Susan Green, chairperson of the Upper Cumberland Continuum of Care (UCCoC), told those gathered about services and grants potentially available to help local agencies combat homelessness.
She also explained that being homeless not only includes people who literally have no place to go, it also can include those who are living in very substandard places, or bouncing from family member to friend but have no permanent place to live.
The UCCoC represents the Upper Cumberland Development District, which was started in 2001. The Continuum meets on the second Tuesday of each month in Crossville, which is about 45 minutes from Lebanon on I-40, she said.
The organization includes a roundtable developing a 10-year plan to end homelessness in this area of Tennessee, she added.
James Wheeler, who serves as webmaster for the agency’s Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), explained why tracking all homeless services can benefit a community.
“It can allow private organizations to have access to more funds than just those offered by Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” he said. “If a grant requires certain information, this system can track it. This means you can say, ‘I know we need this funding because...’ and show them the statistics.”
He also told the group that tracking could help them to avoid duplicating services for clients, so they would be able to help more people.
The example he used was if a client goes to one agency and they can offer 50 percent of what the client needs to pay an electric bill, that person may have to go on to a second agency to get the rest.
But he said if the second agency pays 75 percent of the bill, there’s a 25 percent overlap. “If this program was in effect, the second agency could say we’ll pay the 50 percent you still need and keep the rest to help someone else,” he added.
He pointed out that homeless people will go wherever they can get the help they need. “I’ve never known of a homeless person to say ‘Oh, I can’t cross this county line,’ this system can track them,” he said.
In one city he had visited in Florida, he said the overlap had accounted for more than $1 million that could have been used to help more people.
One agency that works with the UCCoC is Crossville Housing Authority and the director there said the program has helped their agency get funding to expand their programs to help populations they had been unable to serve.
In particular, they have added a program called Shelter Plus Care. This program pays for housing for disabled people for whom it is very difficult to find housing. The clients not only gets rent assistance, they are required to have a case manager who makes sure they get whatever other services they need to stay in safe descent housing over time.
Toreena Contrell from Scott County represents another agency that works through UCCoC.
She works for Housing Opportunities and People Enterprises (HOPE) and told the group that her agency had also been able to expand its services due to cooperation with UCCoC.
Scott County, with a population of just less than 22,000, didn’t even have an abuse shelter, much less a homeless shelter, she said. Now it has both, and HOPE is working on funding for a second house for homeless people in the county, she said.
Ben Stewart from the Greater Nashville Regional Council also told the group that his agency could and has helped Lebanon and Wilson County with a variety of projects.
“We’ve helped Wilson County with $78 million since 1989,” he said. These included grants for tourism, water, solid waste, roads and many other things, he noted.
His agency works with grants for parks and recreation, and is the agent for the Fast Track grants that are so attractive to new businesses. These grants pay for water, sewer, roads and other infrastructure needs for new businesses locating in the area.
Michael White, who works for the Homeless No More CoC which has been representing Wilson County, also told the group about the services his agency has gained for the county.
“We’ve helped house 62 people in the past five years,” he said. He also explained that his agency had helped Prospect, Inc., a Lebanon agency, to get grants to build three houses for nine of its clients.
He also described in some detail services offered by Buffalo Valley Inc. and Centerstone, two agencies based in Hohenwald. That is where the headquarters for the HNMCoC has its headquarters. Hohenwald is about a 2-hour drive from Lebanon.
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.