Chattanooga nonprofit growing in its mission to offer homes to dying homeless residents

·3 min read

Oct. 16—As a social worker for Hospice of Chattanooga a decade ago, Sherry Campbell found many people being released from the hospital with terminal illnesses were being forced to live the end of their lives on the streets or outdoors without a home.

"I kept meeting people who had nowhere to go, and it got to the point where I could no longer ignore the call to do something about it," Campbell recalled. "I think it's important when you are faced with a terminal illness that you have a roof over your head and know that someone cares about you."

With the aid of a grant from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, Campbell helped establish the nonprofit Welcome Home. She leased a five-bedroom home in Brainerd in 2015 to provide shelter and care for those needing end-of-life Hospice assistance who didn't have a home to live in. But the need quickly exceeded the available housing, and Campbell began looking for additional space.

In July 2020, Welcome Home bought a 4.7-acre site on Quiet Creek Trail in Chattanooga that includes three houses that by next year should house 10 residents, once all three homes are renovated. The first home was opened to residents last week after undergoing a makeover, and Welcome Home leaders cut the ribbon Friday to officially open their newly refurbished five-bedroom location.

Calvin Rodgers, an 88-year-old resident of the new house who is recovering from a heart attack this summer, said the new location has given him more room and a more natural wooded setting for him to spend his time.

"You could take everyone here that cares for us and nominate them for sainthood," Rodgers said. "They have been that great."

Mark Adams, a 51-year-old former janitor who has been homeless for nearly nine years, came to Welcome Home in Brainerd in July after he was released from Erlanger hospital.

"I got beat up living on the streets, but this place is great and the people really take care of us," he said.

Over the past six years, Welcome Home of Chattanooga has provided shelter and living space with family-style care for 82 people who have been diagnosed with serious illnesses and need compassionate end-of-life or medical respite care. Welcome Home provides care at a much lower cost than when such individuals continue to stay in hospitals or nursing homes.

"We want to create a sanctuary of care, compassion and safety," Campbell said. "When someone comes into this space, whether it's our residents, visitors, volunteers or staff, we want them to feel like they are in a haven."

Sarah Quattrochi, director of development for Welcome Home, said more than 200 donors contributed to complete the initial $900,000 phase of the project and a second $500,000 phase is planned to be finished in 2022.

"We know this work is important and necessary," Quattrocchi said. "There is a need for cancer respite so that people can have access to housing and then can receive the life-saving care that they need. And there is a need for housing so that those who are terminally ill can receive compassionate care in a loving and safe place like Quiet Creek."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

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