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Homeless shelters prepare for more people than usual

7:03 PM, Jan 21, 2013   |    comments
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Volunteers and staff at Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) are fluffing pillows and placing blankets and sheets on beds as they prepare for the influx of people looking for a warm place to lay their head as temperatures in the teens arrive.

Mychal Spence, KARM's Chaplain, said, "Last night we had 340 total people in the building. And that's women and men together."  Spence also said, "We don't turn anybody away. We're not going to let anyone freeze who we know about."

As temperatures continue to fall, KARM is expecting to house up to 100 additional people who want to get out of the frigid temperatures. Those people are a part of the city's up and down homeless population.

Spence said, "We're seeing a trend of a lot of mental people. [They are] people who have some real difficulties dealing with their issues."

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said, "We're not ever going to solve [the homeless situation] in this country until we address the mental health issue."

There was a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County, but Mayor Burchett said it failed because of a lack of accountability.

Still, Mayor Burchett said there are plenty of organizations, like KARM, willing to take in those who are homeless. Those places are not only keeping peoples' bodies warm, but also warming their hearts.

Spence said, "When they come in they know they're going to be greeted with a smile, a good warm meal, and a great place to stay."

KARM recently expanded their women's shelter from 40 beds to 103 beds, but the rescue ministry said they will pull out mats if they must in order to make sure no one is literally left out in the cold.

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