KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- The nonprofit Hunger First has reached an agreement with the City of Kingsport that will allow their temporary homeless shelter to stay open as a warming and day center.
Hunger First Director Michael Gillis said as part of the agreement, cots that were previously in the shelter had to be removed, and people are not permitted to sleep in the building.
Gillis received a citation and nuisance ticket on December 31 for allowing homeless people to temporarily sleep at Hunger First during cold weather. City authorities cited the organization for not being up to fire code and not properly zoned as a shelter. At one point up to 28 people slept at Hunger First.
The citation and nuisance ticket ordered Gillis to appear in Kingsport City Court on Monday afternoon. In a message to News Channel 11, Gillis said the judge ordered a 60 day continuance allowing the shelter to function as a day center.
New fire extinguishers and exit signs have been installed at Hunger First in the past week. Gillis said the charity is also raising money to install a sprinkler system, in an effort to help qualify the building for re-zoning. He said he’s seen strong support from the community.
“The ultimate goal is to show that this [shelter] is necessary,” Gillis said. “And if it opens an eye that has been shut, not just to the problem, but what’s necessary to be done, then so be it.”