KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – As gates appeared to bar the doors of a Kingsport homeless shelter, many grew concerned that services for the rising homeless population would go away. A few blocks away, a new center for homeless people opened.
A coalition of organizations pooled resources to revamp the Salvation Army on Dale Street in the Model City, creating a 15-bed men’s and 14-bed women’s night shelter, along with a day center where meals are provided for those in need. Rebekah Abram, a Salvation Army Captain, explained that a main waterline rupture caused the two family rooms to need renovations that are currently being completed.
“February 14, we opened our doors so that anyone who wants to come in to get out of the cold or the heat, the rain, whatever, they can come in and spend the day in our facility,” Abram said.
She said the facility boasts a slew of services available to those most in need.
“We have books available to read. We have computers available to help with job search,” she said.
The Salvation Army, the United Way, and the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority have created the homeless coalition to better serve those without a home.
“We have a case manager that will help find housing for individuals, that help with job searches, we get them to doctor’s appointments, we get them any kind of medical treatment that they’re needing. If they decide they want to go to substance abuse, we find a bed for substance abuse facilities and we just get them to where they need to be.”
“We are the steps in between housing and employment. You can come to the Salvation Army, and we will guide you the rest of the way,” Abram said.
But just offering services one particular way does not always work. This is something Jonathan Anderson realized. He is the Homeless Services Liaison for United Way of Greater Kingsport.
“We are looking at our system and how we can better work together to form a more collaborative approach for helping our folks that are currently homeless,” he said.
He said he began the conversation with the Salvation Army captains last year and is thrilled the new center became a possibility.
“We provide opportunities for employment and getting connected with mental health resources, addiction, resources, things like that. We want to do whatever we can to break down barriers for folks that are on the street and help them move forward quicker,” Anderson said.
Breaking the barriers on the road to self-sufficiency is his goal.
“We feel that Salvation Army is very well positioned to succeed with a program like this, we’re very thankful for their willingness to, to kind of step out of the boat and be a great community partner. We feel that they have the facilities they have the resources available, so coming alongside them and supporting them with all of our partner agencies is a huge win for our community,” Anderson said.
The center aims not to turn away anyone seeking help, even if they are clearly intoxicated. Abram explained that staff has Narcan training in the event that someone presents with symptoms of an overdose, and medical services are on standby in the event of a drug-induced medical emergency.
“We are starting staff training so that we can all be aware and cognizant of what is taking place at that time,” Abram said.
The goal is to create a better community for all who live in it, she said.
“It is a new day center and because it is a new day for our friends without housing, we look forward to walking alongside them but we also look forward to walking alongside the community so that we can be for Kingsport and we can make Kingsport a better community to live in and to have people come to,” she said.
The center runs on funding from a community development block grant as well as donations. Abram explained they are seeking funding as the grant only covers expenses for the current year.