Tennessee has the 10th highest rate of poverty in the nation and, according to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data, the statewide poverty rate is 18.3 percent, a slight increase over the 2010 rate of 17.7 percent. It's not surprising that low-income families are struggling in this economic context. Several organizations in Tennessee provide help to low-income families.
Thirty-eight chapters of the United Way organization are active in Tennessee. This organization provides money for a range of community-based action programs offering a variety of services to help low-income families. The United Way connects people to the social services and programs they need. Dialing 211 can connect people with a United Way representative to find local services and programs for low-income families. These programs and services include United Way funded food pantries, dental clinics, low income home repair assistance, transitional and emergency housing programs, in home nurse visits for medically challenged infants and mothers, mental health and family counseling services.
The Salvation Army offers many types of assistance to low-income families throughout Tennessee. Food-related programs include food pantries, on-site lunch and dinner, and some of the rural programs take hot meals and food pantry items to those unable to come to a Salvation Army site. Other Salvation Army social service programs include emergency rent assistance and utility payments, help with clothing and school supplies, and transitional housing programs, and emergency shelter.
This Tennessee organization began in 1968 as a coalition of churches and synagogues working together toward common goals of easing race relations and working to serve those in need, primarily low-income families and elderly people. As decades passed, it expanded its operations across the state. This organization focuses on what they term “high-impact” programs. Emergency services for low-income families include help with rent and utility payments, food and clothing assistance, and other household essentials. They help negotiate to avoid eviction, but if it does happen, they also have housing programs and emergency shelter.
Serving western, central and southern regions of Tennessee, this organization serves low-income families in many ways. Through a number of community action programs funded by federal, state and local money, low-income families can receive assistance when in crisis, and help head off a major crisis. Rent assistance and emergency housing is available, as are programs that help low-income families buy their own homes. There are job training programs for adults and youth. They have a few programs to help families with food concerns, including U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities distribution and summer meal programs for children. Transportation programs help get people to doctor appointments, pharmacies, and other important places. Weatherization and utilities payment assistance programs help low income families with home heating and cooling costs.
- US Census Bureau: Poverty: 2010 and 2011
- The Official Site of the Tennessee Government: Help for Tennessee Families
- United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Economy at a Glance, Tennessee
- Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association:Programs for Families in Crisis
- United Ways of Tennessee
- The Salvation Army: Kentucky and Tennessee Division
- Southwest Human Resource Agency
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