Nonprofits work to identify homeless population in Johnson County | WJHL
MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Several Johnson County organizations are working to address homelessness in the area, but first they need to know how many people need help.
Each year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development counts the nation’s homeless population.
According to ACTION Coalition, HUD’s latest spot survey found one homeless person in Johnson County, but local advocates say that’s a gross undercount.
“Johnson County has unique issues, in that larger areas like Washington County, Sullivan County, have real homeless shelters where they can come in and count people,” Trish said. Burchette, executive director of the Coalition ACTION. “In Johnson County, we have people living or sleeping that night on sidewalks or on porches of abandoned buildings.”
Burchette said she believes Coalition ACTION missed a grant last year due to under-reporting of homelessness in the county.
Organizations such as ACTION Coalition in Mountain City, Women of Mountain City and Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness have taken matters into their own hands to get a more accurate count.
“At least 17 collected right now,” Burchette said. “The people we capture are even under-reported, I’m sure there are many more we haven’t been able to report.”
Ellen Watkins, Mountain City Grassroots Women’s Coordinator, helped with the count and said she identified at least 10 more of the 17 Burchette counted.
“We’re a very large, sprawling county,” Watkins said. “We are in the mountains, so people live, live off other people’s lands that we are not even aware of.”
Burchette said those numbers are key to securing funds to find more permanent solutions. She said addressing housing insecurity is key to addressing other barriers facing the community, such as substance use disorders.
“Providing stable and safe housing for our community is a huge obstacle,” Burchette said. “It goes a long way toward successful recovery from substance use disorder and successful recovery from mental health issues.”
One of Burchette’s goals is to establish a shelter in the county by the end of the year. She said once the shelter is built, they can work to provide people with more permanent housing, jobs and identity documents to create more sustainable and stable living conditions.
Watkins says they want people to ask for help.
“We keep everything confidential,” Watkins said. “Our goal is simply to help these people get back on their feet. So if anyone knows someone who is in a situation please contact us let us know we will help as best we can.
In the meantime, organizations are struggling to provide basic necessities such as food, sanitary products and clothing.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the agencies below:
409 W. Walnut St. Johnson City, TN 37604