This winter, the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness reached out to the Ross Medical Education Center Johnson City, Tennessee campus with an urgent need for donations for their food pantry. The campus immediately responded with willingness to help. However, this was not a typical food drive as the items they ask for are easily carried in a backpack or considered “camping food” as most of the individuals that benefit from this service live in camps.
The Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness services eight counties in the local area. Each week they send an outreach team out to connect with local homeless individuals and see what kind of assistance they can provide. The organization was started in 2004 to work within the community to meet the needs of the homeless population in the region.
Throughout the month of the drive, the campus collected a variety of things that can be easily eaten without preparation like pudding, crackers, cereal bars, poptarts, noodles, and more. “They asked that we keep in mind what camping out is like and how they would be able to prepare food without the use of a kitchen,” shared Office Assistant Heather Thomas. The reason for this is that many of these homeless individuals reside in their own communities in the local woods. They often have tents or just draped tarps for shelter. Some have dilapidated campers with no water or electricity wired to them. Some of these families have adult children who are not permitted to live in the shelters with their families and so they choose the camps instead of separating their families.
All of the donations given to Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness help a great deal as they ensure that all of the contributions go directly to the homeless people and families instead of to a facility. Although there is not yet a huge awareness of this organization, the need in the area is great due to the number of homeless individuals and families. Because of the way that this organization works, grant applications often take longer, so the donating partners are vital.