KARM's Offers Warm Hearts and Warm Shelter

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Knoxville (WVLT) -- Residents from across East Tennessee most-likely turned up their heat on Saturday night. But the familiar turn of a thermostat is not an option for everybody in our region.

Fortunately, it's warm inside the doors of Knox Area Rescue Ministries, where Volunteer TVs Kim Bedford found they are opening their hearts to the homeless.

KARM volunteers were hard at work on Saturday in preparation for another night with temperatures near freezing.

"I would suspect that this evening and tomorrow night, we'll see upwards of about 225 to 240 men and probably close to 70 women," said Burt Rosen, Director of KARM.

Piles of sheets were stacked up on cots around North Broadway headquarters and Rosen acknowledged that after every night there is a lot of work that goes into providing shelter for the less fortunate.

"Everything will be washed and dried and folded and back upstairs by days end."

The day can be especially long for the homeless when the weather is as cold as it was on Saturday. Every bed in the shelter was expected to be full on Saturday evening, including the roll-aways and mattresses that are put out on busy nights.

Earlier on Saturday it was already bitter cold outside with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees. That cold is the main reason why KARM has many new residents who normally would spend the night on the streets.

"More often than not, it's a lot of folks who come straggling in late evening, who thought they were going to be able to brave the cold, which we really don't want people to do."

According to Rosen, preventing people from braving the weather often goes beyond providing shelter.

"It's actually a matter of life or death. I don't want to overstate that, but so many of the folks that we see already have compromised immune systems. Their health is failing. They don't have adequate clothing to be able to brave the cold."

Needless to say, the winter temperatures in April caught KARM by surprise.

"When this comes along, it kind of puts us right back to square one. We have to unpack all the extra linens out of storage, and while we keep them on hand, you pretty much figure you're not going to need them for a little while."

In a season that is all about redemption and rebirth, the volunteers at KARM know that some may be traveling a lonely road. That's exactly why the shelter is there.

"You have people that typically, at the holiday times, are feeling a little more depressed, perhaps a little sad as they're away from family, and to be able to come here gives them that sense of connection."

KARM expects to serve about 1,400 meals on Easter Sunday. If you'd like to donate or volunteer at shelter you can call 865-673-6540.

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