New Pandemic Homelessness Services Strategies Announced

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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New Pandemic Homelessness Services Strategies Announced

Posted: 10/02/2020
The City of Knoxville and community service providers are increasing outreach and promoting shelter opportunities for people experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These new strategies coincide with cooler weather and increased dangers for those living on the streets.

“We are making a coordinated shift in how we assist people who are unsheltered during COVID-19,” said Mike Dunthorn, Homeless Program Coordinator for the City’s Office on Homelessness. “While open-air encampments can offer physical distancing, the health, sanitation and safety concerns are worsening for those living in such encampments – including the onset of colder weather.

“I am pleased that Knox Area Rescue Ministries, Volunteer Ministry Center and the Salvation Army have been able to work with Health Department guidance to modify their facilities to allow safer sheltering during the pandemic. Our immediate goal now is to try to get everyone we can into a healthy, sheltered space.”

The following changes are now underway:

Shelter partners have now adapted their facilities and practices to provide COVID-safe accommodations. 

The City and outreach partners will facilitate a transition to connect those currently living in encampments with shelter services and notify occupants that camping is no longer permitted. 

Volunteer Ministry Center has re-opened the “Guest House” which provides quarantine space for homeless individuals who are waiting on COVID-19 test results or who have a positive test.

The City is in the process of making $2.2 million in federal CARES Act funding available to support additional outreach, shelter modifications and expanded operations.

City leaders and community partners expect these changes to mitigate the growing health, sanitation and safety concerns associated with encampments and facilitate a transition for our unsheltered neighbors into a safe, sheltered environment before dangerously cold weather sets in.