The story of the Kingsport Homeless Ministry began with two people and a simple question, one that may have crossed your mind.“Where Are The Homeless Sleeping Tonight?” This question came to two women one stormy winter evening in February, 2017, as they left their church. They were inspired to talk with others, and found many who shared their concerns.
This was the beginning of the Kingsport Homeless Ministry. They began to reach out to other churches, and a group of about twenty Kingsporters took a day trip to Charlotte, N.C., to visit the successful programs offered in their city. They talked with leaders who operate an urban ministry day center, shelters for men and women, and a “housing first” facility for the chronically homeless. For those who made the trip, it was an eye-opening experience.
The group returned to Kingsport and resolved to discuss what was learned in Charlotte with the community. After much conversation, consultation, research, and prayer, they came to several conclusions. They knew that Kingsport was blessed to have numerous organizations that provide shelter, food, medical care, clothing and many services to those in need.
However, they identified gaps in those services which needed to be filled, especially in the areas of mental health services and substance abuse treatment. The Ministry felt that people who experience unstable living conditions could not be expected to improve their lives without help. They believed that a cooperative effort among ministries, nonprofits, businesses and the city could bring about lasting change in the lives of our homeless neighbors.
At present, the two primary needs under consideration by the Kingsport Homeless Ministry are a low-barrier “housing first” shelter, and a comprehensive day center.
Housing For The Homeless
Many of our homeless neighbors have mental health or substance abuse issues. These conditions are very unlikely to be controlled without shelter. The “housing first” approach is to provide them with stable housing and create a space where they can properly address their needs. Often, the unsheltered qualify for some level of financial support which would enable them to pay a portion for housing. As we saw in Charlotte, the primary responsibilities for living in a “housing first” facility are to be a good neighbor, meet with case workers, and, based on their income, make timley rent payments.
The Day Center
What is a “day center”? A day center is a place that can meet many of the needs of our homeless neighbors, such as:
- Help with mental health and addiction issues
- A safe dry place to go during the day
- Bathroom and shower facilities
- A place to meet with case workers and care providers
- A place to apply for benefits
- A mailing address
- A place to store belongings
- Laundry facilities
- Help with medical referrals and other services