New grant to help homeless

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The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is the recipient of $3.6 million in federal grant funds to help hundreds of homeless veterans and chronically homeless Tennesseans secure a place to live and to receive treatment for their mental illness and substance use issues. The funding supplements a similar $3.6 million federal grant that was awarded in 2014.

Tennessee's Appalachian region, from the Tri-Cities area south to Chattanooga, will be the focus of the department's latest initiative to reduce homelessness in the state. In all, 20 counties across East Tennessee will benefit from the two-year initiative.

"We want to identify and help those who are open and willing to better themselves and dedicate themselves to improving their lives," said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. "Helping someone secure a place to live is a big step in the right direction, but it's just one piece. Our objective is to work with individuals who have been homeless for a long time and provide them with the opportunity to recover from mental illness, get clean and sober, become employable and ultimately become self-sufficient."

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The goals of this new grant are substantial. More than 500 homeless individuals across East Tennessee will be identified for housing, access to substance and mental health treatment, opportunities for employment, and regular health care checkups.

The previous year's federal grant funding has a similar focus and is currently improving the lives and opportunities for once-homeless individuals in Nashville and Memphis.

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Tennessee Homeless Grants By The Numbers:

  • 2015 funding of $3.6 million to serve 530 individuals over a 2-year period in a 20-county region of East Tennessee
  • 2014 funding of $3.6 million to serve 620 individuals over a 3-year period in Davidson County (Nashville) and Shelby County

These federal grant awards are made possible through funding from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) aimed at helping homeless Tennesseans gain access to treatment, career opportunities, and services to become more self-sufficient. Services to veterans will be coordinated with similar Veterans Administration programs.

For the 2015 grant award, several experienced community providers in the East Tennessee region have been enlisted to deliver services and support. Specialists at each provider agency will identify individuals for the program and help them along the path to sobriety, improved mental health, employment, and a permanent place to live.

2015 Tennessee Homeless Grant Providers Include:

  • Frontier Health, Inc. - Gray
  • Helen Ross McNabb Center, Inc. - Knoxville
  • Volunteer Behavioral Health Care Systems - Chattanooga

"These caring providers have a long history of serving homeless people who struggle with addictions, mental health issues, and basic needs like employment and a safe place to live," said Commissioner Varney. "When we help an individual transition from homelessness to a more stable living situation, they benefit, the community benefits, and we are all better off."

Staff in the Office of Housing and Homeless Services at the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will offer ongoing support to the providers and communities during the three-year grant initiative with resources, monitoring, and evaluation.

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