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Compassion consolidated… It’s time to put action behind words for Carter Compassion Center

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another,” John 13:35 KJV

Carter County is right smack dab in the center of the Bible belt but like many other communities has struggled for years with how to serve those who are struggling and homeless who find their way to local churches seeking financial help to pay bills, feed their children, or just have enough gas to make it to a meager paying job.

This problem is on track to be properly addressed as the Carter County Homeless Task Force is preparing to meet with local church pastors and non-profits in the days ahead on how as a county these individuals can see how compassion consolidation can help.

During their recent meeting, Harmony Freewill Baptist Chuch Pastor Brandon Young, who heads the task force, shared with the other members on the task force a video and slide show presentation that will be shared with local pastors at Valley Forge Freewill Baptist Church on Friday, March 12, 2021, at 6 pm.

Social distancing and masks will be required.

That same presentation will also be presented to non-profits in the community after the Easter holiday – somewhere around April 9th or April 16th.

Recently a count was conducted and found 67 people living under bridges in the community with another 25 living in outside sheds and barns. In 2019, Northeast Tennessee reported a total of 405 homeless people counted in the area.

And while this number may not sound that significant, out of 23,594 households in Carter County, 54 percent of those are considered ALICE households which equates to 10,853.

What is an ALICE household one may ask?

ALICE households (Asset limited, income constrained, employed) are simply families who are one disaster (car engine repair, major appliance repair or replacement, fire, or layoff) away from being in poverty and homelessness without any ability for benefits (SNAP, AFTIC, WIC, etc.).

Currently, there are an array of resources in the county but many are not aware of what the others provide forcing those who need help to navigate through the resources to find one that can help them in their time of need which ultimately creates more problems than solutions.

With the Carter Compassion Center, the center can function as a liaison between the person and the resource making it a one-stop-shop so to speak.

It will also provide a transitional component to assist with future homeless programs and provide mentor guides to help those in need stay on course to digging themselves out of the hole they find themselves in.

Churches also will have a place to refer individuals needing assistance without having to try and find a solution themselves.

Some of the potential services that can be offered through the center would be rural health, mental health, dental clinics, Veteran services, women’s services, transportation, childcare, food programs, employment, and financial counseling.

Young will be addressing the pastors to seek the community churches to come together as one to serve these individuals and fulfill the biblical principle in Matthew 25 which stated:

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me… KJV

To accomplish this task, the task force will be asking churches for monetary donations to the Compassion Center, volunteering, refer individuals needing assistance, pray for the center and those struggling with poverty, and share info with other area churches and pastors.

Pastor Ricky Jones said during the meeting, “This is a strong program that can help people in our community.”

“If we are all on board, we can create it like it needs to look,” Young added about all churches and non-profits coming together. “I am excited about it. It’s working. We are going to keep pushing. We definitely want Carter County to embrace this.”

The task force is already in the process of getting legal aid to assist in forming a 501c3 and forming a board of directors and bylaws for the center.

Once the 501c3 is in place, Carter County Compassion can begin fundraising across the county while also searching for grant opportunities. Also, the task force is looking for a physical location in the county for the center.

A search for a director who has a wealth of knowledge concerning resources in Carter County will also be a priority.

Pastor Jones has already constructed a website for the center which is cartercompassioncenter.org. The group will begin adding meaningful content to the website as the work continues.

In closing, Young said, “If we believe and pray and trust God – He will do his part.”