Knoxville and Knox County are in year four of our ten-year plan to end chronic homelessness.
This plan recognizes the need to do things differently, and to coordinate local, state, and federal resources to address chronic homelessness, which is the most challenging kind, in a way that is both more cost effective and also more humane.
Homelessness is an issue with a big local impact. Many homeless individuals and families go unseen by the general population, but others are very visible, sleeping on streets and suffering from sickness, addictions, and mental illness. Nationally, the issue might seem abstract: fleeting images, statistics and sound bytes on the nightly news. Locally, homelessness is real, embodied in people we see and meet every day.
This is a critical problem that demands community attention. Despite available services that provide emergency care, the number of persons experiencing homelessness has steadily increased. Knoxville and Knox County have witnessed an increase from 800 homeless persons during any given month in 1986, to approximately 1,900 homeless persons per month in 2004. Many of these individuals have multiple problems: chronic mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Many lack the skills and resources for self-sufficiency.
A small segment of this population is chronically homeless. These are people who have been homeless for over one year. While the chronic homeless represent only 10% of the homeless population, they consume over 50% of the resources. These include emergency medical services, psychiatric treatment, detox facilities, shelters, law enforcement, and correctional facilities. Given the complexity and magnitude of this problem it is essential that Knoxville and Knox County seek new ways of preventing and ending chronic homelessness.
On a nationwide level, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has brought together federal agencies and other resources to coordinate the national effort to combat homelessness. USICH has challenged communities across the country to do something different—to address the problem of homelessness at its core: the chronically homeless.
The ten-year plan to end chronic homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County is part of this national movement to end long-term or chronic homelessness. The plan offers a long-range, comprehensive approach to help people who are homeless gain stability in permanent housing.
Implementing the actions recommended in this plan will cost money, but that cost is considerably lower than the cost of addressing homelessness through public emergency systems. While the ten-year plan focuses on chronic homelessness, it will also reduce the incidence and length of homelessness among youth, families, and individuals who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.
The Mayors’ Office of the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness will use this website to keep you informed about the implementation of the plan. We also hope to hear back from you, to aswer your questions and to engage you in a conversation about the plan. The Ten-Year Plan represents a shift from managing homelessness to ending it. Ending it is the better thing to do, and everyone benefits as we move down that path. So stay tuned, and speak up. We’re not just talking: we’re listening, too.