They wander the streets all day, ignored, yelled at or pitied.
Some are mentally ill, some are addicts, some fell on hard times and never were able to recover.
When they are elderly or sick, the streets are not kind.
As a social worker, Sherry Campbell saw the raw need of Chattanooga’s homeless population for food and shelter.
After working at a hospice, she realized there was another rip in the social safety net.
What happens to the homeless who are dying?
She, cofounder Rachel Smith and a slew of volunteers opened Welcome Home of Chattanooga, a shelter dedicated to providing death with dignity for those with nowhere else to go.
Q&A with Sherry Campbell
Better Tennessee: Why did you decide to focus on end of life care for the homeless?
Sherry Campbell: We have a very limited number of shelters and service providers in the area, and there really was nothing for people with no family or no home.
Many of these people were dying, and were unsure of where they would spend their last days.
BT: Wouldn’t they be able to remain in a hospital, even if they were uninsured?
SC: Sometimes, yes. But hospice care is more than just comfort care. People at the end of their life need to know that they are loved, and are cared for by people who will remember them.
When I heard that enough, I knew there was a need in this community, and that I needed to step into that gap.
BT: What services does Welcome Home provide?
SC: We have four bedrooms and each of those could have two beds each if we needed to double up, but we want to start small and just have one guest in each room.
We’ll partner with area hospices, and they’ll come in and provide professional care to the guests. We’ll provide the home and shelter, the custodial care and the love.
BT: What are you hearing from the homeless population?
SC: I met a gentleman named Howard, who has a chronic illness. His doctor said if he didn’t find shelter his life would be cut short.
We were trying to get him into an extended-stay situation. He often said to me, ‘If something happens to me, will anybody know?’
People should have a peaceful, good death, with the opportunity for forgiveness, gratitude, reconnecting with family members and being able to say ‘I love you.’
They should know they are loved, and that they are important. This will happen every day at Welcome Home of Chattanooga.