KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — After five years of work, Kingsport Homeless Ministry (KHM) is poised to add 40 shelter beds to the city by New Year’s.

Board President Bobby Flowers told News Channel 11 on Friday that the dream of opening a shelter first started in 2018. KHM began searching for a building and announced plans to begin renovating a vacant office building at 700 East Sullivan Street in 2021.

Two years later, Flowers says, the shelter is on track to open by the end of the year.

“It is an ordeal,” Flowers said. “You don’t build one of these overnight. You have a lot of code you have to live up to.”

The need for more shelter beds couldn’t be more urgent.

“My fear is, is that the perfect storm is starting to happen,” Flowers said. “You have landlords who are selling properties, who are selling entire apartment complexes and moving the people out, doubling the rent, you know, and it’s people can’t afford it.”

According to the 2023 Point in Time Count, Kingsport had 104 unhoused individuals in January of this year. As of Sept. 1, Kingsport has two other shelters, the Salvation Army — which has space for 15 men, 15 women and two families — and Hope Haven men’s shelter, with 24.

Staff with other shelters say with housing waitlists getting longer and longer, more shelters are needed.

“I think it’ll make quite a big impact and we certainly do need another shelter in the area,” Kingsport Salvation Army Director of Social Services Lisa Deval told News Channel 11. “There’s only us. We’re the only co-educational coed shelter right now.”

Flowers says HMK plans to go beyond just providing beds and showers.

“We don’t want to just be another Band-Aid,” Flowers said.

“We’ll have social workers, King [University] and ETSU, both signed MOUs with us,” Flowers said. “We’re really, really blessed that Lincoln Memorial University is going to put in a five-chair dental facility in the building, which is a horribly big need here in town.”

Flowers said there are also plans for in-house counseling services.

The location already serves as a day center for any low-income individual who comes in seeking help, another policy that sets HMK apart from the Salvation Army, which only provides a day center and case management services for its residents due to staffing constraints.

Though Flowers said there is no solid opening date, he’s looking forward to seeing the work of a whole community, from TCAT students who built a fire escape, to Habitat for Humanity electricians who rewired the whole building, come to fruition.

“It’s been amazing how we’ve seen people step up,” Flowers said.