Kingsport has long been known as a kind and compassionate community. Many community organizations care for the homeless in our community with feeding programs, shelters and a variety of other ministries. The situation has become more complex as issues related to drug addiction and mental health impact many who find themselves homeless.
With the support of many community donors, the United Way of Greater Kingsport (UWGK) has long supported homeless-serving organizations, from nationally-recognized Salvation Army and Family Promise to Frontier Health's domestic violence shelter, Safe House, to most recently adding Hope Haven, a local homeless shelter for both men and women. These four agencies have a bed-capacity to serve up to 85 adults and children experiencing homelessness on any given night, with a nightly combined average of 55 in 2018. In addition to these shelter programs, several organizations provide valuable food assistance services, including the Friendship Diner, Kitchen of Hope, Hunger First, Shades of Grace, and nearly 30 other organizations. To see where food assistance services in Kingsport are, visit www.feedkingsport.org.
Over the past several years, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in our community has appeared to grow, despite the Point-In-Time (PIT) Count data remaining relatively consistent. The annual PIT Count is conducted each January (yielding official results by April) by the Appalachian Regional coalition on Homelessness (ARCH) through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2019, this data showed nearly 100 individuals who were experiencing homelessness (sheltered or unsheltered) with an additional 38 individuals who were considered to be transitionally homeless. During the summer of 2019, Kingsport City officials received an increasing number of safety-related complaints from downtown businesses and neighborhood citizens. After hearing and investigating these reports, Kingsport City acted with a proactive approach: In the fall, Kingsport City Manager Chris McCartt, and Kingsport City Police Chief David Quillen met with United Way of Greater Kingsport board members to envision a long-term strategy for addressing homelessness in Kingsport. Initial steps include the following:
1. Survey the existing agencies that provide services
2. Form a Homeless Coalition composed as a cross-sector of community members, community leaders and non-profit organization leaders to identify gaps.
3. Develop a comprehensive action plan.
Both UWGK and the City of Kingsport share a common vision of a safe and compassionate Kingsport that offers a well-resourced path to self sufficiency for individuals experiencing homelessness. See below for an active list of resources pertaining to homelessness in Kingsport.