State Representative Hill proposed funding bill for Isaiah 117 House

A prominent nonprofit in Carter County is starting to attract attention in state legislatures, as representatives from Carter County discuss ways of providing state funds towards certain efforts.

Tennessee Representative Timothy Hill is in the process of proposing a bill that would provide a “funding mechanism” for Carter County’s Isaiah 117 House.

The proposal, House Bill 516, discusses an alternative use for the funds received from fines the state collects.

“I was approached about increasing the fines for violating orders of protection (restraining orders),” Hill said. “The second half of the bill is to decide where the money goes, and I could think of no better place for it to go.”

The organization is not a state-wide program right now, so Hill said he has a plan for counties without one.

“A county that does not have an Isaiah House will direct the money to court-appointed special advocates,” Hill said.

Ronda Paulson, the center’s director, said this was proof state legislature is starting to take the organization seriously.

“Even if the bill does not pass, legislators already think we are going to be a state-wide program,” Paulson said.

Less than a year old, the Isaiah 117 House is a program that works alongside the Department of Children’s Services.

“When children are pulled from homes, they are traumatized,” Paulson said. “They do not want to leave, regardless of the reasons why they had to, they are not allowed to bring a lot of possessions and they have to sit in a conference room to await their fate.”

She said these children do not deserve to sit in a room and be forgotten.

With the Isaiah 117 House, these children instead go to a real house with furniture, food and clothing.

“We wanted a place where children would be loved on,” Paulson said. “Our goals are to reduce trauma, to work alongside DCS and their jobs and to ease the transition for their future parents.”

She said the organization’s growth has surprised her, but running the organization has shown her the value of her work.

“When we started, I thought we were exposing how children have no rights,” she said. “How can a little boy sit in the DCS office for days?”

Currently, the Isaiah 117 House receives no state funding beyond a handful of grants, relying instead on contributions from the community to get things done. Hill’s bill represents a change in the organization’s prominence, and Paulson said they are continuing to grow.

Currently, the Isaiah 117 House is looking into expanding into Sullivan, Washington, Green and Bradley counties, as well as Evansville, Ind.

Paulson said local support, both inside and outside the capital building, keeps the organization afloat.

“Carter County has really taken ownership of this house,” she said. “We get lots of support from schools and churches. Children will give us their birthday money.”

There is no set date for a vote on this bill yet, though Hill said it should come to a vote in the coming weeks.

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