of a shelter.