Carter commissioners looking for way to solve lack of homeless shelter in county

John Thompson • Feb 12, 2020 at 9:40 PM

ELIZABETHTON — When it was recently announced that the only homeless shelter in Carter County was shutting down, the topic was quickly added to the agenda of the Health and Welfare Committee of the Carter County Commission.

While there will still be an emergency shelter available to women and children, homeless men would have to leave the county to find a shelter.

With limited resources, the local government of a small mountain county is not very likely to build and operate a shelter, but the Health and Welfare Committee’s chairman, Dr. Robert Acuff, said there were plenty of things the committee could do. The committee has helpful connections with knowledgeable people and could serve as a place where people who want to volunteer can take a first step.

Acuff said one key is to get the Elizabethton City Council working with the County Commission on the problem. He is hopeful a joint workshop session on the homeless issue can be scheduled soon.

Acuff had another resource, which dates back to the time when he and his wife lived in Knoxville. Acuff said their church was one of many that worked with Knoxville Area Resource Ministries, He said KARM was extremely effective in helping homeless people not just with a place to stay but with a way to rebuild lives.

Acuff got to know Burt Rosen, the president and chief executive officer of KARM and so he gave him a call. He found Rosen eager to help Carter County. “He said that since we reached out, we were a priority.”

Acuff said Rosen will travel to Elizabethton to meet with the County Commission soon, probably during the commission’s April meeting. Acuff hopes he will provide the commissioners with such useful information as the availability of grants and other financial help.

Even though Acuff is a county commissioner, he said he recognizes that local government can move very slowly. Still, he is proud to see that things are being put in place to get the movement going forward, toward the accomplishment of a county need.

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