City of Knoxville clears campsite, plans for shower stalls in the works

People living at the campsite said they had no notice. They had to pack up their things in a matter of minutes, everything left behind was picked up by a dump truck.
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 1:14 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2021 at 4:25 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - On Thursday morning, the City of Knoxville cleared a campsite on Cooper Street. The people living at the campsite said they had no notice. They told WVLT News they had to pack up their things in a matter of minutes. Everything left behind was picked up and taken by a dump truck.

City of Knoxville crews are clearing a campsite on Cooper Street. More than a hundred people forced to find a new place to stay.

Posted by WVLT on Thursday, December 2, 2021

Kristen Farley, with the City of Knoxville, said in a statement, ”The City routinely cleans camps in an effort to help keep conditions as safe and sanitary as possible for all of our un-housed neighbors. As with all of our efforts, our end goal is to connect people with services and housing in our community. With the colder temperatures, the dangers of living on the street are exacerbated. Thankfully, there is space in the shelters in our City right now.”

This is not the first time city officials have moved the unhoused from areas around Knoxville. Previously, the city efforted a cleanup at the corner of Blackstock Ave. and Oak Ave.

That was in October of 2020, and officials said they sent social workers to the camp beforehand to try and offer help to those living there.

Mask On Ministries, led by Jeff Marcus, was there on Thursday morning to bring people a hot meal. This move changed their plans for a Christmas dinner.

“I do understand that there is trash and seeing people suffer makes people uncomfortable, but what are you going to do, just bury it down? Imagine what they have to go through,” said Marcus.

Farley said KUB is working on setting up water meters. She said Volunteer Ministry Center has plans to help people through the colder weather, adding that new shower trailers will be available soon.

According to Bruce Spangler with VMC, the showers, which were partially funded with city grant money, will be in place four days a week for four or five weeks. The goal of the showers, he said, is to provide opportunities for better hygiene and to create another point of contact for outreach.

Those in need can access the showers from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday beginning in January, Spangler said.

Farley added that outreach teams tried to connect the people living in the camp with services and shelter for weeks before the cleanup.

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