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Monday, November 12, 2018

Empower planning a tiny home community
The Cocke County Legislative Body held a public hearing Friday to receive public input regarding a proposal that the county donate a parcel of property off Looney Road in Parrottsville to Empower Cocke County. The county owns the site after it was seized due to non-payment of back taxes. Plans are to use the site to provide services to the homeless. Dr. Candi Overholt of the non-profit Empower organization said the five-acre site in question is located on Picadilly Way. Empower, is funded by a group of Cocke County Churches, and provides social services to the needy of the community. Dr. Overholt said many of the clients are referred by local courts, and those who are assisted are required to take classes, "Living Free" and "Jobs for Life", aimed at teaching positive decision making, and then are required to find a job. "Living Free" is based on the Teen Challenge program which has an 80 percent success rate with addiction, and so once we start those classes you cannot get any assistance from Empower unless you take the classes. Empower pays $10 per class toward the rent of an addict. or another person who is homeless. We do not provide handouts, we provide assistance. Once you are working on the life skills you need, we provide you with assistance," Dr. Overholt explained. There is a possibility that the organization will obtain a vacant Newport motel for housing the homeless, because there currently is no homeless shelter in the county. And Dr. Overholt said a home in Newport may also be available for drug treatment. Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger said when her office is contacted regarding a homeless person, she has no resources for them. "Right now they are living under bridges and are cold", she said. The Picadilly site is being considered for a tiny home community, made up of ten homes. Empower currently has a van which can be used to provide transportation from the site to the workplace. Plans are to offer housing for men with a community bathhouse open by April of 2019, and the and the housing program operational by later next year. "There are people who would not thrive in our program because it is one of rehabilitation," Dr. Overholt said, emphasizing that Empower does not replace other services such as the warming center and soup kitchen offered by Feed My Sheep. "We are not in it for that portion of the homeless population. Empower Cocke County is aimed at ceasing destructive behavior in our community. That being said, we will still help them if they take the classes because there still is an issue. But our program is primarily for those who have had addiction in the past." Several residents expressed concern regarding drug activity on the site and the increased risk to the surrounding community, but Dr. Overholt said the site would provide a service to those who are drug-free but homeless, and would include supervision. Those with concerns said Constable David Winters and the sheriff's department will be asked to increase patrol when residents move to the site. A total of five of the 14 commissioners attended the forum, along with concerned community members. Mayor Ottinger said she expects to put the issue on the agenda of a future county legislative body meeting.

Return to Today's News Stories - Front Page

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