Last night the TYP was the main event at a meeting in Vestal. Joe Hultquist, City Councilman for the First District, hosted the meeting, which was almost entirely concerned with the TYP’s proposed plan to renovate the old Flenniken School to make it available for permanent supportive housing for people who are chronically homeless. Jon Lawler, Director of the Ten-Year Plan, gave a presentation and then fielded questions.
Hayes Hickman covered the story in this morning’s News-Sentinel. Click here if you’d like to read it.
We distributed at that meeting a little Q & A sheet to give attendees a brief overview of our proposal to create Flenniken Housing. An updated version is posted below. It doesn’t cover every aspect of the project, but if you’re interested, it’s a good start. We’ll be posting more information here as the project moves along.
Knoxville’s Ten-Year Plan (TYP) seeks to stabilize people who are chronically homeless in permanent supportive housing, and help them reintegrate into the community. This approach is proven to cut costs and to maximize benefit, both to the community and to homeless people. This Q & A will help you better understand the TYP and how we want to utilize the old Flenniken Elementary School building.
Q: What is chronic homelessness?
A: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a chronically homeless person as “an unaccompanied disabled individual who has been continuously homeless for over one year or who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.” HUD estimates that 10-15% of homeless people in the USA are chronically homeless.
Q: What is permanent supportive housing?
A: It is permanent housing with support. It’s not a homeless shelter. All residents abide by an individual lease, pay rent, and have ongoing case management support. Residents remain in this housing as long as they choose to, and customized supportive social services ensure that the greatest possible number of them stay successfully housed and move towards independence to the best of their abilities.
Q: What will you do to the Flenniken School to renovate it?
A: Our plan is to acquire and renovate Flenniken into 48 or fewer efficiency apartments with
abundant community space and some offices. Rehabilitation will be comprehensive and high-quality. From the outside, it will look essentially as the architects intended. Each apartment will be fully independent, with its own kitchen and bath and other amenities. All environmental concerns will be appropriately addressed by qualified contractors.
Q: How will Flenniken Housing be any different from a homeless shelter or a halfway house?
A: Most importantly, residents of Flenniken Housing will no longer be homeless. They’ll be rent-paying members of the community. The proposed renovation at the Flenniken school will not create emergency or transitional housing. It is permanent housing (apartment living) that requires the resident to have a verifiable source of income, sign a lease and pay rent. In signing the lease the resident agrees to be a good neighbor. Failure to be a good neighbor can lead to eviction.
Q: What measures will you take to address the issue of safety?
A: It’s incorrect to assume that Flenniken residents are dangerous. Remember, people who choose permanent supportive housing are committed to changing their lives. They know that in order to
stabilize their lives and reintegrate with the community, they must be good neighbors, and they’ve chosen to live in a place that gives them the support they need to be successful. Case managers will maintain offices in the building during the day and evening hours, and a case-manager aide will be present overnight.
Q: Will Flenniken Housing residents be free to walk around in the neighborhood?
A: Like other neighborhood residents, Flenniken residents will be able to come and go from their apartments as they please. But they will be held accountable, to the point of eviction, for being good neighbors. And consider this: when people have a place of their own, a place of safety and security, they are highly unlikely to continue to act as though they are homeless.
Q: Why South Knoxville? Why not build this kind of housing in some other part of the city?
A: The issue of homelessness belongs to our whole community, not just a few neighborhoods. The Ten-Year Plan is committed to looking for appropriate property in every sector of Knox County. We intend to distribute permanent supportive housing throughout the community, rather than concentrating it in just a few spots. Right now, we are seeking appropriate siting in West Knoxville/Knox County.
Q: Why does the Ten-Year Plan focus on chronically homeless people? Why not work to end all homelessness?
A: Chronic homelessness is the starting point. Although the people in this category make up only a small proportion of the homeless people in the United States, they consume about 50% of all resources utilized by all homeless people. Chronic homelessness is the most destructive, devastating and injurious form of homelessness; it is virtually impossible for a person to overcome chronic homelessness without a supportive environment. Addressing chronic homelessness with the strategies of the TYP changes lives, and it maximizes all community resources dedicated to responding to such needs.
Q: What does our community spend each year to support a chronically homeless person?
A: Dr. Roger Nooe, Professor Emeritus in the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, and Knoxville’s leading expert on the study of homelessness, recently tracked 25 chronically homeless people over the course of approximately one year. Dr. Nooe’s study concluded that these 25 people, cycling repeatedly through jail, alcohol & drug treatment, and hospitals would incur costs of approximately $929,000. That’s an average of approximately $37,000 each.
Q: Why is permanent supportive housing particularly cost effective?
A: Studies demonstrate that people in permanent supportive housing dramatically reduce their use of psychiatric inpatient services, hospital emergency rooms, jails, emergency shelters, detox centers and other such costly services. The costs associated with permanent supportive housing are offset by savings to organizations that deliver those services.
Q: What are the supportive services that chronically homeless people need?
A: Case managers are the point of connection between the client and all of the other services
available to help keep him or her stabilized and housed: mental health services, primary medical care, drug and alcohol treatment programs, etc.
Q: What happens to a person who’s housed? Do they just hang around? Do they get a job?
A: The TYP sees every person as a unique individual, and we want to do everything we can to help each of them to reach his or her fullest potential as a functioning member of our community. Once a formerly-homeless person is stabilized in permanent supportive housing, that person is in a much better position to work towards becoming a contributing member of the society in which we all take part. The TYP sees stabilization and reintegration as two sides of the same coin.
Q: So, housing is the stabilization side of the TYP. What about reintegration?
A: Reintegration happens in employment and healthy community. No person can reach his fullest potential until he starts to be a productive member of society.
The Salvation Army has taken the lead in preparing formerly-homeless people for employment. Some of them will have a great deal of employment potential and others, especially those with mental illness, will have less. But wherever people fall on that continuum of potential, we want to help them be the very best they can be.
Circles of Support is a special program of the Compassion Coalition. The goal of this program is to help churches build trained groups of mentors to people who were homeless and bring them into the community of faith to build healthy relationships with their neighbors.
The Ten-Year Plan seeks to transform the way our community addresses the issue of chronic homelessness. We need to end it, not simply manage it. Ending it means moving towards a relationship-based care model that seeks to stabilize disabled people and help them to reach their fullest potential. We should move beyond approaches that seek to make homelessness more tolerable while treating its symptoms in costly emergency and public safety settings.
If you have questions, we’d like to hear them, so please ask. Call Robert at 215-3071 if you prefer to talk to a live person.