Personal tragedy leads CEO to Knox Area Rescue Ministries

KNOXVILLE (WATE) — Now that you’ve seen some of the people Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) is helping, you’ve probably noticed something different about this shelter.

A critical part of the mission involves more than just giving people food and beds.

Many a tear has been shed in the chapel at KARM and many a life has been turned around. The belief is that a person can’t become whole without a spiritual foundation.

“There is no cookie cutter model that says here is how you work with the homeless,” says KARM CEO Burt Rosen. “It’s unique to each individual so that’s how we work and try to do. Look at that individual, find out what their needs, wants and desires are and look for us to create a way to make a difference in their lives. All of this with the understanding that apart from Christ in their life, their long term external change will not take place without the internal change taking place.”

Rosen oversees the operation of KARM’s five shelters and vast array of programs to help get the homeless back into society. KARM essentially exists on donations from the community.

Rosen is a hands-on leader with a passion that comes from the pain of knowing first hand the heartbreak of homelessness. “Part of what brought me here was having a son who dropped out in his third year of college, who ended up homeless.”

“We’ll never know for certain exactly what took place because this February will be five years since we’ve heard from him,” Rosen says.

Rosen’s wife, Carolyn, who’s also involved as a volunteer, heads up a weekly Bible study at Serenity Shelter, KARM’s residential facility for women.

The Rosens are keenly aware that a key component to ending chronic homelessness is to find a way to end the cycle of going from street to shelter over and over again by providing housing.

It’s the goal of the city of Knoxville and Knox County’s 10 year plan to end chronic homelessness. And it’s something KARM has been doing for years.

“It’s not long-term housing but we very much are a first responder if you will, to some of the chronically homeless who now have an opportunity to get off the street, come into here, come into a residential program that’s designed to really help them get their life back in order,” Rosen says. “Sometimes, that may mean nothing more than helping facilitate them into a longer-term housing opportunity.”

According to a long-term city – county study, 1,900 people experience homelessness over the course of a month. That’s more than doubled over the last 20 years.

Ten percent of the homeless population are considered chronically homeless. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, that 10 percent utilizes 50 percent of the resources in our area including emergency medical services, psychiatric treatment, detox facilities, shelters and jails.

Click here for additional resources on homelessness.

That stress on the social service system leaves few resources to serve those who find themselves in a temporary homeless situation.

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