Archive for the ‘Faces of Homelessness’ Category

Adopt A Unit Recipient: John Henry

June 9, 2011

John Henry found himself homeless when he lost his job as a truck driver due to a suspended driver’s license and ended up inNashville, selling The Contributor at the corner of Hillsboro Road and Harding Place.

That’s where he met some of his regular clients who were parishioners of Covenant Presbyterian Church, which ended up becoming the first congregation to participate in the Adopt A Unit initiative.

“We kind of fell into the program,” Barry Gammons, a church member who also chairs The Key Alliance board of directors, said. “We came to know a now formerly homeless individual (John Henry) and as a church decided to help him. With my role in The Key Alliance, I was fortunate to have the resources at my finger tips to bring in the expertise of the staff to help us coordinate our efforts.”

Gammons said the Adopt A Unit program provides the church members an opportunity to see, first hand, the difficulties faced by a homeless individual moving into housing. Many members become more curious about how they can help, in constructive ways, to deal with issues other than just material possessions. Some members have even begun to seek out other ways to serve the homeless community as a result of their experience with this program.

“This program gives all of those who participate a chance to get involved to whatever extent they feel comfortable,” Gammons said. “For some, that may mean donating furnishings. For others, it may mean exploring more deeply the issue of homelessness and seeking out ways to bring their resources and talents to bear on the issue.”

Carolyn Grossley Cooper, housing coordinator with The Key Alliance, said the Adopt A Unit initiative, which is part of The Key Alliance’s Housing First program, is only possible through collaborations.

“The role of The Key Alliance is to help identify basic needs and offer guidance to a congregation so that as members step up to help a formerly homeless neighbor transition from street life into the Housing First program, they do not overwhelm themselves or the person they want to help,” Grossley Cooper said. “My role truly is to ensure that we define boundaries while meeting the needs of a person.”

John Henry is not only a vendor for The Contributor, he also regularly contributes articles toNashville’s only street paper. Mr. Henry says he has been embraced by church members who support him meet his goals of getting his license back and finding regular employment.

He said a person needs to be ready to receive the help and move ahead.

“You’ve got a lot of homeless people who have given up just because the way society treats them,” he said.

The Key Alliance’s coordination role helps congregations to identify a formerly homeless person who is willing and ready to do just what John Henry does – be ready to move ahead, one step at a time.

Homeless Veterans

November 15, 2010

On any given night, about 107,000 former service men and women were homeless in 2009 in the United States, according to an estimate by the Veterans Administration.

If – as we assume to be the case – 20-25 percent of all homeless individuals in Nashville are veterans, then we can deduct that about 800-1,000 of these veterans are living right here in our community. This number is based on our estimate that on any given night 4,000 individuals are homeless in Nashville. The face of homelessness is diverse and includes  families with children, youth, runaways, domestic violence victims, veterans, chronically homeless individuals, kids aging out of foster care, and people re-entering communities from the penal system.

A local estimate of 800-1,000 homeless service member in the Nashville area, is also in line with the numbers that were served at this year’s Operation Stand Down event in October. OSD Nashville provided services to 408 veterans at a three-day event; 386 were men and 22 were women. Of these 408 veterans, 126 were combat veterans (72 had served in Vietnam, 23 in the Persian Gulf, 20 in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and 11 in other combat zones).                        

Earlier this year, the federal government announced in its Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, a plan to end homelessness for veterans in five years. The strategy to do so is explained in a fact sheet that calls for more affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, an increase in meaningful and sustainable employment, reduction in financial vulnerability, and transformation of homeless services to crisis response systems.

An important aspect of this approach is collaboration between agencies. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recognizes the importance to streamline efforts by the Veterans Administration (VA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Labor Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In addition, the USICH is testing models of local-federal collaborations on behalf of veterans, which hopefully can be applied to other communities.

We at The Key Alliance believe the key to solving homelessness lies in collaborative efforts. Our goal is to bring together the entire community and let people know how they can help, what they can do. We know that ending homelessness in the long run will benefit the entire community.

Currently we are testing our Vulnerable Veterans Program, a pilot program, that takes 15 of the most vulnerable chronically homeless veterans off Nashville’s Downtown streets. We are also preparing for Project Homeless Connect, a one-day event that brings thousands of services from legal assistance to medical check ups and hair cuts to individuals struggling with homelessness in our community. Project Homeless Connect is similar to Operation Stand Down in that it brings all services to a central location. But where Operation Stand Down is a three-day event accessible to homeless veterans, Project Homeless Connect is open to all people struggling with homelessness.

Please support Project Homeless Connect. Donate online, send in a check, sign up as a volunteer, participate in our coat drive, or organize your own toiletries drive. To find out how you can help, click here.

2077 Nashville homeless school children

June 9, 2010

More than 2,000 Nashville public school students were registered as being homeless during the past school year. The exact number was 2,077.

Across the nation, as many as 500,000 may be homeless this year, according to a recently released report by The Child and Youth Well-Being Index Project at Duke University. Poverty rates among children are expected to climb to 21% nationwide. Nashville’s poverty rate for children under the age of 18 is 26.6% according to the American Community Survey, 2006-2008, by the U.S. Census.

Chaotic childhoods have serious implications on the physical health of people. Dr. Alan Kazdin, professor of psychology at Yale University, said adults with stressful childhoods display higher rates of cancer, liver disease, respiratory disease and other conditions.

For more information visit CNN.

Do you want to help? Get involved, learn about ending homelessness in Nashville at

Increase in Elderly Homeless Population

April 30, 2010

The National Alliance to End Homelessness published in a new study this month that “homelessness is beginning to increase among elderly adults.”

In Nashville, the average age of chronically homeless individuals is 48, according to a local Vulnerability Index survey, which was conducted by Park Center in 2009. The older a person, the more vulnerable he/she is to dying in the streets.

The new study predicts a dramatic increase in elderly homeless individuals (aged 50-64) over the next 10 years.

Not much data has been collected specifically on the elderly homeless population. However, the increase in baby boomers is one of the reasons more elderly are expected to become homeless. In addition, the trend is already slowly measurable when following HUD’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).

In the first AHAR from 2005, HUD found that an estimated 2.4% of homeless adults who utilize shelters were older than 62. The fourth AHAR from 2008 found that this population had slightly increased to 2.8%.

When we look at the elder population – Americans over 65 – it has increased by more than 1,100% from 3.1 million in 1900 to 37 million in 2008. In 1900 adults over 65 only made up 4.1% of the overall population. Now 12.6% of all Americans are over 65.

Why does this study matter?

An increase in the elderly homeless population will impact how service providers have to address their needs. Policy makers need to find solutions to prevent more elderly from falling into homelessness. This population is among the most vulnerable and hard to serve.

Click here to view the study.

2010 Homelessness Poster Contest: What does HOME mean to me?

March 13, 2010

More than 50 fourth-graders from Warner Elementary Enhanced Option School participated in our 2010 Homelessness Poster Contest. The poster contest was organized by The Key Alliance in partnership with the Metropolitan Nashville Public School’s HERO program. Each child was asked to draw a picture of what home means to them and write a paragraph about their thoughts on homelessness.

Many thanks go to Catherine Knowles, program supervisor for the HERO program, and Ms. Lori Flemming, principal of Warner Elementary School. The Homeless Education (HERO) program serves students who reside in any of the following situations:

– Live in a shelter or transitional housing program;

– Live “doubled-up” with friends or relatives because they do not have housing of their own;

– Live in motels or at a campground because they cannot find or afford other housing; or

– Live in a car, abandoned building or other location not normally designed for sleeping.

Basically, the federal law states that a student might qualify for the HERO program if he/she lacks a “fixed, regular and adequate night-time residence.”

 The 2010 Homelessness Poster Contest is hopefully the first of an annual competition that doubles as an awareness campaign. In April all the posters will be exhibited at the East Community Center alongside some of the thoughts of the children. Here are our top winners. Click on the pictures to read the children’s thoughts.

Women and Children

March 11, 2010

If you’re interested in statistics, The Key Alliance is working on creating profiles on different populations that are vulnerable to homelessness. Our first situation analysis focused on the permanent housing need for women and children. While there is no hard core data available that shows exactly how many eligible women with children local providers are not able to serve, every service provider contacted told us that their requests have been increasing and their capacities are filled.

We were in touch with the following service providers: Safe Haven, House of Mercy, YWCA, the Nashville Rescue Mission’s Family Life Center, Renewal House, The Next Door, Salvation Army, Magdalene House, the TN Dept. of Corrections, and the TN Board of Probation & Parole.

Anyone who wants to share their information and data is welcome to contact us at any time.

Here is an excerpt from our situation analysis on Women and Children:

One in four children in Davidson County lives at or below the poverty level.

According to the federal 2009/2010 Poverty Guidelines, a family of four with an income of $22,050 or less as meeting 100% of the poverty level.

Nashville organizations serving women and children indicate that they get far more shelter and program requests from this population than they have the capacity for. A national study released in 2009 found that one in every 50 American children experiences homelessness. Every year more than 1.5 million children are homeless at one point in time. (

And according to the U.S. Census, 26.6% of children under the age of 18 in Davidson County live below the poverty level. That is one in every four children. (American Community Survey, 2006-08)

In Tennessee, more than 16,500 children are estimated to be homeless per year. Divided into age groups:

  • Nearly 7,000 are under the age of 6;
  • Nearly 8,000 are enrolled in grades K-8; and
  • About 1,700 are enrolled in grades 9-12.
  • These totals do not include about 2,000 homeless youth.

In Nashville, according to the Tennessee Department of Education, the number of homeless children enrolled in Metro Public schools has been increasing steadily since 2005:

  • 1,236 in 05/06;
  • 1,558 in 06/07;
  • 1,657 in 07/08;
  • About 1,600 in 08/09.

The total student enrollment in Nashville/Davidson County public schools is about 75,000.

Metro Social Services observes a significant gap for housing for women with children that is considered affordable housing. The current waiting list for public housing or Section 8 Housing fluctuates from 500-3,000 families. The majority of families living in poverty are headed by females. Lack of affordable child care is a problem. Women with male children above 10-12 years of age have limited access to emergency shelter.


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