Ending Homelessness in Knoxville

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A 20-year study released Tuesday of homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County shows homelessness here has increased significantly.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe visited with homeless people in Knoxville to see how well a task force plan to end chronic homelessness is working. The new study shows the number of people living on Knoxville or Knox county streets or in homeless shelters has declined over the past two years, but the number is still twice as high as 20-years ago. In February 2006, more than 1,300 people here were homeless.

"You're asking me my circumstances, my own fault, nobody else's," said Debra Powell, who is homeless.

Native Knoxvillians Debra Powell and Rodney Noe are homeless friends, who both say they struggle with addictions to alcohol. Powell's been homeless off-and-on since 1998. The 10-year plan to get people off the street and into long-term housing, has not worked for this pair.

Homelessness authorities said in a news conference that progress is being made, but agencies are still facing challenges. A task force aims to coordinate efforts to help the homeless maximize their resources.
One of the goals is to place chronically homeless folks in housing first before working to solve the problems that put them on the street in the first place.

"But here, 8 o'clock in the morning, you're put out in the cold no matter what the weather is," Powell said.

Powell and Noe say permanent housing would give them peace of mind, but the more pressing concern is overcoming their addictions.

"It's getting so bad out here now, I'm over it," Noe said.

"I hope it works. I really do. We need all the help we can get," Powell said.

That help may now be on the way. The task force's 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness is now one-year-old. It was put in place in October 2005.