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Carter County begins work on task force to address homelessness problem

A task force dedicated to addressing Carter County’s homelessness problem is underway.
During the county’s commission meeting on July 20, a resolution set forth to establish a task force aimed at finding solutions to the growing homelessness population was approved.
“We know we have a problem. We all can observe it if we’re out and about and look at the right places like under bridges downtown, out in the community, in the county,” County Commissioner Robert Acuff said. “But how serious is that problem?”
In the resolution it is laid out that the homelessness population has been growing over the last couple of years in the county. Detailed is that the issue is multifaceted, with contributing factors including lack of employment opportunities and inadequate treatment for mental health and substance abuse. The Carter County Health and Welfare Committee is described to have been studying this issue and collecting information for some time. The goal with this task force, which is to be compiled of representatives from county commissioners, city council members, local religious leaders, business leaders and community stakeholders, will explore programs and data to develop a model on addressing this problem locally.
Conversations arose earlier this year regarding homelessness after Riverview Baptist Church, which served as one of the county’s only shelters, temporarily suspended overnight stays. Since then, addressing the issue has become a priority for commissioners like Acuff, who held a public ZOOM meeting with KARM, a faith-based organization combating homelessness in Knoxville, for guidance.
Acuff said he is still in communication with the group and will be arranging a visit to the facility in the future to get a better idea for this area.
Brandon Young, pastor at Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, has been set to be chair of the task force. Anne Cooper is another individual set to partake in the task force as she has already been collecting information on the homeless population in the area.
The city of Elizabethton is also working toward the homelessness problem with city councilman, Mike Simerly. More on this from the city will be discussed at upcoming meetings.
For those who are facing homelessness, Acuff wants those individuals to reach out and share their status with him. He can be reached at robert.acuff@cartercountytn.gov.
“We know that we have a problem, and in the best interest of our citizens, and individuals within our community that find themselves struggling or maybe homeless, we need to provide a plan for them and help them get back on their feet,” he said.