Affordable Housing and Volunteers, Where Are You? Stories from The Distribution Center

19 Dec
Affordable Housing and Volunteers, Where Are You? Stories from The Distribution Center

This morning I am downtrodden. I don’t have a lot of hope. I am in tears.

This morning, The Distribution Center needed 100 volunteer slots for the 9-1 pm shift,

Ninety-six remain.

This afternoon, 100 volunteer slots are available

Ninety-nine remain.


I cannot volunteer today, or tomorrow. If you can, click here.

I work, an hour and a half away in another state.

Still, I carve out time. I haven’t a Christmas Tree. I have purchased one Christmas Present. My family understands, I hope.

I haven’t lived in Tennessee in over a decade. Tennessee isn’t even my home state, but I know these people which is why my heart hurts for them, and why I help.This morning I received an email “Urgent Need for Volunteers.” I knew the email was coming, but I don’t think anyone cares. If people cared wouldn’t they help?

This morning, I wondered, why aren’t more volunteering?  I understand that many are, like me, employed with a full-time job. But the 6-9 pm shift is identical to the screen shot of the one listed above. People of Sevier County, if you need food, help is not coming.where

I believe people are NOT volunteering because they expect Dolly to solve all of the problems. After all, the first round of checks were issued last week so, all problems are solved. . . magically. Christmas Miracle. Time to move forward and forget about this pesky fire who displaced hundreds.

Checks are great, but there is NO affordable housing my friends. That thousand dollar check won’t cover a $1,400 rent (plus first, last, and a security deposit). Don’t forget utilities, and replacing every stick of furniture (or at minimum, a mattress). One needs a lot of things after a fire has reduced your worldly possessions to ashes. There’s unemployment assistance, and links to this and that (which I have viewed, and, guess what “no housing in the zip code you entered.”) The #MountainTough website still lists a shelter that has been closed (see the frustration)? Then there are the sub-lessees. Don’t even get me started about them. My emotions can not think about those with no credit, who work just as hard as those who do have a credit card.

How’s Jack? some ask. He found a place, for $800 a month, double what he was paying via sub-lease. Since he does NOT qualify for the Dolly-help, he’s what we call (#badword) out of luck. I suppose he will leave Gatlinburg, just like others already have because he can not make it in Sevier County anymore. Gatlinburg is loosing Jack, the most compassionate of people, along with many others. The worker- housing crisis is nothing compared to the worker crisis I see on the horizon. Business owners heed my words. People moved to Sevier County for the jobs, but now they are leaving because there is no affordable housing!

Again, I must ask, WHERE ARE YOU . . . those who claim to care?

My recommendation? City leaders should- snappy quick – write an ordinance requiring all NEW commercial rental construction to set aside a percentage of construction as worker- housing. Carve out a place for your workers. I don’t care if it’s on yon side of the laundry room. City leaders should -already have- contacted TEMA/FEMA and rolled in worker housing in an area with a huge parking lot. But that has not happened. (Let’s be honest, no one wants to see people living in tent or tiny-worker housing; especially not in a resort town). My first blog post about Jack generated thousands of views, but this one won’t, because the truth hurts.

The folk who do the work, who make Sevier County great are leaving my friends. They are leaving because they can no longer afford to stay.

Want to help? It’s time to call and email those who run the show. Use the link to email, and the number to call. And if you are working in City/County Government and can share the news about a firm plan in place to house workers for the long-term, email me and I will share with my readers who are waiting, no-longer-patiently, for a plan.

City of Gatlinburg:

Mayor, Larry Waters 865-453-6136

untitled1Like this story? Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she meets at The Distribution Center. Download it here.

Note: I can NOT add a Paypal Code to this free blog site. I will contact you via email with instructions on how to donate if you desire. Please be patient as this little blog post is getting quite a bit of attention.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs.



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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Uncategorized


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