Plan to end chronic homelessness

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Plan to end chronic homelessness

Posted: 10/07/2005
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale announced today that they will appoint a director to bring together the federal, state and local resources necessary to implement a plan to end chronic homelessness over the next 10 years.

The Knoxville and Knox County Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness emphasizes coordination among agencies serving homeless individuals, and stresses accountability for results.

An advisory board comprised of public and private service providers, non-profit organizations and donors will also be appointed to aid the director.

"Ending chronic homelessness in our community requires participation of all stakeholders in addressing this problem in a different way than we have before," Mayor Ragsdale said. "Resources are not unlimited, and it's imperative that we work together to ensure no duplication exists among services delivered by agencies."

Added Mayor Haslam, "We appointed this task force a year ago with the understanding that the 'status quo' was not going to solve this growing dilemma. The next step is for public and private service providers, and the faith-based community, to take ownership of this plan and move forward together to end chronic homelessness, and ultimately prevent homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County."

The task force full implementation of a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), an Internet-based database that shelters, housing providers, service agencies and others who work with the homeless can share client information and better coordinate case management. Roll-out of this system has already begun over the past year.

Chronically homeless is defined as individuals who have been homeless for more than a year or who have been repeatedly homeless.

While these individuals account for just 10 percent of the homeless population, they utilize 50 percent of the resources, including emergency medical services, psychiatric treatment, detox facilities, shelters, law enforcement and correctional facilities.

This relatively small population puts inordinate stress on the social service system, leaving little resources to serve those who are incidentally homeless or to prevent homelessness.

Dr. Roger Nooe, of the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, served as the task force's chairman, and Mike Dunthorn, of the City of Knoxville, as the vice chair.

"This plan offers a framework for ending the institution of homelessness," Dr. Nooe stated. "By increasing the availability of permanent housing, providing coordinated case management and linking homeless persons to community resources, Knoxville and Knox County can reduce chronic homelessness and perhaps more importantly, prevent others from becoming chronically homeless."

Other strategies recommended by the task force:

Move people into housing first - and then address issues impacting the individual such as mental illness, chemical addictions, education and employment. This approach is almost a reverse from what is occurring currently - permanent housing is reserved as an incentive for the homeless individuals. The task force notes that without the stability of housing, other services do not yield good results. Stop discharging people into homelessness. Work with the foster care system, mental health hospitals, emergency rooms, and jails to develop a procedure where individuals are linked to community services before they are released. Increase coordination and effectiveness of service. Individuals should enter the provider system through a single point, have one case manager, and agencies should specialize in their functions.

Increase economic opportunities. Assess individuals income, education and employability when they enter the system, and determine needs of further training. Develop basic skills training programs and provide potential employers with certificate attesting to their skills.

Members of the task force were: Major Dewey Alderson, The Salvation Army; Susan Brown, formerly of Rural/Metro Corp.; Susan Fowlkes, Community Health Services; John Gill, Knox County District Attorney's Office; Michele Hummel, Central Business Improvement District; Barbara Kelly, Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee; Alvin Nance, Knoxville's Community Development Corp.; Chief Sterling Owen IV and Lt. David Rausch, Knoxville Police Department; Mintha Roach, Knoxville Utilities Board; Burt Rosen, Knox Area Rescue Ministries; Frank Rothermel, Denark Construction; Elisabeth Rukeyser, mental health advocate; J. Laurens Tullock, Cornerstone Foundation; and Ginny Weatherstone, East Tennessee Coalition for the Homeless.

Homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County By the Numbers

900 people sleep in emergency shelters, on the street, in cards, in transitional housing, or double up with friends on any given night 1,900 people will experience homelessness over the course of the month (an increase from 800 persons in 1986) Between, 8,000 and 9,000 will experience homelessness at one time over the course of a year 10 percent of those who are homeless are chronically homeless - people who have been homeless for over one year or who has been repeatedly homeless. This segment of the population consumers more than 50 percent of the resources including emergency medical services, psychiatric treatment, detox facilities, shelters, law enforcement and jails Thirteen percent of this chronic group had children with them 3,800 to 5,000 people a year are arrested for public intoxication. Fewer than 80 individuals - each arrested six more times - account for one-fourth of those arrests. Seven individuals have 100 or more arrested during the past five years. One-fourth of youth leaving foster care at age 18 will be homeless within a year.