KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The white flag outside of Knox Area Rescue Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit known for its programs meant to stop cycles of homelessness based on the Christian gospel, in downtown Knoxville can signal safety for people living unsheltered outdoors.
“We've been running at capacity over the last couple of weeks,” said Danita McCartney, President of KARM. “We're seeing numbers that we haven't seen for months.”
Thursday night, KARM’s bed space was at 90% capacity. With temperatures expected to dip into the teens this weekend, KARM expects to have more folks stay overnight than normal.
“If the beds are full, we get creative,” McCartney said. “We have mats that we can put out and we use our available space where we could use space for overflow.”
According to a report from homeless services in Knoxville, around 20% of the homeless population struggle with substance abuse and mental illness. Some continue to sleep outside, forgoing KARM's shelter and instead look for other warm places to bundle up and spend the night.
“That's a sad fact and it burdens our hearts that people do continue to make those decisions to say outside in the elements that could be very dangerous,” McCartney said. “The good news is we're here and when the heart change happens and they're ready to come through our doors, we welcome them.”
He also said KARM can connect people to programs that help them find homes and stability. They offer a variety of "progressive ministry programs" meant to help people stop cycles of homelessness.
“We're not going to run out of food, and we're not going to run out of available space for people,” McCartney added.
KARM is always looking for more volunteers.
If you’re interested in helping, KARM has plenty of opportunities on its website.