Image Credit: Homeless Advocacy for Rural Tennessee
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Knoxville’s annual point-in-time (PIT) count shows a continued increase in homelessness throughout the city.
The report shows that roughly 1,178 people report that they are currently experiencing homelessness. This number is up approximately 50% over last year’s number.
The city reports that 373 of those individuals do not have any shelter at all, while the other 805 were currently in some sort of transitional housing or an emergency shelter.
According to Bruce Spangler, CEO of Volunteer Ministry Center (VMC) in Knoxville, the homeless situation is not just affecting single individuals.
Those 1,178 people comprise 985 different households. There are 152 children and 284 people who struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, or physical disabilities.
“Families with children are being impacted,” said Spangler. “You’re finding folks who are about my age in the elderly category who are being affected as well.”
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Spangler and city administrators all say that the main reason for the city’s increasing homeless population is a lack of affordable housing.
“Increasing housing costs, and inflation and tough labor markets,” said Shawn Griffith, Knoxville Homelessness Services Coordinator. “It’s making it a really challenging situation and pushing a lot of people into homelessness or on the verge of it.”
“That’s just forcing a lot of folks out of the market on affordability,” stated Spangler. “Not only do you have to afford the rent, you have to afford the utilities.”
They say that it is easy to see what the problem is, but it is not quite as easy to solve it.
“It boils down to public policy,” said Spangler.
The city of Knoxville has partnered with several community organizations in an attempt to help find an appropriate fix for the issue.
VMC has added additional personnel and expanded their outreach, while the city has allocated more than $14 million to construct more than 1,000 affordable housing units.
“The City is trying to fill the gaps in funding to get affordable housing developed in our community because that’s key to hopefully preventing homelessness and making units available,” said Michael Dunthorn, Homeless Program Coordinator.
Spangler says that people need to speak up to their local leaders about the issues currently facing the city because the policies need to be changed in order to address the problem.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com