CEDAR BLUFF, VIRGINIA* (Photo credit: gobucks2)

As promised my research for part of the rest of my ENG 380 class will include a study of the homeless in Berea Ky where my college is. I talked to a few people and did a little bit of research to begin this process.

I spoke with Dr. Margaret Dotson, Professor of Child and Family Studies at Berea College on the subject of homelessness in Appalachia. She told me that it is difficult to realize the extent of homelessness in the region because family and friends are willing to allow their homes and possibly a camper trailer to ease the suffering of a family member. We discussed the fact that some of these mountain people are also camping in the mountains away from public view.(Dotson, 2013)

Dr. Dotson sent me an article from Rural Mental Health,  ” In Rural areas, fewer individuals fit the ‘typical’ profile of homelessness, including sleeping ‘on the streets’ or in shelters; instead, many individuals and families without money ‘double up’ sleep in tents or live in other nontraditional settings such as abandoned vehicles(National Coalition on Homelessness, 2009a; Robertson et al, 2007). “These marginalized living situations have led to increased use of the moniker ‘hidden homeless’ to refer to people experiencing homelessness in rural areas”(Sherry R. Shamblin, 2012).

A cab driver in Berea,KY told me recently that the panhandlers in the city are not homeless. They live in the hotel(Driver, 2013). If they are panhandling daily  to pay  for a hotel room it seems to me an indication of an unstable situation if not the exact definition of homelessness.

About two weeks ago a lady stood on the corner in front of our McDonalds holding a sign requesting money donations. I purchased a McDonald’s gift card for her and asked if she was homeless. She said no, she and her boyfriend had a broken car and were trying to raise enough money to return home. I gave her a few dollars to help fix her car and left her to the work of collecting more money.

This is HUD’s definition of homelessness:

  • “People who are living in a place not meant for human habitation, in emergency shelter, in transitional housing, or are exiting an institution where they temporarily resided. The only significant change from existing practice is that people will be considered homeless if they are exiting an institution where they resided for up to 90 days (it was previously 30 days), and were in shelter or a place not meant for human habitation immediately prior to entering that institution.
  • People who are losing their primary nighttime residence, which may include a motel or hotel or a doubled up situation, within 14 days and lack resources or support networks to remain in housing. HUD had previously allowed people who were being displaced within 7 days to be considered homeless. The proposed regulation also describes specific documentation requirements for this category.
  • Families with children or unaccompanied youth who are unstably housed and likely to continue in that state. This is a new category of homelessness, and it applies to families with children or unaccompanied youth who have not had a lease or ownership interest in a housing unit in the last 60 or more days, have had two or more moves in the last 60 days, and who are likely to continue to be unstably housed because of disability or multiple barriers to employment.
  • People who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, have no other residence, and lack the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing. This category is similar to the current practice regarding people who are fleeing domestic violence”(Brief, 2012).

This is a brief tour of rural homelessness in the Appalachian region. I will investigate more of the causes of homelessness in the area and further investigate homelessness in the city of Berea,KY.

The following link is to a poem   The Unopened Gas Station of My Homeless Appalachia By Bret R. Crabrooke 

Homeless and down and out. I guess there is a difference but the line is thin. Rural Appalachia and the city of Berea have a different way of doing things than people in the cities. I will talk to some more people in the area and see what else I can find.


Brief, F. P. (2012, January 18). National Alliance to End Homelessness. Retrieved March 24, 2013, from EndHomelessness.org: http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/changes-in-the-hud-definition-of-homeless

Dotson, D. M. (2013, March). (D. Reeves, Interviewer)

Driver, U. C. (2013, March). (D. Reeves, Interviewer)

Sherry R. Shamblin, N. F. (2012). Conceptualizing Homelessness in Rural Appalachia: Understanding Contextual Factors Relevant to Community Mental Health Practice. Rural Mental Health, 3.

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