Health and Welfare Committee reaches out to organizations in light of homeless shelter closing

Published 9:04 am Friday, February 7, 2020

During the Health and Welfare Committee’s meeting Tuesday evening, chairman Robert Acuff said the news about River’s Edge Dream Center ending overnight stays warranted additional action by the committee to find a solution.

“We have a homeless problem in Carter County that everyone looks away from,” Acuff said.

The committee has briefly discussed reaching out to different groups before, but in light of the closing, he said he has officially reached out to Burt Rosen, president of Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries, to invite him to host a workshop or something similar to brainstorm ways to address homelessness in the county.

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“It is a very successful program,” Acuff said. “Governments in general are not going to bring an end to it, but we can be a catalyst to bring people together and raise the level of awareness in our county.”

Robin McKamey said mental health and stigma surrounding it play a significant, sometimes invisible role in the issue.

Acuff said these problems require more thorough questions and discussions not just because they are national issues, but because they are local issues, right in Carter County.

In other topics, he said the committee should take many points from Governor Bill Lee’s State of the State Address as potential discussions and research projects the committee can take on.

“I would strongly urge you to take a copy [of the speech],” Acuff said. “There are a lot of things that this particular state of state address that pertain not just to Health and Welfare but to rural counties in general.”

Among them, he said, were water and sewer systems in the region.

Acuff harkened back to an event where he joined ETSU and Ballad Health to provide water filters to the Milligan community, encouraging the county to drink less sodas and other sugary drinks whenever possible.

He said there is money in the governor’s budget to allow the county to look at ways to increase access to spring water or well water systems in areas that need it the most.

The next Health and Welfare meeting will take place Friday, March 6, at 6 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room. All county committee meetings are free and open to the public to attend.