The Tri-Cities region is one of nine communities nationwide selected by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth to take part in a three-year initiative to improve education and employment services for children and young people ages 12-24 who are homeless and not accompanied by an adult.
Patricia Julianelle, legal director for NAEHCY, said the association selected the Northeast Tennessee region for the project based on several criteria identified in a survey of national homeless statistics, including disproportionately large call volumes from the 423 area code to the National Runaway Switchboard comparable to those received from urban areas of Boston, San Antonio and Seattle.
“That definitely caught our attention, for an area of much less dense population to have as many calls (to the NRS) as large urban areas,” she said.
Other criteria specific to the region considered pertinent for the NAEHCY project include Northeast Tennessee’s geographic diversity, the availability of homeless data gathered by the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness and the working relationships of nonprofit and government service agencies, schools, health systems and other local entities aligned through the coalition.
The number of area school systems in the region with existing service programs for homeless students and the steady increases in the number of homeless students attending area schools also was considered in the region’s selection for the project. For example, Julianelle said the number of homeless students attending Kingsport schools has increased 49 percent over the past four years, up to 310 students during the last school year. Statewide, the increase in homeless students attending public schools was 42 percent during the same time frame.
The NAEHCY project will work in partnership with the region’s schools and service providers to improve coordination and effectiveness of the delivery of services, specifically the more than 300 programs for homeless children and youth spread out over 12 departments of the federal government that Julianelle said are not always delivered in coordination with one another.
Because of its proximity to Northeast Tennessee, the Southwest Virginia region also will be included in the NAEHCY initiative.
Julianelle will introduce the project’s objectives to local agency representatives and interested community members during an interagency program to be held Tuesday at Boones Creek Christian Church in Johnson City. Hosted by ARCH, the meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Julianelle encouraged anyone interested in learning more about the project to attend.
More information about NAEHCY is available online at www.naehcy.org.