PIT Count locates unsheltered homeless

Vicky Newman-News-Herald

At 4:30 a.m. Thursday, it was cold in Loudon County.

The temperature may have been well below freezing, but people were found sleeping in unheated places � public rest rooms, in tents and even in sleeping bags on the ground.

"We found eight people in a few hours, and it wasn't even an organized count," Nicholas Sutter, housing retention specialist with the Tennessee Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, said.

Sutter and Candice Rutledge, homeless outreach coordinator for the Department of Veterans Affairs, walked streets in Loudon County for several hours, assisted by local law enforcement officers, to locate homeless people in Loudon County for the national Point-in-Time Count.

"We found people sleeping in tents at two sites," Sutter said. "We offered to help and give them a place to go, but mostly they didn't want help. Of course, it may have been because it was early morning and we startled them."

Some homeless individuals are desperately looking for help, however. And one managed to elude the Thursday PIT Count.

On Jan. 2, Jimmy Lynn Mainor, 38, homeless, took four packs of cigarettes from a convenience store and ran straight to a Loudon County Sheriff�s Office deputy to turn himself in.

Deputy Brad Rayfield said he was preparing to serve an arrest warrant at another location when Mainor approached his patrol car.

"He said, 'Man, did you get the call yet?' When Rayfield responded, "What call?" Mainor explained and admitted his crime.
"I've known Jimmy for years and I knew he moved around a lot," Rayfield said. "I thought he was hungry. I asked him, 'Why didn�t you steal food?' He told me he did it because he knew he would freeze to death if he spent another night in his car. It was very cold that night � in the 20s."

Charges were dropped against Mainor and he was released. Then on Jan. 21 he vandalized a business by throwing a brick through a window. According to arrest reports, Mainor told Deputy Jamie Ketner he had vandalized a market on West Lee Highway because he was "cold and hungry and needed a place to stay."

Mainor remains in jail on $5,000 bond.

Melanie Cordell, TVCEH director, said she would not be surprised if actual homeless numbers in Loudon County were higher this year than last.

"You've had plant closures and ... TVCEH is trying our best to perform a strong and accurate count across all 12 counties," she said. "We were not able to organize a street walk in Loudon County and that is something required by HUD, even if the numbers are zero."

The Good Samaritan Center counted homeless entered into the center�s Homeless Management Information System computer program, Paula Roach, GSC executive director, said. Cindy Purdy, family resource center director with Loudon County Schools, counted the school' homeless population. IVAS Place, a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, completed surveys.

Although surveys were to be returned to GSC after the count, a number was not available at presstime because of closures and delays associated with Friday's winter storm.