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Former CP Intern Tackling Homelessness in Santa Cruz

Head shot of Tiffany Smith

Former Clinch-Powell intern and Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps Alum Tiffany Smith has carried the Clinch-Powell mission of “building strong communities” all the way to the West Coast. Smith, who is now the special project manager for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (CCOE) in Santa Cruz, California, works very closely with at risk youth. She recently collaborated with a group of organizations who serve homeless populations in Santa Cruz County to obtain 2.2 million dollars in grant funds to provide much needed assistance to homeless youth.
Smith first connected with Clinch-Powell as a senior social work student at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN where she was placed with the non-profit to complete a full time internship. Clinch-Powell is a small non-profit organization located in Rutledge, TN. Don’t let that “small” fool you. Clinch-Powell has quite a long reach, and while much of their work may be behind the scenes, they are impacting communities all over the state with programs in affordable housing, ecotourism, conservation, and community development. Smith’s long felt passion for environmental issues and her own experiences with homelessness as a youth allowed her to connect immediately with the organization’s work in conservation and affordable housing. It was a perfect fit. Sabrina Seamon, Clinch-Powell’s Operations and Compliance Manager had this to say about Tiffany’s time at Clinch-Powell:
“Tiffany was always very eager to learn, and asked very pensive questions. She never shied away from any task put in front of her. She only saw what needed to be done. I will always admire her ability to overcome obstacles, and the emotional intelligence she already possesses at a young age. Tiffany is an impressive woman, and I could not be more proud of her.”
Smith’s internship quickly turned into an Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps position serving with the housing department at Clinch-Powell. Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps is one of Clinch-Powell’s largest programs. As an AmeriCorps Host Agency, Clinch-Powell places dozens of volunteers with non-profits and state parks throughout East and Middle Tennessee. Each service member receives a cost of living stipend during their term of service. Upon completion of their term, they receive an educational award that can be used to pay for future educational needs or to pay off student loan debt. But perhaps even more valuable than that is the training and work experience that service members gain.
While serving as both an intern and an AmeriCorps member, Smith participated in the nationwide Point in Time Homeless Count, worked with staff members on writing and submitting grants, created a policy manual for the Clinch-Powell Internship Program, and developed a non-invasive call data tracking system that allows Clinch-Powell to track the number of clients we serve, types of services needed, and the referral sources needed for our clients. This system is still in use and has been very helpful in service delivery and outreach efforts.
Tiffany has certainly put the experience and skills she gained during her time with Clinch-Powell to good use. In 2015, she took an AmeriCorps position in Santa Cruz, California where she served at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (CCOE) as a Volunteer Coordinator. Last year she received a full staff position with the CCOE as a project manager. She works heavily with at risk youth, especially those who are homeless and are considered to be “unaccompanied”, meaning they have no guidance or support. Homelessness, especially among the youth population, is a significant problem in California. In January 2017, HUD announced a new initiative to reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness which included 33 million dollars granted to 10 communities committed to eradicating youth homelessness. Smith collaborated with other organizations in Santa Cruz County to create a plan of action and to apply for the funds. This collaborative effort allowed the local organizations to obtain 2.2 million dollars of the grant funds to address the issue of chronic homeless youth in the Santa Cruz area. Tiffany is thrilled to be part of this effort.
“I'm very excited because this is long overdue,” Smith says. “My unaccompanied youth literally have no support right now. You have to be 19 or older to stay at any of the current shelters without an adult. There's absolutely no housing: just many long waiting lists and housing that does not take Section 8. With this money, we will be building housing, paying for housing, and creating several support drop in hubs across town for them to sleep, eat, do laundry, talk to a counselor, etc.”
The Clinch-Powell board and staff are pleased to see their former student and volunteer carrying on the Clinch-Powell legacy of “building strong communities” across the nation. This is the power of volunteerism that leads to action.