COCKE COUNTY—Quietly a group of local citizens has begun work to create a shelter for Cocke County’s homeless adults and children.
They have been meeting at the home of Heather and Ryan Chambers, who have taken a strong interest in addressing the problem of the homeless in the area. A core group of concerned citizens of all ages is also taking up the challenge. One of those who has agreed to help and get the county involved is Fifth District Commissioner Dan “Pete” Bright.
Calling themselves The Hope House of Cocke County, the citizens have already established contact information to accept donations and communicate with likeminded organizations and fellow Cocke Countians. The group is gaining speed with their endeavor and are eagerly awaiting their approval for the 501c3 needed to purchase property and start building.
The group made its debut recently at the Newport Street Festival with a cookie-decorating booth. Volunteers passed out information and were happy to speak to all community members both supportive and against. They also hosted a booth at Parrottsville’s Heritage Days and will be in Del Rio toward the end of the month.
They will also have a table at the chocolate festival in November. In addition, The Hope House is planning a Christmas photo shoot that is for a donation only. For more information about these you can email the group.
The email@example.com is the address already in use, and they also have a Facebook page for ease of communication. Others that are making plans for fund raising and where to look for funds to build a home are Commissioner Bright, Aubrie Strange, Jennifer Hill, Savannah Strange, Joanne Moorecroft and Melanie Pannetta.
How big is the problem? Ryan Chambers quickly checked on the Internet to find the number of 554,000 as a national estimate of homeless in 2017.
Various sources estimated that there are about 130 homeless in Cocke County of which 90 are children, most of the remaining are men. Some community members claim that there are upwards of 200 homeless in the county.
“It’s time to start looking at them as individuals,” said Heather Chambers, who chairs the meetings with co-president, Jennifer Hill. To help with that understanding she suggested some books to read: Toxic Charity, and Generous Justice. Both books are guidelines to the philosophy that the group subscribes to in attempting to help these people.
In no way does the group look to only house the homeless. Their mission is to build a space where these individuals can find avenues to education, getting and staying clean and finding jobs.
They are glad to have the support of Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, who told them she is willing to help in any way she can. Some local pastors have been welcoming this group to share their message about the needs of the homeless with church congregations.
Dr. Candi Overholt, who is a leader in Empower Cocke County, is among those seeking help for the homeless. She has been cheering the group on since inception.
While Bright and Heather Chambers visited churches and officials the good news they found: “We haven’t received any ‘Nos’.” State Rep. Jeremy Faison is also interested in finding solutions, said Hill. She said his encouragement has been motivating and knowing they have local government representatives behind them helps the group to move forward.
While they have not targeted a location for a shelter, or made a final decision whether to build or renovate an existing building, they are encouraged that the state and federal government provides sizeable grants for either.
Initially it might take a planning grant to move forward quickly. Ryan also added that, “The more people hear about this, the more hands are in it.”
Hope House leaders in Cocke County are using social media, Facebook, friends and whatever media works to get their message out now. They intend to continue working out of the Chambers’ home rather than spending money to rent a space to use for meetings.
The group is very open to any and all communication from fellow citizens whether it be for or against the shelter. “We really do want to work together with everyone to make sure this is done with acceptance and support from all community members,” said Heather. The goal is to do this peaceably, quickly, and with God’s guidance.