Homeless shelter no longer accepting overnight stays sparks conversation

Published 9:08 am Monday, February 10, 2020


STAR Correspondent

The end of overnight stays at, possibly, Carter County’s only homeless shelter has sparked conversation among officials.

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As previously reported, River’s Edge Dream Center stopped taking overnight stays after January 31 in part due to the director having health issues and a lack of volunteers. At Tuesday night’s Health and Welfare Committee meeting, chairman Robert Acuff announced that a conversation has been sparked, and that he had reached out to the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission, or KARM.

“One of the things that struck me about the article was yet another place closing,” Acuff said. “That is really a place where the homeless can find some opportunity to be out of the weather and taken care of.”

According to Acuff, he and his wife are supporters of KARM, who have made big improvements to the lives of the homeless in Knoxville and have been working on solutions for many years. Due to this, Acuff reached out to Burt Rosen, president of KARM, for aid in finding a solution here.

“I asked him if he would consider loaning members of his staff to Carter County to sit down with not only the Health and Welfare Committee, but also people in the community so we can start talking about our homeless issue and what we need to define the problem.”

Acuff’s goal is that by doing this, a solution can be found to help the homeless have not only shelter, but also aid in getting back on their feet as KARM has done in Knoxville.

While there is acknowledgement of the homelessness issue, there is currently no specific data on the number of those affected.

“I don’t have those numbers, and that is one of the things we need to have in this discussion,” he said. “I’m sure there are estimates out there, but to get a true handle on it we would just have to delve a little deeper.”

Acuff said he has heard reports of homelessness even in children.

“I have had school teachers tell me they have homeless students or homeless families,” he said. “I don’t know how extensive it is.”

Acuff does not believe the government can solve this problem, but rather the community coming together can.

“In trying to solve it, the best thing to do is bring people together and let’s get the statistics and talk about the problem,” he said.

While there is no real place for the homeless to stay in Carter County, there are facilities in neighboring towns that do, however there is also no transportation provided to send them there.

“I think communities coming together have a lot of strength and resilience to bring different ideas to the table,” Acuff said.