Keira Wyatt, right, founder of C.O.N.N.E.C.T. and the late Eddie Johnson intake counselor for the organization. Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — As the pandemic ends, another pandemic has slowly been building like a tsunami after an earthquake. Homelessness numbers are the new surge as the effect of lost wages, inability to pay rent and utilities and the soaring real estate market are taking a toll on the country.  A January 2021 published by the United Way indicates more people than ever before are at risk of being homeless as evictions across the country continue to rise. The same is happening in Knoxville also. People need help more so than ever before. One place they have been able to find answers and resources is at C.O.N.N.E.C.T.  Ministries.

Housing Coordinator Jeanine Johnson

Long before the tsunami began to build, the 16-year-old agency had already been serving the community through the relationships built by Executive Director and Founder, Keira Wyatt. One of her goals has always been to get those who come through the doors permanent housing. The process is the same as it has always been. Personalized, kind and caring attention to everyone who comes in the door.  They work side by side with every client to complete the paperwork necessary to receive assistance.

The nonprofit organization has been very successful and good stewards of funds awarded to them. Their data management system is one of the best in the city and is considered the flagship thanks to Mrs. Eleanor Horton’s attention to detail for every file on every person who comes through their doors. The City of Knoxville recently awarded them an additional 100,000 to assist with housing needs of the vulnerable after the agency received 200,000 earlier in the year to serve 60 people. The agency was able to serve an additional 102 families and individuals with those initial funds.

Data Manager Eleanor Horton

Jeanine Johnson, Housing Coordinator said, “ We provide assistance to Knox County residents that are looking to stabilize themselves, whether it be housing, food security, employment, health care, and even education. Our program is designed to meet the needs of the people, right where they are. C.O.N.N.E.C.T Ministries strives to build relationships with other partners and agencies alike to help our neighbors. If we cannot meet the need in our office, we have a network of resources to refer our clients to. Our doors are open and ready to serve the community. Anyone needing services can come into our office and begin the process of becoming a client with us. Once you become a client, you have become family. C.O.N.N.E.C.T Ministries is about building relationships and that’s what makes us strong. You will not be a number here, you cannot be a passing face, but you become a member of a family that will partner with you as you navigate through life.”

Shown l-r; Keira Wyatt, Mr. and Mrs. Boyd and Cynthia Finch

The organization has a stellar reputation and clients who have been served often return to say thank you and to share their good news. From the Boyds who came to C.O.N.N.E.C.T. years ago, homeless with three children, now thriving in their own home and Mr. Boyd doing well in his industry; to people stopping by knocking on the door to let their intake counselor Mr. Eddie know they are doing good and still in their house and on their feet, the vision of Mrs. Wyatt to offer needed assistance to the underserved keeps growing and growing.