We Care Community Services Inc. will hold a public meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 27 at the community room at its main office, 1273 Dayton Mountain Hwy. in Dayton. Laura Olmstead, director of We Care’s food and housing program, will discuss homelessness in Rhea County. Also speaking will be Alton Steen, We Care’s general manager, who will discuss the agency’s housing programs and future goals. Nationwide, 41 percent of the homeless are families with children; the percentage tends to be even higher in rural counties, where good-paying jobs and affordable housing are often scarce.
Ms. Olmstead sees the faces of the homeless every day at We Care Community Services, so she knows the needs in Rhea County firsthand. “About half of the homeless I have served in the past 10 years were families with young children and a parent who was out of work or who didn’t make enough money,” she said.
We Care receives an average of one call per day from people who need shelter due to various reasons; families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless. “The need for shelter with supportive services in our area is great,” Ms. Olmstead said.
The average family includes about four members; ages range from infants to 60-year-olds.
In the last five years, We Care has helped more than 250 people move from its shelter into long-term housing; only a handful has become homeless again. Olmstead said We Care’s program is more successful than most because it gives people more time to find permanent housing and We Care provides counseling for residents.
The public is invited to attend this meeting, which will kick off a series of monthly gatherings to discuss homelessness, which has climbed an estimated 72 percent since 2010 and includes 11,000 homeless youth in Tennessee alone.