Knoxville, Blount Co. discuss ways to end homelessness

11:15 PM, Sep 4, 2013   |    comments
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Two East Tennessee communities are looking for ways to help the homeless in their neighborhoods.

A 10-year-plan to erase homelessness is now gathering support in Blount County. While in Knoxville, city leaders are looking to take some of what worked with an old 10-year plan strategy and fold it into a new one.

"The assumption has been we don't have a homeless problem, because in Blount County it's invisible," said Sue Wyatt, with the Blount County Ecumenical Action Council.

Her group has teamed up with the United Way of Blount County to find ways to decrease homelessness in Blount County by 2023. In 2013, a point in time survey found 373 homeless people in the county's borders.

The plan would aim to do some of the following:

  • Improve communication among non-profit groups and community leaders
  • Give the homeless affordable housing options
  • Work with landlords to make their properties eligible for Section 8 housing vouchers
  • Seek out funding for existing non-profit agencies to help the homeless community
  • Work with local law enforcement to develop emergency response systems

"That's really the long-term goal, supporting families that are in crisis, with self-sufficiency," said Wendy Wand with the United Way of Blount County.

She said the plan has already seen support from the county commission and mayor. The group hopes to soon produce an action plan with local leaders. Wand and Wyatt said no tax dollars are devoted to the plan.

The proposed Blount Co. plan does not ask for tax money

Knoxville has had a similar discussion regarding homelessness over the last decade. Supporters first introduced a ten-year plan to end chronic homelessness in Knoxville in 2005.

The plan saw success on some levels by getting people into affordable housing. However, it fell short among some charities who grappled with different philosophies about how to tackle the problem.

Michael Dunthorn, the project manager for the city of Knoxville's Office on Homelessness, said the city plans to unveil a new strategy to stop homelessness by this fall.

"We are trying to take what we learned from the old plan and combine it with a lot of public input," he said.

Dunthorn said the new plan will focus on multiple issues, including housing, which was a controversial issue with the original plan.

But, Dunthorn said the city's old plan did have some successes. He said it started a discussion among multiple parties who had different ideas on how to fight homelessness.


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