MARYVILLE (WATE) - Blount County officials have put together a plan to address the issue of homelessness.
An attempt by Knox County officials to do the same them encountered troubles. The sweeping effort dubbed the 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness was launched in 2005, but eventually ran into opposition from neighborhood groups over supportive housing projects.
The effort was revamped two years ago and renamed Compassion Knoxville.
A group of community organizations and local governments in Blount County is now working to develop a 10 year plan to address the issue of homelessness.
A report, "A Community Response to Homelessness in Blount County, Tennessee 2012-2023," has been submitted to Blount County and the cities of Alcoa and Maryville for endorsement.
"I consider myself houseless but never homeless," said Olivia, a homeless woman in Maryville.
Olivia lives with her dog in a truck parked in a Maryville church parking lot.
She became homeless shortly after moving to Tennessee two years ago and then getting sick and not being able to work.
"I've met a lot of people, even nurses that have things in the back of their vehicle and were working at the same time," Olivia said.
Blount County's annual Point-in-Time Count that is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found 373 homeless people were living there in January.
That number is too high for some people like Sue Wyatt, who has led an initiative to develop a strategy to work with businesses, churches and governments to deal with the homeless problem in the county.
"What we're seeing in Blount County is an increase of people in the numbers of folks who are in sheltered environment or completely unsheltered," Wyatt said.
The report says homeless individuals and families are often "invisible" in the community. Because of the rural location, people experiencing homelessness in Blount County are less likely to live on the street and are more likely to live in a car or camper with relatives or substandard housing.
The leaders of the 10 year plan say many local agencies in Blount County lack enough resources to help the homeless.
The plan would aim to secure more federal grants and investment dollars to put into programs. It would also allocate more money to build transitional and affordable housing options, which many say is lacking in Blount County.
"We need dollars to either put infrastructure or programs in place to help people become self-sufficient and successful, " said Wendy Wand, community impact manager for United Way of Blount County.
The strategy includes items such as:
Urging schools to report homeless children
Creating a database so local nonprofit service providers can seek grant and funding opportunities
Investigating affordable, transitional and permanent supportive housing options, including both public and private investment
Working with local law enforcement and other crisis response agencies to develop emergency response systems and case management services when families are in crisis and need immediate action
Blount County leaders say they looked at the Knoxville plan but believe theirs is a different type of homeless problem.
The Blount Chamber of Commerce board of directors will vote Monday on whether to endorse the plan.
A Maryville woman led the Blount County Sheriff deputies on a high speed chase Tuesday morning that ended in a two vehicle accident. Angel A. Foster, 31, of Blount Avenue, Maryville, is currently receivingMore >>
A Maryville woman led the Blount County Sheriff deputies on a high speed chase Tuesday morning that ended in a two vehicle accident.More >>