Kingsport leaders launch homeless coalition plan with new social worker and liaison positions

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- City leaders in Kingsport say they’re responding to concerns about homelessness by forming a new coalition. In a partnership with the United Way of Greater Kingsport, city officials are developing an action plan. This included the hiring of two new positions – a social worker with the Kingsport Police Department, and a homeless services liaison with the United Way.

“I dare anyone to find a city more kind and compassionate towards people than Kingsport, Tennessee. We have a long history of helping our neighbor,” said City Manager Chris McCartt.

To help homeless neighbors, the collaboration will work out a long-term strategy. The first step involves studying agencies currently providing services to the homeless. From there, a new homeless coalition will be formed consisting of people from nonprofits and the community.

“Forming what we have seen in other cities to be a success,” McCartt said.

Kingsport leaders first reveled plans to form the coalition in September.

“We recognize with homelessness, it’s a critical issue and it’s a complex issue,” said Danelle Glasscock, executive director of the United Way of Greater Kingsport. “It can’t be solved overnight. There’s a problem here that seems to be bigger than it has in the past. So we were excited to partner with the City to try and bring some more resources to this.”

One of those resources is the homeless services liaison position funded by the City and United Way. Engage Tri-Cities founder Jonathan Anderson has been chosen to fill the role.

“To help us partner more with all our agencies and inner-workings here, and other people in the community who are interested,” said Glasscock.

The Kingsport Police Department also hired Licensed Master Social Worker Erin Gray, who will work directly with the homeless.

“It can be kind of boots-on-the-ground,” said Kingsport Police Chief David Quillin. “Locations where the homeless population tends to gather during the day, where they can do face-to-face meetings, and really get a feel for what’s going on.”

Quillin said having a social worker in civilian clothes work with the homeless could accomplish communication that might not be possible for officers in uniform.

“So many of these folks that are homeless, unfortunately they are service-resistant,” Quillin said. “Someone in a uniform, they are less likely to want to talk to and make contact with. They feel more comfortable talking to someone who’s dressed like they are.”

McCartt said the coalition’s long-term strategy could potentially include creating a shelter for the homeless.

“We’re also working with agencies that are already here in Kingsport that are looking at ideas around a night center, a place for people to stay,” he said. “We’ve seen within our region, opportunities for non-government assisted shelters to be able to operate, and operate successfully.”

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