The Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness on Tuesday provided representatives of the more than 75 area service agencies that make up the coalition with a preview of the region’s newest nonprofit resource, One Acre Cafe, a local affiliate of the international One World — Everybody Eats cafe program.
Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the coalition’s member agencies also included updates from the ARCH on a new $1 million emergency housing assistance program for veteran families in the three-state region served by Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home and the second half of the federal Department of Housing and Urban’s Development’s 2011 Homeless Prevention and Rapid Housing funding that will become available locally in October.
Bryan Orchard, volunteer coordinator for the new One Acre Cafe, said the program’s mission is to address the issues of food insecurity experienced daily by an estimated 20 percent of East Tennessee residents by providing sufficient, safe and nutritious meals in an environment where all members of the community can “eat what they want and pay what they can.”
Like the new Farm Cafe that recently began operations in nearby in Boone, N.C., Orchard said the new One Acre Cafe will focus on three key elements, job training, volunteerism and community cooperation.
Diners “could be me or anyone who comes in to see what’s up in this community or it could be an individual who cannot afford a meal at all but can work one hour at the cafe” in exchange for their meal, he said.
To eliminate food waste, the cafe will offer meals in three proportions, at prices ranging from $5 to $10 that those who can afford to pay will know is going to positively impact the life of someone less fortunate.
Everyone will be welcome to eat at the cafe regardless of their ability to pay and will be given an opportunity to gain job skills and experience in food service and restaurant management.
Orchard said the cafe has received its 501c3 status and is projected to open in fall 2013.
A search for a location is under way and is focused “in the hub of Johnson City,” which Orchard said is desired because it is accessible by foot to the population group the program hopes to serve and to East Tennessee State University and its wealth of volunteer support.
Community partners already committed to the program include the nonprofit Summit Foundation, Main Street Cafe and Catering of Jonesborough and The River Ministry of Johnson City’s First Presbyterian Church.
Orchard said a program website is under construction and, in the meantime, more information can be found online at the One Acre Cafe Facebook page or by contacting him at 737-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
Dreama Shreve, executive director of the HUD-funded ARCH coalition, announced the federal Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant program has awarded $1 million in funding to ARCH and three other HUD continuum of care organizations to provide housing assistance and support services to at-risk veteran families in 18 counties of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Southwestern Kentucky served by the veterans’ hospital in Johnson City.
The funding will cover the cost of 18 staff positions to serve veteran families in the Northeast Tennessee region served by ARCH, and in areas served by the Tennessee Valley COC coalition of homeless services based in Knoxville and two similar COC organizations in Kentucky and Virginia. Services will include assistance with rent and utilities, gasoline for transportation to work, child care, auto repairs up to $2,500, moving costs and more.
According to Shreve, the program is expected to be up and running by October and a presentation to introduce its services and to identify veteran families in need will be conducted at VAMC.
For homeless and at-risk individuals and families in the eight Northeast Tennessee counties served by ARCH, Shreve said the final half of HUD’s 2011 Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing grant program will also become available in October through a newly evolved program known as the Emergency Solutions Grant.
“HPRP was a two-year program that ended last year and that’s gone,” Shreve said. “ESG evolved from HPRP but it is a totally different beast.”
Like HPRP, she said, ESG will provide short-term assistance with rent to homeless and at-risk individuals and families for up to 12 months along with case management services to ensure the problems that led to the recipients loss of housing or risk of homeless are addressed.
Shreve said ARCH went through “a huge learning curve” in the 18 months it administered the HPRP program and dispersed $1.3 million in HUD assistance to local residents who were homeless or at risk or losing their housing. “Beleive me, it goes faster than you think,” Shreve said.
She said ARCH member agencies that take part in the ESG program must follow and document rigid case management requirements that are closely monitoring by HUD. “What we learned with HPRP is some families repeatedly make the same bad decisions with their money that you have to address with them. And it must be documented because they (HUD administrators) do look at the paperwork.”
ESG grants range from $35,000 to $75,000. Agency contracts will run through Sept. 30. The deadline for area service agencies to apply for the ESG funding is Monday.
Agency applications and more information about the ESG program may be obtained by contacting ARCH at 928-2724, ARCH@appalachianhomeless.org or the ARCH office at 321 W. Walnut Street.