KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — A few years ago, the City of Kingsport took a proactive approach to help the homeless population in the Model City. The city assigned people to work with those who are homeless to direct them to the resources they need.

Erin Gray, a licensed master social worker, is one of those people. She says the partnership with the police department has helped so many people get started down a healthy path.

“I respond to and engage people on the streets, in encampments, wherever they’re at,” Gray said.

Gray works all hours and all around Kingsport, offering access to community resources designed to help those without a place to call home.

“It’s really wonderful that the officers see me as a resource to do things like mitigate jail time when it might not be beneficial, like if it’s more of a substance abuse, a treatment situation, or mental health emergency,” she said. “So, helping facilitate transport to the hospital, or detox when more appropriate, though the ultimate goal is to look at a long-term solution and not just a 24 or 48-hour solution.”

For her, the reward is seeing people change their lives.

“Those relationships are so important, and that’s where we take pride and joy, hearing somebody say, ‘I just paid my rent for the first time in seven months,’ or seven years, and to see that smile on their face is just, it’s very humbling,” Gray said.

And, she plays an active role in bettering the community in which she lives.

“I love helping people. I also love challenging people in the same aspect and I’m a huge fan of accountability. I think that is one of the most loving things we can do for people is hold them accountable,” Gray said. “I also do this particular job because I live in this city and this is the city where I’m raising my kids. I want them to have a good community to grow up in.”

A community, she hopes, that cares about all of its residents.

“I want everybody to see themselves as I see them,” Gray said. “That’s ultimately what I do.”