Homelessness in Appalachia: The Appalachian Regional Coalition

Homelessness is an issue Appalachians face more than others. According to npr.org, “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported in May 2019 that one in three rural Americans say homelessness is a problem in their communities.” In rural areas, less resources are provided. Housing shortage, inconsistent income, and drug usage are just a few of the issues Americans face every day. The Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness was created in order to give guidance to people in need.


ARCH began its journey on Jan. 22, 2004, based out of northern East Tennessee. In 2002 to 2003, meetings were held by housing facilitators and legal counsels to establish ARCH and recognize it as a “Continuum of Care recognized by HUD.”


ARCH has three different programs that aid in housing. The programs the ARCH has are Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), the Coordinated Appalachian Resource Extension (CARE), and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).


The ESG program helps those who need rental security. ESG assists in utility bills and rent itself. Eligibility for the ESG program is broad and can be met if certain criteria are met. According to their website, appalachianhomeless.org, eligible clients include those lacking a residence, loss of primary home, those in homeless shelters, and people living in cars or public areas.


The CARE program helps those who are about to have a homelessness status, or who already are in that situation. ARCH provides steps for this program. According to their website, appalachianhomeless.org, “As the primary access point, ARCH acts as the community-wide hub for other organizations, agencies, and services available to people in their times of greatest vulnerability.”


The HOPWA program is an exclusive for people in need that are diagnosed with AIDS. This program requires a positive diagnosis of AIDS, and financial need for assistance. The program has a limit of 52 people in 8 counties of northeast Tennessee.


Terry Burdett, HMIS manager at ARCH, discusses the coalition and what the main goals are. Burdett has been at ARCH for three years and has been in the housing business for multiple years.


“We are what we call a “coordinated entry system”,” Burdett said. “Which means that people who are homeless that are seeking housing come through us first, then we refer them to the agencies that do the homeless program.”


Burdett explains about the Supportive Housing project that has been a success.


“The Permanent Supportive Housing project is run by what is referred to as rental assistance, so we do not own the building, but we just provide the rental assistance straight to the landlord,” Burdett said.


The project is active in eight counties in East Tennessee.


“It is an eight-county area project, but most people are in Washington County,” Burdett said.


Lives in the Appalachian area have been impacted positively by ARCH, and the organization is accepting donations for various items.


The organization needs financial assistance to continue making changes. For more information on ARCH, visit their website at appalachianhomeless.org. If you would like to donate, ARCH needs household goods, tents, mops, trash bags, laundry detergent, and more. For the link to donate, visit appalachianhomeless.org/donate.

. Photo Source: appalachianhomeless.org/donate