The collaborative plan brings together multiple federal, state, county, and local government agencies, and community partners providing a systematic approach to help eliminate homelessness over the next 10 years.
Last September Gov. Bill Haslam by Executive Order reconstituted the Tennessee Interagency Council on Homelessness to coordinate the State’s efforts and develop a statewide plan to identify, develop and ensure sustained partnerships among agencies, service providers and advocates.
“There are far too many Tennesseans with no permanent place to call home who are missing out on opportunities to achieve better lives,” Haslam said.
“There has never before been such a broad approach in Tennessee that connects federal resources to state and local programs, improves services, and offers individuals a way out of homelessness.”
The priority steps to implement the plan include:
• increase housing availability for individuals, veterans, and families
• increase job opportunities and available job training programs
• identify government funding sources at the local, state, and federal levels
• create a single screening process all agencies can use to determine eligibility
• create and operate a statewide database to better understand homelessness
“This is a game changer, and it’s one that’s achievable with every level of government and community service provider working together,” TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams said.
“Frankly this wouldn’t even be possible if it wasn’t for coordination at the federal level. The U.S. Interagency on Homelessness is our partner in this effort to never again allow Tennesseans to fall through the cracks. We have the support and the roadmap now to end chronic homelessness.”
Tennessee’s Action Plan benchmark goals are to end veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2017, end homelessness for families with children by the end of 2020 and end all homelessness by the end of 2025.
“The people we will serve have a role to play in this as well,” Williams said. “We need them to be fully invested and willing to fill out forms and schedule appointments to receive an income and benefits that can help them with housing, employment support, temporary assistance for food, job training, childcare, and school enrollment, and other services designed to ensure their successful transition from homelessness. Mental health and substance abuse services will also be available.”
A 2015 statewide count estimated 9,123 homeless individuals in Tennessee, including 29 percent being made up of families or individuals with at least one child, 18 percent being chronically homeless, 10 percent identified as veterans and 7percent being youth or young adults.
“Among the many challenges in addressing homelessness in Tennessee is the disparity in housing, employment, and other needed services in the most rural areas of our state,” Williams said.
“This effort will focus on helping veterans, families, and those most at-risk to have access to education and training so they can secure good employment. There will also be a focus on assisting youth aging out of foster care and juvenile detention and re-entry efforts for adults coming out of hospitals and prisons. We need to ensure they can transition back into society. Employment and housing are key factors there.”
“I believe this endeavor will help to unify and strengthen communities across Tennessee in a thoughtful and powerful way, a first for the Volunteer State,” Williams said. “Properly executed, our plan to end homelessness will breathe new life into our small towns and big cities. Our goal is quite simply: Identify individuals as homeless, streamline the process to help them obtain resources, and track their progress. No longer will anyone have to go it alone.”