20 Year Homelessness Report Released

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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20 Year Homelessness Report Released

Posted: 11/21/2006
A report chronicling homelessness in Knoxville over the past two decades indicates the numbers of people living in shelters and on the street has declined since 2004 but is still twice as high as it was in 1986. The study, "Homelessness in Knoxville/Knox County: a Twenty Year Perspective, 1986-2006" by Dr. Roger M. Nooe, was released Tuesday at a press conference at the Knox Housing Partnership's office near downtown Knoxville.

Dr. Nooe is the director of the Knoxville/Knox County Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness and the report is the latest of a series of biennial studies of the homeless landscape here dating back to 1986.

The East Tennessee Coalition to End Homelessness, formed in 1985, sponsored this report as well as the previous ones.

As part of the effort the coalition has essentially done a homeless census every two years, the latest one being in February of 2006.

The study indicates that there have been some hopeful developments in the past two years during which the new Knoxville/Knox County Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness was developed.

"In 2006, Knoxville-Knox County saw a decrease in the number of homeless persons during the month of February," Nooe, a retired University of Tennessee Sociology, wrote. "From a high of approximately 1,900 persons in 2004, the February 2006 total was 1652."

But at the same time he pointed out that "Homelessness continues to be a major challenge for the community."
For instance, even though the number of homeless people had declined to 1,652 in February that figure more than doubled the 807 homeless persons recorded in the 1986 study.

There were a little less than 1,100 homeless persons in the 1996 report. Nooe also indicated that there is a core of roughly 300 people who are considered to be chronically homeless, defined as someone who has been homeless for more than a year or has been repeatedly homeless.

Other disturbing findings from this and prior studies are that the number of homeless women and children has risen, the percentage of homeless persons suffering from mental illness and substance abuse has grown and many of them are recycling in and out of homelessness.

"Perhaps the most glaring concerns in the 2006 study were the number of homeless persons living outside (shelters), the number of "couch" or "doubled-up homeless," the significant number who are mentally ill and/or substance abusing and spreading of homeless locations," Nooe wrote.

The ten-year plan, supported by Mayor Bill Haslam and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, is an effort to coordinate the efforts of the various agencies helping the homeless to maximize their resources.

One of its primary aims is to try and place the chronic homeless and others in housing first before working to solve the problems that put them on the street in the first place. The mayors appointed Nooe to direct the implementation of the plan earlier this year.

"We couldn't have found anyone better to help us achieve the goals of the Ten-Year Plan, which was developed through the hard work of a lot of people who have devoted themselves to trying to help the homeless, than Dr. Nooe" Haslam said. "I'm pleased with this report because it indicates we've made some progress toward achieving our goals," he added.

However, Haslam also indicated that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

"But if we keep working together to put roofs over the heads of our homeless while helping them find solutions to the problems that put them on the streets," Mayor Ragsdale said. "It will make life better for all of us."