Local business leaders learn more about ‘one-stop’ help for local poverty and homelessness

Published 2:41 pm Friday, July 15, 2022

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More than 30 local business and community leaders came together on Thursday to learn more about the formation of a “one-stop” center to address local poverty, homelessness and hopelessness — the Carter Compassion Center.
The event was sponsored by Northeast Community Credit Union and catered by Kimbo’s.
Pastor Brandon Young, president of the CCC Board said he was encouraged to see so many in attendance at the event held at the CCC’s location — the former Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce building located on Highway 19E.
“Today was for our businesses,” Young explained. “We have had two other meetings so far — one for our local non-profits, sponsored by the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition, and one for our pastors, sponsored by Thrivent Financial. It is our hope that at the end of September or early October to bring all three groups together.
Plans for the Carter Compassion Center started in 2019, when the Carter County Commission put together a task force on poverty and homelessness. It was a much needed step in the right direction, according to Young.
“In our county, 54 percent is the working poor, and 24 percent live below the poverty line,” he said. “They are one disaster away from being homelessness — a car engine repair, a major appliance repair or replacement, a fire, layoff — without any ability to receive benefits. These people can’t afford to do basic maintenance because they don’t have the money.
Younger people are suffering too, Young says, referring to data showing there are 66 homeless students in Carter County Schools and 77 in Elizabethton City Schools.
“This is multigenerational poverty that they don’t know how to get out of. We’ve given out fish but we haven’t taught people how to fish. We can keep giving people stuff, but until they know how to get up and out of the poverty, it’s just a band aid.”
The main problem for those needing help, Young says, is that nobody knows what each other is doing. To rectify that, the CCC would be “a hub, a Point A where you start, the liaison between the person and services.”
“We will provide mentors to help them, retirees who have been trained and who have been successful and they will be assigned to a family in need. There will also be a transitional component to assist with future homeless programs. This prevents abuse of the system and gives churches a place to refer individuals needing assistance.
During the day, the building will be used for people to come in to meet and map out a plan forward, finding the services they need. In the evening, it will take on an educational function with classes on budgeting, mental health, literacy, parenting classes and more.
“We call ourselves ‘Compassion Consolidated,’” Young said. “We aren’t duplicating services, just bridging the gap, bringing our churches and secular groups together. We want to provide a one-stop shop.”
Young says while the group is anxious to get started, there is still maintenance to be done on the building which will house CCC.
“The roof leaks and we are trying to get the money to fix the building,” Young said, adding he is hopeful that a TVA grant through the Elizabethton Electric System for $40,000 will materialize. “With that, we can get the building functional. The next step will be to hire a director and a receptionist.”
Right now the plan is to be operational by fall and that can’t come soon enough to suit Young.
“I talked to a lady today who told me she has had to go to as many as 15 different places to find help. That’s very frustrating and very costly, given the price of gas right now,” he said. “If we can streamline that for people, and then mentor them through it, help them prepare for that job interview, and show them how to get on their feet, that’s when it will all come together.”
Anyone interested in learning more about CCC or making a contribution may go to cartercompassioncenter.org.

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