Operated by East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing, the day center for people who are homeless was demolished on Saturday to make way for a parking area for the new $1 million homeless day center and community health care clinic recently completed adjacent to the old building.
The new facility opened ahead of schedule on Jan. 16 after the heating system failed irreparably in the old building during one of the coldest weeks of the season.
While the entrance to the new building is just a few feet away from the ongoing demolition and a couple of key pieces of equipment are not yet in place, Director Jennifer Whitehead said the facility is already providing more services than were previously possible.
The center’s showers are running throughout the day without the former three- to four-hour wait time. And more people are coming in for low-cost health care at the new clinic, which is open to everyone regardless of their housing or insurance status.
“We had 110 (homeless) people in in the first three days,” Whitehead said. “The (day center) guys really seem to like it. And the employees love it, although it was hard to see the old building go down.
“We had been there a long time. We came a long way there. But the new building is a lot better and we can give (people) more, because it is a lot better.”
The new center’s hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the health clinic hours are 8-11:30 a.m. and 12:30-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Primary health care and mental health care services are available on a income-based sliding fee scale to those with or without insurance and to those who are homeless and not homeless.
A grand opening celebration is tentatively planned for late February or early March.
Ongoing needs at the day center include sleeping bags and blankets, hygiene items, including deodorant, razors and good, heavy lotions, and clothing suitable for camping.
For more information about the center, call 423-434-6480.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress.