KARM Prepares to Help Hundreds of Homeless

Knoxville (WVLT) - As temperatures plunge in East Tennessee, shelters taking care of the homeless are filling to capacity.

Volunteer TV's Stacy McCloud has more on the hours spent preparing for the thousands of people who'll be walking through their doors in just one day.

"There is a segment of our community that does choose to stay out," say KARM Team Leader Roger Theilen.

But when temperatures are at, or near, freezing, fewer of those people want to remain outside.

Translating into a busy couple of weeks here at KARM.

"We're averaging about 350 guests in our overnight dorms," says Theilen.

Those are just the people that walk in wanting a place to stay for the night.

When you combine those numbers with the 110 residents, you've got a packed house.

"Organized chaos," Roger says. "We don't turn anyone away no matter where you have been, where you are coming from, if you need a place to stay, you are welcome here."

But that warm welcome can't come without hours of daily preparation.

Some of the men and women who are part of the residential program spend 8 hours a day washing, drying, and folding the mounds of laundry that pile up each night.

"That is anywhere between 300 to 400 sets of sheets, pillow cases, blankets," Theilen says.

A days work in itself, but getting ready for another night of hundreds seeking refuge from the cold goes beyond stripping the sheets and scrubbing the floors.

Staff and volunteers don't just shelter the homeless, they feed even more.

"We served 1,234 meals yesterday, so we stay busy," Theilen says.

Meaning a days work is hardly done, before another night begins.

"Some see it as a poor reflection on our community, but I see at as people becoming aware of what we offer and coming and finding us," says Roger.

With so many people finding their way to the shelter, more and more volunteers and supplies are needed.

You can help by donating sheets, towels, gloves, or socks.

For more info on KARM, their needs, or how to volunteer, check out www.karm.org.