ARCH: Local Homeless Count final numbers expected next week

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, January 25, 2018

Cold weather looks to have played a factor for final totals of this year’s Point in Time 24-Hour Homeless Count.

Coordinated by the Appalachian Regional Coalition for Homelessness (ARCH), volunteers from counties across Northeast Tennessee spent Wednesday searching through the area for homeless individuals to be counted in the hopes of potentially receiving grant funding for housing and services from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Joy Drinnon, with ARCH, told the Elizabethton Star Wednesday that rural areas, like Carter County, often need a few extra days to come up with a final total. When asked, Drinnon added she was still awaiting numbers from Shepherd’s Inn, based in the county. A final total from the county is expected sometime next week.

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While numbers are still being tallied, Drinnon added she anticipates numbers to possibly be lower in the county, compared to last year’s 22. One reason mentioned during Wednesday’s count was the recent cold spell of weather causing individuals typically in one location having to move to another.

The purpose of the homeless count is for individuals to discover areas where homeless individuals may be set up, either in a tent or other makeshift living area. Once discovered, volunteers oftentimes provide donated items to the individual(s) while receiving their information to be passed along to HUD.

The initiative serves as a way to provide a snapshot into an issue that allows for potential grant funding by HUD for housing and support services for the homeless.

But the issue isn’t as cut and dried as believed. Parameters used by HUD to determine if someone is “homeless” are specific. According to the HUD website, there are four federally-defined categories which families might qualify as homeless.

Imminent risk of homelessness

Homeless under other federal statutes

Fleeing/attempting to flee domestic violence

Literally homeless

The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law with a wider set of guidelines when defining homeless children. During last year’s count, Drinnon told the Elizabethton Star that applying the McKinney-Vento guidelines often bolsters the numbers of homeless individuals compared to just HUD parameters.

Homeless was an issue that picked up steam weeks ago following a push from residents to help those making posts online seeking shelter during freezing temperatures. Since that time, various organizations and churches have banded together to start working together and making their missions more well-known to the public.

Updates on the homeless count and future projects by local organizations will appear in future editions of the Elizabethton Star.