Is Knoxville Becoming the Homeless Capital of America?

CP KFQ, Questions 13 Comments

Photo by: ZenOptic

First, there was the groundbreaking for the Minvilla Manor project that is set to cost $7 million. Now, the Mayors’ Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness group is seeking to build another shelter in West Knoxville.

Does Knoxville need another homeless shelter that will cost $500,000 for the land alone? Is Knoxville becoming or is it already the homeless capital of America?

Comments 13

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  2. Curious to see what’ll be said here. Its always been a running joke that we, Knoxville, imports/buses-in the homeless.

    Its a sad state of affairs, especially with the way things are right now. Read a stat yesterday that there are 55,000 people jobless in the 865 right now. In better times I’d say the idea of a shelter is a good idea, as long as they’re helping the homeless individuals go back to school or with job placement. Nowadays? Not sure there is any one true answer to what’s right and what’s wrong.

  3. @Jody Collins: hearing those stats really puts in perspective how lucky some of us are to have jobs. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be one of those 55,000 people.

  4. CP- I think it would be a mistake to categorize the 10-Year Plan shelters as just ANOTHER shelter. They are designed to systemically end the homeless problem. I think everyone has a bad taste in their mouth from the current ministry shelters, which mostly perpetuate the problem. Let’s give the Plan a chance to work before dismissing it.

    Jody- Public building projects are exactly what we need in the worst of times. Local contractors, architects, carpenters, plumbers, ect. would be involved- providing some of the jobs we need. The “sad state of affairs” is that the federal gov’t isn’t spending more stimulus money on WPA style projects and less on propping up a financial system that won’t lend money.

    A large part of the homeless population here is mentally ill. They’ll always be a burden on society. The gov’t took care of them until the 1970s when they shut down the asylum system. Now we’re reaping the bitter fruits of that decision. If we want to cut back gov’t spending, why is no one looking at the welfare system? Let’s kick the physically/mentally-able out of the gov’t system before we cut off the homeless.

    Living in the neighborhood nearest to the “homeless district” on 5th Ave., I can say that no area in Knoxville is going to be happy when a shelter is built in it. The proposed site in the above article seems poorly chosen, though. But eventually West Knox is gonna have to swallow hard and endure having a shelter somewhere in it as part of the 10 year plan, just like the rest of us.

  5. There have been some people around my neighborhood advocating closing the missions around Broadway. My question to them is always where are these people going to go?

    CK makes a good point about the majority of the homeless being mentally ill and unable to hold jobs with no one to care of them. There are certain things we can do to discourage the people who make a “profession” out of being homeless by not giving in to panhandling, but the least we can do for the people who don’t choose to be homeless is give them a place to lay their head at night.

  6. CK: Like I said before, not wholly opposed to the idea of a shelter. Just wish it would be run for the betterment of folks. Like with Habitat. The people benefiting from Habitat have to work to receive that opportunity. Which is a great idea, and I applaud them for that.

    You’re right about it opening up jobs in building and maintaining the shelter. Though, I’ve done work for some of the others. What they sometimes squander money on is astonishing.

    For what its worth, those in the ‘finan­cial sys­tem’ should be run out on a rail.

  7. I have some personal experience with the Minvilla Manor Project and with feeding some of K-Town’s homeless. Let me just say, regardless of the intentions, the Minvilla Manor project has been a huge screwed up mess from the get-go. From the clearing out and fencing up of the 5th Ave Hotel, to the actual design and construction, nothing went the way it was supposed too. If they are planning something similar in West Knoxville, I hope they learn from their mistakes. As for the ministries that try to help the homeless, I can only speak of the one I have some first hand knowledge off, but St. Demetrious the tiny little church in Mechanicsville (in front of Food City on Middlebrook) tries to hand out sack lunches or hot food at least 3 days a week. They have only a few workers, but they do what they can. Some nights people are already lined around the building by the time the workers get there to open up. I have taken a group of teenagers over, to serve soup a couple times. As was mentioned above allot of the folks do have some handicaps whether mental/physical or in as in allot of cases, both. Most of the folks we fed were friendly and very thankful for someone taking the time to help. I learned one thing from hearing some of their stories…most of us are only one bad month, or even a couple bad weeks from being in the same spot. One man, told us the story of how he was a carpenter, had a good job, loving family. His daughters where killed in an accident. He turned to drinking to ease the pain, and within months he lost his job, wife and home. It’s a scary thought, especially with today’s economy. Are these 10 years plans the answer? Maybe, but more than likely, probably not. What is the answer? I wish I knew, but until someone figures it out all I can say is, God Bless those with a heart to help. And by that, I mean the ones who really feel the need, to help their fellow man, not just the ones who want to puff out their chest and say, “look at me! I’m helpin!!” The ones who help in silence, never asking to be recognized or praised, they just do it because it’s what should be done, but most of us (myself included) don’t have the patience or the will power to deal with something, that in all honesty, we’d rather just not think about. Of course it’s those type of folks that makes this such a great town in the first place, which maybe why so many homeless end up here, it’s kind of a vicious cycle I suppose, but what do I know, I’m just a dude, playin a dude, disguised as another dude…

  8. The proposed development at Debusk in West Knox County is not a shelter at all. It’s an apartment complex that will be used to provide permanent supportive housing. Its residents will be people who had been chronically homeless: disabled individuals who have been homeless for at least a year, or who have had at least 4 periods of homelessness over the past 3 years.

    Again: not a shelter. Residents must have income (usually disability, since they are disabled, but sometimes from employment), they must sign and abide by the terms of a lease, and they must pay rent. They can live in this housing as long as they do those things and want to stay, same as anyone in any apartment complex.

    Just to be super clear, once again, permanent supportive housing is not anything like a shelter.

    Permanent supportive housing breaks the cycle of homelessness for these folks. It’s a cycle that’s worth breaking. The average individual in Knox who’s chronically homeless costs us around $40,000 per year on the street. It’s much less expensive, and more humane, to work with them to end their homelessness than it is to help them make their homelessness a little easier to endure.

    The Ten-Year Plan is not a magic bullet. It’s a plan that was published in 2005 and adopted by the City and the County in 2006. Among other things, it seeks to bring about better coordination and greater efficiency among agencies that provide services consumed by all homeless people.

    But the cornerstone is housing. Permanent supportive housing. Without permanent housing, you don’t end homelessness.

    It is not true that Knoxville is somehow the new capital of homelessness. You will find that this myth is alive and well in any mid-sized city in the US. It’s just a common, oft-repeated but unsubstantiated urban myth.

  9. Permanent supportive housing is an incredible thing. The program I work for as a mental health counselor provides permanent supportive housing to the homeless. The goal of our program is to work on the underlying reasons as to why they were once homeless (mental/physical problems), help them to stablize, get them all the resources they need and all the while encouraging them to be as independent as possible. This program works possibly because it encompasses a holistic view of the homeless and seeks out a resolution. I sincerely hope that there are more programs like this in the future.

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