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City, county join networking effort to help homeless

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By JENNIFER HORTONThe Wilson Post

Lebanon and Wilson County are joining a networking group called the Upper Cumberland Continuum of Care, an effort to address the needs of the homeless and those who are at risk of becoming homeless.

A meeting has been set for 10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 9 in the Fellowship Hall of First United Methodist Church, 415 West Main Street, Lebanon, where individuals and agency representatives who work with the homeless can learn more about grants that are available to help them in their efforts. More than 100 individuals and agency representatives have been invited to attend.

Representatives from the Upper Cumberland Continuum of Care, Greater Nashville Regional Council and other agencies are scheduled to attend.

“We are just learning more about all of the opportunities,” said Sue Siens, Lebanon liaison.

She noted that Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead and Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman have requested to be added to the Upper Cumberland Continuum of Care.

There is no cost to join, Siens said, adding the group provides information to members on ways to assist the homeless.

The Continuum of Care, or COC, is under the umbrella of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and is a network of agencies and groups that work together and are eligible for various grants. The COC has been awarded almost $2 million in HUD funds through a competitive grant application process since 2003.

Local agencies and others that participate in the COC may find opportunities to apply for grants through HUD or other entities.

There are a number of individuals, churches and other agencies who assist the homeless by providing shelter, food, clothing, health care and other services. A brochure about the COC provided by Siens noted that committees at city, county and state levels work together and come up with plans each year that look at the needs of homeless people, what resources are available to take care of those needs and other resources that might be needed to fill gaps in assistance.

The brochure noted that a local process that consolidates the efforts of agencies, individuals and others will help end homelessness by providing food, housing and health care. Once these basic needs are met, work can begin on addressing permanent housing, education and coordinating community services.

“Only by providing the supports to the many different needs of those experiencing homelessness can we hope to get these individuals and families housed, keep the housed, and finally end homelessness,” the brochure said.

The Upper Cumberland COC has been meeting since 2001 and includes social service providers, county and city officials, private citizens and faith-based organizations.

The COC serves Anderson, Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Roane, Scott, Smith, Van Buren, Warren and White counties. The most recent survey taken by the Continuum estimated there were more than 700 homeless men, women and children in these 18 counties alone.

Through participation in the COC, individuals, agency and church representatives will learn about the application process and how to apply for grants and will also learn about additional funds that may be available.

Through networking with others involved in the same activities, local participants will receive guidance and support and information that will help them provide services to the homeless in Wilson County, the brochure noted.

If you would like more information about the COC or would like to attend the meeting, RSVP by calling Siens at 443-2839 or by email at akins@lebanontn.org.

Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at news@wilsonpost.com.

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