One East Tennessee organization is aggressively working to end homelessness and making progress.

Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries (SMARM) started a program last fall called "Hearts to Home."

Since then, the group has helped more than ten families find a new home.

For Dick Wellons, the Hearts to Homes program is years in the making.

It's a branch off of Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries that is now growing with the help of some large donations, all with the goal of ending homelessness.

"The first step to getting rid of homelessness is housing. That's the quickest way to get success. And we have been just working together trying to establish mentoring because these people do need help making good decisions," said Carol Pierce-Burr with SMARM.

The program offers a helping hand to people who are homeless, and down on their luck.

But there are rules: A candidate must have a proven history of solid work and the desire to work again. Wellons is confident there are plenty of jobs available.

"They aren't great paying jobs, but they can survive on them. And it at least gives them a foot hole. Instead of having to eat ready to eat meals like they have to eat in the motel. Now they can utilize some of their funds and save money in that direction," said Wellons.

The program assists the person or family while asking they hold a job while participating.

SMARM helps pay any fees affiliated with moving into a new home such as a security deposit, and even a months rent, just to help the process keep on the right track.

"We have times where people have valleys instead of peaks. Off season for example. And they need a little help. Before they get discouraged, we are there to encourage," said Pierce-Burr.

Encouragement also comes from volunteer mentors. The mentors are experts in a number of different issues so they can help.

Wellons said they have a lot of success stories.

One example he points to is a man who was kicked out of his home because it was deemed unsafe. Since his landlords wouldn't fix the home, SMARM offered to help.

"They gave him a time limit to move to another spot. We said if you find it, we will aid you with it. We will give you some assistance. And he found another spot. We came in and were able to help him pay his rent, pay his deposits, and he had just a short period of time to do so just to satisfy the state," said Wellons.

They also offer new furniture and clothing from SMARM's supplies; helping give a person a new life to stay off the streets.

Pierce-Burr said the entire community supports the program because it helps pick the homeless up off their feet and puts them into the workforce.

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