By Emily Merritt, March 20, 2021
This past year has put a strain on many in our community. It’s challenged the health of our friends and families, the education of our children, the financial stability of countless households and increased daily risks for our senior population.
At the beginning of 2020, none of us were prepared for what we would confront. And no one knew how many in our community would need our help. Faced with a once-in-a- generation challenge, the United Way of Greater Kingsport stepped up.
United Way staff, donors, volunteers and our entire community came together immediately to raise funds and address critical needs. We helped our neighbors who were most impacted by the global pandemic and economic downturn get the relief and support they needed.
In addition to our regular work, three particular projects have occupied our progress in 2020 and beyond — establishing a Kingsport Homeless Coalition; responding to COVID-19 by beginning Relief Fund efforts; and ending the year full of hope for achieving equity as we re-imagine a new normal.
KINGSPORT HOMELESS COALITION
The United Way’s newest community-wide initiative, the Kingsport Homeless Coalition, formed in January 2020 with a purpose to create a coordinated, compassionate plan to serve the homeless in the Greater Kingsport area.
More than 20 private, public, non-profit, and faith-based agencies work to maximize resources by minimizing redundancy. With COVID-19’s economic effects including loss of employment, loss of housing, food insecurity, and more, the coalition stepped in with an immediate response to provide temporary housing at a local motel and, to-date, have helped more than 75 individuals achieve permanent housing.
Here is one of their stories. Mr. Sampson (not real name) is a 65-year-old, disabled veteran who had been experiencing homelessness for the past 6 months. Through our motel housing program, we provided temporary housing, case management, and other support services to him.
During his time with us, our coalition partners assisted him with transportation to appointments, housing applications, and provided the support he needed on his journey out of homelessness. In August of 2020, Mr. Sampson moved into his own apartment. With the help of our coalition partners, that apartment is fully furnished, and Mr. Sampson is on his way to financial stability.
DEALING WITH THE PANDEMIC
When COVID-19 began to impact our community, we immediately began to assist with relief efforts, setting up a local relief fund and joining efforts with our regional United Way partners to form the Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia COVID-19 Relief Fund. By the end of June, the United Way provided grants to more than 40 nonprofits in our community totaling more than $150,000.
THE PATH FORWARD
We’ve been through a lot in 2020 and we still face significant uncertainty in the coming months and years. But this moment is also an opportunity to build a better future: one that includes every person in our community.
In the summer of 2020, the United Way was asked to participate in Kingsport’s “Hope for Racial Equity,” a group of stakeholders committed to addressing equity across our community. Stemming from the conversations of this group, we began enhancing our already- robust slate of metrics, to identify and address gaps or disparities, and have launched several regional conversations around equity in education, as it pertains to race and representation in the classroom.
As our country and community continue to recover from the pandemic, we will see greater needs for years to come. Addressing these challenges will take every one of us. We are proud that every day throughout 2020 and with every day to come, the United Way of Greater Kingsport is first-in-line to address critical health and human service needs for over 1400 lives on any given day.
No matter what happens in 2021, our commitment to the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community remain. The future will be different than we once imagined. But it can also be better than we ever dreamed it could be. Thank you, Kingsport, for your investment and involvement with our United Way.
The original article can be found here.